MARTIAL ARTS AND MOVIE MUSINGS: Author Ramona Lee Soo-Jun Talks Adapting Her 2017 Novel KUNG FU BODYGUARD
Ramona Lee Soo-Jun
It takes a lot to make a film, especially one embodied in martial arts. It also takes an enduring creative stride that supercedes limitations (or as many as possible), a fact known by virtually every artist there is.
Ramona Lee Soo-Jun bears foremost knowledge of this fact since bearing witness to the legendary feats of some of the most celebrated martial arts film heroes in the last four decades. With this, her mother would soon be the compass she needed to find a way forward.
“When I was four years old, I asked my mom how I could one day be as awesome as the heroes I saw on screen.” says Lee, who became a purveyor of TaeKwonDo just two years later. “She told me I should start training martial arts. Or become a writer, because many books are made into movies. I remember I said: ‘If all I have to do, to be like them, is write a book. Ok!’”
Lee’s progression led to a stint in writing that began at fourteen with her first publication written in just twenty-eight hours, and the subsequent growth of a writing caliber that spans several genres apart from martial arts. Seven years and eleven novels later, the martial arts genre is now what drives her creative momentum and with her first segue into film.
“Martial arts action novels are my trademark.” she says. “My readers have been telling me that they have the impression of watching a movie while reading my books. Now I’m going to be twenty one years old in two months, translated two of my novels to English and wrote the script for one of them: Kung Fu Bodyguard. I’m chasing my dream since forever. That is the amazing part of ‘Never give up!’”
The burgeoning author now joins a growing raft of talent with a crew led by feature debut directing hopeful and Bruce Lee fan, Kai Jansen, who will also apply his craft in martial arts as well, embedded in him since the age of five. A twenty two-year practitioner of the fighting arts, Jansen has traveled as far as the far East to fulfill his interests.
“I have tried many martial arts, but my heart beats most for Kung Fu…” says Jansen. “Besides Kung Fu, my trainer here in Germany also taught me Krav Maga and Wing Chun. In 2015, I found a master in China who took me into his federation. His teachings are in great demand in China, which is why I feel very honored to be the only non-Chinese member of this federation. I visit him periodically, or he teaches me and my students. Last year I became German master in the modern discipline ‘Nanquan.’ I try to combine my interests as well as possible, including filmmaking, martial arts and acting.”
With the shared affinity for the stylings and philosophy of legends Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and the like, Lee and Jansen now march onward with their own vision for Kung Fu Bodyguard. Published in Romania last year with an English ebook now available, Lee’s own script also welcomes her in a starring capacity, telling of a story that pieces itself from a spate of brutal crimes that draws together Sophy, the ousted heiress of a motorcycle gang, and Bo, a martial arts-gifted amnesiac as the two unite to seek vengeance for their injustices.
Joining Lee for the principal cast is UK stuntman and cirque performer, Nicolas Yang Wang whom she met more than a year ago as she was near finishing the novel itself, predicated remarkably on its cinematic appeal.
“I wrote the novel in around a month and the translating and the script took me two weeks.” Lee says. “Seeing Nicolas’ acrobatic skills and his overall appearance, I was immediately able to portray him as the character, ‘Bo’.”
Lee adds: “When I first told Nicolas about the story, he had a positive reaction. I told him that if it was ever possible to make this movie, the role was his. That had been on my mind for a year and I’ve been thinking of all possibilities, and knew I had to find people who aim as high as I do. I’m really happy to be working with Nicolas and excited about the work we have ahead.
Lee also praised Jansen for his involvement, which she cites as a turning point for Kung Fu Bodyguard in its ongoing fruition. Having already produced several shorts together with fellow film cohort Jordan Likiyo, even with the usual impediments faced by an independent production Jansen further hails Lee’s Kung Fu Bodyguard as a truly momentous project for Germany’s talent pool and industry in recent years as an independent production. He cites the most recent success of Reel Deal Action’s Plan B: Scheiss Auf Plan A as a high mark for the countries strive in martial arts film fandom.
“Germany is developing very rapidly in this regard.” he says. “For example, Germany has many famous stuntmen to offer. Many of the stuntmen from the Jackie Chan team grew up in Germany. The recently released on Blu-ray and DVD for Reel Deal Action’s Plan B is considered a good example of the current interest in martial arts films in Germany. Only when the film was already cut, 20th Century Fox fell in love with it and supported them. The quality of this film has raised the bar very high. This growing genre is also likely to have a positive impact on the industry’s interest in funding a martial arts film, and with our international team behind ‘Kung Fu Bodyguard’, talented people from a wide variety of backgrounds will meet. The majority of the film will be shot and produced in Germany and each team member is highly motivated and dedicated to this project. Our goal is to surpass our previous work, and we hope to gain more motivated partners for our film. So far the project has received overwhelming support.”
Kai Jansen with Reel Deal Action member Can Aydin (left) and actor Eugene Boateng (right).
Further casting reveals the additions of the aforemtioned dancer and wrestler Jordan Likiyo, and martial artist and stuntman Xavier Luo who himself has been subject to coverage in our weekly Hit List column.
“Both are very ambitious, with bright futures ahead in the industry.” Lee says. “We’re definitely looking forward to working with awesome actors and people who want to join and support the production. We also offer through the Indiegogo campaign chances for aspiring actors to be part of our movie.”
And so it is, the with at least a month left until the campaign ends, Lee and Jansen need your help to continue the proliferation of German martial arts action with Kung Fu Bodyguard. Visit the Indiegogo page to learn more about the project, as well as how you can help with respective perks to earn, or how you can partake with the team.