The Australian connection

Brent Houghton was interviewed alongside Mike Lambert by Tom Mes for a 1998 article called The Hong Kong Connection. Both men were interviewed because they had just been in Jackie Chan’s Who Am I? Unlike Mike, Brent did more than be in front of the camera. He was also employed as a set decorator. Tom’s H.K. site was shut down for good and for so long. Mike said nothing new, so I left in Brent’s words from what I archived…

Brent said: I did Iron Fist, a really low-budget Australian martial arts movie with Richard Norton. For six months, I worked on it for free. Straight after that, I worked on this really crappy kids show for about a month. When that was finishing, Jackie Chan’s First Strike was just starting and some of the crew were going on to it. I just called the right person at the right time and they were looking for someone. I got this props buyer’s job and sort of got on really well with the props master. They came back to Australia for the next film (Mr. Nice Guy), and called me again. Then when I did the Jet Li film in Texas (Once Upon a Time in China and America), they couldn’t find a local crew who would work hard enough, fast enough, do what they asked, and when they asked it, rather than stand around to question everything. So they asked me to come over there, which was good. So I’ve been pretty lucky.

I’ve learned a lot in terms of…for instance – stunt rigging, how they make stuff safe for stunts. I had no idea how much padding they put into it. They have padded floors. They might have tables and put padding all the way around before spraying it the same color. On screen, you see these really hard falls, and you think – “Wow, didn’t that hurt?” But they pad it more than you think. None of the H.K. films that I’ve worked on were really low-budget, but I’ll really know some great tricks to use when I go back to making low-budget films. When I was at film school, I realized that a martial arts film hadn’t been done in Australia since The Man From Hong Kong with Jimmy Wang Yu. So I decided to do that with The Huntsman, and it was the best fun that I ever had making a film. It turned out well. Some of the fight stuff turned out better than I had expected.

I’ve tried sending it to Jackie and I got a letter back from his fan club, saying Thank you for your interest. Some of the places, that I sent it to, would send my tape back like three months later, or a year later. I got one back two years later, the one I sent to Tsui Hark. I sent one to John Woo in America. He sent me a letter back, his assistant called me and all sorts of stuff. So that was really cool. Then I just got really lucky working on two Jackie films and two Sammo Hung films. The films that I’ve done have been a good series of events with the right people. There are still a few other people who I’d like to work with, but I’m seeing what I want to see before going back to do my own thing. So this is like an education to really become a feature director.

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