Is your Saiyan blood boiling? The premiere of Dragon Ball Z: Saiyan Saga is only one day away, so I sat down with the creators for an exclusive interview.
Today you’ll discover what it’s like to film a live action Dragon Ball Z, hear about the production concerns, and get your answers about the infamous Saiyan Armor.
You’ll also learn what it took to reach the next level of production, and the powerful effect that a dedicated group of DBZ fans can have when trying to produce something great.
The Saiyans are Coming!
I’m here with Harry from K&K Productions. His brother George is busy putting the final touches on the Dragon Ball Z Saiyan Saga trailer, so he is unable to take part.
Derek: Hi Harry. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
Harry: Glad to.
Derek: I want to quickly bring people up to speed. In our previous interview on April 17, you were running an IndieGogo contribution page and this project was just an idea in your mind. You weren’t sure how Dragon Ball fans would respond or if they would even take notice. What has it been like over the last 7 months?
Harry: Amazing. At first I was on Twitter, sending it to people’s pages, hoping they would come and see it and say what they think. But there was nothing. And now when we post anything we get an instant response. Like we’ll ask a question, post an image or something, and immediately after I push refresh we already have comments or Likes. That’s amazing.
Derek: What type of audience is paying attention to the film you’re making?
Harry: It’s somewhat hard to say because the demographic is mixed amongst new fans and old fans. Based on the Likes that we get or the YouTube likes or dislikes I’d say it’s about 90% positive. The fans appear quite young, teenagers and stuff, all the way up to older people saying they enjoy it too. We always knew that would be the way, an absolute mix. Our audience on YouTube appears mostly male, but some young women like it as well. Quite a positive reaction.
Derek: You have 31,000 Facebook Likes and about 15,000 Twitter followers. It must be a really exciting time right now. How does it feel to have finished your Dragon Ball Z film project and be on the verge of releasing it to the world?
Harry: It’s a weird feeling. In regard to the Facebook and Twitter stuff, it’s amazing. I’m really excited to show people what we’ve done. I have literally had this project on my mind now… We sent out the first emails to the first cast member, to Ryan, who plays Nappa, a year ago. On my mind non-stop. Especially the last few months.
The fact that on Tuesday it’s online and that’s it, is a weird, weird, step. A good feeling, an amazing feeling, but it’s weird that it’s going to be done.
Derek: I felt similarly when I released my first book about Over 9,000! I spent 5 years working on that project, and it’s like having a child or something. Haha.
Harry: I know. I feel like I’m definitely going to be emotional because we’re still doing little tweaks, and at this point my brain is feeling like I’ve gotta get everything right for the release. At that point I’ll finally be able to relax and I feel it’s going to be quite emotional.
Making the DBZ Live Action Film
Derek: In our previous interview you had got the cast together, released preview trailers about what it was going to be like, put the characters into makeup and costume, but you hadn’t done any filming. What was it like to go and film a live action Dragon Ball Z?
Harry: We went down to Dorset, which was our main location, outside London, the mine, the cave and that kind of stuff. For us the project was by far the biggest project we had ever been tasked with. The plan was to go down the night before and have dinner, chill out, stay in a hotel and then go down and shoot in the morning.
But nothing went according to plan.
We had mini buses full of people and we were down on set the night before and set up a tent and scene, like a base. I didn’t get to sleep until 1 in the morning and then I was up at 4 in the morning shooting. When we got there the wind had blown it down and destroyed it. So the first thing the cast had to do was help reassemble it. That was an interesting start.
Then we had Piccolo going into 4 hours of makeup. So the makeup girls were waking up even earlier. They basically pulled an all-nighter and were there with Michael in the morning. We also had Krillin with the bald cap.
Derek: Wow. Right.
Harry: Once we were on the set we had a generator powering everything, and then the generator got overtaxed. We had 53 shots to shoot in one day.
Derek: In one day? What’s the production like on this? You had to manage all of this on your own, so I imagine there was a lot of pre-production and planning.
Harry: We had done massive planning on how we were going to shoot it, with the animation storyboards. There were different areas of the location that were tailored into different plans, like the Tienshinhan, Nappa fight was here, and the Goku, Vegeta fight’s going to start here and then go there.
