The same day that the final Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer hit this week, a lesser known project called Black Tiger: Hunter Hunted released its 20-minute pilot episode on YouTube. Black Tiger originally started off as a comic book mini-series in 2004. In 2014, a Kickstarter project to fund a short film based on the comic book was successfully funded. The short film, starring WWE Diva Angela Fong and Robin Shou (Mortal Kombat), premiered at WonderCon in 2014 and went on to screen at other conventions, winning the 2014 Spirit of Comic Con award at the Atlanta Comic Con’s Wizard World Film Festival. Director Patricio Ginelsa took time out to talk to us about the film and the funding effort to continue the web series.
NELSON: You directed and co-wrote Black Tiger: Hunter Hunted, the pilot episode which debuted online recently, based on the Beyond Time comic book created by John Hervey II. How did you become involved with the project? What appealed to you most about the project?
PATRICIO: John Hervey and I were in the same club at USC. At the time, I had no idea he was a comic book guy. Fandom wasn’t cool back then so we were all closet nerds, though I always kept a box of my favorite comics in my dorm room for inspiration. We lost touch after we graduated but I stumbled upon his comic book Black Tiger as a giveaway inside a film festival goodie bag they give the filmmakers. I learned he had started his own comic book company Beyond Time. A few years ago, he approached me about adapting Black Tiger into a live action movie. At that point in my career, I was directing music videos so I was adapting artists’ songs into short films. The challenge of adapting someone else’s comic book property was attractive because it gave me a bigger canvas to play with.
The movie already had most of the cast attached including WWE’s Angela Fong and Robin Shou. I mean, if you ask a nerd whether you want to direct Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat, it’s already a done deal in my book. John’s script, however, needed some work but he gave me some creative control to rewrite it. We went back and forth for about a year until he finally got some funding to give it the green light. Our goal with Black Tiger was really to establish the tone and shoot a proof of concept that people would hopefully enjoy and that could potentially lead to a bigger follow-up, either a feature or an episodic series. I convinced John that the cliffhanger ending was the best route to take. If the audience truly cared and was hungry to know what happened next, then that was a win-win for us. There was no way we could afford to shoot what happened next unless we had a bigger budget. Well in my head, it’s pretty epic in scale. Just look at the original comic books and you’ll know what I mean.
You have a long list of projects you’ve been involved with over the years, including the indie film The Debut, music videos from the Black Eyed Peas, and even your own indie film Lumpia. This may have been the project with the most action sequences that you have worked on to date. As a director, what was your mindset entering into this project? Was there any difference in your approach to shooting scenes for an action movie?
I had shot a music video for the Bay Area band Native Elements song “Bigger They Come” with a crazy Street Figher-like concept. That was the first time I worked with fight choreography, and it was difficult. We ran out of time because we had to not only shoot coverage for the multiple action scenes but also for the music video performance of the band. Entering Black Tiger, I was determined to be more prepared and concentrate more on my framing of the action plus shoot better coverage for my brilliant editor A.J. Calomay to play with. I was also working with a brand new crew and it was also my first time shooting on the RED.
Our stunt team led by Mark Elefane and Chris Yung were amazing and worked their magic with limited time and resources. And despite the long overnight shoots, the cast were always in high spirits and made me laugh between takes. I’m used to super low budget projects so there are always a lot of compromises as a director I have to make. The parking lot action scene between the Russians and Black Tiger lacks a proper conclusion and I ran out of time to show the Black Tiger really injured and the Marksman “running away in the shadows.”
What was the most complex scene to shoot?
The most complex scene to shoot was at the hotel room where Angela’s character showers and finds herself fighting with only a towel on. The space was really tiny and we had to squeeze the camera crew and the fight choreography all inside. There were so many things to consider in that one day shooting — darts on the wall, a half naked actor inside a shower, towel fighting in the dark, broken glass, and an emotional pivotal cliffhanger scene. In the end, those scenes were my favorite and my proudest achievement as a director in the shoot.
Now that the pilot has debuted, there are potentially three new episodes on the horizon as a continuation of the pilot episode, which left viewers with a cliffhanger and many unanswered questions. The project is looking to get funded in less than a month’s time. Where can people help to fund more episodes? How else can people help if they would like to see more episodes?
We’ve teamed up with Ovation TV, Creative Studio, and Rocket Hub for our crowdfunding campaign. It features multiple tiers of cool rewards for supporting us on the next episodes, so you can join us. And of course, the best way to spread the word is to share the FREE pilot episode with your NERDtastic friends. We so badly want to show you what’s next in the Black Tiger saga!
It is no secret that you are a huge nerd. As a director, what nerdy projects would you love to have an opportunity to bring to screen in the future and why?
Yes, I’m a proud nerd, no doubt. The big project I’m working on right now is my feature Lumpia 2. Just the thought of bringing that sequel to life with a bigger budget and production quality and shoot it in my hometown of Daly City, California is exciting and challenging. We’ve been working hard on it the past two years now in development, and I’m determined to get this action comedy in front of cameras finally in 2016.
As far as dream nerd projects I’d love to helm? Let’s just say I had a brief conversation with fellow USC alum and current Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige once at a screening years ago. He won’t remember me, but I won’t forget what he said to me. When I pitched a certain Marvel Comic property I would love to direct, he just said “go out there, make an amazing movie,” and he’ll notice. Even if that Marvel film never happens for me, that’s all the motivation a nerd filmmaker like me needs!