Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist' Kickstarter Campaign

I seriously hope this thing gets funded in the necessary time.
oh WOW, they really, and i mean really listened to fans and learned from their mistakes.

Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist Co-Creator/Co-Writer/Director Joey Ansah took some time out from his busy schedule to chat with Shogun Gamer about the series and what fans can expect from it.

Ian: For those out there who may not have followed the live-action resurgence of Street Fighter that closely, can you tell us how Assassin’s Fist came to be?​

Joey Ansah
: This whole journey started about three years ago. I’ve been working in the action business for a while and after seeing The Legend of Chun Li I was like something needs to be done. If it’s left to the Hollywood type producers and studios, who are only looking at money, it’s never going to be done right. Someone needs to be doing it for the passion first and the money second. Originally I was planning to do the World Warrior. So that’s the script treatment that I wrote initially for a series. Then when I pitched to Capcom I ended up counter pitching and deciding to do Street Fighter: Legacy as a proof of concept. If I was going to get the rights from Capcom to do something bigger I would have to prove myself with something smaller, especially not being backed by a big studio. So I did Legacy and then it was like “Now that Legacy had been so successful we should go back earlier”. To go back to your initial question, I personally love that aspect of the Street Fighter mythology. The whole Hado, power of nothingness, the Gōki/Gōken storyline. The Udon comics did a good job at going into that side of the story as did the anime Street Fighter: Generations. So there were several reasons why we chose to do this story. Naturally I want to make this series for the core Street Fighter fans because they deserve a faithful live-action piece. But secondarily, it’s the best place for newcomers to jump onto the franchise. The problem with Street Fighter is that there are so many characters. So if you suddenly throw twelve characters to a new audience it’s too zany and there’s not enough time to develop everyone properly. So let’s start with what I feel is the most important characters: Ryu and Ken. They’ve got a very rich backstory. How did Ryu and Ken end up being in Japan? What’s the link with Mr. Masters and Gōken? What’s Goten’s past? How did he [Gōken] and Gōki/ come to represent such opposite ideas? What was their Gōtetsu training like? Then that makes you think what the history of Ansatsuken (the fighting style that they do). And there you have it in a very longwinded answer.

Ian: Since SF: Legacy was so popular and totally shocked everyone that watched it, what is it like trying to build upon that and expand it via an episodic series in the form of Assassin’s Fist? Has it been challenging in a way or is it just deeply satisfying to build upon the Street Fighter franchise in an exciting new way?

: It’s been a really enriching experience. Writing a treatment is one thing. For those people who don’t know, with script writing typically you’ll initially write a synopsis that may be a paragraph or a couple of paragraphs long. The next stage is to do a treatment of a script which goes into detail about the story and may have bits of dialog here and there. From the treatment you then start going into screenplay format. So writing the World Warrior treatment was a process, but Assassin’s Fist has been the better part two years of solid writing and redrafting. It’s a non-linear story and I’m a big fan of that form of storytelling.
I started writing the script with Christian Howard chronologically and we started out with the earliest point of the story; post WWII potentially. Gotesku returns to Japan and wants to pass on his teachings so he adopts two brothers who are orphaned by the war (Gōken and Gōki) and begins their training. So we wrote the story from there all the way up to more modern times with Ryu and Ken.

Once we had that, the Bible as it’s called, it was then a case of how to tell it in an interesting non-linear way. We need to start with Ryu and Ken since that’s where everyone instantly identifies with, but what will be the trigger to take us back in time to Gōken’s past? Rather than this being a series that just has flashbacks to the past, it’s very much two complete parallel storylines running side by side. So there’ll be some episodes set almost entirely in the past and some episodes almost entirely set in the present; and some split between the two. So you’re almost getting two epic stories in one and then you find where the two intersect with one another; where the past catches up with the present.

Street Fighter: Legacy
Ian: What is it like to in a way build up and repair the reputation the Street Fighter franchise has when it comes to live-action projects? People still love the video games, but the first film is now enjoyed for all the wrong reasons as a cheesy cult classic and The Legend of Chun-Li wasn’t exactly great. So what is it like to redirect the cinematic course of Street Fighter and finally give fans what they want?

: It’s difficult because as you said there hasn’t been a good track record with Street Fighter in live-action. Now people loved the anime and I’m sure if people heard that there’s a new anime being made by the people who did Street Fighter 2: The Animated movie that people would instantly be down for that. So I understand there’s going to be a lot of skepticism and people are going to go “Oh no, not another one. They should just leave that horse buried.” Hopefully SF: Legacy went a long way to making people realize that there’s still something more there and that it’s possible. I just hope that the fans rally behind it.
At the end of the day its fan backing that will make or break this. Fans showing the demand that they want to see something and they’re ready to take another shot on a live-action Street Fighter is what’s going to help. I know most fans deep down would love to see a faithful Street Fighter.

