Our own Mike Leeder talks about helping bring Mike Moeller’s ‘One Million Klicks‘ to the screen and the importance of actively supporting the growth of an international industry…
When not tied to a keyboard and fed copious amounts of bread and water (and occasional saki), Impact‘s own Far Eastern Editor Mike Leeder continues to work both in front and behind the scenes in the world of action and martial arts movies. Recent casting projects for Leeder have included little known science-fiction outing called Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Pound of Flesh, HBOAsia‘s Sent, Donnie Yen’s gangster epic Chasing the Dragon, Ultimate Justice with Mark Dacascos and Flying Tigers witg Michael Wong.
But despite all of the above, it’s actually the upcoming One Million Klicks, of which he has the most pride… helping bring to the screen and raising the profile of leading man Mike Moeller.
ML: Without a doubt, it was Mike Moeller! The first time I heard of him was when Donnie Yen was action-directing the German TV series Der Puma, one of his key action team Kenji Tanigaki sent me his show-reel saying they’d found this young German guy who was an incredible action talent! It was kind of funny, because my old flatmate at the time was Australian stuntman and actor Mike Miller (from Knock Off) so at first we were laughing that it was his long lost brother. Then we watched the reel and were blown away. It was very simply shot, (I can’t tell you the excuses I get from people as to how they can’t shoot their showreel without an Arri camera, Final Cut Pro, an elite stunt team and the Dagenham Girl Pipers!) but it really showcased exactly what Mike could do… from fights to reactions, empty handed to weapons, and how enthusiastic he was when it came to throwing himself into the action. Mike got a very cool fight sequence in Puma, and Kenji and company came back full of respect for Mike and his skill set. And I marked him down as somebody to keep an eye on.
Over the next few years I would catch sight of Mike in action on various films and television shows, and the various reels and short films he would upload to the internet. We finally met when he was flown over to Hong Kong to play a Battling B-Boy in Hung Yan-yan’s CoWeb (Ninja Masters) which introduced Chinese Wushu pixie Jiang Liu-xia. The movie was a missed opportunity for everyone – including Jiang – but you could see the hard work everyone – including Mike – put into the movie. We had a very good chat and I knew I would have to work with him at some point. A few years later, a friend German businessman Rudiger Kummerle was setting up a production company with myself, Silent Partners, and wanted to test the waters… so I suggested he meet with Mike, and Mike’s skills and infectious enthusiasm made an impression with Rudiger, who agreed that we should put together something to showcase Mike and what he could do. That eventually became One Million Klicks!
ML: The term ‘full blooded high impact martial arts movie’ gets used a lot but that’s exactly what One Million Klicks is. Mike Moeller plays an enthusiastic pugilist who is drawn into the world of the underground fight game. He initially enjoys the money and infamy but finds that the more you fight, the harder it is to make a clean getaway… and even if you win the fights, you might not always know who your enemy is!
Simply put, Mike Moeller is the real deal. There’s a lot of people who talk about wanting to make martial arts movies, but don’t want to put in the hard work. Mike is the exception. He knows his martial arts movies, he’s as much of a fan as he is a performer, so he wants to deliver the level of action that he’d want to watch, and he wants to see the best! So when you see Mike flying through the air delivering a tornado kick, that’s really him, no stuntman, no wires and frequently no pads! It’s as if the Germans took the best of Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Tony Jaa and put them in a blender!
I’ve worked with Mike on One Million Klicks, Pound of Flesh and Ultimate Justice, and I was a fan before I worked with him, and I’m even more of a fan after working with him. Genuinely talented guy, exceptional skill set, he not only knows how to perform in front of the cameras, but how to choreograph, how to shoot it, how to edit, how to tell a story with action, and he’s a really good guy and I want to see him get more exposure and bigger roles, he deserves it!
IMPACT: There have been some notable successes but also notable misfires in the martial-arts genre in recent years. Do you think audiences have grown tired of martial arts movies?
ML: NO… I think audiences have grown tired of badly shot, badly edited martial arts movies! ‘Shakey Cam’ needs to be banned, especially when its used to detract from what is going on. It’s one thing to use shakey cam or camera angles to hide whats going on if it doesn’t look good, or the performers can’t deliver, but its even more insulting when you have someone who really IS delivering the physical performance and the camerawork just doesn’t showcase it! When we did Pound of Flesh, there’s a sequence where I am getting punched in the head for real by Jean-Claude Van Damme, and it hurts! And being told by the camera guy, “Sorry I missed that, can we do it again?” hurts even more! (laughs).
‘Martial Arts Cinema’ done well is the highest level of physical performance, and I have to keep saying it: Mike Moeller delivers on the potential time and time again, as both a performer and a choreographer. One Million Klicks isn’t the biggest budget movie, but every $$ is on screen. When you watch it you know Mike and his guys are really flying through the air, are really getting slammed into the ground, and they’re loving every minute of it! Mike and his team love martial arts movies just as much as I do, so they don’t want to cheat… they would rather go out there and do it, time and time again until they get it right! I have so much respect for Mike and his guys.They made a real movie with this. The same is true for Ultimate Justice… it’s not a show-reel where Mike gets to look good and everybody else just stands there and lets him hit them, Mike might let loose with some incredible move, but he also wants you to let loose with something that looks just as powerful.
IMPACT: And now One Million Klicks is finally being given a UK release…
MM: Yeah… and I’d like to say a big thanks to Ross and John at Evolutionary Films who are handling international sales for the movie and have decided to release it in the UK themselves. They’ve been incredibly helpful and supportive and great to see the film getting out into the UK market. Big thanks again to all our cast and crew from mighty Mike Moeller, Producer Ruediger Kummerle, Master Li Yan-long, Alois, Volkram, Andre, Stefan, Alexander, and all the guys both in front and behind the camera, thanks again for everything! You guys rock!
One Million Klicks is simply a lot of fun. We weren’t going for creating the most thought-provoking overly serious movie that needs to be deeply analysed to understand… but if you like movies where people are stylishly kicking the hell out of each other, than I’d highly recommend it! (laughs). If you like the Undisputed movies with Scott Adkins, you’re gonna love this, (Hmmm now there’s a thought perhaps one day we can get a Scott Adkins Vs Mike Moeller project going!)
One thing I do just want to add and it’s important to the industry as a whole. If you’re a fan of martial arts movies, please buy a copy, don’t pirate it!
People complain that there is a shortage of smaller independent martial arts and action films these days, and sadly a lot of it is down to piracy. I am not sure where the “Piracy isn’t hurting anyone, I am just sticking it to the man!” mindset comes from… you’re not sticking it to some big corporation, you’re sticking it to all the indie film-makers and also yourselves. Keep up the piracy and people can’t afford to make these movies anymore! While the ‘Piracy supports terrorism‘ public information films may give off the wrong vibe, the thing people need to understand is that piracy is a crime, you can’t go into a restaurant and order the food, eat it, and then say “Oh I don’t really want to pay for it right now, can I wait until its discounted and then i’ll pay!” But for some reason especially when it comes to martial arts movies, people seem to think piracy is the way to go….and as a film-Maker and a fan myself its depressing and insulting as hell, when people message you asking where they can download your movie for free, or come on Facebook to post download links as if they are doing you a favour! It’s one thing to talk about costs and value and have a discussion about what’s value for money – but stealing someone’s work and then complaining they haven’t produced anything else for you to watch is just a vicious circle.