WAB Alumni Livi Zheng (Class of 2007) and her brother, Ken Zheng (Class of 2013), are living their dream. They have recently completed the production of Livi's second feature film - an action thriller starring Tony Todd, John Savage, Keith David, Madeline Zima, Sean Patrick Flannery and her brother Ken Zheng. Her filmmaking debut, the martial arts thriller, BRUSH WITH DANGER, is set for its U.S. theatrical release with a premiere at New York's Cinema Village theatre on September 19, 2014, followed by Los Angeles on September 26, and San Francisco on October 3.
Writer-director-producer-actress and stunt woman Livi Zheng may only be 25 years old, but the multi-talented filmmaker already fills a unique position in Hollywood no one else occupies – a skilled, experienced stunt woman and actress who writes, directs, produces and stars in her own action films.
The Indonesian-born martial arts champion and Economics honor student-turned-filmmaker shot the movie over 27 days last summer and fall in Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California. Despite a low budget, Livi attracted a professional, award-winning production team who recognized her determination and talent, and wanted to be part of her success.
Pursuing her passion from the early age of 16, Livi and her 10-year-old brother, Ken, moved to Beijing, while their father and mother remained in Jakarta, Indonesia. At the time, Livi was working as a researcher and producer on a popular television series called Laksamana Cheng Ho about Admiral Zheng, which required conducting historical research at Beijing's National Library. In addition, Livi, had set her sights on attending college and film school in the United States, and there were few high schools in Indonesia with a recognized college prep curriculum. So, with their parents' encouragement and support, the two youngsters moved to Beijing, where they attended the Western Academy of Beijing.
"My parents understood that I had a great opportunity in Beijing and raised us to be responsible," said Livi. "My father is my inspiration, my hero and the person I admire most in the world. He's a very disciplined person and a great role model who makes you believe in yourself and your dreams."
In 2005, Livi and Ken moved into an apartment in Beijing, undertaking a rigorous training, work and school regimen. A typical day saw them up at 5 a.m. to train for a couple of hours before school began at 8 a.m. When school ended at 3 p.m., they would train for another 3-4 hours before sitting down for dinner and homework from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
"Ken and I are really, really close. We took care of each other then, and we take care of each other now," said Livi. "It's been the two of us together for a long time." Livi co-stars in Brush with Danger with Ken, now an 18-year-old martial arts athlete, a two-time Indonesian national kickboxing champion, and the youngest kickboxing champion in Indonesia's history. Ken is also a member of the Indonesian National Kickboxing team.
When Ken Zheng became the youngest kickboxing champion in Indonesia's history at age 16, the high school junior was already busy making his own short films and documentaries, co-founding and building an educational outreach service group for poorly funded rural Chinese schools, all while attending the Western Academy of Beijing, where he was a top-ranked student.
While training 5 to 6 hours a day, Indonesia's youngest martial arts champion found the time to work as a martial arts coach at WAB, and started working in the school's film department. It was there that Ken also began making documentaries focusing on another one of his passions: Education for children of poor and migrant workers.
Ken wrote and directed a documentary about the Book-a-Book Foundation, a group he co-founded comprised of high school students who raised money to create a mobile library service for under-developed migrant schools around Beijing. He also shot a documentary about Children's Hope Foundation, which serves Beijing's most impoverished schools, and the Hearts 4 Foundation about high school students who provide school supplies and teach math and English to migrant students.
In their upcoming martial arts release, Brush with Danger, Livi and Ken explore the life of two young migrants pursuing their dreams in America. They admit the young brother-sister immigrants in their feature film debut draws from their own lives in China. "Some of it comes from what we experienced as two kids in Beijing, strangers, sticking together to survive," Ken said.
Livi said she's inspired by the films and filmmakers she loves, combined with her lifelong passion for action and character-infused stories exploring humanity and culture. "As a child, I dreamed of making action films," she said. "Action films are movies that everyone, regardless of language, can understand and enjoy".
After graduating from the Western Academy in Beijing, Livi attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Economics in two-and-a-half-years, and was inducted into the International Economics Honor Society. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Film Production at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Ken is currently studying radio, TV and film at the University of Texas, Austin.
For more on Brush with Danger, visit http://brushwithdanger.com
Watch the movie trailer here: