[CFF] Q&A – Gallants 打擂台 – Director Clement Cheng

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@ 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

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After the award winning Gallants, Clement Cheng had a good chat with the audience. I asked a few questions and also some after the Q&A. Cheng is a cool and passionate guy about Hong Kong cinema, clearly a young director, but filled with potential as seen in his only two films at the festival.

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Q (Me): What inspired you to make this movie?
CC (Clement Cheng): Originally this movie is not about Kung-fu fighting, but rather about music. 10 years ago, when i first joined the entertainment industry, one of the current cast, Teddy Robin had a band group. Teddy really likes to play the guitar and he gave me some work to do. During the work hours, he always force me to play guitar rhythme. In one week, the band play together almost 3 to 4 times. There is also Samuel Hui and others older style musicians. One day, a bunch of old guys came to our band place with all their Ferrari, Benz and etc. All they talked about is shares, buying and selling houses and their sons overseas. Why would they be interested in music? But then once one of them started a chord, they just all played. It made me realise that they have all become young people, laughing and extremely happy. it was so emotional, so I really want to capture this moment of older people doing what they are passionate about and having a great laugh.

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Q (Me): So how did it become a kung fu movie?
CC: It’s very simple. Because if the movie is about music, no one will invest in the film. Even the music industry, not a lot of investors would put their money into it. When we sold this movie to Andy Lau is almost three years ago and Ip Man is extremely popular. So we change it to kung fu, as we previously already had a script about 60s and 70s kung fu stars and all the good guys like Jet Li and Jackie Chan all become bad guys.

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Q: Was it your idea to put in some animation in the movie?
CC: Yes, I am a big animation fan. There is actually a story behind it. The script have animation insert written in it, but in the post-production, we realise we had no money left to do it. So we showed the movie to Andy Lau, and he say, what happened here? Where is the animation? Then we told him and he asked how much and replied he will pay for it. So thank him! The thing is, it was two years ago when Andy Lau saw the script and somehow he still remembers it. I am really thankful for that.

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Q: How is this movie different to a lot of the 60s and 70s Shaw Brothers movies?
CC: They are now a lot older, so we prepared a lot of stunt people for them, but they all rejected the offer. Although they are in their 60s, they wanted to do all the fight scenes themselves.

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Q: I thought your movie need more romance and kisses. The music is Japanese, I really enjoyed. Therefore cannot attract the audience attention. Because there is not enough kisses. In the western culture, kiss all the time.
CC: (Laughs) I do not know how to direct kisses and romance. If you want to watch romantic movie, I got one after this. But it still doesn’t have kiss.

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Q: I felt in love with all the characters and the film made me laugh and cry. But how did you go about developing depth for the characters? You play my emotions very well!
CC: In order for the tragedy to work, you need to have comedy elements in it. So people can have that contrast. Underneath these elements, it is a movie about people being bullied, chased out of their homes and a tragic event.

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Q: What’s the most challenging part of the movie?
CC: Money! For the movie to be made, it is outrageous! Nobody wanted it. It was the happiest day of our lives, when Mr. Lau called me to make the movie. We only had 18 days to shoot this movie. Before we were going to shoot, we consulted mentors, about how we should go about shooting it. Everyone told us you can’t do it. How many action shooting days do you have? We have five. You better call Mr. Lau and say you are sorry and you can’t do it. The cheapest martial arts movie to be made in Hong Kong and just the action scenes took 25 days. How we managed to do it, is the colloration between the martial art actors and the action director Yuen Tak. They all know martial arts so we don’t have to reherse over and over again before we shoot.

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Q: Just want to reliterate about kiss elements, is the reason why there aren’t any, because you are trying to capture the 60s and 70s kung fu movie style and atmosphere?
CC: I actually didn’t think of that, as I do not know how to direct kiss and sex. I am scared of it. Actually in 60s and 70s, there are alot of kisses and fleshes to look at.

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