|Alpha Rush Productions/Bruise Productions|
I forget what initially drew me into the direction of filmmaker and actor Paul Allica. It could have been just a random search for something to write about – whatever the case is, however, it doesn’t undercut why I’ve given him as much attention as I have since the summer, and deservedly so with the amount of work he’s been progressing with this year.
Such efforts include Chinese blockbuster, Wolf Warrior 2 and actor Li Chen’s directorial debut, Sky Hunter among others and he has since moved onto other projects as well, including Vincent Soberano’s upcoming action thriller, Tapado: Fight For Justice, and another venture in which he’s taken on personally as star and producer, and with a great team on hand to help move things forward with the additional help of principal action director and Jackie Chan stunt veteran, Paul Andreovski.
That brings us to our interview this week in which Allica discusses what lies head for his forthcoming new action adventure, The Siege, hailing as a new take on Robin Hood folklore with an ensemble offering per its premise. The project has been in the works for months leading up to and past its crowdfunding campaign this year and in between that time, I managed to get a word in with Allica about his inspirations, current goals, The Siege, and plenty more.
The interview also comes just as a pair of debut photos went live over at JoBlo network horror site, Arrow In The Head, the flagpole news source formerly headed by John Fallon who co-stars in the film as well as produces. This is the first of several interviews I will be working on through 2018 and with Allica offering a set of more worldwide exclusive photos to help kick off November, I couldn’t be more proud to help package them here for readers. Enjoy the read and accompanying pictorals as well!
Greetings Paul and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. How has the year been for you so far? Understandably appearing both in Wolf Warrior 2 and Sky Hunter have a role to play in that answer.
Thanks for having me Lee. Its a big honour to be interviewed by Film Combat Syndicate. This year has been an insane whirlwind adventure. I have five shows coming out this year, I moved from China to Australia and starred in my first action feature that I wrote and also produced. Sleep has almost become a distant memory!
Tell us how you got into stunts and film acting.
I had always loved martial arts and grew up watching Jackie Chan films on repeat as a kid. One day at martial arts training a new instructor arrived that I hadn’t seen before. He took a few black belts to the back of class and was filming extremely high energy and dynamic choreography. They were flipping over each other’s backs and doing movements I’d only ever seen on film. I quickly tired of doing the standard blue belt training drills and approached the teacher only to find out he was Paul Andreovski a veteran member of Jackie Chan’s stunt team (although it took some prying before I found that out).
After some arm twisting, Paul took me under his wing and showed me the ropes – he’s taught me everything I know.
Wolf Warrior 2 was a theatrical favorite of mine this year. Tell us about your involvement experience on that film set.
It was great to see how well received Wolf Warrior 2 was received around the world. The film brought together an incredibly talented action team from the United States led by Action Director Sam Hargrave and Stunt Coordinator Brian Ho and a Chinese Team led by Wu Jing himself.
When I first arrived on set, I realised this action dream team comprised of the doubles for Captain America, Falcon, Black Widow, The Blue Power Ranger, The Black Power Ranger, Iron man and many more.
Wolf Warrior’s incredibly strong Chinese action team also specialised in wire work and pyrotechnics so we were able to utilise the best of East meets West action. The resulting film is unique and the end results is as good as anything else out there. I think this fusion of styles is why the film has travelled so far and so well.
I believe Wolf Warrior 2 has just passed the threshold into being the biggest box office success in China’s history of all time.
Originally I was cast as an actor for only 10 days on set but I made it known I was very keen to spend as much time as I could to learn from these veterans. By chance production was looking to hire an additional assistant to the foreign action team and because I was on set, offered to extend me for the full four month shoot. I jumped at the opportunity.
Did you expect it to become the milestone summer blockbuster success it was?
We all knew we were on to something special purely from the roster of talent on board. We had an all star action team and an all star cast. We knew it would do well but I don’t think anyone expected it to be as big as it was.
What was it like for you meeting Wu Jing in person?
Wu Jing is a true power house and has very real skills. He had a lot of weight on his shoulders as producer, director, lead actor and often assisting with choreography but he did it all with style. I had a fight scene with him where he needed to crush my skull with his gun. He was very conscious of my safety and we caught each others timing well. His work ethic and attitude of putting it all on the line was truly inspiring.
Among the films you’ve worked on this year your latest now comes in the form of an ambitious Robin Hood redux of sorts. Tell us about The Siege and its writing process and evolution from earlier this year and onward since crowdfunding it.
