When it comes to pitching proof-of-concepts and fan films these days, YouTube seems to be the best place to do it. Josh Mabie and Christian Howard are taking full advantage of the platform with their new YouTube channel: Rogue Origin. With stunt pros and martial arts experts involved in every project, Rogue Origin’s goal is to present a centralized hub of fan films based on beloved geek culture properties from anime, comic books, and video games, along with some original works, too.
Rogue Origin has already released numerous fan films on such properties as James Bond, “Cowboy Bebop”, and “Naruto”. Their upcoming magnum opus is the Iron Fist-based short, “Immortal 65”, in which Christian portrays the 65th Iron Fist of the Marvel Universe, Orson Randall. The teases that Rogue Origin has put out promise quite a battle for K’un- Lun’s greatest warrior, who literally wields a flaming fist in the heat of battle!
Today, Josh sits down with KFK to talk about the beginnings of Rogue Origin, the making of “Immortal 65”, the various projects the channel has coming, and some other projects in the works, too!
Hi Josh, welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom! It’s great to connect with you and we hope you’re keeping well in the aftermath of the pandemic?
Hi Brad! Well, it hasn’t been that terrible. Obviously, there have been some things that we’re still trying to smooth out, but overall, doing well.
Yeah, it’s been tough for a year and a half now for everyone, but we just all do what we can to navigate the pandemic. On that note, our mission is to encourage 100 million people around the world to get into martial arts for all the positive benefits that it brings to individuals, physically, mentally and socially – what are your thoughts on our goal?
Yeah, and then obviously Christian mentioned KFK, too. Obviously, I’m a life-long martial artist, so I love what you guys do. As far as the mission, dude, I couldn’t agree more!
Whenever someone I know has kids, I’m like “get them in martial arts”, because starting at a young age, it facilitates a fantastic mindset of perseverance, loyalty, dedication to a craft, and that’s such a great basis for success. Martial arts changed my life, and I think it has the possibility to change a lot of other lives.
Martial Arts Background
Absolutely, and on that note, let’s start off with your beginnings in martial arts. What different disciplines have you studied?
I think I was six, and I was a problem child. I wouldn’t listen in class and just was not a great kid, and so my parents started me in Shotokan Karate when I was six. I did that for three years, took a little break for a while, then I got back into it when I was 11.
When I went to college, I started to explore other martial arts. One of the tenets of the Shotokan school I started in is, before you reach black belt, you have to go out to a different system and bring something back.
Arts Practiced: Aikido, Jiu-Jitsu, Kook Sool Won, Taekwondo, Shotokan, Muay Thai, Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, & Krav Maga
That was kind of part of your black belt test, to bring in new knowledge to the school. To me, that’s like a true martial artist mentality, the desire for continual improvement of self and your skills. So I took that and ran with it, and in college, that spawned this investigative nature of all martial arts, so that’s when I did Aikido, Jiu-Jitsu, Kook Sul Won, Taekwondo, and continued to pursue Shotokan.
I started fighting in NASCA and ISKA for a long time Funny story, there was a tournament where I wasn’t a black belt yet, I was fighting in the brown belt division, and I accidentally axe-kicked someone, and the rules in that tournament were if you make somebody bleed, you’re automatically disqualified. My axe kick came down on his nose, and I pulled it, but I made him bleed. My teacher pulled me aside and said “I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time – here’s your black belt, come fight in the black belt division.”
So a DQ got you promoted to black belt! (Laughs)
Yeah, and then I went on to come in second place in that division. That was a really cool day!
Later on, I went to Hong Kong, studied Muay Thai, and Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, brought that back to L.A., and then went into Krav Maga and Jiu-Jitsu. So, I’m a pretty long-time student.
Stunt Work & Filmmaking
Superb! So, Josh, how did you get started in stunt work and filmmaking?
It was a similar thing. I’ve always been into anime, nerd culture and whatnot, and besides martial arts movies, we used to cut anime music videos. So since ever since I was 13 or 14, I’ve kind of been in that world, and when I moved to L.A., I graduated college and had to pursue a ‘job job’.
I didn’t really put two and two together that I could pursue that passion of martial arts and filmmaking until I’d started directing some music videos and commercials. I directed a bunch of trailer advertising commercials for Trailer Park, which is one of the bigger advertising agencies in L.A. for about 8 years before I realized, “Oh, I can go do stunts and all these other things I’ve loved my whole life!” So in mid-2018, I kind of transitioned to that, and just fell in love with martial arts all over again and the fake fighting aspect of the real fighting I used to do.
