Few people live a life that is studded with the experiences of performing stunts in big budget films. Fewer still can move, flip, laugh, or smile like Pat Chu can.
Over the years, Pat has crafted a career as a stunt performer who seems able to perform any fight, fall, or flip you want (you’ve never truly seen how incredible a back flip can be until you’ve seen somebody juggle a Chick-fil-A sandwich and eat it mid-flip!).
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve likely already glimpsed Pat. He has over a dozen film credits in major productions such as “Black Panther”, “The Walking Dead”, “Doom Patrol”, “Luke Cage”, “Venom” (2018), and “Mile 22” (2018), to his name.
Ever the joyful soul, Pat happily sat down with Kung Fu Kingdom to share his transition from tricking to the stunt arena; the inner working of his compelling thoughts that motivate him to keep improving, as well as what he believes makes for good fight choreography!
Hey, Pat! Thank you for agreeing to this Kung Fu Kingdom interview. I know you’ve really got some neat experiences and I know what you can do and what you’ve already done. I’m really excited to share your perspectives here. If we could get your views briefly, what do you think of the name Kung Fu Kingdom or KFK?
Actually, when you first said it, it actually reminded me of that Jackie Chan and Jet Li movie, “Forbidden Kingdom”. I guess because it’s got “kingdom” in it, and also it just sounds cool, it sounds really cool!
Pat’s Background in Tricking
So let’s start off here, how did you get into stunt work in the film industry?
I don’t really know, to be honest! A lot of my friends are trickers – that’s my background. It’s gymnastics, and kinda like martial arts, with flippy, spinny kicks. A lot of the people who do tricking, end up either doing live performances, coaching, or stunts, because we fall a lot.
Back in the day, some of my friends suggested, “Hey, you should try stunts”. (I didn’t know what that was) and, “Here’s a little stunt class thing. You come join.”. Through that I just met a bunch of people in the community and through that I fell into it.
Neat! How long ago was it when you did your first official stunt?
2017 was my first official stunt gig. I started pursuing it about 2015.
How Tricking Impacts Stunt Work
Nice. You mentioned a background in tricking. Has that background had any impact on your stuntman career?
Yes. I think it actually had a big impact because I wouldn’t have met a lot of people actually in the industry if it wasn’t for tricking. But in a sense I think it has both helped and not helped, weird to say I know.
In Atlanta, I’d heard tricking had something of a bad rep in the stunt community because a lot of trickers were very young, so they didn’t have the level of professionalism that people would expect.
For me, for the past year or so, I’ve actually been trying to un-brand (or detach) myself as a tricker because, as a stunt performer, you have to be able to do everything: fight choreography, hitting the ground, wire work etc. There are so many different skills.
If you’re labelled as just one thing, it’s harder to get hired for a job. The people that train with me know my skill set, but people who don’t know me, think I’m just a tricker, not a stunt performer.
So overall, yes, taking a longer-term view, I’ll say that my tricking background has helped.
Reputation: Key to Getting Work in the Stunt Industry
That’s interesting because, as far as I understand it – getting work in the stunt industry, and I ‘m sure a lot of other film work too, is quite strongly tied into your reputation. Your reputation and background definitely seem to help or hinder the work projects available to you.
Yeah, reputation is super, major important in stunts.
Pat’s First Film Set: “The Greatest Showman”
Do you have any favorite or standout memories from your work in stunts so far?
Yes, in my very first gig where I actually got to do stuff. The way I got it was very interesting. Someone tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was very specific. They needed an Asian martial-arts tricker stunt-performer. That’s before I had a legit demo reel. I just had my tricking sampler videos and stuff like that.
So I saw the email and I submitted to it. I didn’t know what it was but it ended up being for the movie “The Greatest Showman” (2017) and it ended up doing pretty well. I ended up doing tricking in it which is pretty rare for such a movie. I was really lucky to have that as my first chance.
That was my very first film set, so it was really cool to see how everything worked. I had a friend who showed me the ropes; “make sure you take a picture of this. Do this. Don’t do that”. That kind of thing. I had a little bit of guidance, so that helped for sure.
I got to do a corkscrew – a backflip off of one leg with a spin. I’ve done thousands and thousands of those but the situation was kinda crazy because there were lots of people in my way, the floor was slippery, and we had to perform our skill on a word of a song that we hadn’t yet heard!
That was really fun also because that was the first time I’d worked out of state and in New York. I got to explore New York a little bit and eat all the good food and everything. It was really fun. I got to trick and meet a lot of new people. That was the most cool thing I’ve done in stunts.
Everything else involves me doing background stunts, ie., I almost throw a punch and get hit or something. So everything isn’t necessarily as cool. So, my first gig “The Greatest Showman” has been my favourite so far.
Consistency: A Stuntman’s Superpower
Makes sense. Did you have any misconceptions about the stunt industry prior to working in it?
