Clark Zhu's Journey From Cutting Fan Trailers to the Real Thing
Zijun "Clark" Zhu is a trailer editor at Wild Card Creative Group, a film and entertainment marketing agency in Culver City, California.
Clark found his passion for movie trailers growing up in China and started cutting fan trailers and trailer mashups. Those videos attracted the attention of the people in this business, which led to him to Los Angeles, where he attended the film school at Loyola Marymount University.
We spoke with Clark for our Backstory series, where we chat with folks in the entertainment industry about their creative inspirations and more.
Clark, tell us...
Where you were born, and where you live now.
I was born and raised in Xi'an, China. When I was in high school, I lived in Fresno, California, for two years, and I have been living in Los Angeles since 2017.
Your first job in the industry.
I started cutting fan trailers and mashups when I was 15. I upload them to my YouTube channel when they are finished. Here are a couple of the more recent ones:
One day in 2016, I received an email from my now-dear friend and mentor Peter Campbell, who was an editor at Wild Card. He inquired about who I was and if I worked in the trailer business. It was a total surprise to him to find out I was still a kid in high school. We kept in touch, and when I finally moved to L.A. for college, we talked again and he got me an opportunity to intern at Wild Card. I worked there as a part-time intern editor for two and half years while finishing up school. This past December, I graduated and officially joined Wild Card as an editor.
A breakthrough moment in your career.
Dark Waters! That's the campaign I got my first finish on. Being a fan of trailers and the craft since I was a boy, I always have dreamed about seeing something I cut aired on TV and played on social media. It felt so satisfying when I was told the spot was finished. Always will be a special moment down memory lane.
Three movies you couldn't do without.
The Shining. This is the movie that shaped my taste for film in general. The cinematography, the music, and the way that the story was told, it's everything to me. Before the pandemic, I always tried to see this movie in theaters once a year. Landmark and other vintage theaters around town always managed to show this movie on some occasion. I hope I can see it on the big screen and experience the movie magic again soon!
Boyhood. This is one of my favorite movies ever because what the protagonist went through in the movie is almost a direct reflection of my childhood, even though I wasn't an American boy who lived in Texas. It's the same human experience that matters.
Kung Fu Hustle. Oh boy, talk about a movie that I grew up with. I'm obsessed with the humor, and action and the timely message of this movie. Stephen Chow managed to perfectly mix his signature comedian skill, his love for Kung Fu and the traditional Chinese culture into such an entertaining cinematic experience. I will watch this movie til the day I die.
Your favorite movie quote.
"You know how everyone's always saying seize the moment? I don't know, I'm kinda thinking it's the other way around. You know, like the moment seizes us." —Boyhood (2014)
Your favorite movie trailer or poster.
This trailer for The Dark Knight Rises always holds a special place in my heart. It's so simplistic yet so powerful. The emotion buildup is impeccable. The editing, the music and direction are all top notch. It's a perfect trailer for me.
A classic TV show and a recent TV show that you loved.
I'm a big fan of Twin Peaks. It was so different from the mainstream TV when it came out in the '90s, and the new season from 2017 took that uniqueness even further. I'm always a huge fan of mythology world building, and that's exactly what Twin Peaks offered.
A recent show I loved is Queen's Gambit—it's SO GOOD! The entire show is so subtle and, in a way, graceful. You feel all the emotion but expressed in such a reserved way. Everything flows so seamlessly together. That's the beauty of the storytelling in this show.
A recent project you're proud of.
For the past year I'm proud of the work I did on many projects, including Greyhound, Dark Waters, Ford v Ferrari and many others. But if I have to pick one, the project I'm proud of the most is the teaser I cut for Selena: The Series.
It's my first long-form finish and I got to do something I always wanted—cutting something that relies purely on the emotion that I create with the shots and music. It's very different from most of the things I cut, and I'm grateful that I got to work on it. Shoutout to my friend Pablo Herrero for being an incredible producer on this piece!
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
The trailer for Mulan, cut by Alex Wong at Transit. This piece is absolutely incredible. When I watched it for the first time, I had to put down my phone to make my body relax from all the goosebumps. Then I watched it probably a hundred times more. To me, this is a perfect blend of emotion, great music and great editorial. This is the kind of trailer that makes me fall in love with the craft over and over again. Bravo to everyone involved!
One thing about how entertainment marketing is evolving that you're excited about.
Digital work is on the rise, and it is the future of entertainment marketing. It's now one of the best ways to reach the audience because social media is so deeply involved in every part of our life. I'm curious to see how the way we market movies and shows will change because of that and excited for all the great creative work that will come out of this new era.
What would you be doing if you weren't in entertainment marketing.
Probably become a cook, open a restaurant and sell only Mapo Tofu and Kung Pao Chicken—two of my favorite dishes!