Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist panel at MCM London Comic Con

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist Panel

“It’s going to be the definitive back story of that part of the mythology,” said Joey Ansah, director, co-writer and star of the live action series Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist. At a very packed panel at MCM London Comic Con, he was in attendance along with his co-writer and star Christian Howard, and star Akira Koieyama.

The series tells the origins of the characters Ryu (Mike Moh), Ken (Christian Howard), Master Gouken (Akira Koieyama), Akuma (Joey Ansah) and Goutetsu (Togo Igawa). As Ryu and Ken train in the Ansatsuken style of martial arts, their Master Gouken finds himself forced to revisit his dark past, which resulted in the loss of his brother. All 12 episodes of the series went online on Machinima on 23 May.

The panel began with the trailer for the series, after which the audience were treated to a screening of Episode 11: May the Best Man Win.

As the episode culminated with an epic fight between Ryu and Ken on screen, Joey, Christian and Akira took to their seats on the stage, with the first question addressed to Joey, simply asking, “Why did you want to do this?”

Street Fighter Assassins Fist (Ken, Master Goken, Ryu)“Both Chris and I have been huge Street Fighter fans from day one,” answered Joey. “It’s been massively influential on us, as martial artists and as individuals who work in the film industry. I think we’ve just seen one too many destroyed adaptations. All video game adaptations have been utterly decimated in my opinion.” He then quickly added that the first Mortal Kombat film wasn’t bad, noting that “there was a lot to like in that, but it wasn’t perfect. After The Legend of Chun-Li we thought, ‘enough is enough, someone needs to do something about it, and it’s not going to be them, it might as well be us.’”

From this came the successful fan film Street Fighter: Legacy, which was uploaded to YouTube in 2010 and has since managed over five million views.

Joey explained that the reason for so many lacklustre films based on video games is because too often video games companies tend to give the rights away to studios that are more interested in profit. “The creators of the game aren’t even consulted half the time,” he said. “We’re trying to change that, so hopefully after this, any game company is going to think real seriously before they easily give up the rights to live action to some hack film company.” Joey’s response drew a well deserved round of applause.

Following this he was asked just how much interaction they had with the actual developers of the game. Joey explained that they actively sought to get support from the creators of the Street Fighter video game. “Yoshinori Ono, who is the producer of the Street Fighter IV series, he is the guy in charge of the Street Fighter brand at Capcom. Nothing happens with the brand unless he gives his thumbs up. It was very important to get his approval.” Joey revealed that not only did Ono approve, but he also has a cameo role in Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist.

“I think they really respected that we knew a lot about the source material,” added Christian. “We wanted to do it justice. We were working in league with them and they definitely gave their approval on everything.”

When asked on just how many hours of training they had to do for the film, Joey’s response was, “All the hours in the day.”

“My training started six months before we started filming,” said Akira. “To become character Gouken is a big, big challenge for me. So everyday training, and lots of protein shakes… protein shakes… protein shakes again!” He then pointed at Joey and Christian and said, “Look at them… like a beast. And they’re training together; it’s not easy.”

“We had a bit of lead up time, but it definitely was an increase in training,” said Christian. “Sorting out your diet and just trying to avoid injuries all the way. It was a hard road, but we had time to incorporate that.”

“I snapped my Achilles tendon a year before we started filming,” said Joey. “Touch wood, we’re back fighting fit and doing another film, with Scott Adkins, who’s in the audience here, one of the best action stars in the world… hopefully going to be in the next Street Fighter series.”

A question from the audience asked what the process was like, from making the short film to making a series. Joey revealed that he had initially pitched to Capcom five years ago about doing a series based on The World Warrior arc, which he developed with Christian. “Our original aim was to go straight to a feature length series,” said Joey. “When we learned that Capcom wasn’t in a position to finance that, we thought, ‘Okay, lets counter pitch, lets do a short proof of concept and get Capcom to market it.’” That short turned out to be Street Fighter: Legacy.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Christian “But doing Legacy taught us a lot about the direction we were going to go in when we did this series. It was a big undertaking. It didn’t get made immediately and that did give us time to iron out a lot of creases.”

Joey explained how hard it was just waiting for the money to come through, saying, “For Assassin’s Fist we thought, ‘We’re going to have more time’, but the money didn’t close till a week or so before filming. So we had two weeks of pre-production. All the cast didn’t get together till two weeks before filming and it was a mad rush, but we did it.”

