In part one of our interview with Jino Kang we discussed his background in martial arts and how he began his career as an independent filmmaker. We continue our conversation below and explore his approach to fight choreography, creating villains and more:
MT: What aspects of fight choreography are most important to you?
JK: First of all, it has to be entertaining. Second thing, it should be as realistic as possible, and third thing, it's part of being entertaining, but I think a fight should tell a story. I'm not against films that are fully wired, because that's part of a story. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they're supposed to fly, because they achieve that level of martial arts. They can do that, and that's part of the story, I'll buy it. That's okay, but I don't think that should belong in, let's say, modern day films. In other words, the guy shouldn't be punching, kicking, and all of a sudden he's flying around, or he's doing a triple spinning kick, and you know the guy's on wires, or he's able to jump onto a building and so on. Of course, not Jackie Chan and certain people where they can do it without wires and so on, but that's what I'm trying to convey.
As far as being realistic, that's what I mean. It should be just face-to-face, punching out, and showing realistic techniques. Then, of course, it has to be entertaining, and so you do incorporate some fancy techniques to make it look good and try to wow the audience.
The other aspect is being able to tell a story, so let's say for instance, if I'm doing a fight with one person and I'm able to choke out this person with my clothing. When I fight the next guy, the clothing gets used against me, because the other guy is an expert in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and so he's using my own clothing. It's sort of like a revenge back against me, so I have to take it off to even the score. Everything I like to do is tell a little story within the fight scenes to make it interesting.
I think that's the problem with being a real martial artist versus being an actor training for a film. Actors train for three or four months. Of course, they work really, really hard, right, but still they're not real martial artists, not like they've been doing it for a long time. I'm sure on the other hand, most martial artists are not a star, not like Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris or so on.
I like to show a wide angle first, using cool stuff only to emphasize a certain aspect of action, for example a guy getting knocked out and so on. I want people to see. If you watch my films, most of the fight scenes are shot for medium shots. I call them western medium where you can see right above the knee. You can actually see the whole entire action of the fight sequence.
I think it brings believably to the action, because you can see everything. There's no shakey cam, and I think shakey cam is just a mask to mask the action or mask the actors inability and so on.
MT: What is your approach to creating Villains?
JK: I love villains. In Fist 2 Fist, I wanted them to be big and powerful as much as possible. When you see Tokyo Joe, he's 275 pounds and 6'5. Here I am, 5'9, 150 pounds. You see the big discrepancy there, so you can see the overpowering presence. It's pretty much against all odds that the protagonists are going to win. That's generally my approach to it.
Banducci in Weapon of Choice has the brains and hires the guns. Even though he's not a martial artist himself, he has an overpowering number of people that work for him to fight against the protagonist. I like to give villains a voice, especially with sharp dialogue. They normally get the best lines. It's not just “me time” on the screen; I want the other guys to show that they're great actors, so it's much more exciting when we both meet at the end.
MT: Did any specific movie theaters have a big impact on you growing up?
JK: Watching Bruce Lee movies and all the cult movies that came out in 70s in Chinatown. Back then, we were free to run around as young kids, and we would catch a bus to Chinatown, and then we would watch double features like Duel of the Iron Fist, Five Fingers of Death, Chinese Connection, Fist of Fury. All those movies, I'd rewatch them over and over. I don't remember the names anymore, but those old, dingy, sticky-floor, dark theaters in Chinatown. I really do have fond memories of that.
MT: What projects can audiences look forward to from you in the future?
JK: There are a couple of things, projects that I'm working on right now. I did finish the script for the follow-up to Weapon of Choice. It's a higher budget film, so I'm going to have to knock on some doors and secure some financing and get a package. I would imagine it's going to take some time, but in the meantime, we are also trying to finish another script. It's a spec script. We're trying to get a TV pilot going. The working title is The Wages of Sin. It's actually a follow-up to Fist 2 Fist, about the character Ken Min, the same character who is the community center director. He's a life-time crusader. What happens is that he saves a kidnapped child from a mob boss, and that opens a Pandora's box of trouble for him. Hopefully I can get this shot by March or April of 2017. That's the goal, so we are furiously working on trying to get this script done. I think we have financing for this one, so we can get this one in the can first, and then we'll shop it around. That's the plan.