How a British man broke into Hong Kong’s martial arts film industry
Originally published at the South China Morning Post on November 12, 2016.
Film producer and martial arts enthusiast Bey Logan has had a love affair with kung fu since he was a teenager. Known for his role in producing hits like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and the documentary Jackie Chan: My Story, locally based Logan has built a notable career in the film industry since he first stepped foot on Hong Kong soil more than two decades ago.
In addition to running his own film company and operating a kung fu school, he’s now shifting his focus towards promoting southern Chinese martial arts culture and giving back to the community that nurtured his passion.
His brand, Reel East, holds events promoting such southern Chinese skills primarily through local martial arts films. Logan launched the initiative a few months ago because he saw the city lacked a platform from which to discuss and spread awareness of Hong Kong martial arts cinema and the art of kung fu.
“I feel that martial arts has had a huge beneficial influence on my life,” Logan, who is 55, said. “The tapestry of the southern Chinese martial arts culture ... I think is the cornerstone of what has made Hong Kong special, made Hong Kong famous. We should celebrate it.”
Born in Stamford, England, Logan grew up idolising Bruce Lee. During a visit to Hong Kong in the early 1980s, he was able to meet Jackie Chan and other prominent kung fu actors and directors. He decided there and then that he wanted to return to the city to work in the martial arts film industry.
In 1994, he moved to Hong Kong, where he has carved a name for himself in the field and worked with many industry icons such as Donnie Yen, Maggie Quigley (Maggie Q) and more. His latest release, Lady Bloodfight, is now playing in Cambodia and Vietnam.
“It felt like an unrealistic dream. It was like saying I wanted to work on Mars,” Logan recalled. “My dad is an accountant and my mum is a nurse. They were so confused when I came back and said I wanted to make kung fu movies. They thought it was the most bizarre thing.”
When Logan first arrived, he felt at a disadvantage because he was a Westerner and the industry was entirely Cantonese focused, he said. He became relatively fluent in Cantonese over the years, and is now attempting to learn Putonghua.
“I had enough of a handicap showing up, being a white guy. Increasingly people spoke more English, which helped me a lot.”
Logan operates the Kwai Fung Martial Club with his instructor Mak Che-kong. It teaches traditional Chinese Hung Gar kung fu, originating from the city of Foshan, and currently has about 60 students.
According to Logan, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done on fostering local appreciation of martial arts culture. Kung fu has lifelong benefits and may help individuals balance the demands of body, mind and spirit, as well as foster mental strength. Unlike most physical disciplines, practitioners may continue to practise and benefit from martial arts in their more mature years, he said.
“As a body, mind and spirit practice, it hasn’t been sold to the public in the right way. The problem is not the quality of the art, or the need people have [for it]. As a community we haven’t reached out in the appropriate way. You can apply [kung fu] principles in business or in daily life. I think that spiritual aspect is very useful.”
WHAT IS IT?
Reel East is dedicated to promoting southern Chinese martial arts culture through a variety of media.
● Hosts bi-weekly events
● With an entry fee of HK$100, events typically include a film, a live commentary, snacks, a kung fu demonstration and a question and answer session
● Archives classic Hong Kong films and material related to martial arts
● Events are billingual