Asked if there was anything they would have done differently, Joey highlighted the fight between Akuma and Goutetsu. “We had such little time to shoot that and we had to cut about 50 percent of the choreography that had been done for it. So as cool as that fight is, you’re only seeing half of what was originally designed for it.” Recalling how difficult it was, Joey mentioned that the fight was a night shoot and they were filming in Bulgaria in the summer. “You’re only getting six hours of actual total darkness,” he said. “So we had three nights to shoot that fight, which combined is only 18 hours, which is nothing for the fight scene. You’ve got wire-work, you’ve got fire, you’ve got wind machines, rain machines, you’ve got exploding trees, you’ve got fireballs zipping down wires. So, it’s crazy.” Joey also added that the final fight with Ken and Ryu was shot in just one day.

The audience was then shown four exclusive behind the scenes features that will be uploaded to Machinima in the future, as well as being included on the upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray release. MCM London Comic Con was the first time they were publicly shown. These included:

  • An interview with Joey Ansah.
  • An interview with Christian Howard & Mike Moh (which seemed to be less an interview and more Mike arguing with Christian as to why Ryu is stronger than Ken – We see Mike tell Christian, “Who’s the default character when you go to the Character Select? It’s not Ken”).
  • A glimpse into the action.
  • A glimpse into the effects.

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist Panel (2)As the panel went back to questions, the three were asked how they felt watching the series back. “I’ve watched this hundreds of times, and I still get enjoyment watching it,” smiled Joey. “The actors committed so much passion and depth to the roles. Even if it’s something you’ve written, it still feels fresh.” He added how he wanted to make every scene a favourite scene, saying, “Whether it’s a dialogue scene, a philosophical scene, a training montage, a fight scene – why can’t they all be epic? Why can’t they all be memorable and have something? Or at least make it layered.” He also revealed that there is a lot symbolism and foreshadowing in the series. “When you guys re-watch it you’re going to think, ‘Oh man, they’re actually foreshadowing what’s going to happen but I never noticed it the first time around.’”

Christian praised his co-star Akira, saying, “[His] presence on screen just blows me away every time, because he really just embodied Gouken as the master of Ryu and Ken. When you’re on set and you’re acting with that, it was a joy to do because he was just the character.”

Akira also commented on how each episode is detailed and well made. “There’s lots of drama, action and even comedy as well. I can watch it again and again,” he said.

Asked what was next, Christian revealed that they have big plans for the future. “We originally wrote the treatment based on the Street Fighter II story arc. We’ve got high hopes, but they throw more money at us and more time then hopefully we can do a bigger and better thing. If you like this, then support it and hopefully we’ll do more.”

Joey then revealed what audiences could see in a potential second series: “Logically, Ryu and Ken are now in America, we’re going to see the Street Fighter world tournament, at least Sagat getting the scar, Ken’s gonna kick ass in the US, there’s obviously the Gouken and Akuma showdown that everyone is waiting to see, then introduce Shadaloo and the captains of Shadaloo – Vega, Balrog, Sagat and Bison. You could do an entire series on Shadaloo.” He explained that a second series shouldn’t be so difficult after having completed Assassin’s Fist, but added, “there’s no point in doing it unless we can do it the right way.”

Joey then highlighted that Assassin’s Fist had taken three years to develop, and the reason why was because of “having to break down barriers” and getting it financed as a first time feature director. “We had 100 percent creative control on this and that’s why it is so different to anything else you’ve seen.”

The next question had Joey being asked which character from Street Fighter he would choose next if given the opportunity to do another back story. Without hesitation, Joey answered, “All of them.” He explained that the ideal plan would be another series that consists of ten episodes, each an hour long, and it would introduce Shadaloo. “You will get that development, we’re not just going to crowbar it all into one two-hour thing,” he said. “It would cover the Street Fighter 1 tournament, Ryu and Ken returning to Japan, Ryu becoming the tireless wanderer, Akuma kind of haunting him, Shadaloo and the World Warrior tournament. So you would get all of that back story before you get to the tournament itself.”

Asked if they had certain actors in mind when casting, Joey revealed that there are very few people suitable for the roles, since the best person for the part would have to fit certain criteria. “You’ve got to look the part, facially, ethnicity-wise and hopefully build-wise,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to act, that’s the main thing. A lot of drama is expected of the actors. And the fights, there’s no stunt doubling. [We’re] doing all these moves for real. Now how many actors do you know of that can do all three things? There are some people that we know that are a ‘go to’ person, like Scott Adkins, who is our first choice for Guile.”

