In part 2 of this OUTLAWVERN.COM EXCLUSIVE series, author david j. moore talks to NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR cinematographer Ross Clarkson on set. Here’s david:
One of the pleasant surprises while visiting the Bangkok, Thailand set of Isaac Florentine’s Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, was hanging out with the cinematographer, Ross Clarkson. I had lunch with him several times over the course of the few days I was on set, and I found him to be jovial and consistently likable, despite the fact that I could clearly see that he was under pressure while under the restraints of a tight budget and schedule for the film. Clarkson, an Australian living in Hong Kong, got his big break working with Ringo Lam, and has shot numerous films with some of the greatest action stars in the business, including Dolph Lundgren, Michael Jai White, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and of course Scott Adkins.
I would periodically ask him about working with guys like Van Damme, and he would drop a funny line about him, or some of the others, and even told me that Van Damme was his best man at his wedding. Clarkson was a never-ending trove of great stories, but most of them were off the record. After lunch one afternoon, he showed me the rough footage of some of the action scenes for Ninja 2, and asked me what I thought. I was in awe. Even the rough footage looked amazing. On my last day on set, I asked him what his next project was, and he told me that he was going to be making his directorial debut on a Gary Daniels action film, and as an afterthought, he hooked me up with Daniels’ email, which I thought was incredibly cool of him. It’s guys like Ross Clarkson who make action stars look great on film, and his work on Ninja: Shadow of a Tear is going to blow you away.
You’ve filmed seven of Isaac Florentine’s films. You keep coming back for more. Why?
You’d wonder why, wouldn’t you? Isaac has got a lot of talent. He needs the right crew to work with him. There’s a total reason why I work with him all the time. I understand what he wants, when he gets a little bit stressed. It doesn’t bother me at all because I come from Hong Kong. There’s the support there. At the end of the day, hopefully it looks good.
You’ve worked with a bunch of action stars in your career – Dolph Lundgren, Van Damme, Michael Jai White, and Scott Adkins a few times now. What is it like working on these action and martial arts movies?
It’s challenging. It’s fun. Because you’ve got these guys jumping all over the place doing really cool stuff. And just to try to keep the camera on them while they’re doing all this- to work with them – it’s very exciting. From a camera operating point of view, it’s quite a challenge because they’re pretty quick.
I’m going to name a few movies you’ve worked on. Just saw a few words about working on these movies. First one: Direct Contact.
That was Dolph Lundgren doing Die Hard. Blow up everything. It had a lot of scenes from other movies. I shot all the other movies. (Laughing.) There’s a taxi chase from Derailed. Bits and pieces.
That was Dolph’s second directing one. He let me have a lot of influence on him. He accepted a lot of ideas. We spoke about everything a lot. Worked through it all. The story, camera angles, everything. It showed. It’s a good-looking film.
Replicant was a great film. Ringo Lam always brings out the best in Van Damme. Especially the end ambulance chase. For a one-car car chase, it was fantastic. It took at least seven days and four ambulances to destroy to finish it. That was a lot of fun, that one. And Michael Rooker, he agreed to hang up the side of the ambulances as we’re gonna hit four cars. And I said, “Dude, I’m coming with ya!” So I strapped myself on the ceiling so I can look over at the side of his face as we hit four cars. It was quite fun!
You’ve worked with Scott Adkins a few times.
He’s got a huge potential. He just needs the right vehicle to blast off. Undisputed II should have gone to the cinema. I met one of the guys who was at the meeting. I met one of them at a boardroom table where there were eight to ten people. There was only one who was against it not getting a release. If that had gotten released, it would have changed a lot of people’s careers. But it didn’t. Not only did it not, but it was held back too. That was a huge bummer.
Talk about working on Ninja 2.
This time it’s a little more personal for the character. He’s out for blood. There’s a different motivation. We’re playing Japan, Thailand, and Burma, so it’s a bit more dirty and down to earth.
What can fans of Scott Adkins, Isaac Florentine, and action movies in general expect from this movie?
It’s got the most number of fights I’ve done on a film. Out of a 36 days schedule, there’s 10 days of not fighting.
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If you missed it the first interview in this series was with Kane Kosugi