Jackie Chan is known to be an action actor performing his own crazy stunts with comedy. In many of his films, he’ll use anything in his fight scenes (chairs, ladders, staircases, bicycles, etc.)
While other films try to add action comedy, it just doesn’t seem to come together as well as Jackie Chan’s films. So how does he do it?
These points are broken down into nine simple principles Zhou summarized on Twitter, which are:
- Start with a disadvantage.
- Use the environment.
- Be clear in your shots.
- Action and reaction in the same frame.
- Do as many takes as necessary.
- Let the audience feel the rhythm.
- In editing two good hits = one great hit.
- Pain is humanizing.
- Earn your finish.
Zhou explains that the technique Chan uses is similar to a classic one used by silent films for basic comedy. Additionally, every shot is clear and visible, never in the dark or hard to see.
Another defining factor is that Chan is a martial artist so there’s very little camera movement to create the illusion of someone able to fight. It’s always at a wide angle so you can see him and what he’s doing with clarity.
Time is also another issue. The video shows an interview clip where Chan is stating the differences between American and Chinese films and how the lack of time to make a movie in American films shows the lack of quality. Chan tends to re-take shots many times to make sure it’s perfect with his Chinese films, that can often take months to shoot a fight scene, which isn’t always an option in American films. And while he’s filming, yes, sometimes he does get hurt on set, but as Zhou said, he’s a “perfectionist.”
For anyone wanting to understand how to make action comedy awesome in their films or to have a better understanding and appreciation for action comedy movies that can remain timeless, keep this one in your notes.
The most difficult thing is when I throw the fan and it coming back. More than 120 take[s]. Those kind of things, “Oh Jackie good!”. It’s not good. You can do it, except do you have the patience or not.
Here are some of the interview video clips Zhou used in his video: