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A feature length documentary film exploring modern mixed martial arts and traditional kung fu in China
A feature length documentary film exploring modern mixed martial arts and traditional kung fu in China
244 backers pledged $16,245 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$16,245

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The Story

Over the past couple decades, kung fu has taken a back seat to a new combat phenomenon, mixed martial arts, or MMA. MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and the new proving ground for anyone who considers themselves "the greatest warrior on the planet".

Our documentary, The New Masters, explores the meeting of these two martial styles in Mainland China. We follow MMA fighters and kung fu masters as they navigate new landscapes, feed their families, seek out the Tao, and fight for the pride of a nation. The film will also explain how the martial arts in China are a metaphor for China's own emergence onto the world stage. Traditional culture, in this case kung fu, is being diluted and transformed by commercial considerations and the sweeping power of globalization, represented by MMA and the general mixing of martial arts worldwide.

Zou Fan, a female former bare-knuckle fighter who has since retired and built a kungfu fortress in the Chongqing mountains
Zou Fan, a female former bare-knuckle fighter who has since retired and built a kungfu fortress in the Chongqing mountains

The film also shows how the confluence of traditional and modern martial arts in China is already having an impact on the Chinese sports system, changing the way coaches train their charges, and forcing staid sports associations to rethink their rules and regulations. Similarly, the myths and legends of kung fu are brought to life - not on the screen as a martial arts epic, as has been case for the last few decades -  but in the ring, side by side with MMA, and in the mountain retreats of old masters long retired from the bare knuckle circuits.

The global MMA movement is forcing traditional Chinese kung fu to view itself in its true, unvarnished form - in effect helping kung fu adapt to a changing world. This introspective process also stands to increase kung fu's already powerful influence on modern MMA, by infusing the mixed martial arts movement with a martial spirit rooted in tradition, a spirit that goes beyond pure technique and efficiency in a fight. 

The New Masters is also a poignant look at one critical aspect of China's rise: How can China's most treasured cultural traditions contribute to the modern world? Is there more to modern China than just cheap exports and the breakneck commercialization of a once-Communist hermit?

This is a question that grips many Chinese today, and although discourse in China is dynamic, much of it is overlooked in favor of economic and (mostly negative) political news. The martial arts are one forum for this conversation.

We want to to bring this larger story to the screen, and we need your help to do it.

Rewards

We have a great list of rewards for you to consider when backing our project: one-of-a-kind looks into the martial arts world in China, amazing exhibition quality photographs, and world class design from Beijing-based Lava Studios, who created our website for us

Check out the full rewards list in the sidebar >>

Photobooks

As a sign of gratitude for your support, we will offer both a digital and printed photobook of images and mementos from the field, shot and put together the film's cinematography team of Christopher Cherry, David Dempsey, and Graeme Nicol, who all come from a background in professional photography. We will have dozens of excellent photographs to choose from, as well as curios and other storytelling images.

Sample image
Sample image

T-Shirt

We want you to not only have a memento of helping out this film project, but also a really beautiful, well-made T-shirt that you can wear anytime. Below are some sample designs for the shirts. We'll have more as the campaign progresses, and backers will have the chance to choose any design they want at the end of the campaign.

Choose The Monk, The Hammer, The Staredown, The Portrait, or The Script (all come in black or white)
Choose The Monk, The Hammer, The Staredown, The Portrait, or The Script (all come in black or white)

Hoodie

The New Masters Hoodie
The New Masters Hoodie

Printed Images

Sample image for deluxe prints
Sample image for deluxe prints

We really want to express how grateful we are for your help and support. So we are putting together a collection of deluxe glicee prints of our best and most evocative images.

These unique mementos are designed and crafted by members of our crew, using material gathered throughout the production. They are a small token of our appreciation for your support in helping us bring this story to life, a story we feel will illuminate stories that have remained in the shadow. If this isn't enough to express our gratitude for your support, how about checking out the sidebar to find out more details about how you could:

  • Be with us at screenings of The New Masters in cool little venues across the globe!
  • See your name on the Silver Screen!
  • Get your hands on some signed MMA shorts and gloves!
  • Receive a postcard from China!
  • Or train with a kung fu master yourself!

