Film is a great medium for communication. No one knows this better than Calgary director Corey Lee, who chose to reconnect with his estranged father, Frank Lee, through a documentary. The film, Legend of a Warrior, explores Corey’s relationship with his father, Frank Lee, a Canadian martial arts legend.
Corey, now well-known himself for his film work (most notably his debut feature film Defining Edward), had been estranged from his father for the past 20 years. After having children of his own, Corey realized the importance of re-establishing his relationship with his father and reconnecting with his Chinese heritage not only for himself, but his children.
Ian Day, a local film editor, was brought in by Corey and producer Sue Bristow to help compile a trailer to for the NFB. Ian had previously worked on a few of Corey’s short films at Joe Media. “As he’s one of Calgary’s most talented directors, I was pretty excited,” Ian said. “I discovered that Corey had been trying to put this documentary together for almost 10 years, and when he explained the premise behind it I was immediately on board.”
After cutting the trailer and pitching it to the NFB, it sat around for some time. Eventually production started with the help of Corkscrew Media. Shooting began in 2011 when Corey started training at his father’s gym in Edmonton. The next six months were spent mostly isolated with his father, embedded in Frank’s world of high-stress martial arts training. Close to the end of the six months Corey and Frank flew to Hong Kong to explore their roots.
“When all was done, I started to piece together the near 100 hours of footage,” said Ian.
Working over the summer and fall, going back and forth, Corey and Ian finally got a fine cut down to 78 minutes by late December.
“That whole process was an incredibly rewarding experience,” Ian said. “This film was the first time anyone given me the opportunity to cut a feature length documentary and during it I realized that what I want to do with my career is be an editor on documentary films.”
“There seem to be two camps in the editing community these days. Technically adept Adobe After Effects adept graphic heavy editors and Story editors. I am a story editor, and this film helped me to realize that fully.”
Ian enjoyed the film’s collaborative process, developing a friendship with Corey over the course of the postproduction.
“I am extremely proud to have worked on this movie. Frank Lee is a character that needs to have his story told, and through Corey’s eyes is the perfect way in which to tell that story,” Ian said.
The film premiered in May at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto to an overwhelmingly positive reaction. Ian hopes “that the audiences in Calgary react in similar way.”
Legend of a Warrior premieres in Calgary this Friday, September 7th, 7 p.m. at the Plaza Theatre. Director Corey Lee will be present for a Q&A session after the film.