Interview with Joey Ansah, Director of Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist (Joey Ansah as Akuma)Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist was launched on Machinima back in May. Since then the episodes in the series have reached a combined total of over 16 million views, with many praising it as one of the best live action adaptations of a video game. It is now heading to DVD and Blu-ray this October, courtesy of Manga Entertainment.

I talked to Joey Ansah, the director, co-writer and one of the stars of the series (who plays Akuma). He answered questions about the difficulties that arose when working on Assassin’s Fist and what new features can be found on the DVD and Blu-ray release. He also touched on the World Warrior series, which is now in development.

When I first saw you at MCM London Comic Con (the weekend that Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist was released), during your panel, what came across was this incredible passion for what you had made. Where does that passion and that drive for this project come from?

Thanks. I guess I love the source material, I love the challenge of doing what no one has truly done before and I love the process. The saddest thing to see in the film business is people who are working just for the pay cheque who have long since lost any real artistic passion and inspiration. Personally I’m an inspired, up beat, pay it forward kind of person. Life is too short and too precious to be taken for granted and wasted, not chasing your passions and trying to leave your positive mark on this world. Street Fighter in particular I’ve been playing since 1989 alongside being a die-hard martial artist. The two have helped stimulate my interest and sustained passion for the other. We have been served up some real turkeys when it comes to live action video game adaptations, so to get the opportunity to be the guy to finally do it right… how could you not be passionate?!

Having worked on Assassin’s Fist for so long to finally releasing it, when reading the reviews, listening to what the fans say and reading the comments on social media, how has it felt for you seeing the overwhelming reaction? What’s been the most memorable reaction you’ve come across?

Yeah, the response has been great and as hoped. So much love, personal sacrifice and meticulous attention to detail went into Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist. If Street Fighter fans hadn’t responded hugely positively, something would be wrong with the universe and I’d quit filmmaking. I think getting very high scores in reviews from mainstream publications such as IGN (who gave us 8.7/10) is amazing. Recently at New York Comic Con we met some ULTRA Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist fans! We put up a video on our Facebook page of them. It was surreal to have people obsessed about the art we have created, collecting every bit of memorabilia possible! We get a lot of lovely fan art created and sent into us. It is very touching and rewarding to have made such an impact on some of your audience that they feel compelled to create art based on your art, or to travel huge distances to come and meet you at comic conventions.

What’s your favourite game from Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise?

Marvel Vs Capcom 2.

Were there any particular games from the Street Fighter franchise you went back to specifically when developing Assassin’s Fist? Similarly, were there any inspirations you incorporated outside of the Street Fighter gaming franchise?

Street Fighter IV and more so the Street Fighter Alpha series. Street Fighter Alpha Generations was the most referenced anime, with Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie also being rewatched.

Street Fighter Assassins Fist (Ryu and Ken)

From working on such a tight budget, what were the biggest challenges you had to overcome on Assassin’s Fist?

Lack of sufficient pre-production. The rule of thumb goes like this: For every week of production you should have a week of pre-production. In our case our production shot for seven weeks. We only had two weeks full pre-production. Nightmare! Also the budget was stretched to breaking point, not allowing for any reshoots or overtime. So extreme discipline was required. If you didn’t get it on the day, you were likely to never get a chance to recapture what you missed or ran out of time for. Essentially it’s making a film in a pressure cooker!

Street Fighter Assassin's Fist (DVD)With the DVD and Blu-ray released later this month, what new material can fans expect to find?

Most importantly is the exclusive 14-minute Epilogue episode, which really rounds out the end of the series, and sets up adventures to follow. It is very Akuma and Gouken centric, with also a greater showcase of the Groundsman Senzo. Be sure to check out the after credits scene too! There are four deleted/extended scenes, nine making of featurettes, three “Ken’s Video Diary” videos, an outtakes montage, a director’s commentary and the trailer!

I understand that the World Warrior story has already been there, since that was what you initially pitched to Capcom. Following the production and reaction to Assassin’s Fist, what kind of changes do you see yourself making to it, if any?

What existed initially was a treatment for the World Warrior story arc, which has now been significantly overhauled and added to as well as being modified to take into account all the specific events and characters in Assassin’s Fist. There is still plenty more work to be done on the script side of things for the next series.

You’ve spoken about how tight production was for Assassin’s Fist, in terms of pre-production, budget and the limited amount of time you had to shoot. Has its success paved the way to allow you more time when it comes to working on the World Warrior series?

With any luck, Street Fighter: World Warrior will have a significantly larger budget and scale allowing for more story to be told and more action to be showcased! The World Warrior is a long narrative with loads of characters so requires greater resources to do justice to! So buy the DVD/Blu-ray and help ensure it becomes a reality!

 

A big thank you to Joey Ansah for taking the time out for the interview. To keep up to date with all things Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist and World Warrior be sure to visit the official Facebook page. Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray from 27 October from Manga Entertainment.

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