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Interview: Joey Ansah--Writer, Director, and Actor for 'Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist'

The new series debuts today on Machinima.

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.

33 Comments
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

I've been waiting for this for ages, ever since I seen the short film.

Posted by Dernman

Just a little bit of this and it's better than that stupid Movie.

Posted by saiyan_earthling

Holy sweet freaking s*&t!!! Now this is the type of live of Street Fighter action I want to see. Sorry JCVD and Lana Lang fans, the SF movies they starred in completely suck compared to this! =P

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous
Edited by Dedpool

Mr Ansah, may I suggest the following for some of those roles mentioned. Gary Daniels for Bison, Marko Zaror for Sagat, Michelle Lee for Chun Li, and I know you already have Scott Adkins in mind for Guile. The man can do a mean Flash kick, and he's truly badass. For Vega I'd go with Cyril Raffaelli (District B13), and for Balrog, I'd go with Rampage Jackson. Yeah I know he wasn't great in the A-Team but he doesn't have to do much but look intimidating and kick ass. THAT he can do.

Edited by hammers_of_justice

Hadoken !!

Edited by inferiorego
Staff
Posted by PapiNacho

Ken looks like Tom Cruise.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

Man this is fantastic, I'm on ep 4 so far.

Posted by Nahuel

Hope they succeed, they deserve it!

Posted by Dedpool

This s making me want to break out my SFII V collection!

Posted by Hassun

Nice interview. I've been watching the episodes and I am impressed by the production quality.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@hassun: Yea, the first time you see a hadouken looked great

Posted by GraniteSoldier

Pretty awesome. Saw the previews for Assassin's Fist a few weeks ago from a buddy at work. Pretty pumped.

Posted by TheAmazingImmortalMan

I am so gonna start watching this!

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

Pretty awesome. Saw the previews for Assassin's Fist a few weeks ago from a buddy at work. Pretty pumped.

It's pretty great so far.

Posted by GraniteSoldier

@granitesoldier said:

Pretty awesome. Saw the previews for Assassin's Fist a few weeks ago from a buddy at work. Pretty pumped.

It's pretty great so far.

I haven't had the chance to sit and watch it yet, I don't want to do it on my phone haha.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@jonny_anonymous said:

@granitesoldier said:

Pretty awesome. Saw the previews for Assassin's Fist a few weeks ago from a buddy at work. Pretty pumped.

It's pretty great so far.

I haven't had the chance to sit and watch it yet, I don't want to do it on my phone haha.

They're all like 10 to 14 min long but they feel longer.

Edited by Dernman
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@dernman said:

@jonny_anonymous said:

@dernman: The JCVD one?

yes It was terrible and just this short bit on CV is more entertaining.

You should watch the rest of the eps, they are pretty good.

Posted by NightFang

I've been waiting for this for ages, ever since I seen the short film.

Seconded, but now I want to see Tekken done in the same fashion.

Posted by LordRequiem

Fan made?! That first actor playing RYu looked like the guy from the Dragon Ball Z movie. This stuff is just like Mortal Kombat Legacy or whatever it was called, a joke, and a waste of time.

Posted by Dedpool

Cracked out hard on this last night! Watched from start to finish!! Official!! This is how Street Fighter should be done. Bring on the second season. I reiterate my dream cast. Gary Daniels (or Dolph Lundgren, he still does direct to DVD so he can do this) as Bison, Marko Zaror as Sagat, Michelle Lee as Chun-Li, Rampage Jackson as Balrog, and Ray Park for Vega.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

Fan made?! That first actor playing RYu looked like the guy from the Dragon Ball Z movie. This stuff is just like Mortal Kombat Legacy or whatever it was called, a joke, and a waste of time.

It's not fan made you fool, it's financed by Capcom. Neither was MK: Legacy either.

Edited by Vaeternus

How is this a joke exactly? I guess the millions of views with MKL and SF:AF would disagree lol. Haters...lol

Yeah, technically these are both "fanmade" but just got the ok from NRS and Capcom to make MK:L and SF:AF.

BTW, AF that only applied season one of MK:L. Season two of MK:L was done the same way this was, the entire season was released at once.

I like MK:Legacy and SF:AF. SF:AF was way better then the movies lol. And MK:Legacy had that grittyness that the game has, the movies went PG13....first MK movie was good, second one sucked though..

Amazing how hollywood takes a concept and does their own thing just putting characters in there any old way. I mean SF movie they made Balrog and E.honda news casters? WTF? lol and MK:A they made Noob-Saibot come out of Ermac' chest? WHAT?! lol the two have nothing to do with one another....but I won't rant, you guys get the point if you follow SF and MK lol.

Still, I like these series. Gotta love how Machinima is the first to get MK and SF live series lol.

Me wanty more of this!!

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

I hope they plan to have Yun and Yang in season 2.

Edited by Ostyo
Online
Posted by jtrogler45
Posted by Jonny_Anonymous
Posted by BaneStrokeLoboGrundyBatArrow

sweet

Posted by Ellie_Prestes

perdidaaa

Edited by Ellie_Prestes

perdidaaa