AT LONG LAST: An Interview With Andy Long
2016 has seen its fair share of stumbles for me, particularly in the interview department seeing as how I didn't get to reach as many people as I wanted to. This was one of the grievances I aired in my year four piece from a few weeks ago, and interestingly enough, things still took quite a turn for me following the teaser announcement of a new reel by a stunt performer and martial artist whose career growth now lends him the prominence that I among dozens of others can truly assert that he deserves.
That stated, I was never personally well acquainted with Andy Long until around my first or second year as a writer here at Film Combat Syndicate. However, the work he's amassed and contributed to the genre and the people of his field makes him one of the most sought after people to date for a guy that lives so far away from most others, and it's partly by way of the internet in its evolution for more than twenty years now that his relevance and success keeps him going, having collaborated with numerous teams and filmmakers aplenty, at home and abroad. Independent AND mainstream.
It's the level of work ethic here that speaks greatly to the kind of material and people I enjoy covering, especially with my last interview subjects, The Danger Element star and director John Soares and Headshot co-star Sunny Pang. Thus, I found myself at an opportune moment in the past month to reach out to Long and talk to him about his career in the hopes of debuting one final, major interview for the new year. It is an interview that I warmly bring to you all in lieu of introducing Long's newest career tribute reel, ripe with highlights of his life, his work, his dreams, goals and creative heights all dating back to 1993, and this reel is a sheer joy to watch from start to finish!
The following interview was a bit of a team effort. It took a while to finish from the start as he was finishing his reel wherein a few great new videos have since aired on the Martial Club channel already - something he hints at later on. Alas, with this being his first major interview - a fact which puts a huge and humble smile on my face - it's also rewarding as well, having given myself the chance to enhance someone that people within the stunt and film community are slowly coming to know and are increasingly coming to revere, legendary film star and Oscar winner Jackie Chan being one of them. Long certainly deserves the spotlight for all his continued, unwaning efforts to pay tribute through performance and vision overall, and it is, without question, an honor for me to share his story - a story of hardwork, dedication, experience, comradery, laughter, triumph over tribulation, endurance, friendship, art and the love of cinema.
I hereby welcome you to Film Combat Syndicate's own debut interview with the one and only Andy Long. As a noteworthy mention, Long is truly one of the most mild-mannered and modest people you will ever meet, so I'm certain he would choke me if he had any idea that I would be talking him up this much in my preface here. What can I say? I love the guy.
Cheers, Andy, and everyone, enjoy!
Andy Long: First of all, I wanna thank you very much for doing this interview with me. I’ve been reading many interviews you did with a lot of great people that I look up to, and I’m very honored to join the club!
2016 has been a fantastic year so far. I’ve been blessed with so many beautiful moments, had the chance to meet and work with amazing people for the first time and learn from the best in the stunt industry - people I’ve rarely met or only knew online beforehand. I’m also very happy that I made the time to meet my friends and shoot some funny video clips again. It revived my performing spirit once more since my stunt work has been 95% behind the camera for the last five years, and top of those things, I actually made another big dream of mine come true this year thanks to the help of very special people which I consider now as my family and proud to call my own stunt team.
FCSyndicate: I'm glad to hear that and I want to get to that a little later in our discussion. I am curious though as I'm fascinated with your work thusfar as you've become somewhat of a well-known among your peers. That's something I've gladly observed of you and I'm curious to learn about you as I think others may be. Tell us about yourself and your background.
AL: Thank you! Well, at best and as far as I can remember, I have always been a huge Jackie Chan fanboy who always wanted to be like him until now. There was never anyone or anything else more fascinating than him and his films. I grew up in Pforzheim, a little city in south of Germany. Holding on to his movies and having an idol that you wanna be like kept me strong as a kid who often got bullied for being the only Asian in school. I admit to have been kind of a nerd also! 😄
I would never be the person who I am today without Jackie Chan films. So I set myself a couple of goals as a kid which I wanted to achieve in life and you can bet that first on the list was definitely meeting my “creater” Jackie and dedicate and solidify myself in his movies as a stunt team member. Whatever I did, I always had my goal in mind.
