Thursday, February 28, 2008

Filmmaker started out editing wedding videos in Los Altos

Long before Jon M. Chu directed a $20 million Hollywood film, he was behind the camera in his native Los Altos, where he spent many weekend nights editing videos of weddings and other events while his friends were out having fun.

Fast-forward more than a decade and the youngest child of the founders of the eatery Chef Chu's is off to New York to promote his first major film - "Step Up 2 the Streets," the sequel to the 2006 release "Step Up." "Step 2," the story of an underground hip-hop dance crew that performs on the streets of Baltimore, hit theaters with a bang. Released on Valentine's Day, "Step 2" earned $6.6 million on its first day in theaters. By last Friday, the movie had racked up $31.63 million.

"The fact is that I came from Los Altos with no Hollywood connections. It can happen," Chu says. "There are not big gates that keep you out. Dreams come true. . . . I would love to keep making movies."

But it's hard work.

Chu, 28, a graduate of the University of Southern California in cinema and television, started making the Disney film late last summer.

"I've aged about five years" in the past eight months, he says.

The maker of short films and winner of the Princess Grace Award at USC says he learned from his mistakes during his first big job. Working on "Step 2" also taught him that a filmmaker has to make hard decisions about the movie that you come to think of as your baby.

"It becomes part of your heart,"

Chu says.
Friends and family have helped Chu with his career. Best friend and fellow filmmaker Jason Russell went with him to Baltimore to film the movie. Chu's family was instrumental in helping him with the career he chose while at Pinewood, a private school in Los Altos Hills.

When he was about 14, he and his friends started a small video business, using the profits to buy more equipment. They would film special occasions, such as weddings, anniversaries or bar mitzvahs, and set the edited films to music.

Chu worked so late into the evenings that his mother told him to quit the film business. He told her that this was the "real thing," and he wanted to do this more than anything else.

She caved in, bought him some books about how to edit film and told him to be the best at what he loved.

"The biggest thing about my parents is that they came from nothing," Chu says. His mother came from Taiwan and his father from mainland China. They started Chef Chu's 38 years ago.

It wasn't easy going during the first year, but they persevered, the filmmaker says. Eldest brother Larry Chu, 35, who works as a manager at the Los Altos restaurant and is helping his brother promote the movie, says their family is very close.

Not one person in the family said it was crazy to be a filmmaker, Larry Chu says. "No one ever second-guessed him."


Anonymous said...

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