FREMONT -- Scott Chan was crafting a successful career on the business side of the entertainment industry, holding the kind of stable job many in his topsy-turvy field can only dream of. But Chan, who grew up Fremont, still faced a major problem: It wasn't his dream.

He had used his bachelor's degree in economics to land a business development position at Runawaybox, an HBO-affiliated entertainment company in Los Angeles. There, he was tasked with figuring out how their short videos could find an audience online and beyond.

But when the small startup asked all employees to pitch in on video production, Chan quickly got bit by the creative bug.

Scott Chan
Scott Chan (Courtesy of Scott Chan)

"Early on, Scott was intrigued by YouTube and had an innate understanding of what they were doing," Runawaybox founder Fran Shea said.

Soon, creating videos and films wasn't what Chan wanted to do, he said, it was what he had to do to be happy.

"This was something I was genuinely passionate about," he said. "There's no money in the world that can give you that type of satisfaction."

In 2009, Runawaybox, also known as HBOlab, was sold. But by then Chan had was an aspiring video director who had founded Whirled, a creative advertising agency. Like any startup, there were challenges and uncertainty.

"I started it with no money, and we made no money the first year," said Chan, 33.


Advertisement

The fledgling company caught a break when it submitted a video to Google after the Silicon Valley giant launched a short-lived product called Google Wave. The product flopped but Chan's video, a film parody of Samuel L. Jackson's menacing monologue from "Pulp Fiction," caught the eyes of Google executives.

Since then, the relationship between the tech titan and Chan's boutique company has grown. He recently produced "Zeitgeist 2012," a Google-affiliated video chronicling the most newsworthy global events from last year. The nearly three-minute video instantly went viral and since has garnered about 13.5 million views. (Chan also made "Zeitgeist" videos for 2010 and 2011.)

"It's an exhilarating feeling that something you poured your heart and soul into can be appreciated like that," he said.

Among the millions of viewers were his parents, Steve Chan and Fremont Councilwoman Sue Chan.

"We love cheering from the sidelines, saying, 'Go, Scott!'" Sue Chan said. "We're very proud of him, and we hope Fremont will be just as proud."

The video director, now a Los Angeles resident, said he fondly remembers growing up in Fremont, where he attended Gomes Elementary and Hopkins Junior High before graduating from Mission San Jose High in 1996. During those formative years, he said he was "obsessive about film and music" -- twin passions that helped him produce videos on some of the world's biggest celebrities, including soccer superstar David Beckham and Lady Gaga.

"That's the trick of being Scott -- he can put a really good-quality video together with a high-value company and know what to do," Shea said. "That's a formula for success.".

His recent work has included a online broadcast in which users could directly ask questions of President Barack Obama. Chan also has worked with the Harlem Children's Zone, a nonprofit devoted to helping the most poverty-afflicted parts of the New York City neighborhood.

"It's a cool thing to help them tell their amazing story so people can help," Chan said.

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.

Scott Chan's Video
Zeitgeist 2012
http://getwhirled.com/work/zeitgeist-2012