I did a couple of martial arts - Judo and Tae Kwon Do to name a few - whatever was available and affordable in town, but I would never consider myself as martial artist, per se; My main m.o. was always to just fool around in the backyard, stealing my parents video8 camera and filming myself doing Jackie stuff. This is what I do up to now, only without the stealing. 😁
AL: Well, as long as I keep hurting myself or putting myself in danger, my parents will never be 100% happy about what I’m doing. It has never been easy to convince them to like what I do, which means they care a lot about my health though. I love them very much.
|Andy Long and the Mag-Fighters|
My very first step to reach my goal was hustling on the set of “Around The World In 80 Days”! I just turned 15 and traveled to Berlin with a fan-letter offering to work for Jackie’s team. I got rejected by Jackie in a puhersonal letter (written by his dialog coach Diana) because I was too young at the time, while the letter also read that, and I quote, “we might work together in the future”. I was still in school but I kept sending VHS edited demo tapes to stunt companies in Germany, and of course they were all rejecting me. I was a little kid and had no professional experience at all.
When the internet was getting more and more popular, I finally found people online who did independent action films...I was SO happy. I always looked up to The Stunt People and The Young Masters. They were the first inspiration for me to upload my videos and share them online, and so even though it took few years I got a group of friends together located in the South of Germany who would share the same passion of creating short films with fight scenes and we founded the Mag-Fighters in 2006, and did exactly the same thing. Unfortunately none of those guys joined the stunt industry with me but still through all these years they became my very best friends today.
After all these rejections in the past, I didn’t dare to share my independent work with professional people anymore. However, Mike Möller was the only professional stunt guy that I knew who also did independent stuff, and after contacting him, he invited me straight to the premiere of Ulrik Bruchholz’s vampire short film where I got the chance to meet a group of very cool stunt guys, including Chris Gneißl who I consider as my rigging mentor!
Mike Möller is the nicest and most helpful guy when it comes to newcomers. Thanks to him I got my first paid stunt job. Also, I fell in the good graces of Mathis Landwehr and Ferdinand Fischer who always highly recommend me and helped me acquire first hand experience in the professional stunt industry early on.
|Mike Moeller and Andy Long|
AL: I wouldn’t say that I expected it to blow up that much but... I guess it was a natural chain reaction and momentum that led to inspiring the next generation the way we got inspired, and so on and so on. Seven years ago I traveled to the states to meet all my indie filmmaking idols from the Stunt People forum which, by the way, was the most memorable experience and perhaps one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And even then, I was already not able to catch up with everyone... now it would be impossible to do a tour like that!
I use to watch every single video posted on the the Stunt People forum, but now I don’t even know where to look. There are so many videos that I cannot even follow all of my friend’s videos. And a lot of newcomers ask me where to find the right people to start with, I tell them so many people are doing videos these days that, I mean, hey... your neighbor is probably a YouTuber [laughs]. We have all kind of social networks to connect easily to people with the same interests.
I really like that many people have the chance to show their skill now. As Eric Jacobus said, it builds competition which is very good and to keep moving forward and create new things new styles... but what do I know? I'm still stuck in the 80s! 😂
People who have the skillset to create their own videos will always have my respect. And I do recommend that to every newcomer: Grab your camera and make your own experiences in shooting videos. You're gonna face so many difficulties along the way, but the experiences and things you learn to solve problems and work with very little tricks to make the best out of nothing is priceless.FCSyndicate: I think it's fantastic that you're still somewhat harkening back to the 1980's in some of your own creative mindset. I want to get back to that in a bit but I do want to talk a little more about your independent film stuff. I think the first time I saw you was in one of the Do The Damn Thing episodes with Jabronie Pictures's Fernando Jay Huerto and I really love the sort of recurring inside joke where people mistake others for you. What was it like working on this project?