We had already gone down beforehand and taken a picture of us standing there in position for every shot. We had a photo storyboard of every shot installed into an iPad. Then we named an area, like “Cave,” or “Ocean View,” or the town was “Isengard,” just geeky names to lighten things up.
Derek: Was there anything that didn’t translate well to a live action film?
Harry: No. I mean, I hope not. That’s what we aimed to go for, that it does translate as well as possible.
A few questions have been asked about Nappa’s mustache. Haha. We tried it on him but it’s just that he looked a bit campy, didn’t fit with how we wanted to do it. He looked a bit like Freddie Mercury and we thought it’s not the image we want to portray.
We realize it’s important but at the time it didn’t seem like the most important aspect of the character. A few people have been upset with that, but we didn’t think it fit.
The other thing was Krillin having a nose. Haha. Obviously we want it to be a realistic translation and if he didn’t have a nose… He’s supposed to be human, so it would be a bit strange.
Other than that I feel like it translated quite well. Obviously Piccolo is an alien, but the rest of them look like real world people, so it was fine.
The Saiyan Armor and Funding Issues
Derek: Dragon Ball Z fans can be rather intense about their fandom.
Derek: I’m sure as you know you got a lot of people who were very particular about what they wanted to see, or they found something they didn’t like and were vocal about it. One of those issues was the Saiyan armor. Can you tell us about that?
Harry: This was one of the problems we had. What we realize now is that we basically knew what we wanted and should have roughly drawn out the look. But we went to a costume designer with the idea of trusting them with the concept to go and create a design.
So we had our costume designer and like everyone else he was working for free, liked the idea of the project, and had a portfolio of martial arts projects he had done before. So he went to go do the costumes. It was getting closer and closer to when we were supposed to shoot, and we kept asking him for photos and asked to go look at them and he kept telling us no. Eventually we pestered him a lot for the photos and it turns out he had done nothing like what we asked for.
One of the costumes he had finished was Raditz’ armor. With the budget we had we told ourselves it was okay, and because Raditz is a lower class warrior it’s okay that he’s wearing leather, or lower class armor, if you know what I mean.
But basically, yeah, we said to him, “Okay, look, we need to make some big changes here, including Raditz’ armor.” We weren’t having a go at him or anything, but he basically said, “How dare you question my vision for this.” He dropped out two weeks before we were going to shoot.
Then we met this girl, Kim Eunjo, who came on at the last minute and did an amazing job with Goku’s costume and all that stuff. Then we did some stuff ourselves to have the stitching done with the symbols on his back.
Kim Eunjo worked straight for two weeks. It meant that the last thing she was going to be doing was the armor. And so we literally didn’t see the armor until we were physically at the location!
Derek: Are you kidding me?
Harry: No. The thing is I would have cancelled the shoot but we had paid for the vacation, the hotel, the travel. We couldn’t not do it.
We got to the point where in the morning we saw the armor in the field for the first time, George and I looked at eachother, and Ryan looked like he was about to cry. I sighed and didn’t know what to do.
Nappa’s character obviously had no top on for most for the fight, so we figured we could do a couple shots with him in the armor and then take it off and it would be fine. But with Aaron (Vegeta), who is probably the biggest Dragon Ball Z fan of the cast, we couldn’t, and he looked at himself and was really unhappy. But we had to shoot and work our way around it.
Everything else in the day went fine. We went back and looked at the footage and I said, “We cannot put that out.” Especially after we put the Raditz photo online and people were so unhappy. We could only imagine how badly they’d hate it if we put the rest out.
Derek: Yeah, they absolutely would.
Harry: Yeah. We didn’t put in all this hard work for the sake of one thing ruining it. Everything else worked well, but each time it came up in the shot, we’d be upset.
Derek: Your goal was to be true to the series, to do something better than Dragon Ball Evolution, so you really had to hold yourself to a high standard, didn’t you?
Harry: Exactly. First we went to CGI forums and chatted with people to try and perhaps make a CGI costume over their costumes. But that would be ridiculously time consuming and expensive.
And then we pretty much worked out that within the trailer we had taken Nappa’s top off quickly anyway, so there were only a few shots with it in there. Then we realized Vegeta only really fights in the trailer with Goku and interacts with Nappa, so we thought we could take half the cast and then go re-shoot those scenes.
