Baby Steps is certainly no billionaire – and does not wish to pay more taxes as a consequence of this post, thank you very much – but nevertheless it has just become something of a job creator. Friend of the blog and Baby Steps contributor Alex Fu just made the big move from San Francisco down to Los Angeles. Within a few weeks of arriving, Alex got a job opportunity as a trainee editor through a contact established through this blog with another Baby Steps alum Charles Yi.
Baby Steps wishes Alex well in his new role as editor in training at Open Road Entertainment and sends out the very best vibes to Charles for his help and support. This is how our friendly little world should work, so let’s hope it is the first of many stories of new opportunities facilitated by the stories and networking enabled by this little site.
More Baby Steps contributions are on their way, so watch this space. If you have an entertaining, informative or inspiring story of your first moves from college into the media world, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
My name is Alex Fu and I am a graduate of San Francisco State University, class of 2009. I’ve managed to stay and work in San Francisco since, though I’m planning on making the big move to LA very soon.
Where I’m at
I’m the lead editor and occasional camera operator for MakingOf.com, a sort of “online film school” co-founded by Natalie Portman (who I still haven’t met). Most of what I do is cut together in-depth interviews with filmmakers and create behind-the-scenes featurettes for upcoming films. I’m also in charge of programming a MakingOf Channel for Virgin America, and have had the tremendous opportunity of covering both the Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival as part of the camera crew and as the on-site editor.
Where I want to be in the future
You don’t go and get a BA in cinema without a teeny bit of arrogance telling you that one day you’ll be a filmmaker yourself. Walk in on any lecture hall across the country and ask: “how many of you want to be writers or directors?” then watch almost every hand shoot up. Looking down from the stage, I’d imagine a feeling of worry or repulsion at such confident naiveté. “Don’t they know the odds?” But if you’re in the crowd, it’s important to protect and be precious with that confidence. Because looking around at all the hands raised, you know only a tiny percentage are getting out alive—and it better be you.
My fragile ego has remained on life support in part due to the moderate success of my thesis film, Paul Bergman’s Revenge. The film was first selected to the SFSU Film Finals, then went on to a couple film festivals and eventually an “Audience Award” at another. Small validation that there might be some potential lurking in me after all, but honestly I’m running on fumes.
And so the goal remains to write and direct films and/or be a part of this “renaissance” in television as a show runner.
In the meantime, editing is a job that allows me to hone my storytelling instincts, while paying the bills.
My First Baby Step
I was drunk.
It was New Years Eve. I had just finished an unfulfilling internship at a Public Access Television station and I was already convinced that I had failed at life. At that point I was almost a year out of college and had zero to show for it. I was approaching my mid-twenties, which to me may as well have been my thirties—where I saw myself broke and alone, living off my baby brother who probably became a doctor or something.
So that night, I reached out to a former classmate, who was already in the thick of things, helping to launch a website with Natalie Portman (he got to meet her).
I e-mailed him about an internship.
How, if at all, did that first step lead to the next…and the next?
MakingOf developed a sort of reputation as a revolving door for interns. Being a start-up, the company wasn’t really in a position to be hiring, and the best I hoped for was a better-looking resume.
But, as an intern, I worked hard to stand out. Before I came to the company, the site was strictly interviews. We had access to Electronic Press Kits, but never really made use of them other than for trailers or movie clips. On a slow day I was asked to “just do something” with all the assets. So I created a little behind-the-scenes featurette modeled after those obnoxious commercials that play twenty minutes before a movie starts.
From that day on, the featurettes became a staple of what the website does. Feedback from the studios was positive and I continued to evolve what the featurettes could be. Some fortunate timing that saw a couple employees move on to other things left an opening for me. Since I stuck it out the longest and created a whole new aspect for the site, I was shortly offered a position.
Since, I’ve taken on more responsibility and ended up Where I’m At.
What lessons did you learn from your ‘baby steps’?
1) The people you went to school with will save your life. As much as you think it’s a competition when you’re seated in that packed classroom (see above)—afterwards, it no longer becomes a zero sum game. I cannot tell you the generosity and sense of solidarity I’ve experienced with former classmates. These are people who will always be rooting for you and will do their best to help you out if they can.
