Director, Producer and Writer Victor Chu on His New Film “Cheap Chad”

Tell us a little bit about you and your work as a director, producer and photographer?

Victor Chu: I am a Director/Producer who’s films have been featured on TIME, NY Daily News, NY Times Blog, Business Insider, The Verge, Gothamist, Gizmodo, PIX 11, Dronethusiast, Halifax Examiner and more. The Coney Island Film Festival as well as the DroneUp International Film Festival, recently selected my aerial film on NYC to be entered into their festivals. The latter festival was screened in front of a 3000+ live audience in Bulgaria.

One of my day jobs is to direct and produce photography and video shoots for real estate and development companies to showcase their projects. One of our specializations is to incorporate 3D models of buildings that have not been built yet on video that we shot from helicopters so that investors have an idea of what the finished area looks like.

I have been writing, directing, and shooting comedy since college, including performing stand-up comedy for several years in venues such as Caroline’s on Broadway, the Comedy Cellar and the Apollo. I also produced many sketches, pranks, and funny interviews on “New York Chity” my comedy channel on YouTube.

The Adventures of Cheap Chad combines two of my greatest passions: cinematography and comedy. This film is my largest and most energy/financially/time-consuming project. But it’s the most rewarding, especially in terms of learning from on set as well as producing the shoots.

NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?

Victor Chu: Besides Cheap Chad, I’m working on a startup with a friend and managing Victor Chu Photography and Sky Tech One, an aerial and ground video production and Animation Company. I have a few aerial films in queue to edit such as South Africa, Europe, and Ireland. I’m currently in Australia, and soon in Vietnam shooting new footage so there will be plenty more to edit.

NY Elite: What is the “Cheap Chad” about?

Victor Chu: Cheap Chad is an improv-based comedy feature film set in Astoria Queens, NYC about a man who’s not only cheap with his wallet, but also his time and emotions. Saving money is always on his mind and he often crosses swords with other characters in the movie. However, he’s still a good person and the movie is also much about his struggles at a seemingly impossible goal of being a better person.

NY Elite: What is different about being in the director’s chair with this project?

Victor Chu: As a writer/ director/ producer/ cameraman/ cinematographer, it is always very challenging as a director because you’re always worried about a million other things. However, this is the biggest directorial role I’ve had, and I’ve had the pleasure of having Roza Bicer as production manager and several other talented crewmembers that took out much of the stress on many of the shoots. Sometimes it seems quite straightforward in theory but it proves much more time consuming, difficult, and stressful in practice.

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NY Elite: Who are the film’s stars of Cheap Chad and which actors stood out?

Victor Chu: The two that stand out most are Zach and Nastassia. Zach has a sort of gentle and intuitive niceness about him that makes me believe he was raised in royal family of some sort. We had a very hard time selecting the character of “Chad”. It came down to Zach and another very talented actor and each had their strengths and weaknesses. One of the qualities that tipped the scale in Zach’s favor was his personality. Nastassia plays a character inspired by a real person who is very abrasive, hypocritical, unforgiving and egocentric. However when you meet Nastassia is she is the exact opposite of that person. On set, she is always making sure that the take was good, what she can do to improve or if we should an extra take. Off set she is always making sure that the logistics are ok and is willing to put in the extra effort and make things easy for me.

NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

Victor Chu: For me, a great film has to have characters that grow and stand up for each other. Dramas are one of my favorite genres because seeing the characters grow makes you grow, internally. It inspires you to be a better person. Comedies on the other hand help you forget about your troubles. When was the last time you were laughing hard and you were thinking about something sad at the same time? Probably never. I hoped to combine the two genres along with some action in Cheap Chad.

NY Elite: What have you learned since your first film?

Victor Chu: If you think a scene will take one hour to shoot, it will take two. Multiply what you think by two. Pre-production is very time consuming and can get stressful if you’re doing it the day before the shoot. One of the very few, if not only scene that was not improvised was the “Monk Talk” scene. It was changed due to the seriousness of the scene and we opted for scripted dialogue for the most dramatic effect. We shot the same scene four times on four different days because of many problems: It was a sunset shot and the lighting changed drastically, there were noisy helicopters flying over all the time, one of the microphones broke down, people were walking into the shot, etc. Also, thinking on your feet is especially important. We had a shoot where one of the day-players didn’t show up. As a result, I ended up having one of the actors play two characters.

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Shea Madison, as Shea during the dog scene in LIC

NY Elite: Have you thought about acting in your movies or in general?

Victor Chu: I’m actually in this movie but unfortunately, it was not the role I wanted due to the fact that we couldn’t find an actor in time. But generally, I do like playing a funny role as I used to play much bigger parts in my previous works.

NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/projects you have been involved in?

Victor Chu: One of the funniest sketches we did back then was “How to get pregnant in Queens”, it was about a husband who was could not get her wife pregnant. It featured stand-up comedian Cory Fernandez (BET, HBO, “Cop Out”) and it was a lot of fun to shoot. He reprises his role in Cheap Chad though this time, it’s a bit more serious. Another project was the Ultimate Aerial Video of NYC – it took several months to shoot and involved several people and it was hugely successful. Lastly, my film on Nova Scotia, dedicated to my late father, struck a chord in my heart because it was one of the places that he always wanted to go but never did. I ended up going with my girlfriend at the time and I began traveling a lot more because of the trip.

NY Elite: Who were the biggest inspirations for your career?

Victor Chu: When I started out in photography, Damon Winter was my true inspiration. In film, I was a big fan of Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eddie Murphy and Jason Statham. Though I am still an action fan, I do pay more attention to the plot, direction, and cinematography a lot more.

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Shaotian Cai as the Bubble Tea Barista in the “No Ice in my Tea” scene, shot at Tea & Milk in Astoria

NY Elite: What do you enjoy most about your job, your career?

Victor Chu: The chance of shooting something great and working with a team that makes the end result even greater. It’s a kind of job where creativity, talent, and proper direction matters.

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

Victor Chu: I’m a big music fan – when I used to live in Astoria, I would go to Karaoke each week. I even made music with my cousin at one point.

NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?

Victor Chu: The same with aspiring photographers: shoot, shoot, and shoot. I am always shooting and trying to shoot my best, even if its just for instagram, and that’s how I improve. The one thing about filmmaking today versus twenty, even ten years ago is that you can get a camera that’s as good if not better than some of the professional cameras of yesteryear for under $1000. Even the iPhone is a powerful camera and if used wisely, can create art and move people. You just have to start shooting. I wish I had all the resources available today when I was starting out.

NY Elite: Are you working on your next project now?

Victor Chu: I am literally taking a break right now and will return to finish shooting Cheap Chad. After that I will work on our startup as well as all the aerial films I’ve shot but not edited.

NY Elite: What has been your personal key to success?

Victor Chu: If you love what you do, it will be much easier to do your best and if you’re doing your best at something you love, you’ll probably be successful at that.

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Zach Stephens and Vincent Chan in the “Monk Talk” scene, which was shot 4 times on 4 different days at Gantry Plaza State Park in LIC

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(L-r) E. George Perry, Amanda Mikelberg, me, Nastassia Maltsava, Clay Williams in the “Uber” scene.

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Nastassia and Zach in “Alina’s hookup” scene. Uladzimir Taukachou in the foreground.

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Chris Grant and Zach in “You broke my glasses” scene.

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Zach Stephens and Vincent Chan in the “Monk Talk” scene, which was shot 4 times on 4 different days at Gantry Plaza State Park in LIC

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