Chee Keong Cheung was 16 when he started making films.
Armed with his parents’ home video camera and a vivid imagination, he would recruit fellow students and teachers at Lancaster Royal Grammar School to feature in the “shorts” and screen them in the hall at lunchtime.
Sixteen years later the 32-year-old runs Intense Productions and Distribution from The White Cross Business Park in Lancaster, and travels the world working on films, documentaries and music videos.
He is just about to embark on directing a brand new film, and like his “recruitment” of students and teachers at school, Chee is offering Lancastrians the chance to feature in it - as a zombie.
Surrounded by signed framed photos of him and Hollywood heavyweights, and obscure independent film posters, Chee cuts a fine impression in a black sharp suit and waistcoat, shirt and tie.
“I was fascinated with the medium of film and how it could connect with such a large number of people, and how powerful it was,” he said.
“These worlds that can be created – and that was what really intrigued me and drew me in.”
A child of the 80s and 90s, Chee grew up with films like The Neverending Story, Goonies, and Back To The Future.
Born in London, his family moved to Lancaster and Chee attended Bowerham Primary School.
His parents have run the Golden Dragon Restaurant in George Street for 30 years.
On leaving school he went on to study film production at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design in Farnham.
“It was a great place to learn, and I was at an advantage having gone in after making shorts,” he said.
“With film there’s a certain degree of theory, but there’s also the job experience.
“There was a producer living in Farnham called Tim Hampton, whose production credits include Superman, Neverending Story, Legend, and The Life of Brian and he was also former MD of Twentieth Century Fox.
“I managed to get in touch with him, and he took me under his wing, and gave me advice, shared experiences and we developed a few projects together.
“We’d meet for coffee every week in Cafe Rouge.
“That really helped me with a better understanding of the business and opened up a few doors, and I met with a few other people such as Graham Baker and John Stephenson, who was former VP of Jim Henson Creature Workshop.”
At the same time Chee began working on short films and documentaries, as well as writing scripts.
He went to Cannes Film Festival, which he described as “a big eye opener”, and worked on appraising films to make them more commercial, producing, and looking at movie budgets.
“I then took a couple of years off the course before going back to finish part time and that’s when I thought ‘I want to direct’.
Chee met with actor, producer and martial artist Mark Strange, from Leyland, most famous for his film Displaced.
“I started to see a demand and interest in genre films, and I spent a lot of time watching these types of films,” Chee said.
“Mark introduced me to this martial arts world, we’d go to gyms and clubs and see people running up walls, I was watching a lot of great stuntmen, and I knew this was an opportunity to direct.
“I wanted to create a showcase for all this talent and that’s where the idea for Underground (released as 12 in the UK) came about.
“It was distributed to around 14 countries, and that was my first entry into the action world in around 2006.
This led to the release of Bodyguard: New Beginning, which is set in the UK and in Hong Kong.
“My career to date has taken me in all these different directions,” Chee said.
“I had the idea for Zombie Apocalypse and then got introduced to Kevin Eastman, co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“He really embraced the idea, and he became a really good friend. To have the opportunity to work with him has been a real privilege.”
Zombies have seen something of a resurgence of late (28 Days Later, World War Z), and Chee’s idea is to give the zombies the powers they had as humans but enhanced.
“The idea is to have zombies retaining certain abilities.
“If they had a certain human skill - like being really fast, or really strong, then it would be retained.
“It’s quite dark and quite unique. It’s a men on a mission kind of film.
“This is the project I can make and create and control.
“The last two years have been putting that together, and getting it into the state where we have the right team in front and behind the cameras.
“I’d say it’s a fusion between Black Hawk Down, Dawn of the Dead, and Ong Bak.
“We’re going to be filming right across Lancashire, Manchester, Liverpool and London with 105 locations in total.”
Chee said his other venture, Intense Distribution, allowed him to open up other avenues in the film world.
“It’s a way of giving voices or exposure to those films that may not normally get it, to give them a platform,” he said.
“What’s different about Intense is I know how I would want a distributor to work for my films, so we can give a filmmaker that special service because of our experience.”
Zombie Apocalypse, directed by Chee Keong Cheung, is being executive produced by Carlos Gallardo (El Mariachi trilogy) and Kevin Eastman.
By Nick Lakin.
Ever wanted to play a zombie in a film?
Here could be your chance.
Chee would like to invite fans of film, and zombies, to feature in Zombie Apocalypse, the first in a planned trilogy.
There are several unique sponsorship opportunities for both individuals and companies to be a part of the film with Bronze (£50), Silver (£250), Gold (£500) and Platinum (£1,000) packages on offer.
These packages include a chance to appear as a zombie, soldier or survivor in the film and die onscreen, enjoy lunch with the cast and crew, receive limited edition signed memorabilia by the cast and crew (T-shirt, poster, DVD), see your name in the credits and receive an invitation to the red carpet premiere attended by the stars from the film and other celebrities.
This is a unique opportunity to receive an exclusive behind the scenes look at the filmmaking process and for those involved your support will forever be a part of the history of how this movie got made!
Each package is limited in numbers.
For further details and to sign up please email firstname.lastname@example.org