Warren Fu never dreamed he would be working with stars like Pharrell Williams and The Weeknd. Yet, as a music video director, illustrator and designer who has directed 38 videos, the 1993 alumnus of Diamond Bar High School has taken his childhood passion for art to a whole new level.
Before he became a music video director, Fu had an five-year internship at Lucasfilm in San Francisco, which he considers to be “one of the most pivotal moments” in his life.
“I worked super hard going from cleaning people’s computer monitors, making photocopies, to being an art director,” Fu said via email.
At Lucasfilm, he designed spaceships, costumes and various environments for the “Star Wars” prequels. His most significant work was helping design the “Star Wars” character General Grievous. In addition, he created art for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “AI: Artificial Intelligence,” both directed by Steven Spielberg.
Wanting to shift his focus to directing music videos, Fu moved back to Southern California and suggested music video ideas to the bands Weezer and The Strokes.
Although Weezer did not respond, The Strokes’ lead singer, Julian Casablancas, called him back and the two have maintained a good relationship since 2006.
“What’s kind of funny is that I did end up directing a music video for Weezer many years after they ignored my first pitch idea,” Fu said.
He has worked with artists such as Mark Ronson, Daft Punk, Haim and The Killers.
Fu directed Ronson’s “Bang Bang Bang” and “The Bike Song” videos, as well as The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming” video. In addition, Fu helped create the set for The Weeknd’s Grammy-winning collaboration video with Daft Punk. Fu said he also drew paintings for The Weeknd’s clothing line with Puma, which appeared on jackets and T-shirts.
Fu said he enjoys coming up with original ideas for music videos and seeing his ideas come to life on the set. Although he finds it hard to brainstorm while on a deadline, he enjoys the challenge.
“Sometimes I pinch myself because I can’t believe that some of these weird ideas materialize on the screen,” Fu said.
He said his favorite experiences as a music video director include directing Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush,” featuring Julian Casablancas, and Snoop Dogg’s “California Roll,” featuring Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder.
In “Instant Crush,” Fu had the opportunity to work with Tony Garner, who had previously helped with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Fu also shot with film instead of digital for the first time and had real fire in the end scene.
Since he was five, Fu has enjoyed drawing and art. In fourth grade, he took an oil painting class from Ester Taylor, who taught Fu about composition, light and color in art — skills that helped him with directing music videos later in life. He furthered his passion in art during his time at Chaparral Middle School and DBHS, where he took an interest in graffiti art. This served as a creative outlet for him and his friends.
After graduating from DBHS, Fu attended UC Berkeley despite wanting to apply to Pasadena Art Center.
“My parents basically told me, ‘You’re going to Berkeley, whether you like it or not,’” Fu said.
Though he majored in economics and minored in business administration, he said he had no interest in pursuing a career in those fields.
“I took a few art classes my freshman year, but I gave up because I didn’t know if I could get a job and make a living doing art,” Fu said. “I was wrong.”
During his senior year at college, he ran into his childhood friend, Christine Yamashiro, who gave Fu the push he needed to pursue his love of art.
“To this day, I still remember what she said,” Fu fondly recalls. “[She said] ‘look, I’ve known you since you were 11 years old, and I’ve always known you were supposed to be an artist. There’s an art internship for Lucasfilm in the career center. Go apply.’”
Fu advises high school students to keep an open mind and go outside of their comfort zones.
“Travel to different places as much as you realistically can, and learn from people different than you,” Fu said. “There’s nothing better for creativity than an open mind.”