Here’s a fun fact for all you action fans and stunt performers out there who follow martial arts cinema and may even read my blog: Pay close attention to the name Vlad Rimburg from here on out, because he’s going to go places.
A veteran purveyor of independent action for well over a decade, Rimburg has developed an impressive resumè over the years as one of the foremost fight choreographers and directors that Hollywood needs to recognize. Hopefully that day will come sooner than we think, with Rimburg coming off of his busiest year in 2013 directing The Hunt series for the Flow YouTube channel, assembling two installments of his Donnie Yen-inspired Special ID miniseries with Mickey Fachinello, Tamiko Brownlee and Tony Chu, editing industry fight choreographer J.J. Perry’s reel which you can view by clicking here, and putting together several other test fight shortfilms between last year and now, including his latest online “Vlad-style” Kung Fu vs. Karate gem, Dragon Lady, featuring action performers, actress PeiPei Alena Yuan and actor Brendon Huor.
Rimburg spoke to Film Combat Syndicate about what drew him to the project late last year prior to filming, which took four days to shoot between three months due to availability issues for the actors. “After ‘The Hunt’ series was over for Flow, I wanted to continue making more videos. I was told that I should start thinking about casting a female lead…”, he says. “A song came on on my iPod with a Chinese based theme and suddenly I knew that I wanted to make something ‘kung fu-ish’. PeiPei had been coming to my kicking classes at JAM (Joining All Movement), and after much thought, I decided it was time to give her a chance.”. Adding a little more on how he thought the actors did, Rimburg writes, “I pushed [Yuan] really hard during filming, re-doing takes up to fifteen times. In the end, she did great and I’m super happy with the results. As for Brendon, well, he’s Brendon, a natural talent that can do ANYTHING.”.
The latter, of course, is true, especally for Huor who, no matter how many takes or how sore he gets, commits himself to working with Rimburg since getting started with a Crows Zero-inspired test fight short in 2010 titled, Part 1: Chapter A. “…I’ve always trusted him to pick the right take, or choose the right beats to choreograph.” he says. “As I’ve grown and matured over the many practice videos I’ve done on the last three years, Vlad has always been willing to help me where I have questions, and is very receptive to any ideas I might have. He trusts me to do what he sees in his mind, and I trust in his vision.”. Huor also expressed his excitement in going toe-to-toe with Yuan on camera again, telling Film Combat Syndicate, “PeiPei is a great performer and we’re friends off set, so it makes the atmosphere less stressful. Everyone knows everyone, and we’re all there with the same goal, to make whatever we’re working the best it can be at that time.”.
Yuan, a consumate martial artist, stuntwoman and breakdancer who I have written about before in previous articles, has been a fan of Rimburg‘s videos for several years now. And with Dragon Lady marking her first creative gig with the veteran action choreographer, the results have proven to be well worth the wait for what she solely describes as “a great experience”, among other things. “I am in LOVE with Vlad’s work!”, says Yuan. “He is very diligent, passionate and creative. He knows action so well and how he wants it shot. He’s pretty much an Asian dude in many ways. I was so glad he loves Kung Fu and Drunken style, and I’ve always wanted to be like a female Jackie Chan.”.
Yuan continued our chat by further expressing how comfortable she was with Rimburg as he allowed her to blend his ideas with a few of her b-girl moves to suit the whimsical fighting nature of her character. She also had plenty of complements to share for Huor, as she now commits herself to living up to Rimburg‘s standards based on Huor’s example. “Brendon is a dynamic and all-around stuntman and fighter…” Yuan writes. “He was always on point, sharp and learned the choreo quickly, and was very helpful and humble. And, was down to do any wreck while enjoying and laughing during the shoot, yet staying very professional. I learned a lot from watching him work, and his intensity and energy was always high; His last wreck, he laid out perfectly twice each time, no pads and no injuries. Vlad has warned me that I’d have to step up because Brendon is so good!”.
On a slightly more personal, emotional note, Yuan‘s lifelong pursuit in the performing arts leading up to her new project also brings a bit of reflection to what she has since deemed “a life-changing experience”. Her father, Philip, who also had a role in translating Yuan‘s caligraphy for her character’s wanted poster at the end of the shortfilm (illustrated by artist and indie action familiar Shaun Charney), suffered from a terminal illness while living in China last year, which brought Yuan by his bedside during his time of need before filming. In my chat with Yuan, she very expressive in her awareness of how her father might perceive her character regarding the brash tone and language. But nevertheless, there is still a noticeable presence of mutual love and respect between a loving father and a daughter who has come into her own as an artist. “I dedicate this shoot to my Dad and my strong mother who saved him.” she writes. “They are both so strong and I’m inspired by their hard work, determination and love for each other.”.
2014 is going to be a good year for action fans, especially for folks who follow Rimburg‘s work. And knowing what I know, I can tell you all with absolute certainty that with some of the biggest muscle heading our way, the best is yet to come, and Rimburg is JUST getting started!
Dragon Lady is now online and you can check it out in the embed below, in addition to some extra behind-the-scenes photos. And above all else, stay tuned to Film Combat Syndicate for more on Rimburg and his videos, as well as his upcoming appearance in the feature-length Hong Kong action comedy homage, Unlucky Stars.
For more information on PeiPei Alena Yuan, visit her official website.