How did you end up working in film in Shanghai?
Film is what brought me to China. When I first came to Asia, I went to Hong Kong to raise money for a script I’d written and then I decided to come to Shanghai and next thing I knew I was living here. When I got here, there were a few other people doing it—getting work as actors in local films—but it was always the same usual suspects. At that time, there was me and one other person who was always getting work. Now I think there’s more.
You’ve done a lot of work in Chinese film and television. What is it like working on set?
I’m always shooting. A lot of times, ten minutes before we start to shoot, they hand me the script in Chinese and I have to get an assistant to read it to me in English. The clock is ticking, I’m writing it down and asking, “What’s the scene? Who am I? What’s my relationship with that other actor?” It’s mostly period pieces and World War II dramas, though. As a result, I get recognized on the street a lot—mostly from forty-to-fifty year old Chinese guys.
Where did the idea for Wise Hit come from?
I wanted to do more production, but I had to do something where I knew the actors would be there, the director would be there, and the camera would be there. As an actor and a director, I knew I would show up. My background is in martial arts and I love comedy, so the two things sort of came together. Still, in the beginning, we didn’t know what direction we were going with it. We knew it was campy, but that was it.
Had you ever done a webseries before?
No, honestly, before Wise Hit I was more focused on trying to make a feature. I knew about webseries, but I’d never really thought about it as a platform. But, now, it’s all part of the new media, it’s what people are watching, and it’s where new talent is going to get discovered. For independent filmmakers it’s a great outlet. I used to walk around and say to people, “Could you please read my script?” And, it was terrible! These days, it’s a lot easier if you just write something and shoot it and produce it yourself.
Have you learned anything as a filmmaker as a result of working on the show?
I think you have to choose who you listen to because everyone has an opinion. In the end, though, you’ve always got to find your own style. It’s like anything else—you’ve just gotta keep doing it. You can use a storyboard or a shot list, but there are always choices you have to make about how you approach a film or a scene. What’s important is knowing in your mind what shots you need. It’s like having a puzzle in your head. You have to be able to say, “I want this, I want that,” and then go and shoot it.
How do you approach writing, directing, and producing each episode?
I love to go in every time and say, “This rhythm will be different. This comedy will be different.” Every episode has its own style. That said, we try to do two-to-two-and-a-half-minutes of comedy and then a minute-to-a-minute-and-a-half of fighting per show. Most of it is written. There is some improv and lines adlibbed here-and-there. But, for the most part, if it’s not in the script, it’s not in the show.
What are some of the influences you draw on when creating the show?
I’ve always been into martial arts films. I was a big fan of Sonny Chiba growing up. I spent a lot of time watching The Street Fighter—so, that was the style I wanted for Wise Hit. Other than that, I’m really into Mel Brooks’ films, a lot of stand-up comedians, even the old Batman series. And, of course, I love Bruce Lee.
Wise Hit mixes fighting and comedy—two very difficult things to do well. Which one do you think is more challenging to shoot?
You need actors who look like they could kick ass.
The fight sequences are harder. With martial arts, you can tell by the way someone moves if they could fight or not. You can have the best scene in the world—the acting is great, the dialogue is great—and then the guy steps back to throw and you’re like, “Fuck, that guy can’t fight.” It completely ruins it. You need actors who look like they could kick ass.
For anyone following the local film and theater scene, they’ll probably notice a few familiar faces on screen. How important is finding the right actors to the show’s success?
Half your job as a filmmaker is casting your show correctly. Most of the time I try to work with actors who write. That way, I know the actors first and then we write the character and the scene for them.
There are lots of great characters in the show—especially bad guys. Do you have any favorites?
If I say I have one favorite bad guy, then I think all the other actors would say, “I thought I was his favorite!” The truth is they all brought something to the table. That said, I want to get some of the guys back, especially from the earlier episodes. It would add more value because you would be like, “I know that character, I’ve seen him before.” That’s always cool.
There have been a lot of surprises on the show so far. Is there anything special in store for the future of Wise Hit?
I want to do more with wardrobe, CGI, more aliens, more vampires, and take it to that level. I’d also love to choreograph a big Bollywood dance scene. And, of course, more fight sequences. I’d like to get to that point where scenes are like bam! Guys going through walls, tables breaking. No flying or wire work. Just old school, Bruce Lee-style stuff.
Is there anything you want your audience to take away from the show?
Yeah, be nice… or else. And, have a sensitive side. Just don’t take life too seriously.
UPDATED (February 2018): You can check out the latest episode of Wise Hit on YouTube here.