Derek Ting talks Agent Revelation!
Today actor, director, writer, and more Derek Ting stops by to talk about his new movie Agent Revelation!
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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas
Theme music by Ardus
Derek Ting Interview
[00:00:00] Jeff: There’s a sport in our country today on the show. We had the fantastic Mr. Derek Tang. How’s it going, sir? Good,
Derek Ting: good.
Jeff: Very glad to hear it. So I was reading up on you and your life. I was wondering when did the acting bug first bite you.
Derek Ting: No man. I’m fifth grade. Oh, wow. In Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet.
But I mean, that was just, you know, I think it’s just being a kid and was interested and it was cool.
Jeff: Well, right now I’m actually a high school teacher and we’re reading with my students, Roman Juliet. So I’m sure many of my students would have been very impressed to know which character did you play?
Derek Ting: Yeah, it was Romeo. It was like a skit. So I did like the tower scene, like where he kind of goes up and Oh, yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah. I, I don’t know. It was, it was just kind of out of the blue, you just kind of audition. And my teacher just chose me to play that skit as Romeo and it was, it was awesome. Well, that’s, that’s the road to be.
Yeah, and I loved it. I [00:01:00] loved it. I loved every second of it, you know? And the, it just kind of stuck with me. I think that that kind of feeling when you perform and you know, the sense of accomplishment being the character, all the, all the different facets, it’s just, it’s a wonderful feeling.
Jeff: So when, when you were a kid and first performing as Romeo, were you able to articulate what you loved about acting at the moment or did, it was just a feeling that you had, that you looked back on kind of figured out what it
Derek Ting: was.
I’m I, you know, I got really into it. I, I remember kind of like planning out cause he was like running up the Hill and kind of hiding that he’d be, he’d be a little bit out of breath. So all those kind of little things that you would do to prepare for the character or what they’re doing in the moment, the scene study.
And then I guess it was theater. So the different facets of projecting and engaging with the audience. I think that that’s a little different, you have to, you have to push your expressions a little bit and theater and your in your body movement versus film, which is I think different. [00:02:00] But yeah, there’s just kind of this feeling that you, you go and become another person and you’re, and you’re engaging and listening to all those pieces are, they’re just, it’s just fun.
Jeff: So as a kid, were you more of an introvert or extrovert?
Derek Ting: I think it was a little, little bit of both. I mean, you know, I would be home and I’d play video games a lot, but I, you know, go out and play sports with my friends too. So really, really just, I’ve always just been a lot of different things like this, a lot of different jurists.
I do remember actually with my friends, we did make videos though of just kind of reenacting movies that we love. So Batman in the eighties,
Derek Ting: Batman did that. Yeah. The, the one with Michael Keaton. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know, we’d reenact some of the scenes and, you know, we’d record it and play it back and try to kind of [00:03:00] like only edit the parts, you know, like your record and then you stop.
And so, Yeah, that was pretty fun too. So
Jeff: other than maybe Bambi, what were some of your influences or actors that you looked at and said, those are the people who I want to be like,
Derek Ting: You know, most, I’m not one of those filmmakers who really kind of just went, you know, and dove deep to like international cinema was really just a fan of comics and movies, action movies.
So, I will admit Arnold Schwartzenegger was a huge fan of him. I think I watched commando, like, sorry, predator say all those funny lines that he had. You know, Stallone was awesome too, but yeah. Just, just a big action movie guy. Of course. I mean, Bruce Lee and All those were just really fun.
Jeff: as a kid, you’d envision yourself as an action hero.
Derek Ting: I don’t know if I [00:04:00] envisioned myself as an action hero. I just enjoyed watching the movies. I think I was more an audience member I’d never really thought about, Hey, I want to be an actor someday. You know, when I grow up, I just, just like, actually the story is that my, my dad would on the weekends, we’d go to the local video store and he would rent like 10 movies.
And you know, they have these white tags and yellow tags, the yellow tags where the $1 rentals and the white tags were the $2 rentals. There were the new releases and we would just rent a ton of them some over the weekend. Of course, he was tired from his work. You know, he’d worked a couple jobs during the week and But I would just kind of sit and watch all of them because, you know, we won, you know, we rented them so might as well try to watch as many as possible.
So I watched everything, you know, a lot of B movies, a lot of blockbusters, anything that, you know, kind of, I think just more, just what we were interested in. Then obviously wouldn’t, you know, whatever he picked out too, I just watched them all. It’s it’s
Jeff: kinda, it’s kinda fun talking about renting movies with [00:05:00] tags on them that it dates us, but that I can recognize that as well.
Cause I mean, God, I guess that’s a year old at least,
Derek Ting: you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, it’s a, it’s, it’s definitely like a three or four year old. That’s how, and that’s when I started watching my dad’s kid. Yeah. You know, I’m of that generation when. Yeah, it was just, it was just, you know, we had eighties and nineties.
That’s what I grew up on eighties and nineties TV comic books and movies. Those, I think that in a way, for me, I think that’s kind of the golden era still. You know, I think nowadays I’m not as interested in stuff as I was back then, just because I felt like the creativity back then was just so, it was so good then.
So there’s a really, really good time.
Jeff: Yeah, I would say that I I’m I’m I’m in my early forties, so the eighties was a big thing for me as well. Let’s talk about sports and they asked me the Terminator movies. He was born for that [00:06:00] role. It was definitely born to be the terminal
Derek Ting: movie to 800 James Cameron even said like, you know, we would’ve had to find somebody and build him up to be like him.
And he just came out of the package kind of thing. So, totally. Yeah.
Jeff: So which comp books were you reading?
Derek Ting: Oh, I read X-Men Wolverine. I was a fan of Wolverine Avengers. I think it was bigger X-Men fan than Avengers though. Avengers actually wasn’t as popular back then. Of course like Batman and Superman.
I like when I was like two or three, I was drawing Superman and Batman. So it was both the DC and Marvel guy. I don’t think I did anything. I don’t think I read anything to like, far off, like some of these characters that are coming out now. I don’t really know them that well at all. And you know, they’ve evolved over time since then.
So I was literally one of those guys, like they had a rack and you just. Rotate the rack and, Oh, this looks cool. This looks cool. I didn’t know what, you know. And then I eventually got into like the main ones, like X-Men and those guys. [00:07:00] But yeah
Jeff: it, it, it really is amazing. You mean just how many people in, you know, in filmmaking did grow up and one of their early inspiration was comic books.
I mean, it has an impact that I think people didn’t recognize many years ago because it was, you know, a kid’s literature, but if the impact of it is longstanding and has been the bedrock of a lot of filmmakers.
Derek Ting: Oh, yeah. Cause I didn’t read, I didn’t read books. So I think at that time, that for, for, let’s just say, I mean, I don’t want to sound, I want to sound PC, but here, but you know, for a guy, I mean, that was just kind of, kind of a thing.
I don’t know whether it was because I was a guy that that’s what drew me to it. But then again, I think I read like those, all those choose your own adventure books. And if you know about those too. Yes, yes, yes. There’s one
Jeff: cover that I bought.
Derek Ting: I remember reading. Yeah, I love that. I mean, there were so many of those and Those were fun too.
I mean, I think it’s just out of being a kid and just trying to entertain yourself because there wasn’t as much out there, you know? So, I think it was out of that, but you know, honestly, [00:08:00] actually some of the stuff that comes out some of these people never even read a comic book. So, I think that’s interesting, but the ones that do the ones that know like the characters really well and have something to say about those characters, I think those are the ones that have been pretty good.
Jeff: also very amazing. I think nowadays in the comic industry, a lot of filmmakers are now turning to write comic books. I mean, there’s, I’m one of the people we have interviewed or, I mean, if you have a few weeks Tim Sheridan, he did some I think the, the cartoon for He-Man to coming out for Netflix, a bunch of other stuff, it’s a lot of people from Hollywood are moving to comic books.
It’s just a weird time in the world of comics where. The prestige of them is definitely increasing dramatically Keno reads as a new combo coming out for God’s sakes.