Why this Kickstarter? 

We are halfway through this project, and we need you to help us push through and bring this story to the big screen. We have traveling to do, equipment to procure, and a whole lot of filming to do yet. So far this has been a labor of love and passion - we've poured our own time and resources into this project, but now it's time to take it to the next level. Some expense we have:

  • Storage: Over the past 6 months we have already accumulated almost 5TB of footage, and anticipate shooting another 15TB more before we wrap and head to the edit. To better organize our storage system, have enough room to make duplicates of everything, and drives dedicated for the edit, we need to purchase an additional 40 TB of storage.
  • Camera upgrades: Thus far we have been shooting on a combination of Canon 5DMkII, MkIII and C100 cameras, but would like to have a more uniform look to our footage. To produce the highest-quality material we can within a tight budget, we would like to purchase a C100 MkII to proceed as our main camera. In addition, we would like to occasionally rent out a Canon C100 as a b-camera for larger shoots such as arena fights. 
  • Other necessary gear: We are just as concerned about sound as we are image. With our camera upgrade, we plan to purchase a new Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic to replace our Rode video mics, as well as a second lav mic for interviews with multiple characters. We would also like to get the necessary equipment to increase the quality of our footage in-camera so that we have more flexibility in the edit. We will also be purchasing equipment insurance to cover all liability, should we get too close to the action when filming a sparring match.
  • Travel: China is a big country, and there are MMA competitions and kung fu masters scattered all across it.  We will continue to choose the most budget-friendly methods to make our way out to those places to get the footage that will make this film sparkle.
  • People: Just because this is our labour of love doesn't mean we expect it to be for everyone. Expenses have and will continue to run the gamut: webmasters and designers to keep our website updated as the project evolves; transcription services to help us keep on top of our interviews; local drivers to help us reach the kung fu queen's castle for further filming and other remote locations; the list goes on.Everyone knows that making a film is a huge team effort, and we want to make sure we can compensate those who are willing to lend a hand.

We are hoping that with your support, we will be able to reach our goal of $15k USD to keep The New Masters in motion. While this amount will not see us over the finish line, it will give us the financial injection we need to continue moving in that direction. As we have been producing this project on a threadbare shoestring thus far, we can appreciate the importance of stretching every last dollar. To make sure we are getting the most mileage out of your contributions, we plan to re-sell all equipment purchased for the project to reinvest in future costs.

If we surpass our goal of $15k, we will allocate all extra funding toward the edit.

Thank you so much for your help!

Why you? 

Because you love great stories and want to be a part of bringing The New Masters to a larger audience. Your support can make this film happen, and aside from the good feeling of having contributed to a great and meaningful story, you will also have our eternal gratitude and some rewards and mementos that will allow you, our most important supporters, to share in the experience.

Take another look at the trailer, peruse the rewards to the right, and another heartfelt thank you from the entire crew for taking the time to look at this project.

If you are not in a position to support this film financially, please consider donating a shout-out to our Kickstarter campaign on your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms. If you mention us, we'll make sure to add you to our mailing list so you can stay updated on the progress of our production. Similarly, please joining us on our Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.

Thank you!

Chris and David filming TUF Featherweight Champion Ning Guangyou and son atop the Great Wall
Chris and David filming TUF Featherweight Champion Ning Guangyou and son atop the Great Wall

The Crew

Directors and Cinematographers Christopher Cherry and David Dempsey are the Scottish-born heart and soul of this film project. They read a story about a tomato can fighter getting crushed by a Kazakh beast, and picked up that thread until it led them to the Shaolin Temple.

There they met Screenwriter and Producer Sascha Matuszak, the author of the aforementioned tomato can-gets-crushed story, and the three of them formed like Voltron around the idea of a film describing the story they had been covering at the time: MMA meets Kungfu. The three of them worked on the project for more than a half-year before Sascha ran into Producer Kira Leinonen in Sichuan, and realized that here was the woman who could put together all of the pieces and make their dreams come true.

