Jon Chu Talks Justin Bieber's "Never Say Never", Dancing In The Aisles, "Realness" and More
Fri, 11 Feb 2011 08:00:44
Jon M. Chu is the man responsible for Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, the 3D Justin Bieber film due in theaters this weekend. Chu, who has lensed films in the Step Up franchise and has a background in dance movies, didn't make a dance film this time out. He partnered with Bieber to tell the story of the pop star's incredible rise to superstardom, using old home movies, YouTube, videos, technology ,and the right now.
The resulting film is a breakthrough, unusual and non-standard look into the human side and the rise of The Bieb, which was all achieved through technology and digital means. But while the plugged in nature of society in 2011 often eliminates the warmth of the human connection, Chu and Bieber demonstrate how technology can bridge the gap between people.
Never Say Never isn't a concert film nor is it a biopic. It narrows its scope on the technology and the events that created the boy we know and love - The Bieb. Never Say Never is out today!
How are you today, with your movie coming out?
I am nervous but good. It all comes down to this next day.
Don't be nervous. The movie has deafening buzz. It's a captivating, compelling look at a likeable pop star. It's going to do so well. It's going to be huge. Everyone loves The Bieb, myself included.
It's hard to tell, since I am in the bubble. It feels like it's been huge since August. I am just caught in it. We went to the screening last night and everyone has purple glowsticks and purple glasses and Justin came in. People were waving glowsticks and got up and danced for 'Baby.'
Did you dance?
Of course, in the aisles. I've been in a dark room editing this thing for past several months. Any opportunity I get to exercise is good.
What about Justin Bieber surprised you the most, now that all is said and done?
How connected he is to his fans. People are like, ‘Oh he Twitters. He knows his audience.' He really does. But being with him, he knows fans by name. When he sees them on street, he looks them in eye. He won't stop for cameras or interviews, but he will stop for fans. If it's a little girl or a mom, he will stop. We had an interview the other day where someone showed him a video of a fan crying and going crazy, and everyone was laughing. I was laughing about how ridiculous this girl was. He wasn't laughing. He was like, ‘She is such a sweetheart.' This is real for him. I thought that was noble and admirable about him.
He went from YouTube to the big screen!
From online to primetime!
What was the biggest challenge of telling that part of Bieber's story?
Understanding where it comes from. If you are a normal human, what motivates you to put a video on YouTube? He was in a talent show; everyone can relate to doing a local thing. He came in second place. But he put stuff online so people could see it. Then people wanted another song from him. What makes someone upload their living room videos? Those were the important pieces that I needed to communicate --how he got there. How does someone outside of that world see it and how do you trust that person to take care of you? It's a crap shoot. Look at his manager, Scooter, who was a party promoter. He was an underdog, too; he was not a big manager. We heard the story, but we had to be with Mom to understand what she did and then how she passed it on to Scooter. The fans are a part of the journey. Everything was done using new technology with old school methods of thinking.
What about Justin Bieber was so appealing you as a filmmaker? What made you believe in telling this narrative?
This story wasn't possible five years ago. His mother recorded everything while he was growing up: him walking, learning and playing the drums. It became interesting, because that was not possible 10 years ago. I mean, you could have Super 8s, but there was no way to capture every moment of a star's life. But I knew we had all the elements and could tell an interesting story, which is the fairytale of how he got here. It could be told in a unique way. I didn't know how real he was. When I spent more time with him, I grew to love him as a friend. He is just a kid. This is just the beginning. This could be a trilogy; this is just the first chapter. We will see him in 10 years. Will he leave this world, or continue to grow in his music and art? That intrigued me in and of itself. I didn't know a lot about his music or his family. But to young underdogs, he is their Peter Pan.
Did any other music documentaries inspire you or did you purposely stay away from the medium?
I wasn't a big concert/music documentary film fan. I don't like concert films. I didn't know a lot of his music. I was like, 'I can't make a concert film.' But I understand the underdog story and the technology element he used, and I like using music to tell stories. Every time I heard new songs, I would discover more parts. I wanted to hyperlink the idea and have something to trigger the song and tell the story and have multiple layers. There's the still photo or a crappy flip cam or a crappy YouTube video, but those together made the tone of the movie. It does not have one standard look. I didn't want to do a fake set up scene --this is not a reality show or an MTV diary. Those were the anti of what this film needed to be. There is a realness to it. Music tells the stories in a lighter way.
What is the biggest thing you have learned from Justin?
The narrative doesn't begin and end in the theater. You can see the beginning and the end, but it doesn't end there. The narrative began months ago when he introduced me on Twitter, and I had 12,000 followers, and he asked them to come with us on this journey. Now you can watch the movie and the movie is done, but it doesn't end. We still get to follow him in his career, whether he grows or falls. We can follow that story. For celebrities and for culture, technology is not in our way. It connects human beings and human beings connected can make something.
Check out our reaction to Never Say Never here!
Ask Justin Bieber a question here!
Watch our exclusive video of Justin Bieber talking about his Beats by Dr. Dre. headphones here!
Watch a clip from the film here!