Derek Ting: Yeah. Yeah. He’s got a lot of things coming out. He’s got a video game too. Yeah. Well, I think that the good thing, I mean, you know, nowadays it’s so hard to just create something new, then you kind of have to start, you know, maybe from a comic book or a [00:09:00] video game to kind of develop the world and see if it sticks.
So, I think, I think that’s, that’s part of it and it’s a good way. I mean, it’s definitely a good way to scope out something, you know, to really just kind of flush it out and develop it that way. So I could see that. And you know, and there’s people who are interested in those people who want to, who want to read comic books and because it’s so it’s so easy to get it on your iPad now.
Not the same as reading it from an Asheville, like, you know, print, but but still you can just. You know, I’m in the mood to read a comic book and then just flip through and find one. Well,
Jeff: I mean, w w we’re eventually gonna talk more about your agents series, agent, agent revelation, but have you con did you ever consider writing a combo to go that goes along with your movies?
Derek Ting: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I did. I, as a filmmaker, I mean, this is my fourth feature agent revelation. So, you know, my first, my first movie was a financial thriller, but I had all these kind of grand [00:10:00] things about like, Oh, you know, I’ll trademark the logo because it’s so cool, you know, this and that. And Oh, we’re and expand, blah, blah, blah.
And it did fairly well. I mean, don’t get me wrong, but I realized I should just, you know, all the energy should just go into the film and that’s it. And then, you know, when you want to build on those things, we can actually for example, I, should we have these sort of. Patches on, you know, one of our sponsors is evic.com.
They do airsoft military simulation stuff. And so they produce the patches for me though that you see in the movie the ESU patches and they’re actually sell pretty well without any kind of promotion. Even before the movie came out, they just were selling on his site and, you know, they send me checks and stuff.
I was like, Oh, okay. That’s cool. That’s interesting. So even the merchandising, some of the things, you know, I’ve thought about doing, but just, it’s not really you know, until this, until the movie gets out you know, to as wide an audience as possible, it’s, it’s you know, it’s the best to just to focus on a movie.
So, and that’s what I’ve done, [00:11:00] you know, And it’s, it’s, it’s been just only a couple months, but finding that the audience just keeps expanding and spanning and, you know, there’s, there’s, you know, different people commenting and I get direct messages and stuff like that. And that’s really cool. I mean,
Jeff: so, so going back to agent revelation a little bit so after through high school, after high school, you attended Cornell university.
What was your major at that time?
Derek Ting: No, man, I was, I studied statistics and biometry, which is applied statistics for. Biology. So a lot of stuff like the vaccine stuff that you read about, like, those trials, I would have designed if I had gone down that field.
Jeff: So, I mean, does being well-versed in statistics help you from a filmmaker standpoint on either maybe either marketing or devising how you’re going to prepare a film or anything like that.
Is there, has, have you been able to utilize your education in that sense?
Derek Ting: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Like I’m not in terms of you know, I’m [00:12:00] not a person who kind of overanalyzes things don’t get me wrong. But the beauty of statistics is you make a guess it’s called the hypothesis. So you think that. Something, you know, you have a belief that, okay, let’s say the story is going to be this way or or this is how it should be, or, or this concept is going to be good and then you test it and you do, and then you see what the reaction is.
So I just, from even the very beginning, I have an idea, I pitch it to my wife, my friends my, my investors, whoever. And then and then they give me feedback as to whether they think it’s good or not. And that’s, that’s the data, of course. And, and you, you keep on iterating, you keep on testing it again.
So you test it again. And then, you know, maybe, you know, I did, I did a couple of tests test videos and, you know, even for, and for visual effects we do or action. Do a couple of tasks before you actually do it. And that’s, that’s been actually very, very fruitful. So, I mean, as an entrepreneur, that’s, that’s what you want to do is [00:13:00] iterate as quickly as possible and learn and problem solve.
Jeff: so I’ll also read that eventually you became a producer for CNN. Was that coming directly from college? How did you get involved with that?
Derek Ting: Yeah, that’s right. Well, you know, the story is that I I was in New York city. I was working as a consultant and then nine 11 happened. So, and I felt, Oh, life is short.
So I decided to actually pursue the acting thing. And I was doing pretty well, but I just wasn’t getting anything, you know, legit roles, which are like anything on TV or film. They come by, like once every. Two months, an audition, not just you get it, you know, you just audition every, so those number of opportunities were just so few.
So then I, I decided to just learn how to make films, like make my own short films with my friends. And that’s the time when like cameras were getting really good hit the Canon XL or something like that. It was called, I think it was like DV tape but was [00:14:00] making made like made all these short films.
And I got pretty good at it. And I got some skills, like I took an editing course at NYU. And so I had the opportunity to move to Hong Kong and, or LA. And so I was looking at looking at, you know, the two differences, you know, how they would, how the cities would be for me for advancing my career, because it was all flat towing in New York city.
And I ended up getting a job and a CNN very early when I, when I went there, like within two weeks of landing. So I ended up staying and when I, you know, had the job, they quickly promoted me to producer. They gave me all this like responsibility. I created their whole creative services, which is literally an agency inside in, in the company internally.
So, yeah, that’s how we can produce it was literally, I. I think I had just had legit skills and I didn’t die. And it was like sink or swim situation. Cause there’s like a lot of like legacy stuff there and stuff that I had to pick up, which was like, it was total BS. [00:15:00] Cause you don’t use it now. Like, we use beta tape and everything.
You know, this whole conversation, I’m sounding like I’m really old. I’m not really that old, but it’s just like you get thrown into these situations and yeah, that’s what they were using at the time. And I had no idea how to do that. I know I didn’t, I didn’t no idea what, like NTSC versus Powell.
Wasn’t like, what is this? So, things like that, like the guys in the newsroom, they helped me out and then eventually, yeah. I mean I did fairly well. So,
Jeff: so what does a producer on a news network actually do.
Derek Ting: Man actually the funny thing is out in Hong Kong just wear multiple hats cause there’s usually less the team it’s usually smaller.
So for me, what I did was I had a unique role. I straddled between the marketing and the newsroom. So I had a really sweet editing suite editing suite in, in, on the newsroom, which I could, like we would produce, I would produce stuff there. And then I also had an like an office and my own like kind of windowed cubicle for just being in the marketing team.
And [00:16:00] so I’d just be bouncing around. I’d be either in the, in the newsroom we would, we would produce like kind of those kind of these short story, documentary things. Not really the actual, like going out and being in the field and Is more like that producing kind of short stories and, and advertising cause we’d have campaigns.
So we’d have like, you know, maybe some promos that have to be done. And really just really actually that’s where I started learning how to write do the copywriting for the ads. They’d go baby play, you know, cause this is CNN is under time Warner. So I would do stuff for like time magazine or you know, different newspapers, anything under the Warner medium umbrella, which is huge.
So, yeah, it was, it was a huge place for me to like learn and get good at my craft.
Jeff: Would you say handling a corresponded in a, like a CNN that’s similar to handling an actor? Might is it, I mean, do they, how you present PR present to them, your ideas is, is it a similar
Derek Ting: set up? I mean, you know, you’re definitely like putting someone on camera, lighting them and [00:17:00] I actually got pretty good at it.
Sort of just building rapport and interviewing. I worked with like Hugh Roman 10, for example, he was the first guy I worked with. And you know, you have to, you have to build that kind of respect. And he was really cool. He actually actually recommended I become an anchor and he liked my editing cause I edited his, he wrote a script and then I, I, you know, I proposed some changes and he was like, yeah, you know, I think your changes were really spot on.
Have you ever thought about being in the newsroom? And I was like, no, I think journalism is completely a different pole. It’s a different craft. What you guys do is definitely you know, it’s, it takes a lot of training and a lot of effort and it’s, it’s, it’s different. There’s a lot of overlap though.
Anything, all the, all the, the great thing is that there’s a lot of overlap. I mean, the stuff that I learned when I was working in tech you know, project management, How to work with people, how to plan and execute and problem solve all those things transfer over really well. And the news, the newsroom, I mean, editing you know, was a big thing.
[00:18:00] The post production, the creative the writing, all that stuff is important and yeah. And working with another person to get the stuff that you want on camera, that’s important. But then the, obviously the acting like I would never tell you Remington or any of these, you know, or Chrissy, Lou stout, who I worked with I never be like, Hey this is what you’re thinking.
