In July, I had the great privilege to be invited by Wu Chun to witness the premier of his new movie, Lady of the Dynasty, in China. I went along as one of his crew members and the two week experience which I had in the entertainment industry left me feeling both humbled and enriched. As well as this, on a personal level I learnt a few important lessons from observing Wu Chun’s example.
I was able to understand that it is no coincidence that Wu Chun is so immensely successful in the entertainment industry and well respected by many in his field. I saw his vulnerable side; moments of selfdoubt (privy to only a small circle) and I also saw moments of glory, when he enchanted two thousand fans in an open air arena.
I got to see the humourous and creative side of him, the child-like personality as well as the serious side; the part of him that is fiercely dedicated and intensely focused. Although I could write a book about my experience, in this article I would like to share seven of the main lessons which I believe will motivate anyone who is serious about their career.
“The reality is, the entertainment industry can be very a brutal industry and for every person who makes it, there are countless others who do not… Working upclose with Wu Chun, I witnessed what it means to have Grit.”
1/ Time Management
Wu Chun doesn’t waste time. A big part of being on the road in China is spent commuting, while the rest of the time is spent waiting. In fact, a great deal of our time was spent waiting in between holding rooms, in hotels, lounges and for performances.
One of the things Wu Chun carries with him all the time wherever he goes, is his backpack. This holds his laptop and notebook (he pens his own schedule for his business and uses his notebook to take note of important messages). Whenever we were in between activities, Wu Chun could be seen working on his laptop responding to emails, memorising movie scripts or corresponding with his business colleagues overseas.
He does not have Facebook, Instagram, or any social media account, nor does he waste time playing games on the phone. Whenever Sam, his hair stylist is working on his hair – which takes about half an hour to forty-five minutes, he will have his laptop opened, doing his favourite activity; corresponding with his daughter on Facetime. He does not waste a minute of his time.
Wu Chun’s schedule is often planned to 12 months in advance. If you zoom into his schedule on a typical road trip, it is always packed with activities. By cramming many activities into each of his road trips, he can fulfill his commitments to the entertainment industry, while also making sure that he can spend quality time at home in Brunei with his family.
2/ Listening Skills
Being new to the crew, I was very in tune and observant of the environment. I would often be the one with the most questions, ideas and comments, I would seldom shy away from giving my two cents about Wu Chun’s performances, interviews or events. Being a man of few words, Wu Chun would prefer to listen. He would ask some good questions and let you finish your sentence. Very rarely would you hear him argue to win a point.
What is interesting is even though he wouldn’t say much, you would often see him acting on some of your comments and making little adjustments here and there. And you would know for sure that he’d been listening and taking note of your ideas. That’s perhaps the biggest compliment he could give as a friend.
I remember at the end of the road trip from Ju Hai to Guang Zhou, Ah Seng, our driver who took care of us for two days commented about how down to earth and friendly our crew was. We included him in our conversations, we took an interest in him simply because he too was very approachable and we enjoyed his company. He noticed that everyone in the crew including Wu Chun operated as a team and that each of us was treated with equal respect.
Apparently this is not very common in the “entertainment world”, where hierarchy dominates. Come to think of it, I noticed that Wu Chun treated the biggest stars the same way he would treat a waiter – with equal respect. Regardless of who he was dealing with, Wu Chun was always courteous and polite.
I do not remember ever seeing him throw any kind of star-like tantrum throughout the two weeks. Not even when we missed the plane one morning in Xi-an by three minutes. No wonder, he has earned the reputation of being “Mr Nice” within the entertainment industry.
“Wu Chun may be working in the entertainment industry, but his behavior is by no means of the industry at all.”
Prior to being on this trip, I was under the impression that a celebrity lifestyle would involve plenty of drinks and after parties. We had none of these throughout the two weeks (except for one night in Chengdu when all of us went out for supper without Wu Chun). Maybe it was Wu Chun’s introverted personality or maybe it was his dedication as a responsible father, but he would stay in his hotel room every evening; spending time on the phone with his family, preparing for the next stint or simply catching up with the crew.