AL: It was so much fun! We had a great time together and I love those running inside jokes. Jay and Lester have built a fantastic, sort of “Do The Damn Thing Universe” with their idea, almost like the Marvel Universe! You have to see all of them to be able to recognize and laugh about every single joke.
The whole idea of playing yourself was always an easy story entrance to start a test fight if you haven’t prepared a short film idea - Very simple solution when you shoot spontaneously and always fun to watch. FCSyndicate: Do you have any fun memories from working on this webseries you can share with us?
AL: Jay made me join five different film projects in only one week of visiting. So, he and his cousin, Neil Aguilera, started filming right away when they picked me up from the airport. I did the same when he came to visit Germany, we shot at the airport, we locked down his stuff at the train station and went straight to filming, sightseeing and to a German beer festival without passing home. I made him drink so much beer on his first day that he couldn’t remember on the next day how he arrived this country! 😂
|Andy Long and Fernando Jay Huerto|
Jay is famous for filming around the world and with very beautiful actresses; He's sort of been dubbed tongue-in-cheek as "the James Bond of independent film making". In our episodes we are always competing by introducing each other to local girls... I think I won the competition by making him fall in love so much that he didn’t wanna leave Germany!
As I said I love inside jokes, so I even include in our episodes moments that I had with friends from LBP and Dennis Lafond, etc. and Jay continued those perfectly on his Canada tour.
I really hope to “Do The Damn Thing” once again and very with Jay and Lester together on an even bigger beer festival. That would be awesome!FCSyndicate: I'm not too sure about that. You might have missed it between your schedule but they actually released the final installment back in February titled Do The Damn Thing: Ultimate. I do agree though.. I think this could really use an extra episode or two, especially if you could perform in it.
AL: I actually didn't miss that update... but I don't accept it as the final installment because. They didn't get my permission! 😂FCSyndicate: Noted! 😉
I also want to talk a bit about a few of your projects and the one that's been most eye-catching is from a trailer you posted on Facebook. At its current standing it's about 47 seconds and it is, perhaps, the most nostalgic piece of work and reminiscent of 80's Hong Kong cinema I've seen. With its process still ongoing, can you tell us about the status of that project?
AL: The Hong Kong teaser was an idea I came up with in 2013 when I returned to Hong Kong for the first time after making Yellow Zone with Can Aydin. I really appreciated peoples' reactions on that one so I tried to create a 4-5 minute 80's-style retro Hong Kong action movie trailer with a lot of dialogue and action scenes in that same vein. I’ve picked the Cantonese dialogue from so many different movies and put them together to create my own story with those lines [laughs], and it actually worked! Unfortunately however, I got too busy in Hong Kong and never returned since. Another motivation for me to create this trailer was shooting a project together with my friend Vi-Dan Tran while we were both in Hong Kong. I don’t know when this is gonna happen again, and I’ve told so many people about this idea who wanted to join. Very amazing people and even some that were actually part of that Golden Age of Hong Kong Action movies! I was very honored.
|Promo still from the 80's Hong Kong action teaser|
As for the new trailer in its current standing, it has been 3 years now since I recorded the latest shot for it. If fate leads us all to Hong Kong again, I’ll be willing to finish this project!FCSyndicate: What are some of your favorite Hong Kong titles? I know you must have seen a lot but I reckon there are a few worth point out - maybe some essentials that you think any martial arts film fan should definitely own, hands down?
AL: That’s kind of a difficult question. It’s like asking what kind or how much food I've tried in life and what was the best. I think you need to see all of them! Of course I would mention Jackie’s movies first and all movies that are related to Sammo, Yuen Biao, Donnie, Jet, Yuen Woo-Ping, etc. Similarly, there are also very underrated movies which have amazing action. If you’re a real martial arts film fan, you should own all of them.FCSyndicate: Lately, you directed a shortfilm tribute to Jackie Chan with Papillon Rising. How did you manage to get on board that project?
