Hu Ge (胡戈) is a Chinese internet celebrity and amateur filmmaker who first achieved fame with his comedic short films that parodied, spoofed, and satirized Chinese society and media, becoming viral hits with mainland Chinese netizens. More recently, Hu Ge has turned to professionally creating viral online advertisements for popular brands such as 7UP and McDonalds in the mainland China market.
chinaSMACK was lucky enough to interview the man behind the lens.
chinaSMACK: Hu Ge, welcome to chinaSMACK. “Hu Ge” is your real name right?
Hu Ge: Yes.
cS: What is your background? Where in China are you from?
HG: I was born in Jiangxi province, and grww up in Wuhan city of Hubei province. My mother was a musician, so music was my main interest from primary school to university, and I learned the guitar, bass, drums, and various other musical instruments. In middle school, I even learned break-dancing and at the same time became interested in theater and performance as well.
cS: Why did you want to and how did you become a film director?
HG: Ever since I was small I’ve liked music, theater, and movies. I actually liked movies most of all, but this for me was an unattainable industry, what with me not even having the money to buy a film camera, and my family not having even a photo camera. What more, the film school at our city only admits a few people when there are at least several hundred people applying. So, I simply didn’t even think about it. China’s employment situation is not very good (low employment rate), and in order to have an easier time finding work in the future, I studied engineering in university. However, after graduation, I still went with my personal interests and began working with music-related work.
Later when home miniDV became common, my interest in film was aroused. I purchased a very cheap camera and then began filming anything and everywhere, and learned film editing on my own. Later, it was because I had created a parody/spoof of “Wu Ji” (“The Promise”) that I made the news and attracted the attention of some companies, with some of them assisting me with filming online videos, and some hiring me to make viral video advertisements. Afterwards, I began writing scripts and filming internet-based movies.
A copy on YouTube:
The above video 《一个馒头引发的血案》 (“A murder case triggered by a steamed bun”) was the parody/spoof of the Chinese movie “The Promise” that made Hu Ge famous. It is a 20 minute long short film that is presented like a news report using scenes edited from “The Promise” and the CCTV “Rule of Law Report” television program to satirize Chinese social issues (such as employers not paying workers their wages) and media reporting. Reportedly, this short film was downloaded and viewed more times than the original movie.
cS: Previously you used to focus on creating social satire videos, now your focus is on creating spoof commercials, why the change of direction?
HG: I don’t have any other source of income, and I need to make money.
cS: Your first 7UP viral is arguably your most famous video. What inspired you to make it? Why spoof a 7UP commercial in particular? Are you a big fan of the soft drink?
HG: That was 7UP’s viral advertisement, the idea of which was mine, and then produced and filmed by me. I don’t like to drink [those sort of] beverages.
A copy on YouTube:
cS: Who are the two lead characters? What are their character names and real-life names? Have they featured in any other films since appearing in your videos?
cS: Do you have a production team that helps you create the videos?
HG: Yes, just a few people.
cS: Has the popularity of the videos changed your life at all?
HG: Yes, indeed, I have now completely changed my career/profession.
cS: Your recent spoof commercials all have English subtitles, is there a specific reason why?
HG: Because it was anticipated that there would be people abroad who would watch these videos, so they were added. But in the future, not every video will have them. Films that don’t have anything to do with or can be related to by foreigners won’t have them added.
cS: Do you create these films as a full-time job? Or do you work as something different aside from directing films?
HG: Yes. I don’t do anything else right now.
cS: Has 7UP or McDonald’s in China approached you to direct real commercials? Do you want to direct real commercials?
HG: No, they haven’t. However there are fewer and fewer television commercials now, and 7UP already no longer makes any television commercials in China. In the future, internet advertisements will become the mainstream. What more, filming internet advertisements is far more interesting than filming television commercials, so I don’t really have anything to regret.
cS: In your opinion, which Chinese brands make the best real commercials in China?
HG: I don’t have [much of] an impression. I feel they’re all about the same.
cS: And which video that you have produced, are you most proud of?
HG: The 7UP Christmas viral is the one I am most pleased with from the past. However, the “Jia An” (“Home Aegis”) air conditioning disinfectant viral I am about to release is one I am even more pleased with.
A copy on YouTube:
One reason Hu Ge’s videos are funny and popular with Chinese netizens is because he often includes references to popular news, culture, and internet memes they are familiar with in his videos. For example, in the above video, he mentions Xiao Yue Yue and “keng die“.
cS: What is the favourite Chinese film? (please explain why?)
HG: If I don’t consider Hong Kong, actually there aren’t any Chinese movies that I really like, but relatively-speaking 《自娱自乐》 [“Zi Yu Zi Le”, “Master of Everything”] isn’t bad because this story is unconventional, so I like it more.
[As for] Hong Kong films, I like some films with Stephen Chow; they are all comedies, a little like America’s “Naked Gun” type of movies.
cS: What are your future plans? Do you aim to direct big movie blockbusters?
HG: Yes, I have this wish, and have even written a movie script. I estimate that within two years I will be able to film my first movie.
cS: Finally, are there any young Chinese film directors should we look out for in 2011?
HG: I don’t really pay attention to/follow these things.
Thank you, Hu Ge!