Was that part of the impetus for Rogue Origin?
Yeah, so, Rogue Origin has an interesting origin, it’s kind of where the name comes from. I co-founded a channel called Re-Anime, and one of the founders, Nick Shaw, did a film called “Death Note”, that was in response to Netflix’s adaptation. I saw that and was like “Oh my God, he’s doing exactly what I want to do.” So we made a bunch of projects together, but in the end, our philosophies didn’t really line up, and I really wanted to focus on not just anime, but also things like Iron Fist and some more video game-based content. Also, Re-Anime was a little more fantastical and my stuff is a little more grounded and gritty.
We had already shot Iron Fist, and then Christian and I got to talking about starting a new thing, and so that’s kind of how Rogue Origin was born. In the midst of the pandemic, we were like, “Let’s go out and shoot some stuff”, and that’s when we shot “Fatal Fury” and “Oddball”. We were keeping the crews as small as possible, it was pretty much just the talent and a camera operator, and that’s kind of how we got it started.
We shot “Oddjob” in June of 2020, so the pandemic had hit, but restrictions were kind of loosening up. So we were like, “Great, let’s go shoot something”, but still keeping it insanely small, and that’s when we shot “Oddjob” in downtown L.A. in Chinatown, and it was absolutely a ghost town.
I think we ran into like three or four people the entire time we were out, and I wish I’d done more still photography and just me going out and shooting stuff during the pandemic, because I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again.
I remember seeing some images of Hollywood Boulevard abandoned, nobody in it. So “Oddjob” was a really cool project, Josh Han brought the script to me six or eight months earlier. I knew Josh from another project, so I thought “This is cool, let’s do it.” And when I thought who would be a perfect Bond, Christian really fit that.
It was also good because since we were starting a new thing with Rogue Origin, we wanted to kind of build a little bit of a following before we launched our Iron Fist adaptation. There’s a lot of money and resources poured into that and kicking off a new channel, we wanted to try to find a way to get a decent number of eyes on that, and the best way to do it was creating other projects leading up to the magnum opus.
Influence of Cowboy Bebop
Yes, Christian said you guys wanted to lead up to it with other projects like “Cowboy Bebop”. Speaking of which, what can you share about the making of that?
So I’m possibly the biggest “Bebop” fan on the planet. I love that show, every time I go back and watch it, there’s something new I find about it. It’s deeply symbolic, it’s deeply relevant, and I love what it has to say and the themes featured in it. To me, that’s the biggest thing when you’re creating projects is “What is the theme? How does it speak to you?” and how can we bring that to life and make sure we pay homage to those themes from the original source material.
So, “Bebop” was two years in the making, because originally, it was going to be a Re-Anime project, but it was just so tonally different. That was another reason I wanted to set up the channel, to set up the expectation of what we’re doing and then present “Bebop”. We shot it in March of 2018 or 2019, I don’t remember exactly.
I took a long time in post, so we had a locked rough cut for two or three months afterwards. I took a long time, because the music on “Bebop” is so particular. It’s very heavily jazz-influenced, but it’s so unique and different that we really had to nail it. So we went through a few different iterations on composing it and nailing that tone, and that’s really what took so long, and then we delayed it a little bit because we were launching the channel. We also did a lot of pre-viz to really nail that vibe and the martial arts in “Bebop”.
I’ll share it with my friend, who’s a big “Bebop” fan!
Well, that’s the goal, because we are fans, so our goal is to make stuff that gets other fans excited, and make the biggest fans of something like “Bebop” go “Oh my God, that was awesome!”
Making of “Street Fighter: Enter The Dragon” – Live Action Short
Well, one thing you guys have also made that hearkens back to Christian’s background is “Street Fighter: Enter the Dragon”, with Fei Long, Chun Li, and Balrog, and it was really something! What can you share about the making of that short?
Yeah, “Street Fighter” was interesting. Obviously, we’re huge fans of the game, and Christian and I were talking one day and we got to chatting about what a cool world “Street Fighter” is. Obviously, everybody gets wrapped up in the main story of Ryu and Ken, but the great thing about “Street Fighter” is that all of these other characters are also so iconic and so memorable, especially from the “Street Fighter II” cast.