Like you’re really angry right now. You’re really angry. Just say that to yourself, like go run a lap right now and then come right back. I’ll never do that.
Jeff: So, so when you’re a producer of news news programming, like CNN, Is your first thought as producer entertainment or is it news information and informing?
Derek Ting: Yeah, definitely. I was on the storytelling side, so I wasn’t on the like breaking news side, which thank goodness I wasn’t. Cause I don’t think I’d be good at that. So, I don’t know the answer to your question, but yeah, definitely just thinking about, okay, what’s the story and how’s it gonna present? And [00:19:00] this is going to go on air, you know, a week from now or whatever it is, let’s get it done.
Or this has a lot of this stuff had to pass through the, the news desk. I mean the, the top person running at the time, she was like really top veteran journalist and you not show all my stuff to her. So,
Jeff: so in 2012 you acted produce and road supercapitalist. Where did the idea for that come from?
Derek Ting: It was, I was living, living out in Hong Kong and They were literally throwing guys that look like me out to Asia, didn’t speak a lick of, of Cantonese or Chinese or, or anything.
And working in finance and they were making tons of money doing it. And this was also the time when hedge funds were just really kind of emerging. Now people know what hedge funds are, but that was the time. So it was a really high life before I think the Oh eight Oh nine financial crisis. And I read this [00:20:00] article that, that name, these guys, super capitalist, he was basically khaki wearing You know, the blue shirt wearing guys that are just jet-setting and making F-you money.
Essentially. I was like, that’s a great idea for a movie. So I did a lot of research partying.
Okay. You know, and then and, and the other thing though, that I, I learned here is that there’s a lot of tycoons. So that movie is about the tycoons versus the hedge funds in Hong Kong. And we shot that across New York, Hong Kong and Macau. Yeah.
Jeff: So it was directed by Simon Yan. What, what did you learn from him?
And also was this the last movie that you wrote, but didn’t direct, is that correct?
Derek Ting: Yeah. I mean, it’s not wise for somebody to self-direct, especially on your first film. And I was definitely somewhat, somewhat green, I would say. I mean, Obviously had a [00:21:00] lot of, you’ve heard about my past. But I wanted somebody who would understand the character and actually his past was a little bit like the main character, which I liked.
You know, he was, he was a bit you know, he still hadn’t directed a feature film before, so that was, that was definitely a concern. So overall I think he did an okay job. I think there’s there’s there were, there were issues that, you know, could have been better, but overall it was, it was, you know, we got to a good place.
I mean, we got it out through Warner brothers my first film and it was a really small budget. So, yeah, I think the challenge is when you’re working with directors, they’re very, you know, they’re very ambitious about. What they want to do. And once they think they’ve finished this project, they move on.
And a lot of making a film is such if there’s so much energy, then that that is involved and you can’t just kind of want to step away once you’ve finished. So, I think with him, that’s what he wanted to do. And that’s, you know, it’s kind of [00:22:00] a, you know, too bad, but I guess that’s just how it, how it how it works out.
You know, people have their own personal lives, they got to do the thing, you know? So, well when you have
Jeff: a director that you say he’s a first time director and you’ve had some background in filmmaking and you’re also the writer and you’re the producer, is, is it hard to, to re give a give away that kind of power to another individual?
Like, like the director and trust them to do your vision?
Derek Ting: Oh, yeah, it was very hard. It was very hard. I thought about it for a long time. And then once you, you know, for me, because I am creative because I understand what it takes, then I, I try to give whoever I work with that sort of power though, empower them.
You know, you don’t want to be like over their shoulder, checking out, what are they doing? Are they doing their work or whatever? Are they doing the best job they can. That’s like, that’s very dangerous. I think, you know, in terms of creativity. So I, I literally tried, tried to just be the actor, but then of course I was producing, I [00:23:00] was producing in the background and, you know, we, we had gotten Bloomberg as a sponsor and shot shot there.
So like, I’d be hustling to get, to get them, to let us use their location. And that was like a whole effort and of itself, you know, things like that would, you know, Would be on my plate, but you know, when I try to show up and say, I tried to just be the actor. I think the only thing about that you know, was that when I, what I learned was that you know, they wanted to do all these like Dolly shots.
And that was like, man, the setup time for Dolly shots, it’s just it takes a long time. And for the actor you only get like three or four takes. So then it’s like, all right, let’s move on. You know, versus versus I like to work with the actors, like the, have a lot of sort of space and blocking and, and rehearsing and stuff like that.
Jeff: well, the onset dynamics has been fascinating because once again, as, or as the actor, technically the directors is charge best producer clinically you’re in charge. So you’re both kind of the subordinate and the, and the balls at the same time.
[00:24:00] Derek Ting: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I think, you know, people know me as, Hey, you know, I rarely get angry.
I don’t really get upset on set and I I’ve, I have been upset. There’s some people that have really just drove me up the wall. And he just was like, what are you supposed to do? But you know, you have to, you’re, you’re, you’re running a team. So, you know, I try to, I really try to keep the energy and the, the atmosphere positive as much as you can, as much as you can.
So it’s a challenge. It’s, it’s a challenge. So
Jeff: when you say it was driving up the wall, was that someone on set and what was driving a wall? Was it a lack of. Did occasion, was it a lack of focus that was kind of like burning your ass on it? I mean, what is it about that that
Derek Ting: was driving you crazy? I mean, actually on that movie, there, there really weren’t any people that really drove me crazy, probably like in some other movies.
Cause like we, we shot a movie in the desert. The agent intelligence was, was the first one. We had a PA that was [00:25:00] just, you know, cause we’re all, and now we’re stuck at the desert. So I didn’t have, you know, we had a couple PAs, but you know, this one PA was just like not, I mean, he was supposed to get the food for the whole entire crew and then didn’t show, you know, didn’t go and didn’t do it.
And it was like late, like an hour or two. And we’re, we’re the desert and everyone’s hungry. And like time is fleeting and things like that. Like. Just go get, you know, it’s a very simple task of get the food. I mean, it’s not that simple, but obviously if you, if you plan ahead of time, things like that, like just that are very basic.
You would think that these things are very basic and easy to do. So, but you know, that’s what you’re working with too. Cause you can’t eat, you know, if you’re running an indie film, you can’t, you can’t pay everybody. As well. As you could, if you were out at like a big budget film, so you really have to motivate people and you need to find people that you know, are sort of in that, in that league where they have the potential and if you push them hard enough, then they can really maximize the potential versus someone who’s like [00:26:00] really awesome.
Awesome. And it’s just like, Hard to get them because they’re, you know, you have to pay them, you know, I don’t know, three to five times more for something, whatever. I don’t know. So you know how it is. It’s just like that. You’re finding that person in that stage who, who needs the opportunity. I think that’s what it is, who needs the opportunity.
Hasn’t got that, that break, but has the drive and the ambition, and they’re just waiting to get out. But then you find people that say that they are, and only when you buy them, they’re on the sad, but anyway, whatever, that’s just slide that’s film. It’s amazing how these things get completed is basically is, is the that’s the answer for everything?
Jeff: No, I totally get that. Many years ago my father made a a small budget horror movie very variable written. But we there’s, I guess, without going too much, the camera guy was you know, talking to him to how great he was. And when you watched the shots later, like son of a bitch, he didn’t know what the fuck you was doing.
And it’s, it’s, it’s hard when you get sold on someone, you know, someone, you know, they talk a good game and then they turn out to be shit. And you’re like, Oh, how [00:27:00] much money did I just burned on with this?
Derek Ting: Yeah. Yeah. You gotta be really careful about who you hire. And you know, for the most part we’ve been pretty good about it, but you still, some, you know, somebody falls through the crack or, you know, you, you, you want to believe them too, because, you know, especially at the, at the lower position, what are you going to, you’re not going to know how good a PA they are, you know, you’re just not going to be, there’s no, like portfolio, like, Oh, I was actually the things that they write.
