Nash Consing ’21 brings his visual media and storytelling skills to bear to make sure Asian-American voices are represented and heard.
Growing up in Hickory, North Carolina, Nash Consing ’21 would watch the Disney Channel or surf YouTube just like any kid. But even at a young age, as a Filipino-American, Consing realized that something was missing from the content he was watching.
“My story and my existence and the existence of people who look like me wasn’t on TV,” Consing said. “And when people did look like me, their stories didn’t relate to me or validate my experience. Subconsciously, I think I had a reaction to that.”
Propelled by this, Consing was one of those kids who seemed to always have a camera in his hand, looking for any untold story to film. He would write scripts or music videos, and then recruit his older sisters or friends to be the on-camera talent. A math teacher from his middle school still shows her students a video that Consing made about the number pi.
This was more than a childhood phase. Consing keeps a sixth-grade class scrapbook where he wrote that he wanted to be a filmmaker when he grew up. He also had a sense that he wanted to center Asian-Americans and Asians in the stories he shared.
Consing, who is graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill this May as a journalism and media major with a focus in visual communications, is now on the verge of realizing that dream. As he concludes his time at Carolina, he is in the final stages of creating a documentary film that turns the camera on his hometown of Hickory to share the story of a small Asian community there.
The Hmong are an Asian ethnic group that traces its origins to southwestern China, and then later to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Hmong aided American forces in the Vietnam War and then fled to the United States to escape retaliation. A sizable community then made its way to North Carolina, with a population of about 7,000 in and near Hickory.
“Growing up, the schools in my town were mostly white. If there was another Asian-American, nine times out of ten, they would be Hmong-American,” Consing said. “So I really wanted to go back to this community, because my Hmong friends shaped my racial identity. I’m Filipino but I identified with them; I connected with them.”
Tracing the story of this community of refugees on their journey to rural North Carolina and their resolve to establish roots and maintain a cultural identity interested Consing. In late 2020, he learned of a film fellowship through the Center for Asian American Media that identifies and supports emerging Asian creatives. Consing pitched the idea in his fellowship application and was one of five artists in the country to be selected.
Consing’s film will center on the story of a talented college-aged musician who has performed in New York City but whose highest aspiration is to return to Hickory to serve the people in his community as a band leader.
“Usually people who are 20 years old want to get away from their small hometown. They want to stay in New York, or go to L.A.,” Consing said. “I find it interesting that his community is so powerful that he is drawn to come back, to empower other Hmong kids. This is his home, it’s not just some place for him to leave behind.”
After graduation, Consing plans to continue his work as a professional filmmaker, building on skills that the faculty at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media helped hone.
“I owe a lot to the professors there,” Consing said. “They care about the students, and they help build you as a storyteller, and that’s from the writing to design to the visual communications professors I worked with.”
Much of Consing’s work at Carolina has delved into cultural identity. He filmed and produced the Asian American Students Association’s annual cultural showcase “Journey Into AsiaOpens in new window” this year. A biographical piece titled “To My Future EmployerOpens in new window” touched on his own identity and his struggle finding a job. He won first place for multimedia in the national Hearst Journalism Awards Program for this piece, which came with a $3,000 scholarship award.
“I really want my work to help empower and amplify different communities that need more representation,” Consing said. “That’s the most fulfilling work that I’ve done thus far, and I know I’m just beginning. I would really love to expand on that in my career.”