USA | 8 minutes | 2020
Music, action short film by Joseph Le
Starring Jackie Kim, Leroy Nguyen, Travis Davis
Mulan: An East Side Story
Mulan: An East Side Story is a live-action musical based on the tale we all know and love: Mulan. Our twist on the Disney story takes place in modern day. Unlike the original story, our interpretation has our hero, Mulan, attempt to join an all-male pack of thugs in order to seek revenge against a rival gang rather than being one of the girls that hang out in the kitchen. Through her journey, she learns to overcome her adversities by embracing her unique identity against all odds.
CineAsian Films (CAF): What made you want to make a modern take on such a beloved ancient Chinese tale?
Joseph Le: Originally, my ragtag group of film friends in Virginia started thinking of this idea 3 years ago. It was after hearing about Disney’s Live Action Mulan not having any musicals! WTF! We thought it was blasphemous! “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” has always been on my top 10 training songs, and I was so saddened by the news. But then we decided to not complain like everyone else on the internet, and made our own “gangster reboot.” We changed up the lyrics to reflect Mulan’s character going through a gang initiation. It was more interesting to us if we juxtaposed gangster characters with flamboyant singing/dancing. We took inspiration from West Side Story, Michael Jackson’s BAD music video, Training Day, Crows Zero series and of course the Sleeping Dogs game. It was our twist which luckily paid off in the end!
CAF: How long did it take to choreograph and train for all of the exciting fight scenes?
Le: The fight and dance choreography process started in late January and ended in late February. We would meet up twice a week to brainstorm, shoot vignettes on our iphones, and then eventually rehearse fully choreographed scenes at least 3 times a week. Also, it took about a month to train the main actress, Jackie Kim. At first, we had her learn basic boxing fundamentals and mimic fight scenes from old Jackie Chan movies. Our Mulan developed a traditional Phoenix Fist kung fu style that was fuzed with the street fighting that she learned from the gang initiation. So in the end, her fighting style also reflected one of the main themes of fusion and individuality.
CAF: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during production?
Le: Oof, there were a lot. From managing all of the countless props, and planning shoot dates with mostly volunteers who already were working full-time jobs. The biggest challenge was finding the time where 30-40 people could commit to regular film days. So therefore, we crammed everything in 2 weekends right before covid hit. It was also really challenging finding the right locations, and I was stressing out over how expensive it was to rent places on Peerspace. Luckily, the more and more I was talking about this film to my friends during pre-production, one of them happened to remember that he had a connection with a social media manager for a restaurant group who hooked us up with a sweet warehouse. That location ended up being like our ‘studio’ for the majority of the scenes.
CAF: Are you working on anything new and exciting at the present time?
Le: Yes! I just finished a 5 minute short film horror script called “Crawler” that I am going to film in my new apartment in LA. There’s going to be a lot of practical horror makeup fx and John Carpenter vibes. Also, after that I am going to start filming a 15 minute surreal hood dramedy (after quarantine ends… soon? eventually? hopefully).
Mulan: An East Side Story is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director, Writer, Editor, Storyboards, Choreography: Joseph Le
Writers: Ashley Patrick, Robin Calvo
Producers: Ashley Patrick, Aimee Hawkins
Cinematographer: Vinh Le