Not just another kung fu movie – writer/director Bao Tran talks about his funny & unusual martial arts film ‘The Paper Tigers’

“There were many studios that were interested, but unfortunately they came with caveats such as changing the race of our lead characters.”

Bao Tran interview (full index below)

A life-long lover of martial arts films, Bao Tran, who is not quite 40 (18 November is the big day) has made a number of acclaimed short films such as Carmen’s Virtue (2003), Black Coffee (2009), Bookie (2008) and The Challenger (2015). He also worked as an editor on several big Vietnamese films such as Cho Lon (2013) and Jackpot (2015).

Tran spent four years writing the screenplay for The Paper Tigers, then – as is ritual for any American independent filmmaker – went about scrounging up the resources and money to make the film. And make it his way.

Speaking from Seattle about the film, Tran explains how his approaches to big studios often resulted in offers of deals, so long as the racial mix of his cast be changed to include a bankable actor of their choosing.

It was just one of the many hurdles Tran and his dedicated cast and crew had to clear in making the film happen.

Please enjoy.

Bao Tran interview index
00:35 Auto bio; background in film;
02:43 Describe the story;
03:50 Theme of honour;
04:42 Screenwriting process;
06:36 Accounting for slick direction; movie gods;
07:00 Billy Wilder influence;
07:40 Theme of brotherhood;
09:51 Cast chemistry – true or false?;
11:30 Theme of qualified pacifism;
13:30 Theme of bullying;
14:23 influence of Western genre;
16:02 Is the film too long?
18:45 Back-pedalling criticism;
19:20 Comedy influences;
20:16 Ambition with the film;
21:07 How is the film travelling?;
21:46 Distribution;
21:45 Tribute to John Nolan, first assistant director;
25:50 Nuts & bolts of production;
26:25 Approaching studios;
26:45 Wanting cast changes in exchange for a deal;
27:20 Refusing to change;
28:00 Sizzle reel for Kickstarter campaign;
28:35 Asian-American community assistance;
29:16 Budget;
29:35 City of Seattle help with filming permits;
30:55 Unpacking the concept of making a casting deal with a studio;
34:06 Representation of Asian-Americans in mainstream films;
35:00 Battling cliches and tokenism;
37:30 Resisting preachiness;
40:00 The Oscar diversity proposal.