German martial arts sensation Mike Moeller is the star of the full blooded martial arts fight flick One Million Klicks which finally hit the UK last month courtesy of Evolutionary Films. It’s a down and dirty high impact fight flick which provides more punch and kick per square inch than many a bigger budget fight film. Mike talks about the making of the movie for JetLi.com.
Mike Moeller: I was born in the former German Democratic Republic, and grew up in a small village in East Germany. After the fall of Berlin Wall, a completely new and unknown world opened up to us. Through the video stores, we were able to enjoy all the previously unseen films from around the world. And the martial arts and action films really impressed and influenced me.
They motivated me so much that i began to train to improve my physicality, intensively and purposefully. In addition to strength and conditioning, I also began training in martial arts. Unfortunately at the time there were no martial arts clubs in my area, so I taught myself as much as I could from reading books & magazines, and by watching movies! I think the VHS machine was my teacher! Along with Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Donnie Yen and all the martial arts movie stars!
When I left my village to go and learn a trade, I found and began training at a really good Taekwondo club. As for my acrobatics and different falls and reaction techniques, they are ones I pretty much taught myself from watching movies and just going out and trying to copy what I saw. Nowadays I am lucky enough to be able to work out with martial artists from different styles such as Judo, Karate, Boxing and Wrestling.
Mike Moeller: I was such a big fan of martial arts movies, and still am to this day. I started shooting my own martial arts films with my friends, and that wasn’t so easy at the time. We would edit our films from one VHS machine to the other, and dub the music and sound effects from our stereo systems or using our video game systems.
Now in 2000, Donnie Yen came to Germany to shoot a TV series called PUMA in Berlin. I had always been a big fan of his work, so I wrote a letter to the production company, asking them if I could just come to visit the set as an observer and maybe I could get a picture with my idol. And with the letter, I sent a VHS tape compilation of my short films, hoping that they would recognize that I am a real fan.
3 days later, I got a call from the German stunt coordinator inviting me to come for a training session with the Donnie Yen Stunt-team. I was really excited and thought my dreams had come true, only to get an even bigger 0 when I arrived and found out this wasn’t a training session, but actually a stunt casting for the last part of the season. I was very excited and I tried my best to show them what I could do. I made a few mistakes, but I did my best. Honestly for me, the fact that I got to meet Donnie Yen and his team was the most important thing to me. I got to spend the day with them, and got to take photos with Michael Woods (Tiger Cage), John Salvitti (Line of Duty 4), Kenji Tanigaki (Ruroni Kenshin) and of course Donnie Yen himself. I drove home that night very happy.
Two days later I got another call, this time from the series Production Manager, he told me that Donnie’s Stunt Team really liked what they’d seen me do in person, and stuff they had seen on my VHS tape. They thought I had good skills and liked my sense of humour and wanted me to come back and play a fighting role in the film. I ended up with one rehearsal day with Donnie and his team, and then 3 shooting days where I fought against Mickey Hardt (Max Havok) who plays the lead, the ‘Puma‘ in the series. That was how I got my professional start in the Film Industry and I owe that to Michael Bornhuetter and Kenji Tanigaki.
Mike Moeller: I was looking to find a story that would be quite easy to put together, one that wouldn’t need a huge budget. I wanted to make a film with a good story and some great action. A film that would have heart and a story the audience and myself could identify with, Finally I came up with an idea, and with the help of Marco Theiss a writer, he put the ideas into a script.
And through Mike Leeder in Hong Kong, I found a friend of his Ruediger W. Kummerle, a Producer who had just set up his own company and he gave us the backing to make this film. Even if it was going to be a very low budget, I knew I could pull in some favours from various friends including many who work in the film industry as actors, fighters and stuntmen for the project.
Mike Moeller: I had previously made one film called Arena of the Streetfighter aka Urban Fighter, and that was a very hard shoot, we had so many problems making that movie. So compared to my experience on that one, this was a walk in the park, I had learnt so much from the first film. The hardest part for me, was to organize the people/locations/time schedule for shooting, as so many people were working for free we had to adjust shooting dates to accommodate their availability.