The Siege came about when I was shooting ‘A Journey To China 3D’ in Beijing and I had some downtime due to the challenge of scheduling Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger flying in to Beijing at the same time. I had already arrived on set and filmed part of my role but we had a 22 day wait until they arrived.
I decided to make the most of the spare time and decided to write my first feature script. I knew as a first feature I wouldn’t have a lot of money to play with, so I reverse engineered a script around a Medieval Castle Theme park location I knew of in Australia. They had a jousting arena so I wrote in Lancelot jousting, they had a dungeon, so Robin had to get captured at some point.
I wanted to make something fun that I’d personally want to watch and so I approached the Siege as a sort of Medieval Expendables film. An All star cast of weapons experts with names like Robin Hood, Merlin and Little John smashing through a shit load of guards!
I know this isn’t the traditional way of getting a script together but only by being grounded in practicality was I was able both to deliver something shootable on a small budget while retaining the production value of a big budget epic.
There are at least four major studios working on their own iterations of this property apart from your independent treatment. In your view, what is it about this particular IP that attracts as many creatives and producers like John, Shawn and yourself?
Robin Hood is a timeless tale with universal themes of looking after the poor which spoke to me. With the advent of shows like Game Of Thrones and Vikings I knew there would be an audience for it. I was sick of the camp versions of the past and wanted to reinvent it with serious action – a medieval superhero film of sorts.
Tell us about your own training and preparation for the role of Robin of Locksley. And archery, for that matter.
Drilling the accent was a big part of this role.
I’d also just packed on muscle for my last film Tapado where I played an MMA fighter and carrying that extra size had slowed me down a lot. I spent a lot of time stripping off size and doing cardio and boxing to increase my fast twitch speed.
I knew the action director needed Hong Kong style action and I’d be doing a lot of parkour type gags running along roof tops so a lot of my training was centred around that. Tumbling, choreography and of course archery.
I also spent some serious time horse riding at Encore Riding School in Dingley under trainer Rachel Armes. It was a graduated process but we needed to work up to the point where I could ride safely with no helmet and one handed with a weapon.
How did you go about casting this project?
A lot of casting was done on starnow.com.au which is a great, inexpensive platform for finding emerging talent and actors. It saved our butts on more than one occasion.
A lot of our leads were friends or friends of friends. When they weren’t acting they were helping behind the scenes. Kahli Williams who plays Freyda was busy building flaming torches out of $3 tiki garden poles, Tom McCathie who plays merlin was also our resident blood and guts wrangler. Seeing him rock up to set with barrels of fake intestines he’d made from sausages became a very common sight on set.
Tell us about meeting and working with Stuart Stanton from prior to the start of production up to this point.
Stu and I had worked on 6 small projects together before doing the Siege so we knew each others styles well. Stu is such a calm and easy going guy and I knew he was the man for the job from the outset.
I like him because he has both the technical knowledge of a DOP, the people skills of a veteran director and the presence of a leader that the team could rally behind.
We were very blessed to have him aboard.
Paul is a genius and I’m honoured to call him both a mentor and a friend. When he agreed to come aboard The Siege I knew I was in for the toughest shoot of my life and that the resulting film would be unlike anything seen before in Australia.
Australia’s film industry is quite small ; we make about 50 films a year so for us to pull off world class action on such a tight budget really is testament to Paul’s incredible creativity Paul also brought on his team Showdown Action and they did an incredible job. Because we didn’t have the budget for many stunt personnel we ended up using the Showdown crew over and over again for guard deaths and just covered their faces differently each time. It turns out the Sheriff’s army of 200 was just 10 people that are experts in hiding their faces!
I have to ask: Favorite Jackie Chan film? And why? ?
This would have to be Shanghai noon. I grew up in the land of VHS and I only had a limited collection of about 15 films to watch. I love this film because it features the best of Chinese action and American humour. Owen wilson brings a lot to the table and complements Jackie’s amazing presence. Turns out action director Paul was also a part of this film as well. What a small world.
How challenging has this project been for you on both sides of the lens?
The Siege has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Writing was like bleeding for me. I hated every second of it but got through it by taking it one word at a time. That is how I’ve had to approach this film. Once the script was done, I raised the budget dollar by dollar. On set I was taking it scene by scene.
I was very lucky to have such a strong team around me that could take a lot of the pressure off me and allow me to focus on my performance.
