A holder of a bachelor's degree in economics and theatre studies at Yale University, Duc Luu started out in acting and directing. In 2007, he shifted gears and took another road, founding the Edge Learning Center which encourages students to reach their potential, and prepare them for higher education. It offers a variety of programmes, such as subjects in IB, AP and A level. The school also offers test preparation programmes, such as for the SAT. The centre will open its first branch in China in six months.
You were very active in the entertainment industry before. Why found a learning centre?
I spent several years as an actor and director in Hong Kong, which culminated in my winning a production deal from a major foreign production firm to get a movie I had co-written on to the screen.
I was given a US$3 million (about HK$23 million) production budget and spent about two years attending festivals and working with talent agencies to cast the film. In the end, I couldn't get the stars I needed.
This experience made me think much more carefully about my values as an artist and as a person. I thought about all the scripts that I had written and realised that there was always a strong social message. Whether it was a romantic comedy or a gangster flick, the underlying message was often about the individual benefiting society in some way. Once the movie deal fell through, I realised I wanted to leave a legacy. I hope the Edge will be that.
You mention on the website of your centre that you always felt education would be significant in your life. Why was this?
I grew up poor in America. Everything I have today is a product of the opportunities I received through having had an education.
As an immigrant in America, I was eligible for a lot of free government programmes. I was on scholarships and financial aid throughout university. Without these opportunities, I wouldn't be standing where I am today.
What do you think of the education system in Hong Kong?
I think that that of Hong Kong - and Asia, generally - focuses very much on memorisation and test scores. But these skills tend to fail us when we move to tertiary education.
Running a learning centre is different from acting. Did you find it difficult at the outset?
Acting requires microcosmic focus on details, such as recognising the touch and smell of wood burning, or the sounds of a busy subway, but running a company requires a macroscopic vision of the market. I need that level of detail when I work with my content development team as much as I need a macro view when addressing the shortcomings of our current education system and the varying needs of my various customers.
To be honest, I had a weak foundation in financial and operations management. I, therefore, had to spend my nights reading and studying these concepts, and then implementing them at work. I have my co-founders and board of directors to thank for their multifarious advice and encouragement.
Do you enjoy what you are doing at the moment?
Yes, absolutely. I think the main reason is because I integrate my work with my life. A successful actor never separates his work from his life, and in this vein, I apply what I learned from the art world to what I do today.
I am happy with what I am doing. I really like this business, and I like the challenge of improving the array of available educational offerings.
Do you consider yourself an artist, a businessman, or an educator?
I'm in the business of education, but there is artistry in the details.