Take any of them, whether it be Guile or Sagat or Chun-Li and the “Alpha” characters like Sakura or Gen, they’re all so iconic. “Street Fighter” was essentially MMA before MMA, and everyone could kind of gravitate towards different characters. Me as a Shotokan guy, Ryu and Makoto were my big characters.
So, when we got to talking, we said, “There’s a cool story to tell here and, what other characters can we explore?” We tossed around some ideas for a web-series and whatnot, and what that could potentially look like, and we’ve got some cool episodes that we talked about, but really dependent on the reception to the first one.
Obviously, we don’t want to step on any toes with “Assassin’s Fist”, because that was f***ing awesome. I remember seeing that and thinking “This is so rad!” But it’s two different scopes, and also, the budget on our “Street Fighter” is pennies. So it was a question of what story can we tell and still tell well with VFX, but that’s not going to step on any toes, and we can still kind of do our own thing.
Were there any injuries or mishaps in the making of “Street Fighter”?
No injuries. Christian and I both come from a stunt background, so we really want to keep everyone as safe as possible. But we also really want to make sure we cast the appropriately talented leads. Brandon, Lincoln, and Gemma did all of their own stunts, so a lot of the safety really boiled down to casting people who can do these moves so clean. I remember Brandon posted also some pictures where he had longer hair, and we were like “There’s our Fei Long, he looks exactly a young Bruce Lee!”
BRING ON MORE Street Fighter?
Will there be more “Street Fighter” projects on Rogue Origin?
Yeah, we would love to do more, but it all comes down to what the fans think. That’s kind of what we’re doing with all the Rogue Origin projects – gauging the interest. Talk about “Fatal Fury”, I NEVER would’ve expected the reception it got. It’s Christian, me, and a camera guy in a bunch of water, and people were just loving that thing, and I was really happy with how it turned out. But there’s so many things that we deeply love and so many things that we want to see brought to life. We’re trying to figure out what fans gravitate towards, as well.
Speaking of which, with “Assassin’s Fist” being kind of the elephant in the room, are you guys hoping that Rogue Origins’ “Street Fighter” content might rekindle the plans Christian and Joey Ansah had for the “Street Fighter: World Warrior” series?
All I can say is if Capcom were interested, we would love to pursue it, but it’s murky waters, because we don’t want to step on what Joey and Christian did. We’re trying to do something completely different. We love the project and the property, and if it’s something that Capcom saw and said “Oh my God, we love this, let’s do more of it”, we would love to pursue that, but it’s not something that we were going to go to them with and try to make on our own.
Video games and anime are more popular than ever, but until you have a proven track record, it’s hard for these larger companies to trust what you’re going to do. Not that “Assassin’s Fist” and “Street Fighter: Resurrection” weren’t, but unfortunately, that’s the way that studios look at things. It’s not “Oh my God, these guys did something awesome, they can probably do something awesome with more money.” Coming from commercials and music videos, I get it, you’ve got to sell the thing,
Immortal 65: An Iron Fist Live-Action Short Film
Yeah, that’s why it’s really fortunate with something like “Alita: Battle Angel” to have big names like James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez behind it. Well, moving now to the Iron Fist short, “Immortal 65”, how did that come about with Christian as Orson Randall?
Well, Christian brought me the script when we worked on “Tokyo Ghoul”, which is a Re-Anime project, and I said, “Cool, let’s make it.” It turned out really, really cool. I think the difference between it and “Street Fighter” is Iron Fist is more of a potential showpiece for what this could be.
It’s a cool piece of raising awareness for the Iron Fist brand, because I know a lot of people were disappointed by the Netflix adaptation, and again, it’s not trying to step on any toes of what other people have done before, but “Immortal 65” allowed us to explore the Iron Fist lore, but from a totally new angle. I love the Iron Fist lore and Orson Randall, and Danny Rand is really dope as well, but Orson Randall is really the Han Solo version of Iron Fist.
Oh, definitely. On the topic of Orson Randall, season 2 of “Iron Fist” ended with an Orson Randall tease, before it and the other Marvel-Netflix shows were cancelled. Now that the two-year moratorium on Marvel’s cancelled Netflix shows has ended, does the Orson Randall Iron Fist project represent a pitch on your part to Marvel?
It could be. It’s always so hard, because all you can do is put things out into the universe and hope people gravitate towards that. I hesitate to use the word “pitch”, because Marvel is making the coolest things, so obviously, our goal is for them to see it and be like “Oh my God, how can we not make this?”