AL: I met one of the artists, Paul Cless, at a movie premiere and we already knew through friends that both of us were inspired by Jackie in our childhood. And as usual when someone tells me he is a huge Jackie Chan nerd, I would put him on the test and start quoting movies and sing Jackie songs and this guy really managed to sing all the songs in Chinese! He even battled me quoting the lines from some random extras of the movies [laughs], so nerdy! I think one or two years later he told me that he did a cover of the Armour Of God theme song with his partner, Efe, and asked me if I could imagine how it would look if I shot a video. First, I celebrated their cover and it went straight to my head: shoot a music video with them both at the original locations of the movie. It didn’t take too much effort to convince them! They both liked the idea and we were all ready for a road trip through Southeast Europe. And now you probably wanna know how the hell I knew where the locations where? I guess I’m just as much of a huge Jackie film nerd!
“High Upon High” was such a passion project. We self-financed it and put in so much detail and love - I remember standing in that castle looking for the exact same corridor out of 20 similar ones. I studied from every scratch on the wall which could be the right one. We recreated shots and shot from exactly the same angles and distances, and, coincidentally, with the same lens so we could overlap the footage from 30 years ago and nothing would change, except the performers and other things like trees that grew taller since then. Almost like time traveling! It was really nerdy but I loved it. 😁
AL: This stunt happens to be one of those that actually don’t hurt. If you have been practicing your stunts on and off, you just have to trust your body and do exactly the same thing as in your training. I’ve been a bit nervous on the Martial Club one as I was too afraid to break the edge of the table if we repeat it too often. So, I took my time to focus and I did it just once. In “High Upon High” I just went straight on “3...2...1... action!” since I knew I did it already, and I also built the table by myself so I knew it would last for 5 more takes!
The preparation is different for every stunt depending what the risks and difficulties are. But, of course, you have to pad up the right way. I don’t like to pad up too much, because it takes away your flexibility. But, when all the safety preparation is done, I erase my worries and always try to enjoy it, take a deep breather and be happy about the moment that I have the chance to do something for a movie that I always loved to see in other action films, and then do it as in your training and make it look as painful as you can on screen for the audience.
Sometimes you have the chance to repeat a stunt, either because it didn't look the way you wanted or maybe you have a second prop table to crash in and it might start hurting after 2 or 10 takes, but what I’ve learned from Jackie is this: “Whenever you do a movie, do the best you can, because the movie lives forever.”
Pain is temporary but the footage of you doing a stunt - whether it shows you at your best or the opposite - will last forever. You should always be able to look back without regrets and be proud of what you did.
“We don’t get hurt for nothing. We get hurt for something.”
Enjoy the moment and do the best you can!FCSyndicate: What's the biggest stunt you've done on film thusfar?
|Photo by Julien Bam|
AL: I'm actually not sure what defines a big stunt, but the stunt which I needed to focus the most to get me doing it was the gainerfall into water canister, which you can find in my 2011 demo reel. It was for a collab short film with team InRain. I think I prepared myself for 2 hours until I was ready to jump. It really took a while but as soon it was done I did the second take right after.
Generally speaking, think the most dangerous situations I had were not from performing stunts, just working in China under very low safety conditions was a huge risk in general.FCSyndicate: Are there any other aspects of filmmaking apart from stunts that you would like to explore?
AL: I love every aspect of filmmaking. I don't think that I have the skillset of becoming a professional director and actor, but I would love to be able to direct my own feature film someday with me starring as the lead. However, becoming professional in something is really another level, and so far, I only consider myself as a professional stuntman because this is what I do and this is what I earn my money with.FCSyndicate: Here here! 🍻 And speaking of livelihood, you recently teased your new reel in a teaser that also showcased Jackie Chan vaguely mentioning you while on stage. If it is possible to put into words, how does this make you feel?
