"In this industry we’re not in competition, we need to help each other to thrive independent fi
Beau Fowler is a London based award-winning actor, writer and director.
Sonny Louis is an actor and a stuntman, who has already worked in some the Hollywood's best blockbusters, including Wonder Woman, Game of Thrones, Justice League and more.
After a few years that they hadn’t worked together, Sonny approached Beau to co-design and action direct a fight scene. It ended up becoming "Express Delivery", a 35-time award winning action comedy short film, and most recently won the LAFA Best Director award.
We asked Beau and Sonny to join us for an interview, and stayed alive!
Beau Fowler and Sonny Louis
As a 6 y/o, you were already completely in love with films. Do you remember some of your early influences?
Beau Fowler: Some of my early influences were movies like Back to the future, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Goonies. I was also a little obsessed with animations like Thundercats and Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro. When I hit my teens, films like Leon: The Professional, Once Upon a Time in China, and Hard-Boiled really made an impact on me.
You grew up in a creative environment... your father, Simon Fowler, is a Music and Celebrity photographer! What was it like to grow up in this creative environment Do you feel he shaped your artistic visions in some ways?
Beau Fowler: 100%. I spent a lot of time around creativity whilst also experiencing long days and hard work to achieve the best result possible. He was always relaxed and kept his sessions fun. He’s definitely been a big inspiration and I can see how my work ethic has been influenced.
What were some of your first projects, and when did you create them?
Beau Fowler: When I was about fifteen I saved up some money and bought a hi-8 camera. That’s really when I was able to start shooting things. To be honest it was simple, silly videos of characters that my sister (now an established actress and award-winning writer) and I used to mess around with. In my late teens I chose my college for its film course and I guess that’s where I really started to make narratively coherent short films. When I was 20 I got my hands on a Canon XL1, saved up and bought Final Cut, and made film after film, which no one will ever see! Haha.
What is the first piece of gear you owned?
Beau Fowler: Well, honestly as a child I had a simple stills camera, and I was always drawing so I guess those could be counted, but if we talk purely film it was the Hi-8 camera I bought after saving enough money from washing cars and freelance running.
Did you ever receive formal education/training in filmmaking?
Beau Fowler: Kind of… I learnt far more by watching movies and actually making them. By the time I went to college to study film, it was really an excuse to use their equipment and make what I could. The tutors always seemed happy and let me get on with it.
Tell us about martial arts! How, when and why did you get into that? It probably comes in handy on some action/ fight scenes!
Beau Fowler: I officially started Karate when I was 6. It was a lot more traditional back then, the sensei carried a cane, everything was taught in Japanese. As I was inspired by Hong Kong action movies and fascinated by martial arts, I moved into Chinese Gong Fu as well as studying a little Capoeira. In my eyes, understanding technique is integral to producing quality action scenes on screen. An action scene is like any other scene in a movie, it needs to be driven by story whilst staying true to characters.
If you weren't a writer, director, and a person with a coffee-drinking 'problem', what would be your main gig?
Beau Fowler: Wow. Well, I didn’t fancy facing Karma if I went the freelance assassin route but I did contemplate running to China and becoming a monk.
We're super impressed that in addition to your own projects, you also write treatments for music promos, most notably working with Universal Music Group and Warner Music for big artists like Tori Amos. (Disclaimer: I adore her music!), Agnetha Fältskog (ABBA), Mick Hucknall (Simply Red). How do you normally come up with these treatment ideas? And how did you get on board with these amazing opportunities?
Beau Fowler: I was fortunate that my father was a genius photographer and had been asked to direct several music promos while I was in my teens. He did several projects for Sarah Brightman that I also ran on. Years later the commissioner at UMG, who’d previously worked with my dad as an art director, asked him to direct Karen Mok’s promo which then lead to Agnetha’s (Fältskog) come-back single. Our production company Ki Films came on board and I produced it. At this stage I had produced and directed several smaller / mid budget music videos so it was nice to be able to shoot in both London and Sweden for this one.
Following that, we did a couple more promos and then finally Universal contacted me for Tori’s video. Tori had a clear idea of what she wanted but the budget didn’t really allow for it so I re-wrote a few drafts that kept her essence and allowed us to shoot in one location over one day. Once she was happy, we went from there, and you’ll be happy to know that she was a pleasure to meet and work with. Nowadays, unfortunately, many labels are looking to cut budgets and do everything in-house, so I’m not sure what the future holds music promos.
Sonny, you were born in Graz, Austria and grew up in West London, England, and became interested in action movies very early on. What were some of your early influences?
Sonny Louis: Some of my early influences was definitely Schwarzenegger, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. I always had a love for 80s movies like Commando and Predator. Talking about martial arts films; Kickboxer, Best of the Best and Drunken Master really left a big impression on me growing up.
When did you start practicing martial arts, and when what were your first steps in the film-world?
Sonny Louis: I officially started training when I was 8. Growing up with two older brothers who were also into action films, we enrolled in the local Korean Combat Karate school. My introduction into the film industry was being an extra on Band of Brothers when I was 16.
