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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Spirit Warriors: interview with director Jon East and writer Jo Ho

Jo Ho first came to CBBC's attention after she submitted a feature-length script she had written called Monkey Nut Tales. They liked her style and asked her to work on a children's TV show with similar magical elements.

"When I first came up with this idea, there were several things I wanted to achieve with it," reveals Jo.

"I wanted to have a show that would raise the profile of East Asian talent in this country, one that would also teach some of our beautiful Chinese beliefs and philosophies to an audience that may not already be aware of them.

"I also wanted to empower the children who watch the show with the messages that we deliver in every episode, messages such as: be true to yourself. And most of all, I wanted to entertain! I wanted every child who saw this show to think that they too could be powerful warriors, ready to fight injustice and save their loved ones!"

What were the inspirations behind the show?

"Some of the films and TV shows I was inspired by were Spirited Away, Buffy, Kung Fu Hustle, A Chinese Ghost Story and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," explains Jo.

"Also a Chinese fantasy drama series called Return Of The Condor Heroes – which, rather hysterically, the whole writing team and the producers watched an episode of, even though it was in Mandarin with no subtitles!"

So what makes Spirit Warriors stand out? Jon East...

"Spirit Warriors stands out because it not only explores the fantasy genre in high-quality live action, using characters with whom one forges real emotional bonds, but it does so with truly beautiful production design and cinematography," reveals Jon.

"There are few shows as committed to their genre or as visually dazzling or colourfully original anywhere on British television today."

The show also features amazing special effects:

"The producer and I – as lead director – spent over six months before filming commenced conducting research and development with the highly experienced visual effects team to devise the most efficient and appropriate techniques to address each of the script's challenges, whether it was creating a talking dragon, a magic doorway or an artificial landscape.

"Often this meant combining techniques in innovative ways and – together with my pre-visualising storyboards – it meant that when filming started we were able to approach all the various demands of the story with confidence.

"Another great find was Jude Poyer, a wonderful young choreographer, stuntman and martial artist. He was able to bring an authentic touch to the martial arts choreography of the evil Nian warriors and whilst maintaining a strictly non-contact rule – important for a children's drama – still imbue them with a sense of spectacularly dynamic and sinister menace."

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