But at the same time, we just want to be explicitly clear that these are fan films and we’re not trying to step on any toes. We’re just trying to create in the sandbox of these worlds that we love and homages to these worlds that we grew up on.
On Making “Immortal 65”
Well, we’re really looking forward to seeing Christian wielding the Iron Fist soon! So, what were some of the more memorable experiences for you in the making of “Immortal 65”?
We had some of the best guys and girls that I’ve had the pleasure of working with on board, and it was a cool story to make. The most memorable thing for me, like with a lot of things, is the pre-vis and the time that we put in before to really make it shine.
Movies aren’t made on the day, they’re made in the prep. I made so many friends and met so many amazing people on Iron Fist and it was one of the first projects that Christian and I worked on together, so it’s very memorable in that respect.
…And actually, the Iron Fist itself is a little bit different from what they did on the show, with Orson Randall’s hand being on fire.
Well, there’s so much lore, and in the comics, his hand is literally on fire when he uses the Iron Fist.
That look was kind of what we gravitated towards. It’s such an iconic look, and it also comes down to budgets. On the show, you can’t have flame simulations on every shot, but when we’re doing a shorter form piece, we can really take the time to polish it and do fire effects that are industry standard and really make that shine.
I could be wrong, but I’m assuming that’s why they didn’t go the flaming hand route on the show, it also might’ve been aesthetic choice. But we really wanted to pay homage to the comics and make sure it was as cool-looking as possible. There’s so many covers where it’s a fist on fire, and it’s such a dope look, so as fans, we wanted to pay homage to the things that we love.
Yes, we know exactly what you’re talking about, there are so many Iron Fist comic book covers with the flaming hand image and it’s such a great image. But seeing that actually brought to life is really something amazing. Something Christian also spoke about is The Hand as the villains, and also having the influence from the “Daredevil” one-shot fight scenes. Can you go into how these came about in “Immortal 65”?
Yes, so like with everything we’re doing with Rogue Origin, we want to pay respect to things but we don’t want to mimic or copy, so these are all original pieces set in these universes. That’s where the fun is, to be able to take what is out there, and add your own twist and spin on it.
When it came to the story, Christian wrote the story and of course took a lot of inspiration from the ”Daredevil” one-shots, but the story is all about these levels of escalation of power.
So it starts off as a simple fight and continues to level up until it’s to the point where it’s like, “Oh my God, this is crazy!” The Hand as an adversary allowed us to stick to lore, but they’re disposable and always getting offed, so it let us have just tons of ninjas come in and just be offed left and right.
Upcoming Rogue Origin Projects
Sounds awesome! So, aside from “Immortal 65”, what else is coming up for the Rogue Origin library?
We’ve got a lot of great stuff coming up, all based on video game, anime, and comic books, and we also have a couple of original projects in the works, as well. We have an original IP called “Kings” that we’re working on, which is kind of a “Highlander” meets “The Old Guard” type of thing with immortals fighting with weapons.
What’s cool about that is we hadn’t really touched on any weapons-based combat, so that’s exciting to see on the channel. That’s kind of the goal with Rogue Origin, for people to come to the channel and it’s the brand, it’s the style, it’s the “Oh my God, I love what you guys do.”
A lot of channels get a little caught up in “Oh, that was awesome, I only want you to do more of that.” We’re hoping that we can cultivate a world and dynamic of people that come because they love martial arts, love high-octane, gritty content, and hopefully, they’ll also love the original projects we do in addition to the adaptations.
Martial Arts Training
Lots of great stuff coming down the pipeline! Well, looking ahead now at training; what kind of training do you do these days?
I try to hit workouts multiple times a week, whether film-fighting training, martial arts training, or lifting in some shape or form. I adhere to the methodology of “If you’re always ready, you don’t have to get ready.” So it may be kata or film-fighting training, but it’s always about just trying to stay sharp.
As far as diet, when it comes to film fighting, this is one thing that a lot of stunt guys will tell you, which is you kind of don’t want to eat on the day that you’re fighting, or just eat a salad or something. When you’re fighting, you don’t want to feel heavy. When it comes just training, just plenty of greens, protein, and no carbs. You have to find what works for your body, but I try to eat as few carbs as possible because they’re harder to process.
Josh Mabie’s All-Time Fave Martial Arts Movies
Well, looking ahead now, what are some your favorite martial arts movies and favorite fight scenes of all time?