When questioned about pranks and memorable anecdotes during filming, Christian mentioned how Akira would come out the gym every time saying the phrase, “Protein-Bro!”

Akira explained how this came about, saying, “After exercise, you have to take protein. If you don’t take protein, you will lose the muscles. So you’re gonna have to take the Protein-Bro.”

Following this, the three were asked if there were any stunts they were afraid to perform. Joey revealed that it was less about being afraid and more about being careful when stunts and effects could have turned into serious injuries. One involved wearing a harness when performing Dragon Punches. “The wire kind of comes up your right side, coming down your body,” recalled Joey. “That started to cut into our body. It very nearly actually cut me open. So we had to put some padding on to stop it.” Joey also revealed that he got burned too. “We’re gonna show you guys a blooper reel. There’s some bits where my hands are flaming and it’s real gunpowder, it’s not CGI. One of them got out of hand and engulfed my hand. That was probably the most dangerous thing that happened to me.”

Street Fighter Assassins Fist (Ryu and Ken)“As long as you trust the person you’re working with it’s all good,” said Christian. “Me and Mike took some real hits in the head. You’ll see in the end fight he was shaking my brain. It’s not so much the fear of doing it, but you’ve got to go through it because of time pressure.”

Akira recounted a moment where he had to punch a thick pot, which resulted in him cutting himself, saying, “Joey came up to me and said, ‘Hey Akira, you have to smash this pot.’” He did so, only to end up with deep cuts in his knuckles.

“We cut out just in time,” said Christian. “Akira smashed it and then he was looking at his hand as it started to bleed.”

“We built breakaway ones but they weren’t right,” said Joey. “So this thing was thick, and I thought, ‘Akira’s done karate for many years, he’s hardcore.’ I just said, ‘Go on Akira, do it.’ And he’s like, ‘Okay… Protein-Bro.’ He smashed it!”

“I didn’t think about it,” laughed Akira. “The result is good, yeah?”

Following this a blooper reel was shown as well as two video clips of Ken keeping a video diary. “We came up with the idea that Ken has a camcorder and he’s been filming random stuff during his time training,” said Joey. Ken’s video diary is to be released on Machinema later, while the blooper reel will only be available on the DVD and Blu-Ray.

“The soundtrack to this series is pretty incredible,” enthused Joey. “The composer is Patrick Gill. Other music was contributed by my very talented brother, Ryan Ansah. The Ken theme you hear playing is his work along with Daniel Braine. The album is on Amazon and iTunes, so please download it.” Joey also revealed that there will be related merchandise coming out too and that Assassin’s Fist should be available on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK around October. “There’s loads of deleted scenes, lots of surprises and extras on there.”

With the number of people from different backgrounds working on the production, they were asked what the culture barrier was like. Joey revealed that a lot of people multitasked, but in particular he highlighted the involvement of Togo Igawa, who plays Goutetsu. “He has been working on this for over a year and a half,” he said. “He translated all the Japanese sections of the script into Japanese from the original English. He also acted as the dialect coach to train all of us non-native Japanese speakers to speak Japanese and acted as a translator. Togo was really important on this project.”

The three were then asked how satisfying it was to depict the special moves on screen. Joey answered by declaring, “Chris has the most epic Shoryuken scream of all time in the known universe.”

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist Panel (Hadouken)It’s another thing we really wanted to do justice,” said Christian. “Our team thought, ‘If you’re gonna do a Hadouken, how would that manifest itself in a logical way?’ So to shout these things was great. The very final Shoryuken that I did, I thought, ‘It’s got to be the biggest and best one ever.’”

“It feels great,” said Joey. “Akira probably does the most epic Hadouken in the series, at the end of Episode 2.”

“You wanna see it?” asked Akira, at which point he got up and performed a Hadouken for the audience.

The final question had Joey being asked if he had any doubts when it came to realising his dream for the project, and how he overcame them. Joey revealed how after doing the short Street Fighter: Legacy, Capcom did not give him and Christian the rights to making a Street Fighter series straight away. “They’re talking to other studios, talking about giving the rights away,” explained Joey. “We came this close to losing it. Various other big studios were trying to get the rights to a TV series and do another movie. We’re the most selfless filmmakers. We’ve done this, we’ve put our own money in and we’ve all deferred nearly all of our pay to put it all on the screen.”

Joey closed the panel saying, “You’ve just got to stick to your vision. If what you’re doing is good and people believe in it, that will eventually wear people down.”

 

Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist can be viewed on Machinima, with a DVD and Blu-Ray release to follow in October.

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