A group of young Hmong are producing a news and entertainment program in St. Paul that they say will provide access and outlet for untapped Hmong talent.
The nonprofit cable-TV show, called "Hmong Talk," is being produced, directed and written by young Hmong adults for their peers, said Steve Thao, executive producer of the show. And it is the first of its kind in the country, he said.
"This is pioneering stuff," Thao said. "I think everyone has a lot of energy, and everyone is excited about having a chance to control the destiny of the show. We're hoping that we get some money to make it better."
The topics are centered on issues that affect teenagers and young adults in the Hmong community in the Twin Cities area, such as clan taboos, sexism and gambling.
Thao, 28, of St. Paul, said the show is intended to get Hmong teenagers and young adults together to talk about issues that affect them. It also will allow parents in the Hmong community to know what their children are talking about.
The half-hour show, which consumes at least 20 hours per episode to set up, tape and edit, will air every other Friday at 7:30 p.m. starting July 14 on cable channel 35 in St. Paul.
"It is slowly coming together," said Tou Lee Yang, 24, of St. Paul, the show's host and a producer. (The other producer is Sandy'Ci Moua, 19, of St. Paul.)"We want to make it a little more hip, trendy. But I can't do that unless I have the money, and the right resources."
He said he would like to add more music and dance to the show, and he would like to cover events in the Hmong community related to young adults and teenagers.
For months, producers of the show wanted to call it "Papaya" because the fruit represents Asians, Thao said. But they changed it to "Hmong Talk" because the show "is all about talking, and we're Hmong. We wanted a name to identify with who were are," he said.
Denise Thao, 19, of St. Paul, who reads the news during the show, said it's about giving back to the young people in the Hmong community. She said there are shows for elders in the Hmong community, but not for teenagers or young adults.
"The youth need some kind of guidance and entertainment from their Hmong peers," she said. "This is the best way to reach the community because television is watched" by so many young people.
Denise Thao also said that many Hmong teenagers and young adults want to get into the entertainment business but that they don't have the motivation.
"They have dreams, but they don't take the steps to fulfill them, and this show will give them the chance to take the first step to make a career," she said.
Telee Lee, 25, of St. Paul, does everything from getting water for guests to setting up cameras. He said he got involved last month because its concept "blew me away, so I wanted to be a part of it."
He said he hopes to get an opportunity to write some of the scripts.
At a recent taping, the group was a little disorganized, but everything came together at the end of the night.
At 6:50 p.m. Monday:
Tou Lee Yang stood in a brightly lit corner, cameras aimed at him.
It's 10 minutes before they start taping.
"I don't have anything to say," he told Jef Yang, 22, of St. Paul, a cameraman.
"Move to your left," said Jef Yang.
"Don't center me, dude," Tou Lee Yang answered.
At 6:55 p.m.:
On the other end of the recording studio, Denise Thao practiced reading the news. She breathed in and out.
All the cell phones were turned off.
At 7:01 p.m.:
The countdown comes from the control room.
"Hi, my name is Tou Lee Yang and I'm your host . . ."
He blundered. They stopped the cameras and started over again. Tou Lee Yang said it was a good experience.
"It basically relaxes me and keeps my mind on what I need to say," he said. "It's good to screw up from time to time."
At a glance:
- When: 7:30 p.m. every other Friday starting July 14.
- Where: Cable TV, Ch. 35 in St. Paul.
- Why: To get Hmong youth news out in the community, and to give Hmong young adults and teenagers a chance to express themselves.
For more information, contact St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), c/o Hmong Talk, 214 E. 4th St., St. Paul, MN 55101.