I don’t know if I had any misconceptions. I knew that you had to do stuff over and over and over again. I guess I really realized that it’s about being able to do something very consistently. You can do something once, but you have to be able to replicate it multiple times and still be safe.
I kind of already knew that but I didn’t know to what extent you had to do a certain take over and over and over and over again. I didn’t realize actually how, depending on the coordinator, that everything is calculated risk. Everything should be safe, as safe as possible, even though stunts can be dangerous.
That’s why there are rehearsals. Everything should be as safe as possible so that no one actually gets hurt. But unfortunately, you know, things go wrong and sometimes there are people who aren’t brutally honest about their skill set. This can unfortunately lead to their life or other people’s lives being endangered.
Stunt coordinators try their best to make sure everyone is safe on set, and being a stunt performer, I’m learning a lot more things that I didn’t know before.
Pat’s Take: What Makes a Fight Scene Look Good?
I’ve seen you move before and I know you can put on a phenomenal fight performance together. What do you think makes a fight scene look good?
I would say the intent and noises, depending on what the fight scene is supposed to be for. If it’s supposed to be really comical, then you’ll have a different attitude. I think I would say the acting part of it is important. I’m actually pretty bad at acting so that’s something that I’m working on.
I think the intent for the moves and telling the story is important. Before, I didn’t really care about the story to be honest because I just wanted to get good at moving, watching choreography and looking at how a person moves. But nowadays, everything is about stories so it can actually appeal to a general audience too rather than just, “oh, he’s doing a lot of really cool fight beats and stuff like that”.
I’m a big fan of fight scenes. I like to see the meat of it, but if there’s a story that goes along with it too, I think it can reach out, not just to people who enjoy action, but people who also enjoy a proper story as well.
Importance of Good Sound FX in Fight Scenes
Regarding good form, if it’s supposed to be a brawly type of fight it would appear to be a bit ‘off-balance’ but still have some type of martial arts form behind it, with suitable stances. All of that combined makes for a good fight scene. I like hearing different sound effects. I make weird sound effects when I fight. (Laughs) I used to yell “Chwat!” a lot, but not anymore because it just sounds weird!
It was something unconscious that I did. I don’t know what my sound effects are now. Audibles are good for communication when doing fight scenes. Because you make a sound like “Aaagh!” or whatever, and the person that you’re fighting—or multiple people—know that you’re coming, rather than you just throwing a punch and surprising them.
Even though they know the choreography, just having the audible or that intent and energy helps make the fight scene bigger and better. It feeds them the energy and they feed your energy, all that kind of stuff. Sound effects, loud noises, intent, story and good movement makes the fight scene in my opinion.
Pat’s Motivational Secret: Don’t Suck at What You Do!
Sounds good and all these elements definitely would make for a good fight scene. It helps immerse yourself in the character. So let’s flip over to you yourself. Is there a specific warrior wisdom quote or even philosophy that’s helped shape you into who you are today? A piece of advice that’s stuck with you?
Yeah, kind of. (laughs) Just “don’t suck” or, “do better”. Most of the time, when you start—when you learn something new, you’re not going to be super great at it. And I hate sucking at stuff. For example, when I started to do my first little short before I actually got my first gig—just filming little fight beats—I looked at myself on camera and I realized, “man, I’m garbage”. It looked so bad.
Since I don’t like sucking at stuff, I spent a lot of time researching and learning the form and training, looking at myself in the mirror. I’d throw a million punches and see if I look retarded in the mirror or whatever it is.
So just making myself get better by doing and doing it. There’s only two things you can do if you are learning a new skill. If you suck, you can either just stop or you train to keep getting better at this skill you want to get better at. Just don’t suck. (laughs) If you suck, just do better. Keep training.
Pat’s Message to Kung Fu Kingdom Followers and Aspiring Action Film & Stunt People
Wise words from Pat: “Don’t suck!” Okay, so do you have a special message that you’d like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom readers and those that know you around the world right now –especially those that want to get into the world of stunts?
To get into stunts: train a lot, meet a lot of people, network, and obviously get your skills up to par.
And this may be a little off topic but the part about stunts that kind of annoys me a bit is just how much networking is required to get work. I would say and I’ve heard a lot of people say, it’s probably like 70% networking and I guess 30% skills. Skill set is super important but there are tons of people who get tons of work just because they know somebody, not because of their skill set.
Actually your looks count too. Depending on if you have a good look and they need you, you’re bound to have a good chance of getting work in. You know, sometimes it can be a little tough for other people. I’m kind of in that boat where I’m still really pushing for it, but I don’t want to give up because it’s really fun when you actually get work. You get to meet cool people. You work with your friends. You get to do movement—and I love movement. So, in essence, hang out with a bunch of stunt people and get good at talking to people.
Sounds good. Keep going, keep talking…and don’t give up!
Thank you so much Pat for taking part in this interview and being part of Kung Fu Kingdom history with your insights into the stunt world, it’s really been a pleasure. We wish you the best of luck with your upcoming action projects!