FANCY working on Hollywood blockbusters? Good news – a school set up by Mr Feng Zhu, a Chinese-American concept designer who has worked on projects for the likes of George Lucas, is opening in April.
California-born Mr Zhu, 32, has worked on films like Star Wars Episode III (2005) and Michael Bay’s Transformers (2007). He moved to Singapore last month after a stint in Beijing, where he set up a video game design company in 2006. He hopes to train Asian talent in “thinking internationally”, he said in an interview with my paper.
“If you only develop locally, it’s very slow (when it comes to making it in the industry),” he said when asked what it takes for an Asian to make a name for himself in Hollywood. He added that what counts in the long run are skills, not nationality.
The school, FZD School of Entertainment Design, will be Mr Zhu’s first learning institute.
He will teach core classes there.
The location of the school is yet to be confirmed, but it will offer a one-year full-time diploma teaching students how to design concept images and products for the entertainment industry.
Fees are $36,000 for Singaporeans and $40,000 for international students.
Mr Zhu will use the school as a base from which he will run his projects, he said. He also founded his own design company, Feng Zhu Design, in 2003.
And the instructors he has recruited (whom he would not name at the interview, but who include industry veterans from Singapore and beyond) will also “become my art department and work on international projects”.
Education is only one part of the story when it comes to making it big in the movie industry, said Mr Zhu, who said he is in talks with the Government to provide an assistance scheme to help students with course fees.
The graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, said connections are also vital.
Mr Zhu’s school will aim to help students connect with the industry internationally.
“No matter how good you are, if you don’t know anyone in Hollywood, you have zero chance of getting in,” he said.
And if Mr Zhu sees potential in a student, he or she could land a job on one of Mr Zhu’s projects. He himself scored a lucky break when it came to taking his first step into Tinseltown.
Mr Zhu’s Art Center schoolmate and friend Ryan Church, an art director at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, told him the Star Wars director’s company was hiring for Star Wars Episode III in 2002.
Mr Zhu sent in his portfolio and was made responsible for – among other things – part of the design of the villain in the movie, General Grievous.
At Skywalker Ranch, he worked closely with Lucas on designing objects such as props and vehicles. Despite being a fan of the director, Mr Zhu maintained a professional front.
“We were trained in school not to get (star-struck) when we work with anyone huge,” he said.
As for what he hopes to see from his students, Mr Zhu – who has visited Singapore in the past to give talks – hopes to draw a wide variety of students from around the region, as well as Europe and Australia.
He added that Singapore’s location as an international hub and its English-speaking environment were big deciding factors in his decision to set up shop here.
But Asian students in particular show promise, he said. “There is a lot of raw talent in Asia,” he said. He added that the artwork he has seen is technically good, but students could learn to present more engaging, polished works.
Source: Asia One