Willie Ying is the Kiwi filmmaker and rising international star you’ve never heard of, but his backstory is one that sounds like a film plot in and of itself. Coming to Auckland at the age of 12 and attending Kelston Boys’ High School in the 1990s, he was the target of bullies. But like any great story the vanquished would become victor- inspired by a book by Bruce Lee, Willie would begin to train in martial arts… and the rest is history.
He would forge a career as a stuntman specialising in Chinese martial arts that would see him working on international productions based in New Zealand like Power Rangers, The Warriors Way and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2. He has worked on more than 22 shows in the last 14 years from Hollywood movies to major TV productions in China.
From this career in stunt work developed a passion for filmmaking and Willie developed his filmmaking career alongside a busy professional practice as an Auckland-based stunt coordinator and choreographer, specialising in high-wire acrobatic stunts.
In what feels like a homecoming of sorts, Willie’s latest film The Final Blade is screening in Auckland on August 9th at Event Cinemas (St Lukes, Albany, Queen Street). Since its release, The Final Blade has won a slew of awards, including the Remi Special Jury Award at the 51st Houston International Film Festival, World Cinema Best Narrative Feature at the 22nd Kanas City International film festival, and Best Feature at the 2nd London Independent Film Awards.
The Final Blade features plenty of action and a plot that could only have come out of China with its passion for period dramas, fractured heroes and quirky side notes of history. It is the story of the treasured Chicken Cup, a prized relic that is lost during a battle 300 years after it was seized from the palace of General Li by a group of assassins led by the Imperial Guards of Ming. It is up to a noodle shop owner (a warrior in hiding) and his young apprentice to find and protect the Cup.
Willie is especially keen to see his film attract audiences in NZ, because of future projects he’s planning. He’s excited by the new wave of NZ-based Asian filmmakers, actors and writers who traverse geographic and cultural boundaries. “I have always seen NZ as my home. My next step is to bring NZ and China together in a movie co-production…Maori culture and the Chinese culture are very similar and there is the potential for strong connections between our audiences,” he says.
For more information about The Final Blade‘s screenings in Auckland, and to book tickets, visit the Event Cinemas website.