Tell us about your first big break - with the role of a League of Shadows Warrior in Batman Begins. How did you get the gig? Were you nervous at all? What did you take away from this experience?
Sonny Louis: I’d heard from a friend that a new Batman movie was being made and they were looking for East Asian action guys for a prison fight sequence. Being a MASSIVE fan of Batman I took it upon myself to adjust my half Indian heritage to Chinese in order to get seen. Having made a good impression on the fight arranger, whist I didn’t get the part, he put me up to audition for the League of Shadows that fortunately I got, and this was the turning point for me. On that note, big shout out to Dave Foreman and Mike Lambert for that opportunity.
You successfully qualified for the British Stunt Register in April 2015. How did you train for that?
Sonny Louis: The British Stunt register is an elite group of performers who have mastered 6 various sporting skills. It usually takes several dedicated years and financial investment to attain the skills required to be assessed and hopefully be accepted. My 6 specialized skills are: Black Belt Korean Karate; Scuba Dive Master; Rock Climbing Single Pitch Award, Stunt trampoline Test, Stunt Swimming Test, National A Rally license with 6 competitive Races. As you can imagine it was a lot of hard work, and I relished every minute of it. It’s incredibly rewarding putting these skills into practice and I genuinely love what I do.
You've worked on SO MANY blockbusters! Justice League, Fast & Furious 6, Wonder Woman, and the upcoming new Spielberg movie, Ready Player one, to name a few. First of all, congratulations on being so sought-after and busy! What does it feel like to play in these incredible, most high-profile productions? What were some of the most incredible and memorable moments you've experienced on sets? or auditions?
Sonny Louis: I’m literally doing my dream job, so whilst I always remain professional, the child in me will always be amazed by the opportunity to be on set with the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and Khaleesi Mother of Dragons.
Working on Fast and Furious 6 I doubled Joe Taslim and did a stunt sequence standing on the roof of a military jeep whilst traveling at high-speed over a massive suspension bridge in Tenerife. I had to fire an AK47 machine gun and hold my position due to pyrotechnics under the roof. I remember the sun setting over the ocean and the wind wrapping around me, and feeling unbelievably blessed. This will stay with me until the day I die.
You probably get that a lot but... How was it to be part of Game of Thrones?! What were some of the highlights? Are you part of the next season as well?
Sonny Louis: Working on game of thrones was amazing. Initially I was excited because of the hype but it wasn't until I worked on it 2 seasons in a row that I decided it would be a good idea to actually watch the series and figure out where my character fit in to this world. Realising just how masterful the series truly was and working with such incredible people on set, I was deeply honoured to be a part of it.
The Dothraki make up was amazing and I have to say given a featured role, playing an unsullied Lieutenant in season 7 was definitely my highlight.
Can you describe a regular day in your life? What does your routine look like?
Sonny Louis: A regular day in my life has to begin with a huge cup of coffee for sure haha. I normally get my gym routine done before noon. I tend to mix up my training with martial arts to keep supple and agile. On the acting side, when I don’t have auditions I like to keep sharp and strengthen my tools by meeting fellow actors and running through scenes. I am very family orientated so tend to spend a lot of time with them and socializing in the evening with friends and catching up with movies.
What do you like to do in-between productions?
Sonny Louis: I tend to go traveling in between productions, as work is unpredictable. I like to get in a few holidays a year if I can. Somewhere hot by a beach is my go to but I have developed a love of skiing in the last few years so I try and keep that up. Generally keeping fit and honing my craft is always essential and comes first.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Sonny Louis: I see myself branching further into the acting side. With my love for stunt work, and having grown up on action movies, my goal is to establish myself as an action actor and hopefully inspire the youth in similar ways that my heroes did me. Additionally, one of my dreams is to work professionally with my all time hero and idol Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was born in the same town he was, and to see him achieve everything he put his mind to despite the naysayers is incredible. I’d love to work alongside him on screen, and then off screen smoke a Stogy together as we both have an appreciation for good cigars.
How did you guys meet each other? When did you decide to work together? Is this your first collaboration?
Beau Fowler: Sonny and myself met on the set of Batman Begins working as Ninjas. We teamed up with another martial arts actor called Leon Sua and soon formed a fight crew called Rx3 that specialized in action design. As the crew started getting noticed we began working professionally on various projects until eventually going our separate ways, Sonny into stunts, myself continuing as an actor and director.
Tell us about Express Delivery. How did project come to life? Who are some of the people who helped you give birth to it?
Beau Fowler: We hadn’t worked together for a few years and Sonny approached me to co-design and action direct a fight scene to show a stunt coordinator who needed something special in order to put him forward for more projects. At first I suggested another action actor to allow me to focus on shooting and directing but Sonny was adamant that I had to play the other part. Knowing the dedication, time and energy it takes to act whilst performing action, and direct both our performances and the cinematographer, eventually I said if I was to be in it we needed to go all out with a short film and do it properly.
