Greetings valued Dan's Movie Report readers. It has been a long time coming. Producer Bey Logan has brand new projects unleashing in 2019, first is Lady Detective Shadow, in May comes Vixen. Both films are releasing stateside on the TriCoast Worldwide. Last year The Dark Soul was also released on the TriCoast . Bey also has two new books, one on Bruce Lee, the other is a compendium on various films entitled 36 Chambers of Kung-Fu Cinema. Both books can be purchased on his official Reel East Website.
I am breaking this interview down into two parts, new films first and then books. I realize Bey has a long history in action films, however this interview is only focused on new material, please read our 2015 interview for further information on Bey and some of his past work: http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2015/04/bey-logan-interview-exclusive-c-2015.html
Phase one, the films.
Chat about how the ideas came about for Lady Detective Shadow, it really seemed like a throwback to early 90s style wuxia films.
Thanks! It felt like the time was right for a female period kung fu detective, and my producing partner James Nan felt exactly the same way! It’s definitely the case that international audiences have a great appetite for this kind of film, thanks largely to Ang Lee’s work on ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and despite all of mine on the sequel!
I am curious, with regards to pre-production, did you have some time prior to the film starting principal photography to work on story-boarding the action, perhaps describe some of the process.
The only story-boarding done was for the visual effects shots. Which I think also have a nice 90s throwback feel! I feel Chinese film-makers will always be better than Hollywood in terms of the swordplay action, but probably always take second place in terms of visual effects. So the only pre-viz was for the fx shots. The action was pretty much all designed on the set, China-style!
I really liked the costuming on Lady Detective Shadow, curious how the ideas for costumes were decided upon, like what period of time is the story supposed to be set in or is it a mythical time, with blended styles.
It’s supposedly the Song dynasty, but these kinds of period Chinese epics take some liberties in terms of historical verisimilitude. The main challenge was designing outfits that our leading lady could fight in. I like her ‘bee keeper’ hat, which was actually very useful in the desert with all the dust and bugs.
Chat about the casting, how many actresses and actors read for the two lead roles, they had many scenes so had to be fairly adept. How long did the film take to cast?
The director, Si Shu-bu, has a lot of experience filming period TV dramas, and he knew Shang Ring, who plays the lead, from her earlier television work. He knew she could look good in period costuming, which not everyone can! And that she could take on her share of the action. My recollection is that he recommended her, Shang Ring accepted and that was it!
I know China is notorious for having a very small number of shooting days, cramming a lot into a very short time, how long did the principal photography take on Lady Detective Shadow? Was there more than one unit shooting?
It was actually two months on this one, which is more than we had on either ‘Vixen’ or ‘Dark Soul’. And you need the extra time when you’re shooting swordplay action in the middle of the Gobi desert! It was pretty much one unit, with a splinter unit for some wide shots and inserts.
Chat about set design, I realize you had various carpenters and others working on crafting the set, were ideas and drawings made or more basic sketches and allow some freedom to create.
There was a very experienced production design team on the shoot. The challenge is that you’re shooting buildings and props that we only know today as antiques, and they have to look relatively new, but still used. If that makes any sense! I would actually have preferred things to be a bit grittier, like a Spaghetti Western, but it still looks pretty good!
On to the action chat about some of the action, the fights are more beautiful, graceful. Actually she seemed like a Dick Tracy of olden times learning the clues as she went along.
Wow. I actually haven’t heard Dick Tracy referenced for a while! But that’s exactly right. I mean, the obvious modern reference is ‘Sherlock’, because she was this ‘Shadowvision’ when she interprets a crime scene. And having her be a lawgiver in the equivalent of the Wild East gives us all these opportunities for our lady detective to go into action. Narratively, it saves a lot of time, giving her a crime to solve. It’s like kung fu ‘CSI: Gobi’. We’re actually working on the sequels now!