I remember one instance when we were on the road at 2.30am, while everyone was sleeping, I looked across to my left and caught a glimpse of him reading something intently on his phone. I leaned forward and realised that he was memorising a script for a role that he ’d be doing in three months’ time. He was doing this after a long flight and a full day spent doing media appearances.
A reason for Wu Chun’s success is that he approaches the entertainment industry with a strict set of business disciplines. He may be working in the entertainment industry, but his behavior is by no means of the industry at all. The intense focus and the high standards which he sets for himself is perhaps why he is so revered amongst his colleagues and movie stars.
Wu Chun’s disciplined attitude also extends beyond his career to his personal lifestyle. As the owner of a fitness centre and a health ambassador he walks the talk by taking great care of his body. He would often start the day with a very healthy breakfast, which included plenty of fruits and yoghurt. For dinner, it would always be dishes with a high nutritional value, including fish, vegetables and plenty of juices. Not to mention, he would hit the gym in the morning whenever he got the chance. Wu Chun innately understands the importance of fitness for his high intensity work. Without a certain level of stamina, it would be impossible to handle all that he has to do. And it all comes down to discipline.
Truth be told, although the five of us call ourselves, “Team Wu Chun” on our WhatsApp Group, the person who takes the lead to ensure everything goes according to plan is Ginny, Wu Chun’s manager.
The mission of the team is to ensure that everything is handled professionally, from media management to logistics; schedules, budgets, costumes and make up. All of these minute details need to be precisely handled to ensure that the entertainer performs at his best so that the show can be perfect. To be a good leader Wu Chun understands the essence of being a good follower. The entire crew would all be briefed by Ginny the night before on what would take place the next day and Wu Chun might offer suggestions, but would then follow the lead.
An unspoken role that Wu Chun took on during the tour, was the ordering of food for dinner. After a hard day’s work, when everyone would be physically drained, Wu Chun would always be the one who phoned in the order for our food so ahead of our arrival, so that it would be ready and waiting for us at the hotel (Yes, Wu Chun is a meticulous planner!). It is no secret that food is his biggest passion, but ordering food for the team was also his way of showing his appreciation and gratitude to the crew for all their hard work.
This, I believe, is probably the most important quality that contributes to Chun’s success. Behind the scenes is never easy for any actor especially when you have yet to make a name for yourself. I witnessed firsthand the stark difference between the way that younger celebrities who had just started out were treated; and the treatment that was given to A-list celebrities.
Wu Chun shared with me stories of the early days with his band Fahrenhite, when he was often neglected during interviews. The press would often pose questions to the other three band members but would ignore him as he was not yet “famous”. The reality is, the entertainment industry can be very a brutal industry and for every person who makes it, there are countless others who do not.
From my second day with Wu Chun I also witnessed firsthand what it means to have grit. I remember during the grand premier of the Lady of the Dynasty in the Shangri-La in Beijing, Wu Chun had a very bad headache for two days in a row. Right after the launch of the movie at the grand ballroom, Leon Lai, Fan Bingbing and Wu Chun were each escorted to a smaller conference room to receive individual interviews from at least a dozen different media companies across China. After doing back to back interviews for about four hours – Wu Chun then asked for a short break. Wu Chun endured this wait because he wanted to get the job done to the best of his ability, without inconveniencing anyone else. That day we finished almost past midnight with a red carpet event followed by a few more cinema promotion tours.
Although the schedule on the road can be fun and glamourous it, can also be rather gruelling. Rain or shine, sick or tired, not once, did I ever hear any complaints from Wu Chun or from any of his team members. Everyone shared the same purpose in wanting to present the best of Wu Chun. That, my friend, is tenacity.
7/ Continuous Learning
Wu Chun doesn’t stop learning. He frequently visits bookshops in the airports. Despite the little time he has (and with his reading priorities being movie scripts), he is always ready to read in order to learn something different.
I remember one of our favorite pastimes was sharing Ted Talk videos and other great speeches and interviews by famous people and then discussing the ideas. Wu Chun is interested in everything from sports to leadership and food. Most people would rest on their laurels when they have attained a certain level fame or success – but not Wu Chun. What separates the good from the great are those who continue to hunger for more information to improve themselves. Wu Chun definitely has his head in the right place.