Sonny of course agreed so I wrote the synopsis for 2 films, one of which was Express. I had an idea for a bigger project and Express was originally going to be the pilot for the series, but after post-production, I felt the idea worked better as a feature with the potential of a series later on. Me and dad brought on Ki Films, and Sonny was exec producer. Financially we went halves all the way. It’s been a real team effort, and I couldn’t be happier with everyone’s incredible dedication and passion to and for the project. In particular, special shout out to our amazing DoP Rob Beck and our sound editor Dean Covill who both went above and beyond.
How did you recruit the key crew?
Beau Fowler: Hiring good professionals when you only have enough money for expenses is always tough. Luckily we have worked with some great people who enjoy our projects and believe in my vision.
Wolf is a part of Ki Films so was already attached. Our sound editor Dean Covill has worked with me on everything since about 2011, which I feel incredibly fortunate for. We have an amazing working relationship and it probably helps that I talk in sound effects!
I had worked with Rob a few times, most recently had been a music promo he’d steadicam operated for us that has since picked up 6 award wins. We were in early script stages for Express when I was casually telling him the story, and he responded with ‘when do we shoot?’ Rob was amazing. He came down for two full days of action pre-viz in order to understand how I wanted to shoot the action. Visually I storyboard all my drama, but action is tricky because it involves choreography and the subjects moving intricately so I always opt for pre-vizing. Usually this is with the action team and then delivered to the production team as a rough assembly, but Rob committed fully which is the main reason we managed to get what I wanted on screen #teamworkmakesthedreamwork.
Most of the crew I had already worked with either as an actor, director or producer so knew they would be great. Interestingly the two composers that are top of my list couldn’t commit due to other projects, and this allowed us the opportunity to work with Xiaotian. I’d met Xiaotian many years prior through a good friend of ours, and we’d been looking for the chance to work together, so I feel it was meant to be.
Actors wise we knew so many that we simply put a call out on our Ki Films Facebook page as well as contacting a few regulars and asked for self-tapes. Originally it was just two collectors, but both Sonny and I wanted Leon involved, and I re-wrote it to include the Bodyguard.
What was your favorite part of the process?
Beau Fowler: That is a tough one to answer. There are of course challenges throughout. Our aim is to find ways to turn them into opportunities, and with the right attitude and team, there is always a way. Each part of the process offers something unique, fun and ultimately rewarding. As an actor, being in the moment as the character is an amazing experience that engages one in their entirety. It requires a connection physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. For me as a director, there’s also nothing quite like capturing the images you have in your head in order to tell the story. Film is a visual medium, and that is how I work, so seeing one’s vision come to life is a beautiful thing. Obviously the goal is that all the hard work, communication and teamwork leads to a coherent film that ticks all the right boxes.
Is there anything you'd change in the movie right now?
Beau Fowler: Short answer: Yes. Fortunately as Express is currently being developed into a feature (of which the short is basically the opening for) we get to reshoot all the drama, so the opportunity to make everything stronger is within reach.
Your work has been recognized worldwide at some of the world's biggest festivals, including our very own LAFA, where you won BEST DIRECTOR and Sonny won BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, and also at Cannes, Beijing, Italy, France, The UK, Vegas and New York... Express Delivery won a staggering 33 international film festival awards, in addition to 15 nominations. How do you feel about the film's success so far?
Beau Fowler: It’s been and continues to be such an incredible journey. Getting unanimous praise from festivals around the world is a testament to the project, vision and team. I think when we won 8 awards in New York bringing it to 24 wins I was totally overwhelmed, I remember having to take the evening off just to let it all sink in. After that the focus has really been on reaching as many people as we can. When I started out making films as a kid, it was really for the love of it, I didn’t even think about the audience, but sharing our work as artists is such an integral part of the journey. Express is currently on 35 wins, and we’re just incredibly humbled and honoured that the film is being so well received. We’re proud of our team and it’s really great to be able to give them something back.
Can you share a bit about your upcoming projects? What's on the menu?
Beau Fowler: We have several, one of which is the feature film of Express Delivery being produced by Eloise Carrow. Eloise is one to look out for, Hollywood get ready! I also have a dark supernatural revenge thriller called 3 Days of Dark. Other than that I have a lot of projects in early stages of development that I aim to get a writing team on board for. I have a sci-fi series I’m incredibly excited to get to grips with, watch this space. Other than that I have several films coming up as actor. Sonny is constantly working within Stunts having wrapped up on Mission Impossible, and a Bollywood movie that saw him tearing around the streets of London with Police escorts. He’s also waiting to hear back from a few auditions, we can’t say too much at this stage, but the force is strong with this one.
Is there anything you wish to add?
Beau Fowler: I’d like to add that it’s important in this industry to help each other. We’re not in competition; we’re a part of the same team essentially. The more we understand this the more independent filmmaking will thrive.
I also want to thank you and the LAFA team for giving artists like us a platform to showcase our work. It means a huge amount that our film resonated with you and was awarded. You focus on the quality of filmmaking and the stories told regardless of genre and that is a great thing.