How was the response to Lady Detective Shadow in China? Was it a TV movie or did it show in Cinemas.
It had some limited theatrical play, but was primarily a high end TV movie. People still like this kind of thing in China but, strangely enough, audiences in the west seem to like period swordplay action even more. I think Chinese people have actually seen a lot of these, while they’re still relatively new in the west. Given how well ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and the subsequent wuxia films did internationally, it’s surprising there haven’t been more of them distributed recently. Maybe that’s why ‘Lady Detective Shadow’ has been so well received!
Chat a bit about your involvement in the negotiation process in general with regards to obtaining U.S. Releases for Lady Detective Shadow and others you have been the Producer on.
Well, we have a great international sale partner in Tricoast Worldwide. I think that when you make any kind of lower budget genre movie, or are planning to make one, you’re always smart to talk to your sales company. What kind of film can they sell, and what kind of numbers can you hope to generate? With ‘Lady Detective Shadow’, Strath Hamilton and the team all told me that there is always a worldwide market for a well-made, female-centric Chinese swordplay flick. And how right they were!
Above: Key Poster art from Vixen, the film is scheduled for release May 5th, 2019.
Shifting gears with Vixen, just saw the trailer for Vixen, looks really bad ass, chat about that film was it always written for that specific actress to play the part or was there a casting search?
It was actually my producing partner James Nan who introduced Li Ran, who plays the lead. And she is just amazing! She’s a former stunt-woman, so obviously very gifted in terms of stunts and fights, but she also turned out to be a wonderfully sensitive actress. In this, she reminds me of Amy Johnston on ‘Lady Bloodfight’, where you bring someone in because they can fight and then you’re SO happy that they can also act very well! I only got to work with Amy once, but we’re actually preparing another film starring Li Ran, focusing on the world of female boxing.
Ultra-violent and unabashed, Vixen looks like a crazy female Die-Hard, chat about some of the ideas you and your team had for the production.
It’s exactly that! The genesis of the film was that we were preparing to shoot another film in Shenzhen, and then thought why don’t we just roll into a second film, using the same crew, and kind of do two for the price of one? My partner Elizabeth asks “What is the best action movie set in just one location?” and I said “‘Die Hard’.” And she said “So why not do ‘Die Hard’ with a Chinese chick…” And that was it! It actually ended up being a standalone feature that we shot in a city called Yuhuan, but it was a lot of fun and, again, it proves that this femme-centric action is what people are looking for, especially from Asia.
Ross W. Clarkson is a total pro action cinematographer having worked on Scott Adkins Ninja films, Truy Sat and Never Back Down: No Surrender , and now director for Vixen, chat about having him in the fold, the film seems even more polished than dare I say it Lady Bloodfight, it has a bigger scope, like more theatrical epic feel to it. His direction seems to allow for more room to create and craft the action. (Trailer of Vixen- https://vimeo.com/295462850)
I first met Ross when someone showed me this sci-fi short film shot in Hong Kong, and then I met this ditsy lady director who had supposedly shot it, and there was a disconnect! This woman made that…? So I asked one of the actors, and he told me “Oh, the DP actually directed the whole thing…”, so I wanted to meet that guy, which was how I met Ross Clarkson. For a while, it felt like every summer Ross and I were doing another film in Bangkok with another faded 80s action star, ‘Kickboxer: Retaliation’, ‘Attrition’… I knew Ross had the long held ambition and ability to direct, which is why I was happy to give him the chance to on ‘Vixen’.
Chat about some of the challenges on training the actress, for her role, how long did she have to learn the choreography, and were there any changes on the fly, with regards to the action, and story?
Our biggest challenge on this show was scheduling and casting. Li Ran was doing another show and couldn’t come until the last minute, and our bad guy, Luc Bendza, had to be shot out so he could go work on another one. I was saying to James, “you found us all these great actors, but none of them really have time!” Luckily, Ross Clarkson is really good at scheduling, so we made it work. Luckily, these guys were able to pick up action and dialogue on the day! It was also a challenge to cast, as we shot in Yuhuan, and there are really NO local actors. At least, none that our casting director could find! That meant we had to bring in a lot of foreign performers, which can get expensive.