2) Start early and get the right internship(s). Modern corporate America has found a pool of eager labor power, willing to work for free. While they’re certainly all exploitative and most of them dead ends, some are worth sticking out and paying your dues. Develop a nose for this and then…
3) Do something that separates you from others. For me, it was the featurettes. For others, a good, friendly personality. Whatever is required.
4) Don’t jump off the ledge. But if you do, make sure you have a support group waiting to catch you. It’s hard to maintain the requisite self-esteem to persevere in the film business. Cling to the positive and the passion that brought you here and keep close those who will encourage you and who you trust.
Interview with Alex about his filmmaking
How do you keep your foot in the door?
I have no idea. I guess we’ll see. At this point, I’ve been lucky to find a job “in the business” that has its home base in the Bay Area. But with where I want to go, it’s only delaying the inevitable move to LA. Hopefully I’ll have an update as I take my place back at the bottom and see if I find my way out.
Our friend and review competition winner Alex Fu has posted a long commentary on X Men First Class at his blog. It runs counter to many of the reviews in the press and is well argued and passionate. Check it out:
JH: Congratulations to Alex for winning our first ever movie review competition on Write What You Don’t Know. Fame and fortune are sure to follow, only probably not from this blog! Now here’s his review.
By Alex Fu
There is a scene early in Fast Five where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson debriefs his hand picked, in-it-for-the-right-reasons rookie cop on the charges levied against the film’s heroes. Steadfast in her commitment to truth, the rookie raises inconsistencies with the official story—and being a native of Rio (where the movie takes place), she’s not unused to law enforcement cooking up an old-fashioned set up. In a very revealing response, Hobbs (The Rock) turns to her and yells “You know what makes sense?!” then tosses the entire stack of dossiers to the ground.
And from that moment it’s clear: Fast Five knows what it is and what it isn’t.
Whenever Fast Five feels like it’s about to elicit groans from an increasingly film literate audience, it maneuvers with a kind of playfulness absent in say, a Jerry Bruckheimer film. And while I enjoy my Bruckheimer-Bay pairings more than a Hoxter alumnus should, one gets the sense that Michael Bay finds nothing silly about his work. Fast Five is no parody however; it is deeply invested in what is both goofy and awesome about the genre. Where a film like Scream 4 (1) had nothing but contempt for itself, Fast Five respects and reveres its two-dimensional characters, making sure the stakes are still high and the violence still matters (2). An indispensible lesson emerges: if you’re going to make it dumb, at least make us care.
Director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan pull an impressive move to reinvent a franchise that was close to stalling on its original conceit, the culture of street racing. (3) They do this by shifting gears (sorry) to the world of outlaws and heists. The film assembles most of the remaining characters from the previous films, a la The Avengers,(4) to bring down a drug lord that has taken hostage, not only the people of Rio, but our protagonists’ freedom. With back-stories built up over four films, an affection has grown for these meatheads. The escalating scenarios are grounded in motivations that ring true (at least to them) and despite all the hammy dialogue about God and fathers; you really believe that this is what “dudes” talk about.
Hobbs is a formidable antagonist, a character who is built well enough in both his physical and narrative appearance to make us believe he might actually capture our guys. But it wouldn’t be a F&F film if he didn’t switch sides, as the franchise is ultimately based around what Armond White describes as: “…the intrinsic moral codes mutual to cop and criminal…who feel a common, desperate appreciation of engines, women, loyalty, and the money it takes to acquire them”.
(1) In pursuit of a panacea for cynical moviegoers, there’s been a trend of “meta” gimmicks used as a substitute for the hard work of figuring out how to make the familiar feel fresh.
(2) A Fast Five review without any comment on the action? I was under strict guidelines, but suffice it to say the action is stunning, thanks to great direction and the predominance of practical effects over CGI. We still have to care about the characters though.
(3) Another example of the film’s fun self-awareness: just as we’re about to get into the obligatory ‘street race scene’ the film cuts away from it. A signal to the audience: we are moving on.
(4) Including a very fun Marvel Studios-type tag for the fan-bros at the end of the credits.