Dude, I love, love, love everything that comes out of the East, in particular Hong Kong films from the 90’s. What Gareth Evans did with “The Raid” is amazing, and South Korea has made awesome movies like “Man from Nowhere” and “I Saw The Devil”. I love everything Donnie Yen does, he’s just raising the bar when it comes to martial arts, and I love the way that he’ll tell his team that, and you see that in “Ip Man”.
One of my favorites from him is the end fight in “Flash Point”, it was just fire. I also really loved “SPL” 1 and 2, that end fight in “SPL 2” is so awesome, one of my favorites. I could name my favorite fight scenes all day, there are so many!
Fun & Leisure
TONS of great ones there! So Josh, tell us what’s one geeky or interesting thing that people don’t know about you? You seem to be more of an open book on that front!
Yeah, I mean, that was kind of the impetus of Rogue Origin, creating a haven for people like us that love this nerd sh*t that we were never able to be open about when we were young. When I grew up, you couldn’t admit that you were into martial arts movies or anime or video games. Now nerd culture’s everywhere, so it’s not really a hidden thing when you get Kim Kardashian tweeting that she’s into anime. (Both laugh)
And on a related topic, if you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpower would you most like to have?
I want to say flight, just because, how cool would that be? Flight, invisibility, or Wolverine-type regeneration would probably be my top three. We actually toyed around with doing some X-Men stuff, but obviously, Marvel has X-Men in the works, and we’d rather explore things that haven’t been explored, because there’s so much cool content and nerd stuff.
Dreams & Goals…
Hugh Jackman would be a tough act to follow. So, what other dreams, goals and ambitions are you keen to accomplish?
My goal is to shoot my first feature this fall. I wrote it a few years ago, and the goal was to shoot it back then, but in 2018, I had an injury where I broke my back, so that kind of prevented it. But now the team’s grown, and I’ve got a lot of amazing people that I can’t wait to take part in this. So that’s a goal, and another for me is to be the next Taika Waititi, but the martial arts version. (Both laugh)
Yikes, how did that back injury happen?
Repetitive negative patterns of movement. I was lifting super-heavy things, and not stretching – to all the readers, stretch every day! – and I wasn’t really doing more of the lengthening exercises of martial arts at the time, so I ended up with a bulging disc and just couldn’t walk. But now I’m better than I ever was before!
Glad to hear you fully recovered, and on that note, what can you share about the movie you plan to direct?
So, the working title is “Wandering Simsara”, and it’s a martial arts thriller where a guy wakes up in this afterlife wasteland and has to figure out how he died. Every person he fights gives him a little more information about what happened, so it’s heavily, heavily in the martial arts genre, but it’s also the philosophical implications of a Christopher Nolan movie.
So, my long-term goal over five years is to bring the Easternized stories and filmmaking mentality to the West, and have people realize that we can have great stories but also great martial arts, it doesn’t have to be, “Oh, it’s just a dumb action blockbuster.”
What happens if we have that sort of hero from the East but in the West? As martial artists, we know that these stories exist and there are movies that did that, but to popularize them and make them accessible in a way that they have not been in the past.
Josh Mabie’s Warrior Wisdom
That’d definitely be something to see! So, what are some warrior-wisdom quotes or philosophy that has helped you become who you are today?
Obviously, we all go back to Bruce Lee and “Be Water”. I’d say “Be Water” in all ways of your life. Life is a roller coaster, and it’s the greatest roller coaster you don’t realize you’re riding. You’ve just got to be water and take the hits as they come, because they’re going to come, so adapt and thrive.
Josh’s Personal Message to KFK Followers & Fans
Great words to live by. Well, as we prepare to sign off now, Josh, what special message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom followers and your fans around the world right now?
I say this all the time, but thank you so much, to you guys, thank you so much to the fans, and thank you so much to the martial artists of the world. Martial arts changed my life, and it has the ability to change the world.
I am so thankful for being introduced to martial arts and by sharing our love of martial arts, we can really make a difference and change how people view the world. Martial arts cultivates that love of the world, of self, and of one another, if we do that, we’ll make the world a better place.
That’s as profound as its elementary. Thank you so much for the privilege of speaking today, Josh. We wish you all the best of success with Rogue Origins, “Immortal 65”, and all your upcoming action projects!
Thanks Brad, and thanks for having me today on Kung Fu Kingdom!