Big Mike was kind enough to share some advice on how to break into the film industry through martial arts. Mike is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. Very down to earth and very humbling to talk to. Especially since he has worked on some of the biggest films in the industry and biggest names.
Here is Mikes message to SAN SHU UK students. I hope to visit/work with Mike soon in Hong Kong.
If anyone has any questions for mike please speak to Shifu.
Greetings Sanshu UK students
Young master Tom asked me if I could pass on some info and advice ref breaking into film etc. I'm Mike Leeder, based in Hong Kong and I work as a Casting Director and Line producer/Facilitator for various projects from East & West, including Fearless with Jet Li, Rush Hour 3 with Jackie Chan, Ip Man 2 with Donnie Yen, Keanau Reeves Man of Tai Chi, and RZA's Man with the Iron Fists amongst others.
I was born and raised in the UK, I'm a Croydon boy but lets not judge me by that! And managed to somehow get through school, college and a little bit of higher education before finding myself working in the late lamented Allders of Croydon, selling lights and mirrors. Now I'd always dabbled with various martial arts and loved martial arts movies especially those from Hong Kong, so in 1990 i was feeling like I wasn't sure if Allders was where I wanted to stay and took a leave of absence and set off to HK in search of fame and fortune, and 23 years later I'm still here and still looking for both!
But I do feel it was the best decision i ever made, yes its had its ups and downs both personally and professionally at times, but without sounding clichéd I've had the pleasure and the honour to work with many of my heroes, i am able to count some of them as friends and am far happier following my dreams than i would have been if I'd stayed behind the counter. I came out here originally working as an actor (well i call it acting!) but i soon realized my skills were nowhere near as good as they should be and have focused more of my time behind the camera, although i do sometimes get called back in front and have just finished a double role on a HK thriller called HELIOS playing evil twins and am currently in Shanghai about to cause trouble for Eddie Peng who plays the legendary Chinese martial arts hero Wong Fei-hong in Rise of the Legend, a new take on the Once Upon A Time in China series of movies.
Now times have changed since i was a kid trying to get into the industry, back in the days of VHS etc making a showreel for instance took some considerable effort, now its easy as pie with everyone boasting a HD camera and pretty much every computer having workable edit software, you don't need FINAL CUT PRO or PREMIERE, you can do just as much for a demo reel on Windows Movie Maker or I-Movie, just takes the effort. You can also use the internet to promote yourself, something that didn't exist back when i first started trying to get into film.
Set up a website for instance. and find out how to add the key words that a search engine will pick up on that will promote you, martial arts, weapons, stunts, special skills etc, put together a basic resume, listing what you can do, your height, your basic stats, have some photos for instance a clear headshot, a full body shot, and a couple of action/martial arts shots, go out and shoot yourself doing martial arts for the camera, review it, cringe, work out where you went wrong and go and do it again until you have something that you feel presents what you can do, ideally 2-3 minutes is fine. Go to youtube and search for MARTIAL ARTS showreels/demo reels and you'll get a great chance to see good and bad reels, don't copy someone else's but it can inspire you as to what works and what doesn't etc. Now its very easy to say but what's the point, why should i do this, will anyone ever see it and cast me from it? And the answer is yes, sometimes that's how it goes.....Damian Walters is an insanely talented physical performer and has worked stunts on all manner of project including Kick Ass, Hellboy 2 etc and he caught the attention of fight choreographer/2nd unit director Brad Allan from Jackie Chan's stunt-team after Brad saw his reels online.... I could write an entire article about what you should or shouldn't do ref getting into the industry, in fact i already have...you can check it out at;
Now is there a lot of competition out there for performers? yes there is, and the more skills you can bring into play the better, don't just be the best kicker, work on your hands, your weapon skills, your reactions, your gymnastics, take some acting classes, get comfortable in front of the camera, be prepared to have to prove what you can and can't do, don't b*******t it as you can end up not only making yourself look stupid but also hurting your rep and yourself or even worse other people....Do not invent a career for yourself, make up endless movies that you claim to have appeared in that never actually come out, there's a few people in the UK who sell themselves as established action performers/coordinators etc but have actually very little to back it up when you look into it, and yet people outside the industry seem to buy into it while nobody in the industry takes
Attitude goes a very long way, i had always wondered about one UK based martial arts actor, great look, very good skills and I'd always wondered why they hadn't gone further and then i worked with them, and all my questions were answered, bad attitude, ego out of control and utter lack of respect, and well in the film his role is nothing more than a blink and you'll miss it cameo for a very good reason! Be polite, be humble, let your actions speak louder than your words, it can be tough, and there is a hell of a lot of rejection at times, but its also very rewarding and if its something you really want to do then go for it!