They can write. Let’s say they were on these things. Sometimes some of them lie about it too. So anyway, we can get very negative very quickly, but that’s, that’s just how it is, you know, in the biz. So after
Jeff: watching Simon Yan direct, did you decide you basically, you know, you could do it better. You had that you would trust yourself to direct your
Derek Ting: vision?
No, I didn’t think that I did look for a director on the second one. The challenge with that I’ve found with you know, most, most people are not really willing to go for it. You know, they [00:28:00] need a sense of security for any project. So I did look for my second movie and then, and you know, I was close with, I was close to choosing a couple and you just get this feeling that it’s not going to get done.
Cause cause their demands are just, you know, larger than what you can suffice for the film. So, And I mean, the challenge was I was in Hong Kong too, so it’s like I needed, I needed a good director who knew the landscape of, of Hong Kong and, you know, in Shanghai and understand, understand what the nuances are, because obviously, you know, I’ve seen movies, you’ve heard about movies that like, you know, people are like, why is it this?
Why it, that way, you know, that’s not how it is. And so. I’ve never, I’ve never necessarily had that on my films. It’s was like, Oh, that’s not how it is out there because I live here and I understand, I understand it. So a lot of it was geography. But the other I think is like, you know, there’s like one commercial director I try to [00:29:00] work with.
And you know, he had shot these really awesome shorts. They’re beautiful. They’re really well-crafted. And then, you know, soon, as soon as I was like, Hey let’s and he, he approached me to make the, to make a film together. As soon as it became like, Oh, you know, he’s going to direct the film. And it was more like, I need this, I need that.
I need this, you know, this particular DP and dah, dah, dah, and it’s got to have all these things. And I was like, what. Is going on here. That’s completely different from what you said. So anyway, yeah. Long story short. It’s like, people, people, you gotta be careful because people will say what they, you know, will kind of, you know, in their stuff, they’ll look like bail.
They’re willing to do what it takes to make the movie and make it the best possible without any sort of like, you know, just a problem, solve it out. And then when you start working with them, then you really find out their mentality and what they’re, you know? So I think that’s, that’s really where, where it is, you know, what separates people, why people don’t, aren’t able to complete [00:30:00] things.
Why certain movies never see the light of day two, but fortunately I haven’t, I haven’t been in that position. Every movie that I’ve set out to make, I have finished and released it properly. So,
Jeff: so in 2017, you wrote, produced, directed and starred in agent. What led to the creation of agent?
Derek Ting: Multiple multitude of factors.
You know, it’s always one of those sort of, for Texas where you’re, you’re always meeting with people. You’re always listening. A good friend of mine actually. He introduced me to this guy. His name is Eva. He runs the largest military simulation company, I think, on the planet. I mean, he it’s, it’s an amazing sport.
If you ever want to check it out, it’s airsoft. It’s pretty much BB guns, but they look real and they have all the stuff. And he said, he said to me, after we met, he was like, Oh, if you ever want to make a movie with, you know, military stuff, let me know. And I’m happy to supply all the gear. And I was like, that’s actually pretty huge to have.
So that was just one data [00:31:00] point that was like, A couple of years back from, from the development of that. I had been in Arizona though, and I was having lunch with one of our friends and I said to him, I had never fired a live weapon. And he said, well, I can, I can change that. Because you know, obviously we were in Arizona where they carry live firearms underneath their Tina, underneath their clothing.
Yeah, we went, we went out to I think it was like Lake pleasant or something. We went out to the desert and we you know, the guy, he, he brought his friend who had all these, you know, like, Sammies and silencers and fours, you name it, he had it. And even a rifle, if you know, people who have seen agent intelligence, a rifle, a long range rifle and Tannerite, and he showed me all of it.
And I was like, Oh my gosh, this is like an experience. You know, a group of people go out to the desert and something happens. Like, I was like, Oh, this is a movie, you know? And it just stuck with me cause I had that experience and I was like, Oh, this is, this is [00:32:00] America. You know, this is this is there, you know, the livelihood.
And also it’s an experience. But yeah, so that was the, kind of the idea. And then the last part was a friend of mine told me that he shot in the desert and he found this piece of land that any, so, so I asked him to take me out there and he’s like, Oh no, no, no, let me just, I’ll just write you an email and tell you how to get there.
Wrote me an email. He’s like, are you go to this? You go here and you go right. 30 minutes. Yeah. Like, but anyway, somehow I found it. So I scouted the place and I was like, you know what? This place is pretty awesome. There’s multiple places to film, but you know, there’s elements of danger. There’s, there’s people firing live weapons.
Cause they’re practicing. There’s all these shotgun shells lying around. There’s, there’s random people there all the time. You know, when it gets dark, it gets very cold. So anyway, so, so you can imagine those three points. Is it this way, men awards before texts of things, those three points kind of struck me the last point.
Was that a friend of mine had [00:33:00] introduced another friend who, who was really into movies. And he said that, you know, whatever movie you’re going to make afterwards, cause he saw my second book, which was called hallways and said, I want to be involved. You know, I want basically I want to invest. So, you know, I had to write a script and I was like, well, we’re writing a script, then we’re making a movie.
So. Anyway, that’s the long story of it, but that’s, that’s literally how it all happened. But the biggest thing I think was the alien conspiracy thing that I’d always been interested in. And, you know, this thing had to be just bigger than you know, cause it was constructed as I constructed it similar to a horror horror, thriller, I think.
But then I wanted that scifi aspect and I always been fascinated by like area 51. And I had read and read about Dolce bass. I had read about if anyone wants to know adults who base is like a place in New Mexico where they like experiment an aliens. And so there’s just all this like mythology that I was interested in and that.
That’s [00:34:00] sort of made it into the film. Like that’s, that’s the kind of under belly of what I’m describing. Right. You know, just basically like the undercurrent, I don’t know the right word for it is, but you know, that’s like the foundation of, of what’s behind what I’m building towards, which is agent revelation.
Jeff: I will say Arizona is a beautiful state. I lived, actually lived in Arizona for about two years. I was working with chimpanzees in a Mesa and it’s a beautiful area. Absolutely
Derek Ting: beautiful. Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well it’s so by the way, so, we filmed in Yucca Valley, but all the live firearms happened in Arizona.
So we had to cheat, you know, back and forth, but yeah, we got the Valley is by Joshua tree, but yeah, I mean, yeah, both places are, you know, great places to live. Or they enjoyed Arizona a lot have been there a number of times. So
Jeff: when you’re directing yourself as an actor, are you, how are you able to be [00:35:00] objective about your performance?
Is there someone on set who, when, who you trust to direct you a little bit on your acting, or are you able to kind of like fully view yourself from like, so what I’m saying from a outsider’s perspective and on what you’re doing at that moment?
Derek Ting: Yeah. I mean, the great thing is you have playback, so, you know, if you’re not.
You know, you know, if you’re not doing very well, you know, if you’re not getting it a lot of it’s a lot of, all of it, obviously though. I mean, when I’m self-directing, I, I, you, you feel it, you know, when you got it, you got the, the connection when you’re listening to the other actor, a lot of it is listening.
It’s not the talking, it’s the listening. It’s the emotional reaction, you know, but then you know, because we have technology and because there’s playback, then yeah. You know, then you can, you can get there. So. I mean, that’s the emotional stuff. And then, you know, with the action, it’s a lot, I think that’s mostly pure [00:36:00] playback.
You see how it looks with the action, see out and know how it’s going to cut together. Luckily, as I mentioned, I had the editing experience. I know it can cut together so well. I mean,
Jeff: agent is on rotten tomatoes. Agent has a 91% audience score, which is huge. Did that really kind of give you the confidence to know you can move forward with it?
I mean, that’s, I mean, that’s a top line score 91%.
Derek Ting: I mean, it’s not, you know what, most people aren’t rating things, actually, both of those people, like I just, I’m our social media. Hey, can you do me a favor, please rate it? You know, so I think we actually have a pretty good cult following though. And you know, and it’s not.
It’s not a small number. It’s not just like my immediate friends or anything. I’ve had really great people who have just reached out and said, Oh, you know, you know, they got it, got some of these comments get really deep, like talking about like, you know, do I, do I believe in alien, these alien conspiracies, are you like one of the brothers kind of thing?
