What is filming like in the US compared to HK/China?
I’ve worked in Hong Kong, mainland China, Europe, Japan, the US, and elsewhere. I like Hong Kong the best, because it seems to be the most efficient industry, and gets a lot done with relatively few people. In the American industry, there’s a lot of people who do one thing. They do it really well, but they might only do it one or two hours a day. The rest of the time, they’re not really working.
I understand the value of their expertise, but it seems really wasteful to me. As a producer, it bugs me to see people being paid for doing nothing a lot of the time. At the same time, it’s not good to be short-handed either.
In terms of doing action scenes, Hong Kong is also more efficient. They seem to get it done in fewer takes, which is faster and therefore cheaper. I try to use this approach on Into the Badlands; we’re telling a story with each shot during an action scene.
But in other productions, especially big ones, you have the action choreographer designing it, then the cinematographer figuring out how he’s going to cover it, then the editor puts the fight together in the editing suite. So it’s not a unified process. I don’t understand why they do it that way.
In our case, our action choreographer Master Dee Dee tells the director of photography how the shot should be, and I guess in the US you don’t do that.
What I don’t like about it is that it’s really inefficient, because we have to do the fight scene like 25 or 30 times from beginning to end so the DP can cover it all. Not only is it tiring, but you also increase the chances of getting injured. I’ve had to do scenes where I’m jumping, running and falling a couple dozen times from beginning to end, because I might be in the background of certain shots.
But in Hong Kong, they know that if they move the camera a little bit, I’m out of the shot so they don’t have to worry about it. They won’t make me take those risks just so I appear out of focus in the distance of a shot. It seems inefficient and disjointed to do it the other way.
For Into the Badlands, we cut it together before we submit it to the editors, who usually just make cuts for time. The rhythm and tempo of the scenes is already in place before they see it, because we’ve created the fight for them.