Therese Chen - Silver Harvest | Interview
So, last week we dropped the Dragon of The Law short film and so impressed we were, that we caught up with Therese Chen, the films producer, director of photography, screenplay adaptor and graphic designer (wow! She was busy) for a Q&A about the film and the Silver Harvest production company.
Firstly, thanks for taking the time out and also I really enjoyed the film, it looked like a lot of fun to make and be a part of. Who came up with the concept? And how easy/ hard was it to get the project off the ground?
That would be my Director and friend David (Vuong). When it comes to action films and Jackie Chan, the 80's HK genre often comes with it. It was also inspiring to see others such as Andy Long and the guys from Martial Club pay their homage to the genre, and we wanted to do the same.
Like many other things, this was mostly a matter of chipping away at it slowly, so we first started developing the story/script, doing a fight previsualisation to lock down camera angles and then the location.
Luckily for us, aside from that, due to, I guess the idea's simplicity, finding a crew that was willing to help out through love and passion was the easiest part and a large shout out to all of them who helped out! (Couldn't have done it without them). We knew that it was always better to keep it simple in terms of casting, costume etc.
Not that it was smooth sailing. There was the difficulty of finding a location. Where we ended up shooting wasn't our intended location, but time constraints etc, meant we had to find it elsewhere. Ended up for the better I think! I think David Sandberg said something along the lines of filmmaking is all about being able to problem solve.
We were also under the clock as during the time, we started hearing news of our state going into lockdown. As it happens we were able to wrap just before everything effectively shut.
How long did it take to shoot? I imagine when you are repeatedly shooting fight sequences and having to set up equipment, it can become a long process. What was fun and dreadful about the process?
I think it took a total of 9 nights (some days longer hours than others) and being a very light crew, the only thing we had to set up was the camera!
Being independent filmmakers you come to learn very quickly how to be economic, and we chose a location that was already naturally lit up. As you can imagine, this saved us a lot of time. We also knew that we were going to have this dubbed over (HK style), so no need to set up audio in this instance either, which was definitely for the better, since we shot during the time where street cleaners start coming in.
I can't say that the long hours are enjoyable, but you do eventually learn how to pace and get used to it (there's always coffee as well).
Favourite coffee to get you through a shoot?
What do you think is it about these films / genres or even the time period which people love so much and also made you want to pay homage to it?
It's not difficult to see the influence from the 'Super-cop' genre movies such as Jackie Chan's Police Story, Hardboiled and In the Line of Duty (starring Donnie Yen), but we were also influenced by the shorts such as Martial Club's 'Rising Dragons' and Andy Long's 'Yellow Zone'.
I think there's something really iconic about these movies. They're often a perfect combination of comedy and action, real action, where you can tell legit action skills and who did their own stunts and didn't need to be covered up by CGI or editing.
As your of dual cultures, what do you think is the difference between the cinematic portrayal of eastern masculinity, compared to the west?
explicit the films were.
Not that Asian action cinema never had films that were bloody, but there was also a whole genre that was dedicated to, for example, Shaolin Monks and many films were dedicated to whole concepts of brotherhood and the traditions of martial arts. So in many instances, the actions were particularly for the sake of violence, but came with principles of respect and chivalry (Wuxia) as well.
Have any established production companies wanted to talk about a feature length? is this something you would be interested in or are you happy with what you have?
Not yet, but you never know! I am proud of what we ended up with, but I would never say no to the prospect of seeing a feature length in theatres one day.
Any plans for a sequel?
Yes! We're playing around with ideas at the moment, but it's always fun to expand the universe we've created. I also think that, as fun as Dragon of The Law was, we've only scratched the surface of Inspector Kit and what has made him the cop you see.
So lets talk about the production company. Golden Harvest is obviously an inspiration, so which of their films inspired you to get into the film industry?
It wasn't just one film. I used to love watching Jackie Chan's movies as a kid growing up, Bruce Lee too. However, it was also through seeing what people like Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, etc did for their respective countries. They were able to contribute to their film industries as well as tap into their own cultural traditions, and I wanted to do the same thing as well. Particularly since, what you most likely see when it comes to Asians in the West is the US, and well, Asians in Australia I believe, have something to say as well.
What is it they have to say?
Who are Silver Harvest and what do you do? How long have you been going?
Silver Harvest started around 2017 and to cut a long story short, it basically came about from a desire to create action movies and to build and grow a collective, to show what the action scene and film industry could be in Australia.
I reference the guys from Martial Club often, but they were a group that started from YouTube, making their own homage to the Asian action cinema on YouTube, and we wanted to do something similar.
As young Asians how are you finding it breaking into the film industry?
Is Australia forward thinking or are you constantly hopping hurdles?
I think breaking into the film film industry and sustaining a career is difficult for almost everybody, particular in Australia. Although, when it comes to creativity from our Asian cultural lens, what we do is something that, by and large isn't considered financially viable. And if you're talking about recognition of the Asian population on Australian tv screens, there's very little indeed.
I've been fortunate however, because I was able to land a position in a film production company where the majority of people are from ethnic minority groups themselves, and it's great to be able to to talk about Jackie Chan and the Asian action genre and they know what I'm talking about, haha!
I also believe that when you come from an Independent filmmaker's background, you have to come to be innovative and to be creative without the need for investors and a large budget.
I always think it's more productive to think more positively when possible, and I think in this time period, it's a very great time to be a creative: tools such as a camera have become much more accessible, and because of social media, it's now much more easier than ever to connect to the right people and have your art and creations reach out to the right people, particularly in this cause, since I think our target audience is international.
It also allows us to retain our creative freedom, cause I have come across others who have been successful in getting grants or support from networks and the like, only to be stifled by red tape and competing interests, resulting in something that is almost unrecognisable to the original idea.
I also have hope that with productions such as Mortal Kombat (2021) and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, this will allow more people to see what the Australian film industry has to offer internationally.
OK, as we draw the interview to an end. Here's something out the box for you. Fill in the brackets
I would love [ Kane Kosugi ] to play in our next movie, I'd also ask [ Tiger Chen ] and [ Jean-Paul Ly ], that would be awesome I think. Might even get [ Yuen Woo Ping] on board [ because of his choreographer skills ] . One day, this might just happen.
Any other films or shorts you believe our audience should look out for? Be that Silver Harvests' own productions, your friends or things you've come across.
Stuff from Australia
We're actually going to be dropping a trailer for our latest short 'Battle Of Brothers' very soon, so stay tuned!
Hong Xin & Maria Tran's YouTube channels
Martial Club Guys, Dragon Lords & Team Action C
Wicked. Thank you!