Vixen has a fairly diverse cast, seems this is the formula to sell films in multiple territories, curious how the casting process went for the additional roles besides the lead.
As mentioned above, we had to look pretty far afield. I had seen this short film that Bryan Larkin and Julian Gaertner had done, and was impressed by it, and by them, so it was great to get them on-board. Julian, in particular, gets more to do here than he ever has before. Then we had my man Max Repossi, who flew in from Italy. Our casting issues actually worked to his advantage! When he took off in Mifed, Max was only playing one character, and by the time he landed in China he was playing twins!
Perhaps tell an unusual of humorous story on the Set of Vixen.
Obviously, this film is very ‘Die Hard’-esque, which someone on IMDB helpfully ‘revealed’! Spoiler alert provided for and by idiots.... So we wanted to throw in a few ‘in’ references. At one point, a cop is on the ‘phone saying “This sounds like a bad copy of ‘Die Hard’…” We had one scene set in a room full of Christmas decorations, with Li Ran’s character disguised in a Santa Claus outfit so that she can shoot one of the bad guy’s thugs. Who is actually played by my son Ryan! After she fires, Li Ran pulls down the beard and says “Ho, ho, ho, mother*&^er”. And dear sweet Li Ran wasn’t familiar with that particular word, so Ryan and I are standing there on set at 3AM teaching this pretty Chinese girl to talk like Samuel L. Jackson…
Chat about Post Production on Vixen, do you and your team set out a post production timeline, seems when you are one of the people in charge stuff gets done in a more timely fashion, then with too many hands in the til.
We worked at a great facility in Shenzhen, which is very convenient for me, being in Hong Kong, less for James, who lives in Beijing! Or maybe it was convenient for him because, you’re right, I ended up doing most of the work! Editing is always great, because you relive your fun experiences making the film, and terrible, because you realize what you didn’t shoot. Ross cut very fast, I did some tweaks and put on the credits and then James did the music. Team effort!
Which territories remain unsold for Vixen? Are there current release dates for the film in some areas?
It’s selling so fast, anything I say will be outdated by the time you read this. If you’re a film buyer, don’t delay, contact Tricoast today! (http://www.tricoastworldwide.com/) And keep checking my Facebook for release updates!
Shifting the interview focus to your newer books:
A few questions on the books, first off, what made you decide to compile a new Bruce Lee book?
I just felt that I had amassed so much information on Bruce Lee over the years, and had experienced the Bruce Lee phenomenon from such a unique perspective, that I could bring something new to the table. I tried to write the book that only I could write, and was very aware of the angles taken by some of the other recent and excellent books on the same subject. Also, for various reasons, I felt the need to be make an effort to be especially productive this last year, which is why you saw me making films, writing books and competing in the occasional kung fu tournament!
You said the response so far has been very good, do the outlets you sell from and your own site, give you an indication on numbers?
As with the territories sold for ‘Vixen’, the sales on ‘Bruce Lee and I’ are a running tally, and if I say the number now it will (hopefully) be outdated by the time this goes live! We’re a small press, and can’t compete with the large ones, but I’m very happy with the reception. I guess a lot of people out there grew up reading me writing about Bruce Lee, and were happy when I finally did a book! Here’s an exclusive for you! ‘Bruce Lee and I’ is actually the first of a series. I’ll be writing more books looking at the careers of many of the martial arts stars I’ve admired and worked with, again from my unique perspective as film-maker, friend and fan. So you can look forward to ‘Jackie Chan and I’, ‘Sammo Hung’, ‘Donnie Yen and I’… Maybe even ‘Maggie Q and I’, God help us…!