You know what I mean? Like ask me these questions. So. I [00:37:00] mean, you have to take points like that, but then the real deal is whether you get distribution or not, you know, that’s the way I see it. Like, I mean, agent intelligence was on Hulu, so, you know, it’s of the caliber is going to get on Hulu. Right? My first movie got picked up by Warner brothers digitally.
It had to be, it had to be pitched. It had to be shown to executives to say, you know, are you going to associate this with your brand? Paramount picked up my second movie, 60 different countries, 13 different languages. They spent money to translate it and put it on all the platforms everywhere. So it’s like, you know, you know, you’re hitting a certain quality level, whether after that, is everyone gonna love it?
You can’t really, these days, like people like certain things, they don’t like certain things, you know, some people like you know, European style movies, some people you know, have. You know, crazy Japanese movies. I don’t know. You know, so, it could be Terrence Malick where you don’t really, you know, it’s very in the air.
So [00:38:00] everyone has their own tastes and that’s okay. So, yeah, but I think if you’ve, if you’ve hit that level, if you’ve made the movie and you’ve gotten distributed, you’ve really gotten somewhere. So, you’re hitting a certain level, especially for what we’re making the films for. I mean, I’m not having, I don’t have blockbuster budgets, so it’s like, yeah.
Jeff: well, what was it always your goal to make Asian revelation? I mean, when you were filming agent intelligence, did you know agent revelation was the next step or was it high? You know, it was a, Hey, this agent or movie we made, it was successful. He’s got distribution now. Let’s figure out what I want to do for my secret.
Was that always part of the,
Derek Ting: the goal? Yeah. You know, it happened so fast. I was like I, I know for sure when I was like, maybe in post that was writing the, I started writing the sequel, I was like, we gotta make this cause, cause I had a really good so if you, if, you know, as an agent intelligence, like all the actions at the end and that’s because that was my first time working with the stunt team, [00:39:00] sun team action factory.
So, you know, one of the biggest concerns of doing any film is like, can the action look good? And I don’t like blurry action either. I can’t stand movies where you just can’t see what’s going on. Which happens all the time, even on like big blockbusters, you know? So, and I want people to see me doing it as much as possible.
Obviously I do have a stunt double who’s awesome. You know, I’m not gonna be dragged across the desert by a truck. Like he was just not going to extend the dangerous decision. Right. Smart decision. And he’s amazing. Yeah, he’s amazing. And you know, very calculating in terms of, you know, doing good stunts and Anthony, his name is Anthony
But yeah, so that, that showed me that I. Could do it, that we could make the action. And so that was my ambition was to take that to the next level with the part two. So a lot of is just developing those good relationships that you like that actually worked. And that, and I, it propelled me into making part two [00:40:00] also like, yeah.
So I knew, I knew that I wanted to make this movie in this underground base. Cause I heard about the Dolce base and I was, I was intrigued and I wanted to keep on building that story. And without like an agent intelligence, without that, you know, without knowing that there’s a part two there’s this, you know, the soldiers that kind of show up and they’re talking about like this, you know, conspiracy and they don’t really make as much sense until you end up in part two.
So it was like, you know, so there was intention there. Well, I thought I could pull it off. What’s completely a different story basically, you know? Cause yeah, agent revelation was. A movie that I you know, I had to really bootstrap, you know, we, when we made the, when we made, when we went to go produce it and do the production, I literally overspent my production budget.
And then I was stuck in post with all these visual effects. So I had to raise more money to complete the film. So I coulda [00:41:00] gotten completely stuck and never seen the light of day with my film. But,
Jeff: well, I mean, ancient revelation is a, is a very good movie. The only thing I noticed about Asian revelation, once again, you, as Jim, you have a lot of physical aspects of that.
Shoot you not only that, but you also have to look like, you know what you’re doing, what your weaponry, whatnot, how much training did you have to go through to look convincing.
Derek Ting: Oh yeah, actually I, I guess, you know, to me, I, I think I’m pretty good. I’m not like amazing, but I, I think you know, I train, I train all the time.
I just, I love martial arts. I love, I love boxing. Actually, if you notice a little movie has a lot of boxing I love like kind of military simulation stuff. So, you know, in terms of the physicality, I’m always training. That’s why we were talking earlier. I like, I fell using the iron gym, which is like the pull up bar in the doorway.
And I bang my head and had a concussion. And here I am talking on your [00:42:00] podcast, but so I’m a survivor of the iron gym, but yeah, I mean, I love, I love movies. I love action. So, I’m training all the time. And I’m always studying it, but it’s just out of, it’s just kinda like I’m passionate about it.
And like, I I’ll watch stuff on like mixed martial arts. Like I’ll watch that stuff, but it’s just because I, you know, I have an interest and you know, don’t get me wrong. I studied Kung Fu is I detective DOE I studied Thai boxing here, which is, I think is really great source of power. I had done a little jujitsu to so I trained at the actually I can train at the UFC UFC gym and in New York for a bit, for three months too.
So just been a long time guy who studied it, but. Really then, you know, when I’m does that way, when I’m in onset, I know what I can do, what I can’t do. And then whatever I think I can’t do, then my awesome stunt double kind of comes in there and makes me look good. You know? Well, [00:43:00] exactly.
Jeff: I mean like there’s the scenes, like when you’re going through the simulations, you, you know, you definitely look like someone who is a skilled military individual and they listened.
They can’t just be natural acting you had embedded. You could tell when you’re looking at it, that you had to a knowledge of what you were doing, but beyond just acting,
Derek Ting: you know, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I mean, that, that was the, definitely the objective, like, even to the point you know, you don’t want to have your finger on the trigger.
That’s what people, some people do in these movies. I had advice, I had tactical advisors like Chad Bennett was there. He had done, you know, tactical advising for huge movies. Joel Fiddler was my son coordinator. He’s been on Punisher, so I have really good people around me that just kind of, are coaching me, Matt who’s in the movie.
You know, he’s never had military formal military training, but he’s one of those geeks essentially that knows the weaponry. He knows all the different sort of tactics, because they do it during the simulation, how to clear a room, how to like you know, [00:44:00] turn a corner, how to pie, all those things. So, the good thing is that I think that I’m fairly coordinated so I can follow very well.
Like I watch them. And I listen and then I apply. Then I watch in the playback to make sure it looks good, you know? Cause the last thing we want, you know, especially since actually like we have like basically a military simulation sponsor and you know, we don’t want people watching and be like, Oh, like that doesn’t, that doesn’t work.
So if anything, I, I, you know, worked with them. Pretty pretty well. And sort of that sort of simulation stuff was sort of demonstrate to what people, you know, what, what they do, what they’re interested in. And then, you know, then of course it goes off into video games too. So like, but yeah, so yeah,
Jeff: I guess that would be kinda funny if It’s not funny, but if your sponsor was like, yeah, we’re going to pull our sponsor.
This doesn’t look right, then that’d be horrible
Derek Ting: to put them in. No, no, no. If anything, we’re starting the marketing [00:45:00] campaign with them. And I think the ambition, we want to make like a military simulation game. So I guess because of the, you know, because of the pandemic, we can’t can’t do that, but I think that’s the plan.
Maybe next year we’ll be doing some, some big games around it, like live games with like thousands of people that would be cool. I’ll be pretty psyched about that. Yeah,
Jeff: that’d be awesome. It’d be agent reveled, the revelation virtual virtual games.
Derek Ting: Yeah, no, I mean, and real, like real people going out in sort of these you know, in the.
Tactical places like tech, tech city, that’s where we were shot at. And they’re going to do a game based on the movie and like, an actual game where people play for points or diffuse a bomb and things like that. That was awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m excited. I’m excited about it. I mean, hopefully we can pull that off, like, you know, next year Thanksgiving.
Jeff: Well, I think there’s so much interesting stuff going on in the movie agent revelation. You have the character, Jim, you’re the protagonist he’s infected [00:46:00] by. What’s called the Ash. Because he’s infected with the Africa is kind of like an alien, I guess. How would you explain it? There are like alien spores or alien, you know, I don’t know the best way you would, how you
Derek Ting: would best Caelian breast.