AL: Jay Huerto was there that day and called me right away, I was extremely happy and couldn’t wait to see it online. It was funny that I already knew what he’s going to say about me because he used to share my story to every actor on the set of Chinese Zodiac about how much I hustled to get into the team[laughs] I was a kid with a dream and it makes me proud that he always remembers and keep sharing the story of that one guy who came on set and passed him a demo reel.FCSyndicate: What is it like to work with Jackie Chan?
AL: Jackie has totally met my expectations and was exactly the same way I’ve always seen and studied him on screen. I was fortunate to have witnessed the last Jackie Chan style movie, Chinese Zodiac. Seeing the Master at work, choreographing himself on spot, deciding every camera angle and lenses without losing a minute to think of, doing his own stunts and getting hurt and moving on over and over again... This man never sits still. Whenever he’s not in front of the camera, he will do everything on set to make the movie happen and get the work flowing, and I really mean EVERYTHING. I’ve seen him setting cameras and light and filming by himself, being a set runner, moving equipment, doing catering, cleaning the set, picking up trash and the list goes on and on. He directs every single extra on set and shows them how they should move and act in the background. He is what I call a true, passionate filmmaker! Nothing that you see in either bloopers, behind the scenes or making of featurettes is fake.
Some of my colleagues didn’t get to see Jackie as energized as I keep telling them and maybe because they were working on projects where he wasn’t so happy to be part of and all the action scenes were pre-visualized. Other than that, when Jackie appears on set, you feel the presence of an Emperor because the entire crew would act differently, even though he is totally grounded and nice to every single person on set. He treated me like a son and asked me a lot of questions in the beginning, but I remember being so nervous that I couldn’t reply with anything more than a “Yes” or “No” answer! [laughs] He must have thought that I was dumb, but it got better over the years.
I think the best moment when you have the chance to perform is when you face Jackie before a take and the stunt coordinator is counting down from 3 to action. I always remember looking deep in his eyes and having those 3 seconds to run through all his movies to realize that this is the man you've always looked up to... and he’s about to hit and kick you! Enjoy the moment and wreck yourself as hard as you can. Once I made him smile before the take because he saw it my eyes and knew exactly what was going on in my head. Honestly it never hurt, when Jackie kicked me, he has himself so much under control or maybe it was just the adrenaline!
What completes the best moment, of course, is when Jackie calls me over to tell me “Good job Andy”.
I made my first big dream come true. Even though working on Jackie Chan movies and meeting the stunt team's expectations has been the toughest time of my life, I’ve learned more than anywhere else and I’m so happy and grateful to have been that lucky.FCSyndicate: So what's your second big dream going into 2017? What can moviegoers and fans expect? ☺
AL: Well, my second big dream was being the lead of an action film before I turn 30. I’m 28 now and it just came true this year.
We’ve finished filming a feature film in Vietnam called Lục Vân Tiên mid of November and it will be released in January 2017. That said, what I’m actually most proud of on this project is that I had the best team of loyal friends and talented indie action filmmakers joining me and doing an awesome job. I would never have been able to do the action of this movie without the help of Andy Le, Brian Le and Du Au (Martial Club), Lorenz and Felix Hideyoshi Ruwwe (the Young Masters), Khoi Chau (NDTeam) and Markus Ketterer (Luchs Digital). I’m very happy to have had help from those amazing talents in my corner and I will always thank them for supporting my first feature film as a lead and action director.
I got invited from an actor who I’ve trained for another project a couple of years ago, to be part of his directing debut. Everything went really fast. The first time that I heard of his idea was only one month before shooting, and two weeks later I flew to Vietnam to prepare the action scenes with my team. We were filming for one month and now we are already screening in January 2017. This is how fast a movie can be done! [laughs]. However, I am facing a number of post-production hurdles that could negatively affect the final product as things stand, and so I really hope at the very least that the fight scenes will maintain and clear Vietnam's strict censorship.
If everything goes well, we will have the chance to make another movie next year. And so that has been the plan so far, but I don't want to promise too much. Let's see how the movie turns out and from there I will simply go with the flow.FCSyndicate: I'm actually intrigued that you mentioned a certain Vietnam project. I think I hounded one of the Le brothers a little bit regarding this project ot another while this was happening. Can you divulge some details about this production?
