DragonBall Z is a name that resonates with people all over the world, not just for being a popular anime but also for Hollywood's shameful attempt at adapting it. In order to save DBZ from live-action purgatory, it would need the help of its loyal fans. Harry Kirby and George Kirby are those fans and K & K productions is their filmmaking company. STARBURST had the opportunity to speak to them about their work.
STARBURST: When did your appreciation for film begin, beyond just being a fan? What was the catalyst which made you think you could make your own films?
Harry Kirby: We were introduced to film at a very young age and I can remember being obsessed with Star Wars. Our dad gave us a video camera when were in our early teens and we would make stop motion LEGO films. One of the films that really inspired us to want to make our own, was Jurassic Park. That film blew our minds at the cinema and it got such a huge reaction from the audience. After that we were both saying that we wanted to create that buzz and reaction for other people.
Which actors or filmmakers did you look at for influence? When you looked at these was there anything in particular you liked?
HK: James Cameron is a huge inspiration to me. Aliens is probably my favourite film. I just love the way he creates entire worlds and draws you into his movies. Plus he is great at directing action.
GK: I'm a big fan of Zack Snyder. The way his films are so stylized really appeals to me. He is another great action director.
Which films or filmmakers did you look at and think 'I don't want to be compared to that movie or person'?
HK: DragonBall Evolution! (Laughs)
Did you ever have in mind what kind of films you wanted to make? Or was the first goal just to make a film?
HK: Well the film we discussed making the most was a DragonBall Z movie. We are both huge fans of the anime and it combines everything we love. Action, martial arts, fantastical abilities, great characters and story. What more do could you want! So in terms of a feature length movie, that's what we have our sites on.
When you were learning the process of making a film, what challenges did you have to overcome?
HK: We are always learning and every shoot provides new challenges. When we directed the live action DragonBall Z Saiyan Saga trailer, it was a huge learning curve. I'd say one of the biggest joys and challenges is working with other people. When you have a team that works well it creates a really great atmosphere. If there is someone on the team that doesn't jell or isn't on the same page creatively, it can cause issues, but you have to keep everyone happy and working toward your end goal.
When you were watching DragonBall Z, did you ever think it would be good as a movie? Did you think it only worked as an anime?
HK: It would be amazing as a movie! There would have to be some minor tweaks to ground it in reality a little more, but the story and characters are so strong. Plus the visual effects would be very important, because they are what's needed to bring the audience into the DBZ universe and replicate the epic fight scenes.
Had you begun making the film or were you still studying when Hollywood announced a DragonBall Z movie?
HK: When DB Evolution came out I was 25 and George was 22. We had made a few short films by that point. Our disappointment in that film was one of the catalysts for us making the Saiyan Saga trailer.
As word of this movie spread what were your thoughts initially? Were you worried or confident in Hollywood's ability?
HK: We were trying to stay optimistic as we give every film a chance, but as we saw more footage in the trailers our optimism waned!
When the trailer was released and then when you saw the movie, what did you think?
HK: We thought it missed the mark on pretty much every aspect of the film. The casting, the changes in story, the action... everything! When you have the amazing source material that is DBZ, why change it so much?
Your approach to Dragonball Z seems to be grounded while staying true to the source material. Was this the intention as fans of the show yourself?
HK: Yes we felt that the crazy bright colours of DBZ wouldn't translate so well in live action. So we toned them down a bit. Goku's Gi is orange, but it's just a bit earthier. We wanted to stay true to the characters and the feel of DBZ, so we stuck closely to the source material in those respects.
How did you fund this project?
HK: We used a crowd funding platform called IndieGoGo, which is much like Kickstarter. We initially put together a cast, scouted locations and then we put a video on YouTube showing the cast and locations we would be using and expressing our passion for DBZ. We then hit Twitter and Facebook and made sure we kept people constantly updated on what we were doing. This got a great reaction and we raised three times as much money as we initially asked for, which was amazing!
Where did you film the Saiyan Saga trailer? Did you enjoy shooting at these locations?
HK: It was in a place called Dorset in the UK. Disney had actually just finished shooting some scenes for the film John Carter. It was a beautiful location and we felt very lucky to shoot there. We also got to film at PineWood studios, which was a big dream come true for us. We were right opposite the 007 sound stage.
When you were editing and putting the finishing the touches on it did you worry about what the reaction might be of the trailer?
HK: We knew we wouldn't please everyone, but we felt we had stayed true to DBZ and that was what we set out to achieve. So we were happy and just hopped other DBZ fans would be. With 7 million views and a 93% approval rating on YouTube, we think that they were.
When you posted the trailer online, what was it like seeing the reaction?
HK: It was amazing! We got 2.5 million views in the first week and now we are up to 7 million. We literally read every comment! It was such a rush seeing that people were enjoying it and we felt privileged to have become a larger part of the DBZ community. Yahoo! Japan also shared the trailer, which was really cool, because it meant the Japanese DBZ fans got to see it as well.
You recently attended Sunnycon. What was it like seeing fans of your work and speaking to those people?
HK: We really enjoyed ourselves. It was so nice to meet some of our fans and chat about DBZ. We will be returning next year and we are attending 3 or 4 other cons this year.
You have also made a trailer for the Freiza Saga, is it your hope that you can make a movie or web series? Have you spoken to any studios in order for this to possibly happen?
HK: We have made two teasers for the Frieza Saga. One based on the Super Saiyan transformation and the other showing Frieza himself. For now that is where was have stopped as we are trying to secure the rights to do a high budget web series based on DBZ. We are currently in meetings to try and make this happen, so watch this space!
What do you hope for the future for K & K productions? What other projects are you working on?
HK: We hope that we'll be bringing a full DBZ web series to your screens soon. We are also working on some other fun short films and have a new DBZ video being released in the next few months.
For more information on K & K PRODUCTIONS, you can visit the following:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/K8KProductions