For what it’s worth, director Bao Tran’s 2015 short, The Challenger, was just the shot in the arm needed to help grow his brewing vision for a larger feature narrative. That evolution will next arise as The Paper Tigers which now has a new campaign pending as of Monday to accrue the necessary support needed before rolling cameras some time in the first or second quarter of next year.
Tran is joined by producers Michael Velasquez, Al’n Duong, Dan Gildark, and cult cinema favorite, Yuji Okumoto, along with a cadre of ripe, experienced talents as of late for a recently-filmed ten-minute pitch that Tran and Duong brought to the Frontières forum earlier this year to present the film to buyers. Essentially having shot two proofs this time around, I sought an opportunity to try and share an update from the director about his endeavors.
The official website is still up and running for the film itself and you are more than welcome to take a gander until Monday when the new Kickstarter goes live, and we’ll be sure to have a piece up then as well. Duong himself offered a few new never-before-scene pictorals which you can view watermarked amidst the following interview, and we especially thank him for mitigating this latest exchange ahead of the forthcoming crowdfunding campaign on Monday.
Before we go into your new plans, you’ve been on an incredible and reasonably strenuous journey to make The Paper Tigers happen. In that time you were also fundraising through Fractured Atlas. How has that particular vehicle helped you get closer to bringing this film to life?
Yes, that was the platform for our first crowdfunding campaign. It was a great way to directly engage our friends and family, but there’s not enough of a brand name like Kickstarter where we could go beyond our network and get eyeballs. Regardless, it was enough to get us to the next goalpost and shoot the prologue portion of our film.
Some of us have never been to Amsterdam, much less the Frontières Finance & Packaging Forum. That was where you took your latest ten-minute pitch for The Paper Tigers. Give us a few snapshots regarding what this forum is – the atmosphere, what went down while you were there and what you took from it. And I know yours was just one in a list of projects brought to the fray as always with these events.
Frontières is like an incubator for international low-budget genre films. It’s unique among film project markets because there’s a real camaraderie and support for each other’s films because we’re so different and varied. Ours was the only action film in the group but it was cool to see ambitious horror, sci-fi mash-ups, and psychedelic fantasy being pitched in one weekend. It’s like we had a front row preview of smart genre movies that will be blowing up in the next few years. Definitely exciting and promising stuff. And the follow-up portion of Amsterdam was that we also presented the footage buyers at Cannes, so it was good to dip the market waters at such an early stage.
Talk about being on set with guys like Roger Yuan and Yuji Okumoto. Tell us how they became apart of this new film endeavor.
Yuji and Roger are both movie OG’s and it was fun having them on set for that veteran presence to keep us young ones in line! I’ve worked with Yuji on a few films before and thought it was a natural fit for him to produce my first feature. He’s especially great at coaching the stunt performers on the acting side and is very well respected in the industry. So when we need to pull favors it comes down to Yuji making the ask. That’s actually how Roger came on board, we were looking for our Sifu until the last minute, when Yuji made some calls and got Roger in. It was the right choice because Roger is amazingly skilled and killed it.
The story in its current form imagines our heroes as old, out of shape and I’m wondering if it would be correct to sort of equate this as sort of in the vein of an edgier Awesome Asian Bad Guys which many of us know has its own cadre of genre veterans, Okumoto included.
Well along with Yuji, I have a lot of friends who worked on AWESOME ASIAN, but I still have yet to see it. I know it’s streaming free to the end of the month on YouTube though! So I’ll just say yes, the answer is yes.
With The Challenger and your ten-minute unreleased pitch, you’ve essentially now filmed TWO conceptual proofs to help get off the ground. This, coupled with the seeking of financing and all the labors that go into film development and pre-production, would you say that just these two proofs paint the kind of picture exacting the amount of teething work and tenacity that goes into what you do? Like, even just trying to make a film, you have to make at least like three or four presentable sizzle reels and proofs of concepts and you have to do it all on your money or funds raised however long it takes, travel on your dime and hope to turn some heads in the process!
Making indie movies is by hook or by crook. Especially since this is my first feature as director, you are constantly in a position to prove yourself and show that you can pull it off. It comes to a point where you don’t want to be spinning in circles trying to satisfy every doubt. There will always be doubters. But we want to spend our time and money in a sensible way that keeps the ball moving to the next goalpost and hope that it will inspire others to join in. Hence the Kickstarter.
Tell us about the new crowdfunder and what’s at stake this time around. I’m told you hope to actually begin filming early next year at some point.
It’s definitely crucial to getting the film made. Financing a film is a constant chicken or egg scenario, so a successful crowdfund campaign can also show that there’s an audience that is willing to back it before it’s finished. It’s a power-to-the-people moment that can nudge financiers or investors with big wallets to take a risk. Obviously the more we can raise over the goal the better, and we can skip to actually shooting the film.
We have Yoshi, Peter and Gui in your ten-minute proof as the young-adult incarnations of our heroes. Can you at all clue us in on the cast or who you and your team might be in discussions with at this point for these respective starring roles?
Yep Yoshi Sudarso, Peter Sudarso, and Gui DaSilva are playing the young adult versions of our main characters, and Kieran Tamondong, Bryan Kinder, and Malakai James play the adolescent version. Mark Poletti plays their Kung Fu rival. For the main feature imagine our heroes noq old and out of shape. We’re talking to a few people for that version of the cast, nothing official as of yet. But I can say that there’s not a lot of great scripts for older actors, so we are having very promising conversations.
On its face, The Paper Tigers is a kung fu comedy genre piece. Your vision is something much more in that you’re trying to advance minority talent in starring attractions in response to industry recalcitrance and the often silent duplicity that recurs over minority actors and actresses in your field.
That said, we have notable successes like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther to point to, but similarly, are these enough so as to “strike while the iron’s hot” in a sense?
No doubt. But it’s never on the shoulders of just one film. We need audiences to go out and pay for films to show that this community must be acknowledged by executives and catered to with stories that count.
I wanna thank you for taking the time for us as we get into this last inquiry. On that note, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to get off your chest? I’m told the sneak peek pitch had your producer Michael Velasquez doing push-ups! What’s his status so far? How stacked is he right now?
Thank you everyone for reading and we hope you can back the Kickstarter, follow us on socials, and share the project near and far. Supporting a film can’t just be a one-time thing, it should be more like supporting your sports team through thick and thin. Michael’s working hard on his double-digit push ups! We give him cookies as a reward and he is ready to entertain you by bringing forth the greatest indie Kung Fu action drama comedy ever.