This month we were able to discuss the latest reveal for Red, a new concept from actor Beau Fowler and director David Newton. For this, the Coronavirus pandemic that’s currently gripped the world and put the film industry at large at a standstill is just one of the segues Fowler and I observe in our latest Q&A.
Beau, it’s great to get in touch with you now about your work. How are you coping with things since the lockdown in your country? I can especially imagine it’s had an impact on the film industry next to just normal everyday life.
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. Tough not being able to go out and do the simple things. Though to be honest I’m still self-taping for projects, and I’m quite used to spending days in development wondering when my next paid job might come in, so it’s not too dissimilar! But on a serious note, I do hope people get smart about not spreading the virus, I already know people who have been seriously affected from it, and we all have a part to play in helping society get back to some kind of normality.
I wanna get down to discussing Red, a project you recently signaled to some of your followers on social media, but I definitely wanna dive a little bit into Ki Films which is your label. What is “Ki” to you in that aspect?
I originally set up Ki Films as a platform for producing films that I had in development. At its core, the company consists of my dad and myself, and we constantly work with other producers and production teams that vary from project to project. Ki is responsible for producing most of my content as a writer, director and producer.
As you’re aware, Ki has produced a mix of high-end music videos for artists like Karen Mok, Agnetha Fältskog (ABBA) and Tori Amos, as well as a handful of award-winning short films including the action comedy Express Delivery of which the feature is currently in development.
Our main focus in Ki is now features and long form, but of course this takes time to develop, and proof of concepts are a great way to help this. ‘Ki’ translates as spirit, and I’m a strong believer in cultivating the right energy, especially when working with others. Filmmaking is a team effort, even when you have a strong vision and wear several hats, the project is made possible by the spirit and skills of the whole team.
Your father, Simon, is a photographer from what I’ve read. Apart from him sort of cheekily chiding you for “directing” him back in the day, talk about the influence he’s had in your adherence to cinema?
I’ve always been creative, and obsessed with many things, mostly creating worlds and characters, so cinema was the obvious pull for me. I think essentially growing up helping my dad on photographic shoots just showed me that freelance work and creating images was normal. Obviously the industry has changed and become saturated, and no one wants to put money into things, but my dad was always successful, shooting the biggest bands and artists in the world and creating looks that hadn’t previously been captured. Feeling free to express myself creatively and having the support of him certainly inspired me in my own artistry.
Favorite films. Any genre. Fire away.
Here’s a handful off the top of my head: Subway, Leon, Amelie, A Perfect World, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Johnnie To’s Election, Spirited Away, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film from the 1990s, Jackie Chan’s Project A 2, and the first and second Terminator films.
There’s really too many to mention, but really gotta shout out to filmmakers like Luc Besson, Johnnie To, James Cameron, John Woo, Donnie Yen, Clint Eastwood, Jackie Chan and Hayao Miyazaki for constantly inspiring me with their work.
Was there ever a point in your life where you thought your trajectory would take you elsewhere other than film?
Not really. I figured if I ever ended up homeless and I couldn’t achieve what I should be doing then I could always become a monk and seek a more constant spiritual path. I’m still here.
Your bio at your website sums up your journey a bit into martial arts and your incorporation with it into filmmaking, and you’ve amassed some notable screen credits over the years – even underscoring your career with a small role on Avengement which went on to surpass a lot of expectations.
Thanks man! I think most of my current film work as a scriptwriter and director has definitely involved action. As an actor it’s pretty varied, but it’s always fun to throw down when a character and project calls for it. I honestly didn’t do much action in Avengement despite the movie being heavily action orientated, and I’m super happy it’s been received so well across the board. It was great working with such great bunch of people.
As a writer and director, and an actor at that, what goes into constructing a character that not only culminates these, but can translate to an audience?
In the writing stages, I guess I end up layering over time. Often I find the character jumps out at me, but it takes time to translate that, discover their flaws, what their arc is, et cetera. As an actor and director, there are similarities in looking for the truth in who “this character” is by interpreting the script and character’s actions and dialogue, their arc and knowing how they are different by the end of the film or scene and what changes have happened through their experience.
As an actor I like to break the scenes down and give myself a backstory (if there’s not already one), and if possible I discuss this with the director so I can make sure we’re on the same page. As long as they are happy I can continue to develop. I wont go into details of method, but once I have prepped to a place that feels right, and provided if time allows, I aim to lose myself in the character and the moment when filming – everything said and done at this stage should be truthful to the character.
In a way, I’m looking to lose myself in the flow of the character’s journey – to believe and feel and listen and react. Essentially, you can only make choices as truthfully as possible and hope that when you’re feeling it, the audience will feel it. There’s a fine balance between the art of prep and acting/reacting on instinct within the moment.