Then we thought, there’s no way we can start asking people for money again. We had already been very lucky to get the money we had, but there was no other way to do it. So that’s when we did the second IndieGogo and we were really lucky that people were like, “Yeah, fair enough, we want to see it as good as possible.” We got more money.
Derek: That’s amazing. It seems like everyone is so supportive of it and they really want to see what they’ve always wanted. Even today I see people on your Facebook page say, “Oh My God I cannot wait for this. I’m ecstatic. This is so exciting!” People are jumping up and down.
Harry: Exactly. I’m so glad we got a chance to go back and re-shoot. We were able to take a whole chunk of shots and dedicate the day to it and get it right. It meant we had to redo the Goku, Vegeta fight, and that gave us a chance to re-choreograph the fight scenes and it’s a much better scene than it was originally. It worked out.
Obviously I regret, or, I don’t like the fact we had to ask for more money, but it was a much better project because of that. When we put up photos from the trailer we got a good reaction to the armor.
Real Life DBZ Fighting
Derek: Tell us about the martial arts. What was it like to choreograph the fights?
The actors are veteran martial artists and also Dragon Ball Z fans, so that must have been a surreal experience to see these guys who had been inspired by Dragon Ball Z now recreating Dragon Ball Z with their own trained, honed bodies, and it’s just serendipitous, or fated or something. I’d like to learn more about the martial arts choreography, the training, and then your experience of the wire work at the studio.
Harry: It was ridiculous! I’m a fan of martial arts, full stop, so seeing these martial artists in Dragon Ball Z costumes was amazing. George and I were smiling the whole time watching them, all of us were laughing as they knocked eachother down because it was such a dream come true. The first time that Aaron and Peter (Vegeta and Goku) were fighting on location, everyone clapped afterward because it looked so cool, and seeing them really go for it.
One of the coolest things about the project is that the cast have all become really close. They trained together.
David, who plays Tien. He’s quite young, 22, and really looks up to the other martial artists, Aaron and Peter, and gets along well with Ryan, so they would go down to the gym together and train in choreography. So it’s really cool how the guys would get together and get into it. Really concerned that the fights looked right.
Derek: What was the training like for them? You said they went to the gym. Did they ever climb any mountains, swim across shark infested lakes, or work on the farm?
Harry: Haha. Well I mean they all have it in their background anyway. All those guys were doing, as well as their martial arts, stage fighting practice that looks flashier on screen, more exciting fighting. So they were training in that together as well.
Ryan, who plays Nappa, was obsessed with being as big as possible. Even if we would finish a shoot and do a 12 hour day, he’d still have his lunch box with chicken and broccoli in it. We took him out to dinner and went to Nando’s, a chicken place in England, and Ryan ate two whole chickens! Down the protein, that kind of thing.
Harry: One of the coolest things about when we were on set was that basically all the time if one of the cast wasn’t doing something, then they were doing pressups (pushups), lifting weights, or finding whatever they could to train. Ryan was lifting rocks. David was all about Shaolin training, so he stood on the edge of the cliff doing Shaolin spins and practicing pressups.
I was like, “Yeah, these are the guys for the job.”
Amazing. They all worked really hard. Aaron was very particular about how the fight looked. He wanted him and Peter to have different styles. They were great. The most amazing experience for me.
Goku and Vegeta – The Ultimate Conflict
Derek: Tell me about the Goku, Vegeta fight, as that’s obviously the climax of the Saiyan Saga. I’m sure everybody has high expectations for that fight. How did you approach it?
Harry: Because we have a short amount of time we wanted to have a mix in that fight of all the different Dragon Ball Z elements. We wanted a bit of hand to hand combat, a bit of the overtop Dragon Ball Z style, sped up footage, Matrixy style, but not the kind of footage that looks sped up, we’ve done it in a certain way that’s blurred. And then we wanted them flying and fighting for some scenes. A mix of all those Dragon Ball Z fight elements.
And the dialogue, “You’re lucky to be fighting me. The Prince of all Saiyans,” that kind of stuff. And Goku coming from the angle of, “I’m going to make you pay for the people you’ve hurt.” And then launching at eachother full on hand to hand combat and flying around. And then of course the big element at the end, the energy beam.
Derek: You released a photo of Goku firing the Kamehameha, but it wasn’t a full beam so fans have been curious to know if there’s going to be the beam battle between Goku and Vegeta.
