Contributions to Filmmaker Magazine:
Makuta VFX’s Pete Draper on Working with RRR Director S.S. Rajamouli Filmmaker Magazine, April 18, 2022
The culmination of director S.S. Rajamouli’s bombastic use of visual effects, RRR is on its way to becoming the biggest Indian blockbuster of 2022. Starting with the vengeful CGI fly in Eega (2012) through the mythical landscapes of Baahubali (2015-2017) and the jungle cat revolutionary warfare of RRR, Rajamouli has overseen some of the most jaw-droppingly creative spectacles of the 21st century. He was able to do this thanks to the help of Makuta VFX, who’ve worked on all of Rajamouli’s films in some capacity since Magadheera (2009). I spoke with Makuta VFX’s Division Head & Chief Technical Director, Pete Draper, about his journey from England to Hyderabad, the work that goes into setting up a VFX shop in India and what it’s like working on Rajamouli’s epic creations.
At the age of 64 Dolph Lundgren remains as busy as ever, alternating between Hollywood mega-productions like Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and small-scale action movies like Castle Falls, which he produced, directed, and co-starred in (alongside Scott Adkins). Castle Falls, which opens December 3rd in theaters, on demand and digital, is a compact crime film in which millions of dollars are hidden in a derelict hospital slated for demolition. A prison guard (Lundgren), an ex-MMA fighter (Adkins) and a desperately violent gang converge on the crumbling edifice hoping to strike it rich before everything explodes. I spoke with Lundgren on the phone about this resourceful but frequently snakebit production, which was shut down on the first day of shooting in March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.
My Job During a Pandemic: Producing 100+ DVDs and Blu-rays in 2020 Filmmaker Magazine, February 10, 2021
When I left Kino Lorber’s office on Friday, March 13th, I was expecting to return on Monday. I was wrapping up the DVD and Blu-ray of Jia Zhangke’s I Wish I Knew (2010), getting final proofs of Adam Nayman’s booklet essay and waiting for the test molds (the final check disc the replicator sends for approval before the title goes into manufacturing) to come in. But then the lockdown hit, and the scramble to improvise and adapt to the situation. One of my colleagues lives nearby our office, so he shipped the I Wish I Knew test molds to our head of quality control, who was working from home in Brooklyn. All the shipping addresses then had to be changed so discs didn’t start stacking up on my office desk. But finishing up projects that were near completion was easy; the real question was how new titles would get done in this isolated new era.
Yuen Woo-Ping on Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy, Dave Bautista and Martial Arts Cinema Filmmaker Magazine, April 11, 2019
Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy (2019) closes out Yuen Woo-ping’s fifth decade in martial arts filmmaking. It is an astonishing run in which he helped launch the careers of Jackie Chan (Drunken Master, 1978) and Donnie Yen (Drunken Tai Chi, 1984), while shaping the style of Hollywood action for a generation with his fight choreography for The Matrix (1999). Master Z is a spinoff of the Donnie Yen-led Ip Man franchise, following Cheung Tin-chi (Max Zhang), a kung fu master humbled by a loss to Ip Man who tries to rebuild his life as a grocery store vendor. Of course gangsters (led by Michelle Yeoh) and an evil English colonist (Dave Bautista) force him back into fighting. With its balletic wirework and lean narrative line, it’s a thrilling throwback to Yuen’s greatest films. I interviewed Yuen over e-mail about Max Zhang’s standout set of skills, his childhood memories of Hong Kong and his time watching Dave Bautista pro wrestling videos.
“You Have to Make Money. It’s a Business”: Jesse V. Johnson on Accident Man, Scott Adkins and the Logistics of Fast DTV Shoots Filmmaker Magazine, February 6, 2018
For over 15 years, Jesse V. Johnson has been a reliable craftsman of action movies for the wildly unreliable DTV market. Born in England, he moved to Hollywood to work as a stunt performer in the 1990s, working on everything from Total Recall (1990) to The Thin Red Line (1999). He has bounced back and forth between stunt work and DTV directing ever since — whatever it took to pay the bills in an unpredictable career. One predictable thing over the last year has been the presence of Scott Adkins as his leading man. Adkins may not have the name recognition of Van Damme but is his inheritor: a remarkably athletic performer who broke through in fight tournament movies but is now trying to expand his range. That next step happens in Accident Man (out on VOD/DVD/Blu-ray on Feb. 6th), a kinetic comic-book adaptation directed by Johnson about a hitman who makes his kills looks like accidents. I spoke with Jesse V. Johnson about working with Adkins (they have two more movies coming out this year), dealing with the budget limitations of DTV productions and the difficulties of making it in in the movie business without a trust fund.
Isaac Florentine is one of the stalwart direct-to-video directors of the last decade, making fluid fight films on microscopic budgets, usually with the miraculously athletic Scott Adkins in the lead. His latest film Acts of Vengeance has heightened visibility, and an honest-to-goodness theatrical release, thanks to the casting of Antonio Banderas as a slick defense attorney who takes a vow of silence before taking his revenge on his family’s killers. I spoke by phone with Florentine about the development of the project, the personal losses he sustained during its production, and his philosophy of screen fighting.