The battle is over by the war is not won. We still have about 40 percent of the film to capture on location in forrest and natural environment – then onto post production!
What hopes do you share specifically from The Siege? Any sequel aspirations?
I wanted The Siege to be a really fun ride – a film that I’d personally want to go watch. This in many ways is a proof of concept. Look at the level of performance and action we pulled off on a shoe string budget. Imagine what we could do with proper resources at our disposal. There is so much talent in Australia and I’ve been so heartened by the energy and good will surroundings The Siege. I hope we make many more. As for a sequel, never say never!
With production still on-going in addition to your current experience in film, what lessons do you take with you as you delve deeper into production?
My number one takeaway from this experience is the importance of finding the right team. I had to go through a lot of options, crews and actors before I found the right mix and chemistry that would see us through to the end. Making films is like going to war and you need good trusted soldiers by your side. Everyone that came aboard the Siege in the end was on it for the right reasons, because they wanted to make something cool. I’m going to keep chasing that energy into my future projects.
In terms of independent film or movies in general, are there any changes or improvements you would like to see in the months and years ahead? What trends do you hope will emerge from here on?
Low budget doesn’t necessarily have to mean cheap looking. It’s all in the planning. Many of our props were from the dollar store, my dad and I were building breakaway tables in our garage from free factory palette wood. Its all cheap or free and production value but takes time to pull together. With digital cinema and home editing and tutorials galore online, there isn’t much excuse to not make your own stuff and be in control of your own destiny. Yes it hurts, yes it’s incredibly trying at times, but ultimately also very rewarding. I hope to see a lot more actors and teams following our lead.
I think the current distribution market is still a BIG problem. DVDs are all but dead and unless you’re The Avengers its hard to get a picture into cinemas.
This leaves Netflix and other VOD platforms to fill the void but it still feels like there needs to be a replacement for the video store where the little guy and medium productions can get found and seen. I don’t have the answer but if there isn’t more support for indy work then the future looks increasingly challenging.
When you’re not busy making movies, what do you enjoy most on your away time?
I enjoy martial arts and have recently taken up boxing. This boxing gym is a pretty well kept secret and I drive an hour and a half to get there. It’s old school in the best sense. It’s a place where Rocky would feel at home and where bull shit isn’t tolerated – I really suck compared to the champions that train there but its one of my happy places. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.
I understand perfectly you might have a busy fourth quarter going into 2018, but I am curious about your current moviegoing plans. Any titles in mind?
I had to turn down 11 roles in China to shoot the Siege. ELEVEN! That was hard especially when I was so close to not being able to pull of the shoot due to lack of budget. I’m glad I stuck to my guns but there were a few sleepless nights there.
I haven’t seen too much lately but have been revisiting the classics. I watched the Manchurian Candidate the other day – what a trip. I’m keen to see Blade Runner this week and Thor Ragnarok. I’m a BIG superhero fan and still pissed at Tom Holland for stealing spiderman from me 😛
Tell us about what lies ahead for Paul Allica. I understand you also finished working with Vincent Sobreano on upcoming action thriller, Tapado.
I’d love to find US representation at some point but for the time being I’ll keep working in Australia and Asia until the right opportunity comes along. I can’t say much but I might have a pretty cool feature coming up in Canada early next year.
Vincent Soberano’s new film Tapado was one of the best experiences shooting I’ve had to date. He’s an awesome director and had wushu world champion Sarah Chang by his side as action director. Tapado is an epic martial art film that crescendos in a huge 15 minute tournament fight scene. I play one of the villains James Lowe and have a great confrontation with the films hero played by Ian Ignacio. That guy can kick like no body business. Keep an eye out for me getting my ass kicked in the ring in 2018!
Do you have any final thoughts for our readers in lieu of telling one of Robin Hood’s newest and most daring chapter yet?
Robin Hood had been done to death and I wanted to reinvent it. The reason the story still is known after all these years is because he steals from the rich and gives back to the people. There’s a reason this story still resonates – the poor have been so exploited and trampled on by this world that hopelessness is becoming the new norm.
If this film reminds people that they can and should fight for the little guys while also being stupidly entertaining, full of laughs and topped off with some world class action then what’s not to love?
This film was born purely out of passion and I hope will be the first of many more to come. Please get out and support it when it is released in 2018. You can keep up to date with shooting developments at https://www.facebook.com/thesiegemovie/
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Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.