Harry: Yeah, there’s no way we’re not doing that. And that image is actually just the beginning of the beam, so when you see it in motion it’s pretty cool.
Derek: A lot of fans have asked, is Over 9,000! going to be in the film?
Harry: It’s not, but we have shot it. It’s going to be released as a separate scene.
Derek: Oh, okay.
Harry: It’s not in the trailer because we wanted to keep a serious tone throughout, and if you suddenly broke into that scene, people would laugh, which is cool, but it’s not the same. So it’s going to be a bonus scene.
The Wire Work – Soaring Through the Air
Derek: What was it like to do the wire work in the studio where they did James Bond?
Harry: It was a huge dream come true. We were on set, looking at the 007 Bond stage, and looking at a fairy tale film that’s coming out starring Angelina Jolie. They were filming that right next to us, people in carts zooming around. It was amazing. Pinewood Studios is one of the biggest films studios in the UK, and just going through that, flashing our passes and the security guard letting us through was a great feeling.
We were walking across the street and a guy came up to us and asked, “Are you the ones filming Dragon Ball Z?” He recognized us from the videos. He said he had been following us and knew we were filming there, and he came into the shoot and was amazed at the costumes and everything. I asked him what he was working on and he was like, “Oh, just some Angelina Jolie film. This is much more interesting.” Haha.
Having them flying around on the wires was hard work, but it was good fun, and the actors enjoyed the experience as well.
Derek: You said it has been a year since you got in touch with the actors and started getting this into pre-production. Looking back on it now you only have a day until the trailer comes out. What has this experience been like overall for you?
Harry: It’s been amazing to speak to Dragon Ball Z fans. From that point of view I didn’t even know the community of Dragon Ball Z existed so strongly. Obviously I’m a big Dragon Ball Z fan, but it goes deeper to the role-players on Twitter, to the housewives with kids saying they can’t wait. It’s amazing to see all the different people that are fans.
We’ve learned so much from doing it. If we did this again I think it would be twice as good, or if we did anything more in the future. We’ve got a really great group of actors. It has been great for our company, our skills. Just amazing.
Easily the best experience of our lives.
Derek: How did you grow over the last year? Have you learned anything new about filming, directing and technology, and have you grown as a person?
Harry: Definitely. In terms of film and technology it steps our game up to the level of managing large groups of people and being on set and properly directing actors not only in their acting, but their fighting and choreography.
And as a person I’ve learned to deal with stress. Haha. But in a good way. It made me, not thicker skinned, but like when we put the Raditz photo up people were giving us a lot of abuse, but it’s because they cared so much, so it’s not a problem. It’s learning to step away from something and go, “No, maybe we could change this.” I think that’s an important lesson.
It’s brought me and my brother closer together as well because we’ve worked through these stressful situations together. It has been a big growing experience across everything, the whole thing.
Derek: I imagine the actors have changed as well, like you said, these lifelong friendships, maybe?
Harry: Yeah. In the “Making Of” documentary I show how Peter and Aaron are best friends now. We had to do so many takes over and over again because they kept laughing at eachother. They had the biggest choreography training to do because they had the biggest fight, and they were genuinely hitting eachother at points, and they would be disgusted by the results and think “Maybe this will work better,” so they formed a strong work relationship as well as a genuine friendship.
All those guys, like Isky (who plays Yamcha), nicest guy you could ever meet. Same with David. Both young guys who are excited about breaking into the industry and getting a lot of hits on YouTube. For all of them it has been a really good experience.
One Down… More to Follow?
Derek: I wish you guys well and think this is going to be a huge success. The demand for it is already huge and I can’t imagine it not becoming even bigger once it’s out there. Like you said, hopefully in the future you’ll be able to do another one because now you have all this experience and ability to do it better than before. The Namek Saga, the sky’s the limit. You can do amazing things.
Harry: Lovely. I really appreciate this, Derek. Thanks a lot.
Thanks for reading the interview. I’ll post the video on The Dao of Dragon Ball when it’s released tomorrow.
And remember that the more people that share the Dragon Ball Z: Saiyan Saga trailer and like it, the greater their chances of doing more with Dragon Ball Z in the future, such as a full web series. So get out there and share it with your friends.