On August 08, 2017 a full house turned up at the majestic Charlotte Street Hotel to attend the world premiere of the new film “Kowloon Killers”. The film is written, directed and produced by Leif Johnson, with Jonah Werth as Production Assistant & Assistant Director, and Howard Mills as the Director of Photography. The event had the stars of the film present who answered questions about the making of the film.
Starring Tien Hoang, Jan Le and Hai Le, the film is an action packed adventure filmed in London and Kowloon. Other actors featured in “Kowloon Killers” are: Lisa Ronaghan, Priscilla Fung, Ian Higton, Rashid Phoenix, Vitas LeBas, WaiKu Lam
“I was very honored to attend the London premiere of our film “Kowloon Killers”. It was amazing to see so many people turn up to support the film and receive great feedback from the audience. More importantly, the team and I, we feel very proud to see all of our hard work and efforts we put in for months being shown on the big screen. To see the smiles on audience made me really happy and definitely is a huge motivation and encouragement for me to work even harder and try my best for the upcoming future projects,” said Tien Hoang (lead actor and fight choreographer) for London Prestige.
Exclusive Interview with Director Leif Johnson
London Prestige: How long have you been making films and videos?
Leif Johnson: I’ve been making films and videos ever since I was 13 years old. I think most directors at some point in there childhood wanted to be an actor because that’s what you see on the surface. But later find your calling. You figure out what role you play in making a film. I figured it out at a young age and would make short films with my school mates. We used a Samsung hi8 camera that I loved. It was a brilliant creative learning curve at a young age where you just went out there a made it up as you went along. This was in the 90’s which was pre YouTube and pre edit software. Everything was cut together using 2 vhs players linked up. You learned a lot about editing that way.
London Prestige: What is your recent film about?
Leif Johnson: Kowloon Killers is a 12min slice of Hong Kong Action cinema. A throwback to Hong Kong films of the 80’s and 90’s. Mixing heroic bloodshed, with fast paced high octane fight scenes. It’s got drama, action and a little light comedy. Think A Better Tomorrow crossed with SPL.
London Prestige: How did you go about casting for the film?
Leif Johnson: I’d been working with a very talented stunt team on a few small projects. The cast are actors we already knew that could speak Vietnamese and Cantonese. It was very easy to cast.
London Prestige: What do you hope people will take away from the film?
Leif Johnson: It’s purely made with the aim to entertain. The short is more like a section from a feature length film. There’s ambiguity before and after that should leave you wanting more.
If we could get the backing I’ve already got the whole film as a feature planned out. Would be pretty intense drama and action. The full story has a Warriors vibe about it but set in Hong Kong as Hung the main character is chased across the city. It would be made in the native languages too. I’ve never been a fan of films set in none English speaking countries and for no real reason they all speak English so it’s more palatable for wider English speaking audiences. It eradicates and sense of authenticity and reality.
London Prestige: What do you hope to achieve by making the film?
Leif Johnson: This film is a calling card to help get interest firstly. We shot this in 3 days on a very small budget. I sold things on eBay to make up the rest of the budget after getting only half of the investment on indiegogo. If we can make this with those limitations think what we could make with the right investment.
We had a screening in Soho, London. I screened the film along with a Q&A. We also showed a clip of an interview I did with Ridley Scott where he said “If you want to make a film but no one is giving you the money, put your hand in your pocket and stop whining!” This was what made me stop complaining about not being given a chance to shoot a film and give myself the chance.
London Prestige: When is the next screening and tell us about any competitions/festival submission.
Leif Johnson: After our official first screening. I’ve entered this into the Fighting Spirit Film Fest as there will be action fans who will love what this film has to offer. Then it’s going everywhere. Anywhere that will show it!
London Prestige: Tell us a bit about the other films you’ve made.
Leif Johnson: I make mostly adverts for leading brands and the odd corporate video to pay the bills but when I can I work with enthusiastic film makers and actors on little projects to help them out. Tien (Hung) and I worked on a short called Resolve which again was shot in two days and the action in that film is nuts.
London Prestige: What makes beautiful art in your opinion?
Leif Johnson: When you see the love and dedication within it. I’m drawn to anything made by someone who has a different way of thinking and a “I’ll do it my way” attitude. I follow the same way of approaching my work. I did the sound design for this film and I’m not a sound design person but I just got on with it and figured it out along the way. Don’t read the instructions and do it your way. I’m sure there’s been some rules I’ve not followed but the sound is actually one of the stand out things about KK.
I find beauty in everything. I think that’s why directors get enthusiastic about everything from small detail to the big picture. Because if you didn’t you’ll miss out on so much.
London Prestige: Which other documentaries/films that you’ve seen have made an impact on you, personally?
Leif Johnson: I’m obsessed with this documentary on Paul Sykes. It’s on YouTube and is a BBC documentary from 1990. It’s called Paul Sykes At Large. I’m thinking it would make an amazing feature film and have started research with the hope of getting it made. What a character he was and whoever would play him would have a real gem to play. Paul Sykes was both funny and tragic and I feel that’s a beautiful combination for any actor worth their salt. Paul Sykes was a highly intelligent man brought up in conditions that got him into a lot of trouble.
London Prestige: How has your style evolved?
Leif Johnson: To be honest I’m always learning and adapting but it’s always to be able to realise the same style of shooting I’ve had on my head since being a teenager. I have taken ideas from the greats. John Carpenter, Sam Raimmi, Peter Jackson, Jackie Chan, Dario Argento, George Romero, Robert Rodrigues and Edgar Wright. I’m still finding out how to use all that I’ve gained from watching these amazing directors and putting it into my work in my way.
London Prestige: What skills/personal attributes are most important to being successful?
Leif Johnson: Leave your ego at the door. Understand and respect people. Also make sure you stand your ground when you need to. Stay true to yourself and be confident in your own abilities. Above all you should always put yourself in uncomfortable situations that you think are out of your ability. You’ll find out you are actually more resourceful than you think. Ride the learning curve and stay on it.
London Prestige: What other hobbies do you have?
Leif Johnson: I used to have hobbies but filmmaking takes up all my time. It is my hobby. I do like to produce music in my downtime. Actually the opening credits to Kowloon Killers has my track on it.
London Prestige: What are you thinking about doing next?
Leif Johnson: Maybe a Kowloon Killers feature film. Possibly a Paul Sykes bio pic or something set in Cambodia during the 60’s before the Khmer Rouge. The music scene was crazy and would make for an awesome soundtrack. I’ve got a couple of scripts on the back burner for when they are able to be made.
London Prestige: Where does your studio want to go from here?
Leif Johnson: It’s all up in the air. We’re at a point where in order to move onto the next level we’ll need investment. So it’s down to how well Kowloon Killers is received and who we end up talking to.