I have the 36th Chambers book, very in-depth, did you write it to preserve some of the history of martial arts in Cinema for the next generation?
You make me sound so professorial! Yes, that was part of it, Danny, but the main motivation is that I think these films are so much fun, and can also potentially inspire a more rewarding lifestyle. Which isn’t something you can say of too many Hollywood action films! As with ‘Bruce Lee and I’, I felt driven to write the book that only I could write. There are enough earlier Hong Kong movie books out there with plot descriptions and critical comments. What I wanted to do with each film was share what it had meant to me personally, place it within the framework of Hong Kong film history, then look at it from start to finish from the simultaneous perspectives of a film-maker, martial artist and historian. Actually, yes, that does sound kind of professorial!
Since you watch so many older films from the very early Chinese productions to now, what are some of the changes besides the obvious of streaming platform, better tech, high resolution cameras etc... you notice. Seems like the much older films from 50s and 60s were more steeped in story and mythology rather than copious action itself.
It’s so interesting! This is slightly to the side of your question, but especially with the Shaw Bros movies, where they were only available on VHS bootlegs for so many years, when you see the restored versions, you start noticing certain actors in the background, specific props, sometimes Chinese characters on the walls… There was a whole generation where that kind of texture wasn’t available, because there was no way to screen pristine copies of the films. I think there are some wonderful things to see in the earlier era of Hong Kong cinema, especially the late 60s to the mid-70s. We have somehow lost our mojo in terms of a depth and breadth of quality Chinese cinema. I was just watching King Hu’s ‘A Touch of Zen’, which was made in 1968, and it just blew me away. Where did we go wrong with all this CGI nonsense?
And I see that you are also an executive producer on ‘Furie’, which has been playing in theaters in North America, and was a big hit in Vietnam. How did that come about?
I am so proud of my friend Veronica Ngo, who both starred in and produced ‘Furie’. I was much less involved with this film than with the other ones we discussed. That’s probably why it’s so good! I think I came up the title, ‘Furie’, and that’s about it… Kidding aside, it was wonderful to work with Veronica, who is this world class talent, and a kind and loyal friend. I had some small part in ‘discovering’ her for the west when I saw ‘The Rebel’. We’re working on another project now, and, when we have more to say, you will be the first one to hear about it.
In closing, what are some observations working in China Vs working in HK for films?
Well, Hong Kong cinema just moved north, and most of our great film-makers started working on Mainland Chinese movies. Bigger budgets, greater resources, more access to CGI… Did we maintain the same quality of Hong Kong films? That’s debatable. I think it all comes down to having a story to tell, and figuring out a way to tell it, by any means necessary. That’s the challenge everywhere, east and west, and it just takes different forms. Working in China is different, and I’m still figuring it out. And I was the most prolific foreign producer in China last year! I am hopeful that there is a young new wave of film-makers coming into the business. I’ll probably be retired by the time they hit their peak. I’ll be watching ‘Ip Man 18’ in a nursing home!
Any plans to do another film blending cultures or is it better to just keep the Chinese films for the China market? Do you have any new stories in the pipeline, new ideas or films that are in pre-production?
I’m really focusing on writing or finding stories that I care about, ones that mean something beyond just a fun exercise in action film-making. Whether they’re Chinese films or co-productions or Hollywood films will depend on the demands of the material. As I mentioned above, we have another couple of ‘Lady Detective Shadow’ films in the pipeline, and I’m making another film with Veronica. And I still have a few dream projects I’d like to somehow make happen before I retire from the martial world!
Thanks Bey! If you would like to purchase Lady Detective Shadow in the U.S., please go to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Detective-Shadow-Shang-Rong/dp/B07PMVGCNL/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Lady+Detective+Shadow&qid=1553187217&s=movies-tv&sr=1-1-catcorr
TriCoast Entertainment Website: http://www.tricoastworldwide.com/
Reel East on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reeleast/