AL: Lục Vân Tiên is based on a very old Vietnamese fairy tail about an ancient warrior (named Lục Vân Tiên) searching for his lost love and facing a lot of trouble on his journey. They adjusted the story to suit our modern time and made an action comedy out of it with a pretty decent budget of approximately U.S. $300,000 dollars - more than enough to make a feature, but from what I’ve heard half of it went into public relations. The script was written in 2 weeks [laughs] and the humor is adjusted to Vietnamese audiences as it might not hit western folks as much. Action-wise, I tried my best to fit an international taste with visual comedy, so I hope they are able to sell the movie in America and Europe as well. After all, it would be nice to find a Blu-Ray or DVD of this movie back in Germany! 😄
Looking back at the action, it could be always done better and I’m never 100% satisfied, but I’m still very proud and happy about what we’ve achieved in that very little time. We did the best we could under the given circumstances, and so I have no regrets thanks to my amazing and truly hard working team.
|Andy Long and the action unit for Luc Van Tien|
AL: Find out for yourself what you really want in order to take the right path in life and to work very hard on it. Ask yourselves: Is it just something cool you would like to try? Do you just wanna become a celebrity and earn a lot of money through movies? Or, do you really wanna contribute to the film industry with your skills, to create and be part of something awesome that entertains people and last forever?
Have passion in whatever you choose to do, you may be very lucky, everything is fun and you make good money in the beginning, but there will be though times and if you don’t love and enjoy what you are doing, you might find yourself unhappy.
As a screen fighter, study as many different Martial Arts as you can, but always perform for the camera or the point of view of the audience, get an understanding for editing, learn more about stunt rigging, join a good stunt team and respect the people you learn from. Be creative and become good in something unique. If you are interested in creating fight scenes, then practice by choreographing, shooting and editing your own pieces. There’s no better training than keep filming and looking at your own mistakes to see what you can do better next time.
In general, strive toward a goal that makes you happy. Be faithful to yourself, never lose track because of other people’s opinions and work as hard as you can and do everything possible to reach it, as long as you don’t harm and hurt anyone on your way. Appreciate every person who is part of your journey to become the best version of yourself. You can learn from everyone - even from those you don’t wanna be like. And, always remember the people that supported you and believed in you and your goals from the very beginning. No matter how successful and busy you get, always find time for these people, your friends and your family and make sure they know how important they are to you.
Appreciate life and always enjoy what you are doing!FCSyndicate: Aside from a hopeful add-on to the Do The Damn Thing series and the pending release of Passage, are you planning on anymore shortfilm work? Can we expect something for The Hit List anytime soon?
AL: No matter what, I'll always do short films. I actually did a lot this year which haven't been released online though, because they were personal gifts to friends and it's enough satisfaction to me if my friends see and enjoy them. (Sometimes you have to keep things exclusive.)
But yes, there will be two more releases of this summers collaboration with Martial Club, Lin He Rong, the Kung Fu couple and Lorenz Hideyoshi - They might be out already by the time we finish this conversation!FCSyndicate: Sweet!!! I'm readying one of the last installments of this year's Hit List entries and so I look forward to any content that may come my way between now and then or thereafter.
Do you have any final words to share with our readers?
AL: I would like to thank you and all of the readers who took their time and patiently read this far through the interview! 😀 I hope I was able to help and inspire some newcomers with some of my stories to hold on their dreams and believe in themselves.
Anything is possible, and remember whatever you choose to do, be thankful and always enjoy the moment! Thank you!
I want to thank Andy Long for taking the time to talk here at Film Combat Syndicate and for sharing his story with us and you, our readers for his first ever interview. Long's next appearance along with Luc Van Tien will be opposite Scott Adkins in the new movie, Boyka: Undisputed, arriving in 2017, while his latest demo reel will release soon into the new year. Check out a teaser below and stay tuned for more info!