Jeff: What, what did that affect how you thought, how you went about performing the role of Jim, that there’s something so different about him now because he has this infection,
Derek Ting: How did, I mean, how I, how I would transition. Yeah.
Jeff: Was that something like you did that kind of inform how you went about playing Jimmy the SQL?
Derek Ting: Yeah. I mean, I think, I think with the way I wanted the characters start was. You know, he’s definitely somebody who wanted to serve his country, which I always been fascinated about, you know, somebody who’s willing to die for their country. Somebody who’s very patriotic, I think, you know, and his backstory being, being adopted to even more.
So why does he want to do that? But I I’ve, I’ve met people like that. And and you know, and I’m very patriotic as well, but I never served. So, and then having this disability, I think a lot of people have [00:47:00] roadblocks. I may not for him, it’s the headaches, but for other people, there’s, there’s other reasons, you know, they may have physical disability, they may have mental illness.
I don’t know whatever it is, but then they can’t. So he’s somebody who couldn’t, who, who didn’t have that opportunity. And the moment that he gets that opportunity, then he’s not sure of himself. And a lot of the movie is about sort of. Understanding and learning about himself and gaining that confidence too, to say, Hey, like, you know, you know, maybe I wasn’t no, it didn’t have all those, you know, I’d be given this kind of gift.
What am I going to do with it? You know, I think that’s, that was something that I wanted to really show and portray in the film. And that’s how I built the character, was to do that, to really come to understanding themselves. And then, because he was given the opportunity, he didn’t, you know, he didn’t expect it because he thought, Oh, it’s over.
You know, I, I know I have the headaches, I can’t do it. But when he was given that gift, you know, [00:48:00] he, he quickly learns that, you know, he can help people.
Jeff: I thought it was really interesting to have that aspect of his personality, but that sense of inadequacy that he, that he seems to have that he doesn’t, you know, didn’t deserve to be enhanced by the Ash.
And, and I’m thinking. That, how that kind of stems, it’s kind of, at least you can say in a way to strongly, that seems to STEM from his time as an adopted person as well. And also I think maybe even the infertility Kelly ties into that as well. Was, was that like, was you do that as that’s his arc? Was that also a way to make sure that he remains identifiable to your audience?
Derek Ting: Yeah. Yeah. I think that was his I mean it definitely his art, I was definitely, I was definitely interested in, in showing somebody who wanted to serve his country, who looked like me. I wanted to show somebody that’s different, you know? But I think, I think that’s just kind of the. I [00:49:00] think as, as a person, you know, as, as trying to find a character that I could relate to.
Yeah, for sure.
Jeff: Well, one thing I thought was really interesting about Jim and how you handled the movie. Could you have Jim with the sense of, you know, that feelings of inadequacy is not
Derek Ting: sorry before you ask that question. Jim is based his he’s based on a real person by the way. Okay. So, yeah. So my friend who, who visited me in Hong Kong, told me about his experience being adopted at the age of eight and his, his childhood.
And you know, I want to tell that story, his childhood growing up, like he was rebellious, his parents did disown him, you know, and you find out in the movie spoilers in spoiler country here that they disowned them at age 18. And that sort of feeling of loneliness, that feeling of no support system, having nobody you know, not even like, and then his girlfriend, he can’t, he can’t even be with his girlfriend that sort of isolation.
I thought that was quite, that was just, that’s [00:50:00] an amazing story that I wanted to tell. And that was the foundation. That’s how that’s generally how I construct movies is I based it on something real to me. And the dressing is the scifi world, you know, the action, all that stuff, but really, you know, we’re, we’re telling a character story about this guy who has to overcome his, you know, his insecurities.
Jeff: Th th did your friend know at the time that you were basing it on him or did you see the movie and then you were like, Hey yeah,
Derek Ting: yeah, no, no, no. I asked him, I asked him for permission. So yeah. You know, I didn’t, I’m not just making this stuff up. So, no, he visited me and I was, I was like, and then I had, I had no idea too.
He had, he had been a friend who actually helped me on a previous movie. And then he just happened to be in Hong Kong. We weren’t gonna meet up cause he was on his personal journey. And I said, Oh, well, you know, come come, we’ll just meet up. And then he told me his story and I was like, [00:51:00] Is an amazing story.
As on later I asked him if I could, you know, at least base the character on him. I didn’t, it was not him per se, but a lot of his backstory is there. So
Jeff: well. Yeah, like I said, and I, and I really do think it, it does add a little bit too to think of that, you know, that you based it on an actual individual, but like I said, I, I do think you created an, a, you gave an interesting level of depth to depth to the character of Jim.
Is it not only is he, like I said, you have the feelings of inadequacy that he feels, but in multiple parts you have the characters referring to his courage and how, and kind of in his bravery. And I kinda thought to myself that there’s such a truth to that, that in many ways, we, that people are often not cognizant of the true nature of themselves.
They, they don’t see it see themselves the way the world, everyone else sees them. They miss those parts and, and. And I kind of felt that maybe the insecurities that he was feeling kind of like hit the best qualities of [00:52:00] him. Is that kind of your take on him as well.
Derek Ting: Hmm. Thank you. I really like that. Yeah.
Yeah, you really, really caught that. There’s that scene with Belle who really kind of calls them out on it, right? Yeah. I, I mean the, the movie delves into some really deep stuff, and if you’re not paying attention, you’re not going to notice because there’s a lot of stuff there, you know? You’re going to miss it.
A lot of people, it can get, it gets very common. We’re talking about soul, we’re talking about spirituality. It’s not just science fiction, you know, so I think a lot of, a lot of in our soul is, is inherent or who knows. Maybe it could be previous life. I don’t know. But there’s something in us. I think.
In a way that that we’re not sometimes even aware of ourselves. And it takes, takes the environment. It takes the situations to bring that out of us. So,
Jeff: and once again, in the sense, and you, you, you referenced twice, the fact [00:53:00] that Jim is, has, you know, is infertile was that you increased the sense of his inadequacy?
Was it increased? Maybe the, I don’t know, maybe the importance of his moment instead of, you know, he’s, he’s living, I guess, the best way to phrase it. He’s not, he doesn’t have future generations who worry about, he has a larger worldview to concern himself with, instead, I’m trying to think. So, like, what was your, was that the goal or was it the, to add to the inadequacy?
Derek Ting: I mean, I think. I mean, I, you know, I’m, I’m a simple guy, by the way. If you, if you think I’m completely planning everything, like definitely not. You know, I think a lot of this stuff is I read and I, I take it all in and then when I write this is kind of what comes out, but there’s a lot of experience there.
There’s like 10 to 15 years of writing experience. So, but by the way, I wrote agent three. So, you [00:54:00] know, the writing process, I’ve gotten a lot better at my craft. So, but if, but honestly the movie also is a love story. And Angela Dr. Angela Porter. I mean, she’s you know, she’s, I wrote her as a, a gynecologist who loves delivering babies in it.
And so, you know, you, you throw, you throw a character with the complete opposite that he can’t have kids and they love each other. And he’s adopted, what does that mean? That to me is, is like really a major conflict that probably does happen to a lot of people. A lot of people can’t conceive, especially these days more and more people are having challenges, having kids.
So, to me in general, I felt that was something that was you know, part of his character that was worth telling. And I think it creates a lot of conflict and it really sort of, you know, comes head to head in every scene. It’s like, okay, you know, and he’s built, he’s building up to like, You know, tell her and what is [00:55:00] her reaction going to be?
And that’s why he left, you know, that’s why he, he left in the first place. Cause he was with this girl that he loved and, and she, you know, and, and, you know, she loves her. She, all her life was built on delivering babies. And then he’s he’s with this, this girl who’s got unconditional love and he can’t have a kid.
I mean, that’s, that’s That’s that’s, that’s, that’s a story for me.
Jeff: I think like, I think you handled that extremely well, especially considering, I mean, that’s kind of a delicate subject. I think you handled it well, very well. And also another great part of your movie you have in the movie. One of my favorite actors, Michael Dorn, who is exceptional he’s if anyone doesn’t know the name he’s wore from star Trek, next generation, and also some voices some voices in the TV show, gargoyles cartoon was
Derek Ting: I watched that too.