Your reunion with David Newton on Red since filming The Take Down now places you in a dark, grim crime thriller of sorts with organ harvesting. Care to expand on that?
End of last year, David and I were discussing working together again, with him directing and myself leading and I pitched him this feature idea that he loved. The short came up due to a great location that David had, igniting the inspiration to shoot the short that we could use as a proof of concept.
It’s a very different film, and working and collaborating with David on this one has been a real pleasure. Since The Take Down, David has been honing his skills as a director and it really shows. His vision, confidence and ability to communicate to his team were on point, and he was always ready to listen and discuss which allowed for us to always be on the same page. As a director myself, handing a project you’ve written to someone else is a scary and difficult thing to do, but I always felt I could trust David’s vision and the collaboration with our amazing team, and the experience has been a blessing.
It’s early days so all I’ll say for now is I play an ex-soldier who, through a series of desperate choices finds himself caught up in the ‘red market’. No doubt we’ll reveal more in the near feature.
Clearly you share an intense moment being teased in the first look photo with actress Jennifer Lim. Talk about her role and how this could play into the feature.
Jen plays Dr. Leung, who overlooks the organ-harvesting den that my character finds himself in. She was absolutely wonderful to work with, incredibly generous and open. It’s an integral scene that explores a much bigger world and reminds us of the extremities people can find themselves in simply trying to survive. I can’t say much about her character in the feature at this stage.
I suppose action fans reading this are hungry to hear about what the style and design will look like. Can you share more about the vision and perhaps maybe some of the talents you’d like to have on board? Any names in discussion?
The action follows the tonality of the film, balancing a gritty rawness with an intriguing stylization. My character is an ex-soldier with particularly good fighting skills but it’s not a movie where everyone can just fight expertly. Within the short, everyone is driven by desperation.
There are a couple of action scenes, and many of the choices in the way we shot the action were very much dictated by the situation of characters and their environment. Again, at this stage it’s too early to discuss talent for the feature. There are many people
I’d personally love to work with, some I know personally and others I’ve yet to meet and work with. Also, shout out to our incredible action team who threw down and took some hard hits and truly gave one-hundred percent. We had some amazing stunt performers onboard. One team joined us during pre-production for the choreo and previz and another for the actual shoot. We really didn’t have much time for either and it was the efficiency, skills and commitment of everyone who really made it possible. We were also fortunate to have stunt coordinator Jonathan Cohen over-looking all the stunts.
Are you and David keen on taking this to the virtual film markets that may be brewing as an alternative to the in-person cancellations as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic? And what sort of differences do you predict here compared to normal market attendance?
We’re definitely aiming to be hitting festivals. We are working hard with our editor, Adam Heayberd, to complete this so we can push it forwards and hit festivals early this year. Whether they remain online or whether the gates have opened by then and we can attend the festivals, it’s really hard to say, but our intension is to be able to share
our work with as many people as possible whilst we develop the full feature.
How has the Coronavirus and the fallout thereof impacted you as an artist?
I think it’s just another punch to roll with. It is of course an awful thing to be happening, and it’s had a huge affect, with projects cancelling or be postponed. I’m doing a film in Canada, and I’m not sure how much I can say at this stage, but I’ll playing a nasty piece of work opposite the incredibly talented Bryan Larkin, and that’s been pushed back, like so many others. I hope that when we return to a more free normality that we as people can be in a stronger place. An artist’s life is often full of great challenges, and I’m fortunate that in this time we’re in post with our short and developing several features, so I simply keep moving forwards the best I can. I’m still self taping, so many other projects are also in development.
That includes Express Delivery which made its DVD compilation run in recent memory with Blood, Sweat And Tears, which I didn’t see coming at the last minute but you did mention it I believe. What can you tell us on the status of that one? And is Swifty gonna get stuck in another goddamn trunk?
[laughs] I can’t say too much just yet, but loosely what you see in the short is similar to the opening of the movie. And for sure, it’s safe to say Swifty can’t help but find himself in all kinds of crazy, dangerous shit. Lucky for him he’s not alone. We are currently talking to executive producers, sales agents, and we do have some exciting talent onboard – more to be revealed down the line.
How’s that Brooklyn accent holding up since we last spoke?
I’ve not had to use it much to be honest, but I have softened it several times for auditions for characters from New York so that has come in handy.
Also, and this project still looks very interesting, how long do you reckon until there are finally Three Days Of Dark?
There is interest, especially after winning Best Screenplay at the Birmingham Film Festival end of last year, but nothing to announce just yet.
Anything else for our readers as we exit this interview?
Hopefully we’ll have more to discuss in the next few months regarding several projects, but for now I hope everyone keeps safe and well in these uncertain times. For those wanting to keep up to date, feel free to follow us on Instagram and Facebook. And thanks again to you Lee, and Film Combat Syndicate for taking the time and interest in me and my work.