How he got the job at Lucasfilm
After attempting to do an Economic Major at uni, Fu realised he wanted to pursue a career in art and his friend prompted him to apply for an internship at Lucasfilm. With the deadline in two days, he hastily made a portfolio which combined the two main styles of his artwork. His parents had made him attend art classes as a child and he had a skilful mastery of oil painting. Yet as a teenager, he had embraced street art which gave him an “explosion of creativity.” This portfolio combining the formal skills and with unconstrained imagination got him over the line at Lucasfilm…despite his application being sent in late. “My friend worked at a record label at the time,” he recounts, “and one night we snuck to use the mail stamp machine so we could backdate the parcel before I sent it off.”
Designing under George Lucas
When Fu worked with Lucasfilm, it was while the design process was still very analogue, and he learnt to design from miniatures and storyboarding. The concept artists worked in the attic at the Lucasfilm ranch but would have regular visits from George Lucas while he was in the process of writing the Star Wars films. “He is a very visual director,” Fu says, describing how the results of open briefs to artists would inspire the script. General Grievous, Fu’s most famous design for the Star Wars franchise, was the result of a general request for a bad guy. To Fu, the unique thing about working for this series is the chance to draw something iconic and that has an “instant emotional impact.” Beginning his process with tiny silhouettes on paper first, as the character became more fleshed out, Fu created General Grievous as masked because “masks are scary to me…it’s something about not be able to read emotions.” Although a lot of Fu’s reputation has focussed on this character’s design, he jumped around various projects while at the studio from AI to the Pirates of the Caribbean and as well designing the map for Indiana Jones.
The story behind “Threat of Joy” by The Stokes
Fu’s long time collaboration with The Strokes by sending a 30-minute pitch video to the management of The Strokes, whose address he found on Google. While directing the video for ‘You Only Live Once’, Fu discovered that Julian Casablancas and he shared similar aesthetic sensibilities, including their mutual favourite car design, the 1979 Dodge Charger. In the final days in the preparation for a music video for ‘More Than This’,, The Strokes management pulled the plug on this track, changing the song to ‘Threat of Joy’ instead. Through the encouragement of the producer, they improvised keeping the original cast, crew and sound stage. The result is a video inspired by the production being shut down. Having to improvise a lot of the acting on the day, they realised they hadn’t even told the main actress that her role had changed. Inspired by the laidback feel of the song, like “floating in a dream,” the transitions had to adapt to the lack of pre-production planning. The camera movement which gives the video the feel being around an “old Disneyland rides” moving around disjointed events taking place.
Working with Daft Punk
Fu has worked with Daft Punk on the videos for Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy as well as multiple videos for Random Access Memories. It was actually Fu who introduced them to Julian Casablancas leading to their collaboration, ‘Instant Crush.’
Working with Brandon Flowers
Fu’s “one golden nugget” of advice for filmmakers, many of whom were in the audience on Tuesday night, was to only make music videos for songs that you actually like. When Brandon Flowers’ management team recruited Fu to make a video for his solo album and he refused to make a video for any song for ‘Still Want You‘. This more weird track was not a single for the album but it spoke to him the most. Inspired by hand dancing and sign language, he describes how surprise improvisation by the actors got an authentic reaction from the usually very professional and serious, Flowers. The result “just makes you smile and a lot of people are doing that now.”