Then during the last days of shooting, someone broke into my car and stole lights, camera equipment and two hard-drives. We had lost the material from several days of shooting, including several key scenes shot at the hospital. That was like a punch in the face, because I was responsible for all the stuff that went missing. I felt it was my fault, and after the shock had subsided a little, I called my right hand man on the film, my DOP Alois Knapps and then called all the actors and guess what…everybody was willing to come back for reshoots.
No bad words, nobody was angry with me, so much love and support. I was crying and was so blessed to have such a great cast and crew working with me. Even the Producers, Mike & Ruediger were very understanding, I thought they would scream and shout at me, but they didn’t. They understood it was something that happened and so we battled on as a team.
When it came to the hospital reshoots, we only had two days to reshoot 4 days worth of material. We never found the thief, the Police said to me it was probably a jealous person from the movie biz because the the only things that were stolen, were to do with this movie. The stuff that was important to the movie was taken, there were other valuables and expensive electronic equipment in the car, but none of that was touched. It was as if they knew what they were taking would cause us problems. I guess a lot of people don’t like the fact that I’m not just a stuntman, I don’t like to sit around and wait for jobs, I’m a filmmaker myself. I think some people don’t like that.
Anyway, we are all very proud of what we were able to achieve with the film. From Pre-Production, through Production and all the way through Post-Production, a lot of very talented people from Germany and Hong Kong worked very hard and helped us get the film finished.
Mike Moeller: You can find a lot of great stunt people here in Germany, but it’s not so easy to find good screen fighters, there are just a few. And if you are making a low budget film it’s even harder. Through all the years I have been working in this business, I knew all the guys who can deliver what we needed. A few of those of those guys came in and supported us, there were also some who were not available because of their schedule.
The role of Master Li was one of the main characters written in the script. We were very lucky and were so happy when we were able to find Master Li Yan-long for the role. Thomas Hacikoglu (who plays Andre in the movie, and is a member of Jackie Chan Stunt-Team) a German Wushu performer and stuntman introduced us to him. Master Li is an incredible martial artist, a very good actor and a really nice guy. It was an honour and a pleasure to work with him and we had a lot of fun on the set.
Mike Moeller: Ultimate Justice is another production by Ruediger W. Kummerle, after One Million Klicks he wanted to make a bigger movie and gave us the opportunity to work with him again. This time round I wasn’t fully involved with the shooting of the film, we had a Main Unit handling the drama and me and my Fight Team handled the Action for the film. We had a big cast and we wanted to make sure that all the characters had their own fighting style, and we wanted to mix up the martial arts action with guns and stunts, and the story was not as simple as One Million Klicks.
I was really proud and honoured to be able to work with Mark Dacascos and Matthias Hues, I have been a huge fan of both of them since my childhood, so meeting with them and having the opportunity to work with them was fantastic. They are two of the most genuinely nice and humble people I’ve worked with, very down to Earth, very talented and very hard working, they really brought a lot to the movie on and off set.
It was also great to see Big Mike Leeder again, he was also one of the Producers for the Film, and wrote the English script for the movie, as well as playing a role and fighting in the movie! I had worked with Mike on Jean-Claude Van Damme‘s Pound of Flesh movie with Darren Shahlavi and John Salvitti, and that had been a hard shoot but a lot of fun!
Mike Moeller: I really hope that people enjoy the movie, we all worked really hard on this film. It may not be a big budget extravaganza, but I really think the fight scenes are very strong and hold up very well, its all real martial arts action, not wires, not cgi, we were doing it all for real! A lot of people worked very hard to bring this movie to the screen, and I thank everyone from Ruediger for Producing it, from Big Mike for his help, all my cast and crew and Ross and John at Evolutionary who are bringing it to the UK.