I watched gargoyles. Yes, it’s
Jeff: such a good time. It kind of was like star Trek, cartoon from star Trek had a voice in it. And so what, what was it like having Michael Dorn in the movie? How did that come about?
Derek Ting: I mean, honestly, I had a casting [00:56:00] director, but we were looking for someone from star Trek because I’m a star Trek fan.
I grew up on next gen. And I didn’t want a face that I thought we knew already that we’d seen already, you know? So honestly, like we kinda had five pages of, of different potential star actors and felt that, you know, Michael Dorn was, was the guy. And you know, this I’ve told the story before, but you know, essentially my dad had a heart attack and he’s fine now.
But when we were, when we were there, when we were waiting for him to recover and work through all his, all the medical procedures that we had decided upon, my brother was looking through that list, that list. And he, he, he said, Michael Dorn right away. So. I, that kind of stayed with me. And then you know, I always, I felt like he really looked like like a Steve jobs too, but at least [00:57:00] I think he brought, would bring something different and it worked out really well.
I had no idea how good he was going to be, but he ended up being great. So, and he, he, the reason why he’s signed on was, you know, what she said in other interviews is that he, he really enjoyed the script. He likes the message and you know, he liked the character. So that’s how we ended up working together, really.
So, I mean, as
Jeff: a fan of star Trek next generation, it, it must have been kind of, a mind blow to be directing Michael Dorn.
Derek Ting: Yeah. I mean, I was definitely nervous. I didn’t want to like offend him or, you know, when he, when he, when he came, I was, you know, very like, Oh, just let’s, let’s make sure everything is all perfect for him and everything.
But you know, I guess when we were working at quickly had to kind of just get to it, you know, and, and really get to the, get to the work. And he had had a great time, I think, you know? So, yeah,
Jeff: like [00:58:00] when you have an actor, what the pedigree of Michael Dorn, do you direct him or do you kind of give them the script and get out?
Derek Ting: It’s mostly get out of his way. Because he’s consistently good on every take. So, yeah, I think the only thing that I tried to do was just kind of give him, like, on the last take. Let’s try it. Let’s try this. So we have something different. Let’s just essentially most of the time, what you need to do with him is trying to have couple variety takes.
Cause he’s just really good. I mean, you know, I think next gen they’ve done so many episodes. They work very fast too. So you just have to be really good all the time. But you found out, you know, you find out like, I mean, in this movie, like he’s completely different than the Wharf character. Like the Wharf character is like a man of few words in this movie.
He like. So Oxley doesn’t stop talking, right. Has to manipulate his voice, has to manipulate who he is. I mean, you can’t even tell it’s it’s him in next gen [00:59:00] versus this. So you can tell like how, what, what he was concealing with that, you know, with the Wharf character compared to this one, which is, you know, it’s really fun to watch him in this one where he kind of re you know, you really see a different side of him.
Yeah. And like I said,
Jeff: and he, you know, he just, he was phenomenal next generation. He was phenomenal and deep space nine. With all that experience as an actor and you being an actor, was there any advice that he gave you or was there something that you learned by watching him work that you learn
Derek Ting: as an actor?
Definitely when we were working on that sort of that coffee scene, when we’re talking from the spaceship, which at that time was like this abandoned warehouse without the visual effects. But he he’s while we were acting together and he said, he said, Oh, I like what you did there. Like, so, I mean, he’s a director, he’s a director himself too.
He directs and writes. So, you know, he gave me comments to, to help me feel confident and reassured about what I was like, I was on the right track. So, yeah. Yeah. [01:00:00] That’s, that’s probably what I took away from him was, was just kind of helping me, you know, when you create a positive environment and, you know, just try to make the project the best possible.
That’s what, you know, that’s what he was doing. That’s what I, I, you know, kind of gleaned from him that, you know, that that’s. That’s how it should be. That’s how it, how it should be on set all the time. And,
Jeff: and I think I was also, I think I was very impressed with the kind of special effects we’re able to insert into your movie.
When, when you’re writing the script, are you writing it in terms of budget or are you thinking I will write the script how I want it and I’ll figure out how to do this.
Derek Ting: Yeah, that’s, that’s a great question. And I, and so like on the, on agent agent allegiance part three, which I wrote, I really just didn’t, I just really let go and wrote so much of what’s going to happen and excuse me, and it, [01:01:00] and it has you know, spaceship battles and more fighting scenes and different types and more effects and stuff like that.
So, I, I guess my answer would be that I’m usually pushing it pretty hard, but I know where I stand, like how far I can push it. I think that’s the key as to why I’ve been able to put together a, you know, a great product, but it doesn’t like. W what you don’t want is you don’t want to, you don’t want to build a boat and then you’ve built the boat.
And it doesn’t have like an engine or something like that because couldn’t afford it. You know what I mean? It’s like one of the best things where you can, this is the size of the boat. Maybe I can make it a little bit bigger here, a little bit there, bigger there, but I can’t like, you know, turn it into a yacht or something like that, you know, maybe it’ll, it’ll look like it’ll look like a yacht and it’ll have all these good things about it, but it won’t be.
Yeah. So, I mean, I know I’m not making a $200 million film, so if I did, I’d [01:02:00] probably read it and write it in a certain way that you know, if someone wanted, if I, if I were at that level, which hopefully one day I will be, then, then I will go holistic with all the things that everyone, you know, cause I want, I want people to, you know, when I make my movies, I try to give as much value as possible.
I try to give you. You know, as much as I can do for what I have, that’s definitely the case, even when, even the experience, if you came to one of my indie screenings, like I try to give people like free popcorn or like, you know, some cool treats or some giveaways just cause you came and you supported the film, you know?
That’s just the way I roll and hopefully that. You know, people recognize that I’m not trying to like pull a fast one. So I’m just trying to be a really the best filmmaker I can with what I have then that’s it. I think, I think that’s, it’s how you think that way, as you try to do the best of what you have, you kind of have an idea of how much you’re going to have, so you try to give as much as possible.
[01:03:00] And then, and you know, what I found was like, Oh, the project’s going really well. It’s going in a way. So I’m gonna push this even harder. That’s how I did what the production, like I was like, Oh, you know, like I probably should save some money here for post-production, but. You know, then, then to turn to them, to the I’m in, I’m in the red, but I was like, this is, this is working.
We got to do. Okay, fine. Yeah. You know, do it. And like, you know, I have people that I’m working with a shirt. Do you want to do that? You know, and that’s going to cost this. I’m like, let’s just do it. You know, either I suffer the consequences and this never gets out, which was many times I thought that this film wasn’t going to get finished or we actually have something that’s pretty cool and original, you know?
Jeff: yeah. I mean, when you think about the big budget movies, I sometimes wonder if that level of budget can cause a certain level of laziness while having what I’m saying, [01:04:00] because you have all the money to do anything. You don’t have to worry about the story as much, because you can just do whatever I wonder does having a lower budget cause you to have to be smarter about how you approach your script about how you present your ideas.
Derek Ting: Yeah. I mean, you know, I was watching this documentary called in search of greatness on Hulu. I don’t know if you saw it. It’s, it’s a sports thing. But you know, Wayne Gretzky is talking about, I, I think, I think the takeaway from there is the creativity, even in sports, you know, we’re, we’re manufacturing things at the highest level nowadays, just because there’s so much knowledge and technology and, and I don’t know, corporate stuff.
So, yeah, that, that is the challenge is that the creativity you’re, you can limit yourself if you get too big. In certain ways. So the fortunate thing for me is I have unlimited creativity with these so I can do as much as I can for, with what I have though. So if I have more than I can do more, I can give more.
So [01:05:00] that’s, that’s the balance I’d love to get to that point where. You know, I, I don’t really have to compromise, but even like Nolan says, he says he makes huge movies and he says, it’s called intelligent, compromised. So, you know, I’m sure at that level, you’re making a compromise, but of course when you’re that big gorilla than you’re, you’re carrying a lot of weight with you too, as well.
