An Interview with Xavier Yu, Entertainment Producer in Hong Kong
By Liam Klenk
Xavier Yu has owned his own production company in Hong Kong for twenty years. Starting out in the radio industry, he slowly but surely found his passion in theatre. But Xavier is not just one of the most experienced entertainment professionals of his generation. He also cares to make a difference through the events and shows he produces.
Hello Xavier, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become interested in theatre?
My passion for theatre basically started in 1987, when I joined Radio Hong Kong. I was a production assistant at the time and I had the opportunity to also get involved with recording and DJ work.
Slowly, I realized I was most interested in working behind the scenes.
So, I decided to participate in a program of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts to study sound design and music recording.
The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts is the only school in Hong Kong that offers majors in stage production.
During my audio studies, I had ample opportunities to meet and cooperate with outstanding theatre groups from Hong Kong and from abroad. This was mainly in my capacity as sound technician and designer.
I began to realize that theater was profoundly different from radio. I also realized, that theatre was for more the direction in which I wanted to go.
What, specifically, excited you about theatre?
Up until my involvement in theatre through the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, I had only ever listened to radio production.
When I got involved in stage sound design, the sound became more three-dimensional. At this time, I began to realize that theatre is a very magical place.
The possibilities are endless. It is an incredibly exciting, invigorating work environment.
How did the idea of your own production company develop?
After graduation, I resumed my work at the radio station. I started to have the opportunity to produce live outdoor performances, such as concerts and awards ceremonies.
At that time, Hong Kong’s entertainment industry was very prosperous. My frequency of work was high: Almost every week I had two small events. And about once a month one big event.
There were many opportunities to use the theatre and sound knowledge I had acquired at academy. With each event I did I transformed more from sound designer to director.
I worked for the radio station for another four years, then established my own production company.
Are there any shows or events you remember especially well?
There are two remarkable ones.
One of them was the Extraordinary Journey, performed at the Water Cube of the Beijing Olympics venue. The whole event was led and directed by me, from creation, to production, and technology.
In essence, the performance was a musical.
The theme was “water reserve” and the musical’s message was to promote the responsible and ecologically friendly use of Earth’s water reserves.
The same musical was later also performed at The House of Dancing Water theatre in Macau. The cast included Chinese gold medal divers, as well as many first-class singers from Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland.
There are many magical elements in the stage technology design of Macau’s The House of Dancing Water.
The divers jumping from the diving platforms, had to follow specific safety instructions. This meant changing some of our show design to adhere to the SOPs of the venue.
We had many technical and production problems that we needed to overcome before our performance became a success. It was a multimedia show which I will never forget.
The other memorable production was my masters degree thesis, which I submitted for my masters degree studies at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in 2012.
For the thesis, I produced a show. This show was mainly a study of integrating theater into the five senses.
I aimed for a completely inclusive performance during which people with physical disabilities were able to experience the show just as well as people with no physical disabilities.
For me this project was very meaningful and is to this day unforgettable.
What has 2020 been like for you and your company?
I have now owned my own production company for more than 20 years. I have mainly produced commercial and artistic programs.
Over the course of this year, many events were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, I have experience in broadcasting live online (Live Streaming), and I have my own shooting team.
So, I have recently been busy making live broadcasts for theater groups, orchestras, and large conferences.
Now, I am also applying XR Extended Reality technology. I believe, the next generation of live performances will have to be combined with virtual live broadcasts.
What are your plans and dreams for the future?
My dream is that my team members will manage to take over my tasks and pass our accumulated knowledge on from generation to generation.
When, at some point, I will hand over to the next generation, I want to become a guest in the theater. Then, I will want to comfortably enjoy the diverse arts and entertainment programs and developments all over the world.