Ian: What sort of tone can we expect Assassin’s Fist to have? The show will obviously be action packed but will it mainly be a rather serious action romp or will it have some levity in between the moments of drama and action?

: Street Fighter inherently has always had humor in it and even the most serious of films need humor or at the very least dark humor to lighten the mood to give some light and shade. So the series will have a lot of great action, epic showdowns, and training montages, but at the heart it’s a character story. People will identity with various characters in this and there’s no clear main protagonist in this. Everyone who watches it will have their own hero or the person that they’re backing. So we’ve developed quite a unique narrative that as it unfolds it’ll split a lot of decision on who people are backing in the series.
There is humor and some characters that give, hopefully, great chuckles. So it won’t be 100% dark, but it’s not campy. It’s very honest. Think more of the tone found in The last Samurai. The time when Tom Cruise’s character Algren is trapped in the Samurai village. That kind of serene and classically shot respectful beauty. Also think of something like Kickboxer when Van Damme was training. We haven’t seen a good warrior’s journey in a long time; the kind of film that makes you want to start training or dedicate yourself to some kind of art form. Films like that aren’t made anymore and this is definitely one of those stories.

Ian: When people think of Street Fighter the first thing they think of is obviously action since it’s a fighting game. So with that in mind, what sort of direction are you going with in respect to the action scenes? Are you trying your best to leverage the more traditional fighting elements with the fantastical moves the Street Fighter franchise is known to have?

: As you saw in Legacy we wanted to make sure that even the basic fighting techniques (the basic kicks, punches, and stances) they did were true and authentic to the game. You’re almost going to get to learn the marital art just from watching this series, both the basic techniques and the more advanced Hado techniques.
I think there is a way to get a perfect balance and to have the slightly more extreme moves without it taking you out of it. So by no means are we going hyper-real. Hado is going to have a huge place in the series and I think Legacy will give people an inkling into what the combat will be like. It’s not like the series is going to start with people throwing Hadokens; it has to be earned. You’re going to see the process of Ryu and Ken trying to achieve the ability to utilize Hado and it’s quite a gradual process.
By the time you get towards the end and all hell is breaking loose you understand it and it’s been a gradual rise to that point. It’s almost like The Matrix; Neo’s skills build gradually and he’s not flying around instantly. But by the time he does becomes God Neo you’re kind of cool with it because you’ve seen the whole build up.

Ian: Development on Assassin’s Fist is still early on, but what has been the most difficult aspect of the project? Is it simply a case of trying to make the most out of a limited budget, or is it a matter of trying to do justice to the characters –both in how they look and how they’re portrayed?

: The look is not the issue. The production design in terms of art concept, the look of the locations, the look of the costumes - that has been a very strong image in my mind and Christian’s mind for a long time. Its more the finance. The recession has really hit the independent finance sector, particularly in the UK. The UK film industry is tiny compared to that of America and funding is not easy to come by since we want to release this on a new model. It’s essentially a TV series but we want to release it initially online to the core audience first and then propagate it out to various formats thereafter. So it’s quite hard raising finance for a new media and a new model. A lot of people assume “Why are these guys using Kickstarter? Surely Capcom or Hollywood will give them millions.” It doesn’t work like that. We’ve done an option deal with Capcom which means we pay for the rights like a big studio would and then we have to raise the finance to make it. So it’s a good point to clarify that we haven’t been given millions by some company and we’re just being greedy by asking for more money from the fans. It’s literally having to raise this money from scratch as most independent films have to.

The main way most films raise their finance is that they attach a big star since that automatically guarantees distribution and thus you can pre-sell your film before you’ve even shot it based on the name attached. But we don’t want to crowbar in a big name into Street fighter that has no place playing one of these iconic characters. Put it this way, if you get the casting right in something like this the characters are the stars themselves. Ryu and Ken are the stars. I don’t need a celebrity to be playing Ryu or Ken. I need someone that people truly believe is Ryu or Ken. As we said in the Kickstarter video, we have had offers of finance but with that comes a whole load of creative controls and blocks. There’s no point in me doing this unless it’s going to be done right. So the hardest part is protecting that creative integrity and still raising the finance needed within the time limit. Like we said, we have a large portion of the budget already staked, but that won’t sit around forever.
If we don’t close the remainder and get into production by a certain point then some of that finance will fall apart and obviously we don’t want that to happen. This year being the 25th anniversary of Street Fighter we would love to go into production and get it released this year.