So everything costs money even down to, you know, just getting coffee, I’m sure it’s expensive just to get coffee, you know? Cause he had to feed everybody or get everyone a coffee. So it’s so
Jeff: yeah, sometimes producer Derek thing, D director, Derek’s an asshole. Like why did he spend the money here? I got, I can’t spend the money in this situation.
God damn director Derek.
Derek Ting: No, I think the good thing about me is that I, I I’m, I’m conscientious of. What, you know, being a producer and the director and I have other producers, so it’s not like, but I’m cautious with like, you know, what we’re going to spend. I mean, I think, you know, [01:06:00] overall, it’s just, it’s just about like getting the best out of what you have still, you know, and I think that part of being a producer is knowing what things cost.
If you’re a director and you don’t know what things cost and you just do it and then you can get yourself into a lot of trouble. That’s probably why a lot of big movies to get in trouble because they don’t know what it costs. They’re just like, well, why can’t I have this? Well, because it’s going to do this and do that.
So I’m always thinking about, well, if I do this, then the logistics behind that, so, okay, well I’d rather do this. So I’m making my decision quicker. I’m making my decision better, even like a lens change. You know, my like DP will be like, Oh, you know, let’s, you know, do you want to change the lens here? And I’m like, no.
Because if we go through that and then, you know, we got to change lights, then I’m going to lose 30 minutes and I’d rather get a couple more interesting takes out of this. Or, Oh, let’s try this. Let’s try that. Stay on that lens. I’m going to do this. You know? So that’s, that’s kinda like how I’m I’m I’m working is, is I know how much time I have.
[01:07:00] I know what’s going to cost me in, in those, in that time, how much, what I can bring and the technology and all that stuff. So. So
Jeff: one thing also, I wanted to you, cause you write reviews for new technologies for the South China morning post. Is that like being aware of the cutting edge of technology, is, does that help you with your filmmaking knowing what’s out there for you to use an already utilizing some of the stuff that you’re
Derek Ting: reviewing?
Well, thank you for You know, really just kind of knowing a lot about me and being very prepared for your interview. And and I, and it seems like you want to really understand making a film and how hard it is. Yeah, like we live in this age where technology is just amazing. It’s empowering.
It’s you know, so yeah, I’ve, I, I looked at a lot of, even, even for like those that one minute and a half continuous action sequence, I looked at a lot of technologies for that even. There was the sort of that bullet time thing you know, with the matrix, I was like, Oh, can I bring that into this film to experiment with it?
So things like [01:08:00] that, ultimately with that, I felt like. It is a bit gimmicky and I still felt like the technology really wasn’t there yet. It was just really time consuming and very choppy and didn’t look so good. So I was like, well, I don’t think we’re going to spend our money that way, you know? So yeah, I think that’s been definitely my, one of my edges is to, to do, to understand that on the camera front, you know, I think that’s what I’ve, I’ve understood too, to be able to be nimble.
I I’m really happy with, with the way the picture turned out and I experimented with really expensive red helium acts and I think that’s the helium red helium VK and you know, down to the Sony 4k, a seminar and. And ends up in HD when it goes out into all the major platforms. So, it’s interesting.
It’s interesting knowing like, okay, how much technology do I need? How much do I need to pay for it? Because that is another [01:09:00] pitfall for you know, for some people in the directors is you might spend way too much on the equipment and not really use any of that type of stuff. May not even be necessary to get a great looking picture.
Jeff: yeah, and I was really impressed what you did with the aliens. I mean, there it’s, it’s impressive. What, what, what do you do with them visually? What means that basic green screen is that, you know, was that computer, a computer generated for image was a different way that you went about it.
Derek Ting: Oh, thank you.
Well, thank you. Well, I, I I will tell you, it was a lot of struggle with alien. Cause I, I had nightmares about it even just trying to construct them because how are you going to make a costume look threatening? You know, it really, and then you have to construct the costume and that takes time.
And so if, you know, we had a lot of challenges with the alien. One was I had this idea that I wanted to incorporate [01:10:00] this history with. You know, that the aliens were all, you know, they had lived throughout time. And so maybe they, they even also came through the medieval area era. And so, you know, if you notice closely the main alien has chain mail on him.
So I ordered black chain mail from the site, you know, Chain mail is actually really, really heavy, I would imagine. So, so we hit the guy, you can move, but not for a very long time. So this presented many problems yeah, there were there a number of issues. I think the overall look was kind of there, but then I still felt even, you know, even if you have the best materials, it’s, doesn’t look so believable.
So, you know, with, with the visual effects I, I had this idea with the dark raves of Lord of the rings and I thought those were pretty [01:11:00] cool. And I also felt like, Oh, what if the, what if they use like the alien dust to be a part of the, like, that’s like a shield or part of their costume. So combined with that.
And that’s what I was, I thought, like that kind of idea, that it really made sense for their, their creative dust to be like, kind of this armor, this Misty kind of thing around them. Cause you know, I didn’t just want to make it like, Oh, they have their smoke, you know, they’re in one iteration, they just look like they’re on fire and see the 3d renders, you know, so I didn’t, but I wanted it to just, I want it to be justified.
So I discussed with you know, Chad femininity or our VFX guy supervisor on what’s the best look. And we, we felt like this was the best kind of made sense. Was a part of the story, looked threatening, all that, you know, so
[01:12:00] Jeff: no, the other thing too, the, the aliens had kind of like a shimmer to them.
Was I supposed to, that was like the time dilation thing.
Derek Ting: Shimmer and like, like look in the eyes or,
Jeff: When, like, towards the end of the movie, when they, when they appear the scene, there’s like a slight move. Like, it looks like almost like a visual, like movement in how they’re presented a little bit.
Derek Ting: Oh, when they come through that little nice little portal there. Oh, that was know, I give all the credit to my VFX supervisor. You know, and they they’re, they’re a great company and Marina Del Rey who was found through my friend who was the supervisor of Pacific rim. And he introduced them and, you know, and then you’ve seen on our social media that Yeah, they just did Falcon and winter soldier.
So they’re really, they’re really top, but he, it was, it was his, I had to give all credit to them. That was their idea. I had this entry where they’re walking in and I think, you know, didn’t think it was going to look that good and probably more movement meant more for [01:13:00] them. You know, cause that’s the thing you got to do.
It was track the track, the shots too. There’s there’s a cost to everything. There’s a method to everything. But he was like, he was like, Oh, well what if we did this? What do you think about this? I said, well, okay, surprise me on it. You know, I said, you know, so a lot of it is just kind of like letting them be creative and you know, I don’t think it looks pretty threatening and awesome.
Jeff: is the, I mean, like I said, I really thought you did a great job with alien revelation is, is the cul the next project lined up for you? Yeah.
Derek Ting: It is, I already wrote the script. We’re packaging it right now. We’ve picked up some new investors, so, you know, obviously if people watch the film and support it, that’s great.
We’re gonna go into streaming soon and, you know, have an even wider audience and different countries are opening up, but, you know, that’s all going to help and sort of the the making of part three, but yeah, I’ve already written part part three and it’s, I’m pretty excited [01:14:00] about it.
Jeff: Well, when does dooming start,
Derek Ting: you know, with the pandemic?
I don’t want to, I don’t want to do it while there’s a lot of challenges there. I don’t want to be testing everybody every day. So excuse me. I think I would like to be the end of this year. That would be the. That would be the goal, but we don’t, we don’t know yet, but that would be the goal. His film ended this year and release, I mean, I guess, I guess yeah, with visual effects, it will, it’ll take a while to, cause there’s a lot of visual effects that I’ve written then.
So I would assume a year from that at least.
Jeff: So I do hope that when it’s time to promote it, you’re going to come back on the show.
Derek Ting: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. Well, got it. I definitely hope so. I definitely hope so. I’ve made a lot of good friends on it, circuit, you know, and really cool people.
Jeff: well, I want to thank you. Mr. very much for coming on the show as it was a pleasure to watch alien revelation and it was a pleasure talking [01:15:00] with you.
Derek Ting: Yeah. It’s called chatting with you too. Thank you so much for having me on your show and you know yeah. Appreciate the
Jeff: time. Thank you.
It’s definitely my pleasure. Like I say, come back whenever you’re ready for promotion. You
Derek Ting: got it. You got it. All right. Awesome.