By then, Christopher had pulled in visual guru and Director of Photography Graeme Nicol - yet another Scot - and the team was established.

This is the dedicated crew that will take this thing to the finish line, and you just read the story on how we all met. For in-depth bios of each member, visit our website's Bio Page.

Risks and challenges

Making a film is very challenging.

The biggest concern any backer may have is: can this team really complete this film?

We have put together a strong team of dedicated individuals. We are each contributing to the production a specific skill set, and a whole lot of heart, to see the project through to the end.

So far, our biggest challenges have been budget and distance. We have missed out on several filming opportunities because of lack of funding to get to where we needed to be, and sometimes found ourselves scrambling once we did get there to make one-lav-fit-all in group interviews. But if we have been able to make it happen, albeit at times very, very "creatively," your support will only enable us to keep moving forward with the proper resources to match our commitment to telling this story.

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Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    In Training: Thank you so much, every bit helps! You're now part of the New Master's crew. We'll give you a shout-out on our official supporters' list on the New Master's Website!

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    Flyweight: A heartfelt thank you! In addition to joining our mailing list for regular updates throughout the production, we'll give you a shout-out on our official supporters' list on the New Master's Website, and a personal thank-you via our Facebook and Twitter sites.

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    Bantamweight:  Not only will we give you a shout-out on our New Master's website for your support, let the whole world know how grateful we are with a personal thank you via our Facebook and Twitter sites, and send you a private link to view the film once it is online - We'll also put together a handwritten postcard from the road and send it to you.

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    Featherweight: Everything from the Bantamweight package, plus a "Special Thanks" in the final credits of the film!  

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    Lightweight: Everything from the Featherweight package, plus a digital photobook of behind-the-scenes images taken from the field and stills from the production.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Lightweight: Everything from the Featherweight package plus a New Masters T-Shirt (comes in black or white; S, M, L, XL - check out designs to your left)

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Lightweight: Everything from the Featherweight package plus a New Masters T-Shirt (comes in black or white; S, M, L, XL - check out designs to your left)

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Lightweight Plus: Same as Lightweight, but with both the digital photobook and the New Masters t-shirt!

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    Super Lightweight: Same as Lightweight, but with both the digital photobook and the New Masters hoodie!

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Welterweight: Everything from the Featherweight package (Shout out on the site and on social media, private link, Special Thanks in the Final Credits) plus …. A printed photobook of high quality medium format Mamiya prints taken in the field, mixed with essays on the character featured.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Middleweight: Everything from the Welterweight Package, plus TWO TICKETS TO ONE OF OUR EXCLUSIVE SCREENINGS in Glasgow, Berlin, Beijing, Shanghai, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Montreal or New York … We'll also add in a New Masters T-Shirt and a drink with the directors after the official Q&A! (travel and accommodations not included)

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    Heavyweight: Everything from the Middleweight Package (Shout out on the site and on social media, private link, Special Thanks in the Final Credits, printed photobook, T-shirt and tix to a screening) plus a pair of MMA FIGHT SHORTS signed by one of the characters in our film.

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    Heavyweight: Everything from the Middleweight Package plus A PAIR OF MMA GLOVES signed by one of the characters in our film.

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    Pledge $450 or more About $450

    Light Heavyweight: Everything from the Middleweight Package, as well as a limited edition exhibition quality deluxe glicee print (15" by 15") taken with a medium format Mamiya camera.

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    Warrior: Everything from the Middleweight Package, plus signed Shorts and Gloves

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Disciple: Everything from the Middleweight Package, signed Shorts and Gloves, and a limited edition exhibition quality deluxe glicee print (15" by 15") taken with a medium format Mamiya camera.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Master: Everything from Disciple, plus A WEEK'S TRAINING AT A MMA GYM or A KUNGFU SCHOOL in China (travel and insurance not included!)

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    Grandmaster status. The Master package, Associate Producer credits on the film and a private dinner with the crew! (dates and location to be determined)

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Funding period

- (30 days)