The SF: Assassin's Fist announcement video for Ryu.

Ian: Since Capcom hasn’t given major financial support to Assassin’s Fist, have they given you any sort of mandates as to what to do or certain guidelines they would like you to follow in respect to the characters? Or do you have full creative freedom since the production is independent?

: Ever since Legacy I’ve been good friends with the people at Capcom, both here in the U.S. and in Japan. Ono-san (the producer of SFIV) is a good friend so it was very important to me to get the Japanese blessing of Street Fighter from the creative figures at Capcom who worked on the games and the storylines. If they give it the thumbs up then you know it’s good, particularly Ono-san himself. Bottom-line: if he didn’t like the script we wouldn’t have gotten the rights. It’s as simple as that. So they trust that I’m completely handling this in the right way and as a result I’ve had free reign with the script.

Ian: On the topic of Kickstarter, what sort of long-term value do you think the service has, especially when it comes to doing projects such as Assassin’s Fist? Do you think it’ll make a major impact moving forward when it comes to allowing creative people such as yourself to do unique projects, or will things be limited in a sense unless there’s a big name attached?

: Kickstarter’s been around for a little while now and for the most part it’s usually tailored for small independent projects that don’t have an existing fanbase with people asking for relatively modest amounts of money. So it’s only until relatively recently that slightly bigger brand projects have appeared. Veronica Mars, the CW Network TV series calling Kristen Bell that was cancelled after three seasons, had a superb Kickstarter for the movie the creator wanted to do. That kind of made everyone wake up and go “Wow, fan power. Fans really do have the ability to greenlight a project by voting with their donations”. So we were encouraged by that and thought Street Fighter easily has got as big a fanbase as Veronica Mars. There must be millions of people out there. So even if we tapped into a quarter of those people and they believe enough in the project it could work. This is what hasn’t been done on Kickstarter before; taking a property that potentially has a million fans and then asking them to donate. How much could one raise? It is interesting and experimental, but I do think crowdfunding could become a regular part of future film financing.

Ian: During the last three years we’ve seen quite a few video games have a live-action/web series presence, the biggest of which has been Mortal Kombat: Legacy. Now without trying to drum up a battle between fans of MK and SF, what is it like for you as a creator to follow-up MK: Legacy in a sense? Obviously SF: Legacy was first way back in earrly 2010, but is it daunting since expectations have been raised or do you think there’s more than enough room for both franchises to co-exist and do things differently?

: I think Mortal Kombat: Legacy has only done good things. What it has shown is that there is a demand for live-action video game based narrative. Machinima has done very well out of that series in terms of the viewing figures. So I take my hat off to Kevin Tancharoen and the team for doing a pretty damn good job with it and they’ve pleased a lot of people. There’s always room for improvement with most things, but I’m eager to see Mortal Kombat: Legacy Season 2 and to see how it has come on from the first series. What is annoying is that, as you know, Street Fighter: Legacy came out before Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and we had the idea to do this web-series way back then. The difference is that Mortal Kombat, the game, has Warner Bros. Digital as a publisher and it was Warner Bros. Digital that also published, and I’m sure was involved in part financial and what not, the Mortal Kombat: Legacy series. It was essentially an advert for the game; it was a marketing exercise in which the story of the series told the prologues of all the characters in the game.

So let’s say there’s a new Street Fighter game coming out this year and then potentially we could get some more financial support from Capcom since it would be part of a marketing exercise. But there isn’t a new Street Fighter game coming so our project is a complete stand alone. The advantage we have is that we’re not forced to tell a particular storyline to support a game. We can tell the storyline we want to tell whereas the Mortal Kombat: Legacy series was kind of forced to somewhat tell the story of what the current game needed to have told. Had Kevin Tancharoen and team had complete free reign with that series would they have told different sort of stories and gone different routes? I’m sure yes. But would it have been better or worse who knows. So at least we don’t have those kind of constraints, but it does make getting the financing more difficult because it’s not a marketing exercise for the game.
I just noticed that the kickstarter has been cancelled...or at least that's what it looks like. Is it cancelled or fully funded?
I just noticed that the kickstarter has been cancelled...or at least that's what it looks like. Is it cancelled or fully funded?
It's fully funded by a third party so the Kickstarter is no longer needed.

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