Back in 2010, Street Fighter fans rejoiced over the live-action fan film Street Fighter: Legacy. The three-minute film featured Ken and Ryu fighting it out and has had over five million views. If you haven't seen that film yet, check it out right here:
The film showed how the characters could be brought to life and was written by Joey Ansah and Christian Howard (who plays Ken). They weren't finished with the world of Street Fighter. Starting today, on Machinima, the new series, Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist begins (you can check out the first episode down below).
We got the chance to talk to Joey Ansah about the series. Not only did he co-write it with Christian Howard, he's also the director and plays Akuma.
COMIC VINE: How did this project first get started?
JOEY ANSAH: It all started with Street Fighter: Legacy. The short, I guess proof of concept, YouTube sensation that came out about four years ago. The original plan was the treatment for a World Warrior series. It was originally written by myself and Christian Howard. I pitched that to Capcom five years ago, hoping they would finance it. But that wasn’t the case so I ended up kind of counter-pitching something much smaller that would still showcase my vision of live action, which Capcom financed. That did very well on YouTube.
On the back of that, now that I had proven myself and the rest of the team, I said, “Let’s do what we started out to do, a feature-length proper series.” This time I thought let’s shelf the World Warrior script for now. I’d rather do that with much more money. Let’s do Assassins Fist, go backwards from when Legacy is set and really get into the origins of Ryu, Ken, Goki, and Goken. That’s much more of a classical story, in terms of classical story elements—father versus son, bother versus brother, love triangle, tragedy, a master trying to pass on tradition but still protect the new generation from the tragedy of the previous. There’s so much great storytelling fundamentals in there. I thought this is the place to start, hopefully, a new Street Fighter live-action franchise. It’s not just something the hardcore fans will love but hopefully the wider audience will love because at the heart of it and I hope you'd agree with me from the five episodes you've seen, it's a character story.
CV: Street Fighter: Legacy was well received. Did you think the Kickstarter would be so well received?
JA: Well the irony was that the Kickstarter was not successful and we shut it down. Out of desperation, and you have to understand when we were raising that finance, we were kind of coming out of the recession of 2012. As a first time feature writer, first time director, you would think that with a brand as big as Street Fighter, it would be easy to raise a couple million dollars, but it really wasn't, so at one point, we were like "if we don't close this finance soon, our option with Capcom, which we had purchased, is going to run out and we're either going to lose the rights or gonna have to renew the option and have to repurchase it." Out of desperation, at one point, we were like let's see if the fans out there will support this. The Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign was so wildly successful. I thought if they could raise two million bucks in a month, then maybe we could with all the Street Fighter fans. But for whatever reason, it just wasn't there, so luckily, we were still behind the scenes working and getting private equity investment because the finances were half through cashflow presales and the rest through private equity, so we got an investor and it allowed us to cancel the Kickstarter altogether and just do it the conventional, legitimate way.
CV: What’s been the biggest challenge in adapting the Street Fighter characters?
JA: The biggest challenge was making the series on such a small budget. Realistically, we had about $2 million cash. You generate more through everyone deferring. No one really got paid. A lot of people deferred anywhere up to 90% of what they should be paid because we wanted what little money we had to go on the screen. Despite it only costing a couple million, it looks like ten times that amount. It went into the production value, the locations, the sets that we all built from scratch, the music, the sound design, the visual effects, the grading, etc. That was a real challenge, working on this project, almost full time, for about 5 years, and essentially not getting paid. That's all because I would rather be broke and make sure this project be the best it can possibly be than have a bit more wedge in my pocket and it be 10% less good and that was the real challenge and I think everyone, all the core team, have really sacrificed. We've all essentially done it for nothing. It will be worth it. The end product is something we're all very very proud of and most people will scoff when they hear how much it was really made for.
CV: Was the entire story edited as one movie and then later broken into the separate episodes?
JA: It's interesting. Good question. This is a multi-format series. It was originally written as commercial half hours, a 6-part tv series and it will go out on tv, later in the year, in that format. But with the excitement of Machinima being the first platform who will really target... we always wanted "let's market this to the hardcore fans first and then do subsequent platforms to tackle the wider audience." It's one piece of content that works as a 12 part web series, a 6 part tv series, a 105 minute 2 bit tv movie, and as a full theatrical cut on the DVD and Blu-Ray, which is almost a 2 1/2 hour movie. That's never been done before, one piece of content that fits and works on all of those platforms.
CV: You’ll be playing Akuma, right? How much of a role will you have?
JA: It's big. He's kinda the villain or anti-hero of that world, depending how you see it. There is a fantastic actor, Gaku Space, who plays the younger Goki, who is essentially the younger version of my character, Akuma. You'll see a transition, throughout the series, of him becoming me. The Akuma role is significant but I don't want to give away too much or spoil it for those who haven't seen it. It's one of the most difficult characters to pull off because he's the most fantastical and extreme looking. We've seen Ryu. We've seen Ken. How in the hell are the going to pull off Akuma, with the red hair, and the beads, and the face? I hope I've done a good job. The poster that came out last week has gone down a storm so far, so it seems people are liking what they're seeing so far.
CV: Which is your favorite version of the game?
JA: In terms of just a pure Street Fighter game, Alpha 2 was what I played the most. But Marvel vs Capcom 2 was oxygen for me. Me and Christian Howard, who plays Ken and is my co-writer on this, we lived together for many years and we would play, easily, for four hours a day, everyday of Marvel vs Capcom 2 and a lot of series was devised while playing this game.
CV: The first episode debuts on May 23. How often will they be released?
JA: Machinima opted for everything released in one go. Much how Netflix pioneered that with House of Cards, they released everything in one go. It gives viewers the choice. You can pace it out for yourself or you can binge watch it. Now because it is essentially a movie, a good way to think about it is a chapterized movie. Mortal Kombat: Legacy, for example, was almost a series of vignettes, a series of short, unconnected stories, whereas Assassins Fist is one, long, epic, cinematic saga. It will be very satisfying to watch it back-to-back. On the 23rd, Machinima will release a playlist link, so when you watch episode one or episode zero, there's a prologue, it will keep rolling on to the next episode until you reach the end or until you get tired and take pause.
CV: And word is there are plans for another Street Fighter story?
JA: Oh definitely, the irony is that we actually wrote that story prior to this and it's just been on the shelf waiting. The intention is to follow this up. If this is as big as a success as I hope, yeah. This is only the beginning. It's the start of a franchise. I would like to do another series, even given the choice of doing a movie. I need to do another series to set the foundations, narratively, of what the movie will be.
CV: I think you said Chun-Li would be next?
JA: Well, it would be the world warrior story line, so that would encompass the Street Fighter 1 tournament, it would encompass Ryu becoming the tireless wanderer. We would introduce Shadowloo, Bison's cartel, and Vega, Balrog, Sagat. We would introduce Guile, Chun-Li, and the rest of the world warrior fighters and it would all culminate in the actual tournament itself. But in the same way that I've really developed the characterization of Ryu and Ken, all of those major characters in the world warrior story, would also get a good degree of development, particularly Guile and Chun-Li.
CV: Thank you for your time and were interested to see how this ends.
Now, everyone can check out Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist, for themselves.