Exclusive Interview: Developing VOD Action- A Conversation with Producer Zane Thomas of the New Martial Arts Thriller INSIGHT!

By: david j. moore

Hanging out for a day on the Los Angeles film set of the martial arts action film Insight (out March 12th from Gravitas Ventures), from director Livi Zheng, freelance film journalist david j. moore observed the filming of several chase scenes and fights being shot in an interior location in a skyscraper in downtown L.A. on a bright and sunny July afternoon.

In between set-ups as a fight scene was being prepped with star Ken Zheng and a handful of business-suited goons, david sat down in a corner with producer Zane Thomas to talk about the film and trying to jump start a new action star in an era when so few martial arts action stars are being bred.

Producer Zane Thomas (L) and Director Livi Zheng (R) on set

1) Talk a little bit about your role as a producer on Insight and Ken and Livi’s first film Brush With Danger.

Well, the last film we thought about for several years. We fully developed the script, and we were originally going to shoot it in downtown Seattle without a permit, but as we got it developed, we got interest from backers in Indonesia, so it upped our budget, and we had enough to shoot a low budget film. We shot it in Seattle over the course of two weeks, including the action scenes. When we were wrapping Brush With Danger, we knew we wanted to make another one. We started looking for ideas. It turned out to be tougher than we thought. We found it really difficult to find a good script. It took us quite a while to get it together. By “we” I mean Livi and I.

2) How did you and Livi become partners on these projects?

We met in a martial arts school in Beijing. She’s got a great personality. Everyone notices her when she comes in the room. She pretty much dominates every place she goes into. I lived in Seattle part time, and we made a connection.

Madeline Zima and Ken Zheng

3) Was she the one who came to you with a proposal to turn Ken into a martial arts action star?

No, he came along after that. He was only 10 or 11 years old when we met. He came along to train in the school where Livi and I were training. He came over here and travelled in some competitions and grew from there.

4) Obviously you see some potential in Ken as a movie star or action star.

Yeah, his acting improved a lot, and his action looks really good. He has a lot of energy, and he can go all day and do it over and over and over again. He’s also helping to choreograph the fights.

Star Ken Zheng

5) Who are these movies for? I like these kinds of action movies, but it seems like the market has diminished for this type of film over the years. What do you think? Are you pinpointing a certain demographic?

I know it’s the big studio Hollywood way, is to pick your audience and research it. But what we tried to do is to simply do a story that we liked. It’s interesting. We think there’s a market for martial arts films that have a story, that have some interesting elements to them other than just action. Hollywood can make a big action film that has action all the way through. Sometimes it doesn’t have much of a story at all. I think there’s a market for something like this that has a story too.

6) Over the last decade, I’ve watched the video market crash and burn, but now the new thing is VOD. I’m amazed that you guys are endeavoring to do this – to breed a new action star – in this current market. That’s very rare these days.

We’ll see how it goes. I think it’s going to work. There are a lot of people out there with interest for this kind of movie. If we can establish ourselves, our audience will grow.

Director Livi Zheng helms a fight scene

7) What makes the story for Insight stand apart from other action films?

This story has a little bit of a clairvoyant / psychic twist to it. It has that paranormal side, plus it has a high tech side. The antagonist is a high tech brain scanner-type guy. He has drones with tranquilizer darts, so it’s got kind of a tinge of science fiction. It’s also an action film through and through. There’s action all the way through it. The last film and this film are the start of something interesting for us. We have an idea on the burner that I don’t want to talk about yet, but it’s got an even more interesting story. We’re developing talent and developing a company.

8) Will Ken be your in-house star?

He will be one of our in-house stars, yes.



Insight is now playing in select cinemas and VOD courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

About the author: david j. moore is the author of The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly: Action Movies and Stars” and a contributing writer to Action-Flix.com

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