Marc Cardenas chats with Bound by Debt producer and star Paul Mormando…
Paul Mormando, a martial arts veteran known as “Mr. Karate USA” and for pioneering the Cha Ki Do style along with the Real Life Defense System, has since crossed over to the world of action films, starring in 2013’s indie actioner Double Fist, which he also produced and handled the fight choreography for. Mormando is back and better than ever with his latest effort, a brand new action film currently in production entitled Bound By Debt. In this interview, exclusive to Flickering Myth, Mormando discusses his many influences, and his vision for the future of action films.
Marc Cardenas: Tell us all about your new project Bound By Debt.
Paul Mormando: Bound By Debt is currently filming in Staten Island, New York. I play Dylan James, a rough and tough underground fighter for the mob, who is forced to reunite with his estranged brother to save his family. My character gets to use his martial arts skills in and out of the fighting arena; he also gets to show his compassionate and loving side for his family, so it’s a really great role. I am surrounded by some of New York’s best actors in this project. I believe this film is going to be a rejuvenation of the old action-type film that we have had in the past.
MC: Talk a bit about your influences as far as action goes and what it took for you to prepare for this film.
PM: Great question. I have always been influenced by the late great Bruce Lee, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, but nobody has influenced me more as an actor/producer than Sylvester Stallone. He is a great actor, but also the total package. His tenacity when making the Rocky films is legendary. At my age, it was difficult to get back into shape so it took some discipline to hit the gym while doing all my other duties on the film. Indie filmmaking is not Hollywood. It’s DIY, but I feel like my martial arts skill level on this film is as good as they have ever been, and I want to bring my talents to the world and show them true martial arts on screen.
MC: What was it like being both the producer and the star?
PM: I prefer acting in films and just focusing on starring in and promoting them, however like I mentioned in the earlier question you have to be your own Sly Stallone or Joe Swanberg (who’s films I love) or you will be out there auditioning and waiting for your opportunity instead of creating your own destiny. I learned early on how to produce for the sole purpose of creating my own projects. Producing is not easy by any means, but the sense of creative control on your own project makes up for all the hard work.
MC: Tell me about yourself as a martial artist and how you developed your own brand of martial arts, Cha Ki Do.
PM: Well, I’ve been a martial artist for over thirty years. It’s what’s given me my opportunity to get into the world of film. In my early years of training, martial arts were very traditional and you studied only one style or system and mastered it, but it was limiting. When I read Bruce Lee’s book Tao of Jeet Kune Do it offered me insight into the other systems of martial arts and ranges of fighting. So after having some political BS in my early martial arts career it caused me to be creative and fix what was broken in my own style. I would study and reach out to different instructors and masters of different arts and learn different techniques, and hence Cha Ki Do was born.
MC: Is Cha Ki Do prevalent in your new film? Give us an insight into the fighting styles showcased in Bound by Debt.
PM: Yes. Cha Ki Do is prevalent in my life, period. You see, Cha Ki Do is just a toolbox of techniques hand chosen to work in all of the different ranges of fighting: Kicking, Boxing, Trapping and Grappling. I like to say that Jeet Kune Do and Cha Ki Do are sisters. Bound By Debt’s choreography will have a lot of my own style in it, but this time I have brought on fight coordinator, Brian Wecker, to assist me. He is very open-minded and we seem to work well together. We also use a lot of real martial artists in the film. The roles of Vito (Chris Bello) and Jimmy (Larry Montanez) are very highly skilled martial artists, not just actors. So this will give the film’s fight scenes a sense of realism and not just some actors trying to sell a kick or punch.
As far as styles in the film, you will see a lot of hand-to-hand combat and as much kicking as my body will allow me.
MC: What can audiences expect when they watch Bound by Debt?
PM: I am hoping some good ass-kicking action with a strong story. My wife Anna, who wrote it, is a very good writer and the odd thing is she is writing an action film, which is predominately a male dominated genre so her ability to write a good dramatic story line gives us the added advantage to the typical action film.
MC: Let’s talk about the future of action films. Where do you see it heading and where would you like it to go?
PM: Over the last decade, action films have gone more into the super hero genre and rely heavily on special effects. I want to bring back the days where the hero is someone the audience can relate to, the average person. Not a Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne, but a man on a mission who’s not a super hero, but is filled with exception qualities.
Also, Hollywood is so into remaking old movies because it’s so formula driven. As an independent producer, I have the freedom to try things that studios wouldn’t invest in. So I am hoping to make films more focused on martial arts and fighting than on shootouts and grenade explosions.
MC: Lastly, thank you, Paul, for your contribution to action cinema. Stay tough and one last question: What can the world of action expect from you next?
PM: While I’m filming Bound By Debt, I’m also working on a pet project of mine called The American Sensei. This is like a modern day version of the old Kung Fu series starring David Carradine. This one’s more family oriented with a positive message to the younger generation. I am hoping to release the pilot in mid-September.
To immerse yourself in the world Paul Mormando, please click on the links below:
Many thanks to Paul Mormando for taking the time for this interview.
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