Remembering KFCCinema.com – An Interview with Creators Janick Neveu and Peter Zsurka

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kfccinema.com[1]

I (Hitman-Reloaded) was lucky enough to work for Kfccinema in the early 2000’s up until it officially went offline in late 2009. During that time I worked with a great group of teammembers and had fun experiences with our great messageboard members. Sadly a huge void was left when the site closed.

At that time former teammember Jimmy Ngyuen (“Nine Ball Ninja”) suggested that we create another site to keep the spirit of Kfccinema alive. With Janick’s blessings, Filmsmash.com was born, an smaller extension of the Kfccinema family. We knew that our regular Kfccinema members had many questions about why the site closed. So we decided to talk to the creators of Kffcinema.com, Janick Neveu & Peter Zsurka to get these answered.

1.Please introduce yourself to everyone. When did you first get into Asian Cinema?

We are Janick and Peter, the founders and creators of KFCCinema.com. We first got interested in Asian Cinema back around 1997-98 when we encountered the Fantasia Festival. Fantasia is an international film festival in Montreal, featuring many fantasy and action films from various Asian countries. After seeing quite a few of these films, we developed a strong taste for them.

2.How did you and Peter Zsurka come up with the idea for Kfccinema?

In the Fall of 1998, while looking for exposure past Fantasia, we discovered that our local Chinatown sold a myriad of VCDs of Asian movies. There was a vast collection, but we had a very hard time trying to find out which of them were worth watching. At the time, there were very few sources of information about foreign films.

3.Once you began to get familiar with what movies were out there, what were some of your favorite actors, actresses and directors work you looked for?
I guess Takashi Miike and Ryûhei Kitamura struck a nerve with me but in the long run and still today I would say that, in my opinion of course, Jee-woon Kim is the only director who should receive General Tao Award for all his movies.

4.Was any drinking involved in its creation?
Surprisingly not, but there was a lot of General Tao Chicken and Vietnamese soup.

5.With gaming industry background it must have been pretty easy to create the website. What were the basic ideas you had going into the project. Did you and Peter have any disagreements on certain ideas?
Actually, we were complete newbies to internet programming and had to start from scratch, without a very specific project plan. Peter had some background in general programming, while Janick had a background in graphic design. Fortunately, we never had any disagreements and were basically on the same page when it came to the project. Joining forces, we created a very basic framework for KFCC in 1999. Around 2001, we released version 2.0, which is what most people probably remember. It was a big improvement over version 1, but still painful to update as everything was done by hand.

6.Kfccinema came online around 1999, from just an idea to when you both decided “Ok, we’re ready”, how long did it take to finalize everything
It’s hard to remember exactly, but the first basic version of KFCC took about 2 to 3 months to set up. At the time, we were hosting a total of only about 25 reviews – a very humble start.

7.When you brought the website online did everything go smoothly, were there any tech issues
We had no technical problems at the release, but the real hard part was getting known. It took a long time of link sharing and regular updates to start getting some basic traffic. But eventually, things really picked up. In fact, looking back at our success we did a really good job for the time.

8.Did you two celebrate any once the site was online? What was it like to see your hard work finally finished for everyone to see.
We were happy to see it online, but we did not really celebrate. Instead, we were really motivated to continue reviewing movies, and to increase our database of reviews.

9.When creating a website, you would like to have some type content up and ready when you go live. What did you have available for people to read? Do you remember the first movies you reviewed for the site?
We had a couple of classic movie reviews up, such as First of Legend and Drunk Master II; but our focus was more to review things that were simply unknown. This was the kind of information that we wanted to have ourselves, so we were sure that a lot of people would appreciate it.

One thing that we did differently was that we focused on films from all of the Asian countries. To our knowledge, such a site did not exist at the time. Our main focus was movies from Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea; we eventually ventured into Thailand and India as well.

10.Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace were not around when you decided to create Kffcinema, how did you promote the site? How did you get the word around about your newest creation?
Back in those days, the main way to get exposure was simply exchanging links with other sites or having people host your banner. If you were really hardcore you gave out fliers too, which we actually did at the Fantasia Film Festivals.

11.Did you two ever have any doubts about what you were doing? Was there a time when you thought “ What if this doesn’t work out”
We didn’t really go in with any expectations and were doing this project simply for the sake of doing it. If people came to visit the site, then awesome; if not, we’d still be watching movies and reviewing them.

12.Do you remember how many Asian Cinema related websites were online at the time of Kfccinema’s creation?
There were a few sites at the time. Some that we remember were: City on Fire, Hong Kong Movie Database, a Japanese movie site we can’t remember the name of; and later on we had an evil twin brother that appeared: Kung Fu Cinema, similar in name only. Actually, we had developed a nice mutually supportive relationship over the years.

13.How did you go about assembling the original core team members of Kfccinema. You and Peter are good friends who live in Canada, how did you find other members to join the team
For at least two years (if not longer) it was just Janick and Peter. We never even thought of the idea of having a team or anything like that. Then one day we received an e-mail from a fan who had a lot of good things to say about us and attached a sample review of his own. He wanted to join us and write reviews together. The review he sent really impressed us, so he became the first new member of the KFCC team – Jimmy Ngyuen (“Nine Ball Ninja”). From then on, other fans would ask us to join, and we would also invite some from our forums.

14.Let us talk about General Tao for a second. What is his origin? Give us the lowdown on his creation.
There is a famous Chinese-American dish called General Tao’s Chicken, also known as General Tso in the United States. We would eat this a lot while planning the site (or just talking about movies and other things) inside various Chinese restaurants. Since it was one of our favorites, we started to make up crazy stories about the impossible feats of this legendary General – he was an awesome myth in our hearts before we even started on the KFCC project. It was only natural that he would become our mascot.

15.Who’s idea was it to add “This site is in no way affiliated with Kentucky Fried Chicken”…… We’re much better for your heart”
This goes back to General Tao’s chicken combined with how KFCC looks very similar to KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). As you can all guess by now, there was a lot of food involved in our planning. In order to avoid any lawsuits, we added that little disclaimer while poking a little fun.

16.Let’s talk about the message boards. Did you think it would blow up the way it did, especially in the beginning? I know many fans of Asian Cinema found out about films from the message boards on the site. It was a melting pot of members from all over the world having their own place to talk freely about Asian films.
I think we did not even have a message board at launch. However, back in the day forums were becoming a big trend for sites to foster a sense of community, so we decided to set some up as well early on. The message boards turned out to be a great thing, allowing us to interact with readers, get new information, and even find new team members for KFCC.

17.Like many before me, Your reviews were very helpful and pointed me to films other than HK and Japanese movies. The review for Shiri opened my eyes to Korean Cinema, my very first Korean purchase, which I still have. I remember getting it from Poker Industries when they were one of the major outlets to get Asian DVD’s/VCD’s. What was it like to see your reviews listed as a reference in the beginning, and to hear praise for them.
Shiri was my first experience with SK cinema. I don’t think it would hold up too well by todays standards, but it’s still a great film none the less. Reviews are always an opinion, point of view and it’s always great when someone agrees with you. But I would say that I also enjoy debating with people… It’s always more interesting in person, because we are all too familiar with the wars on MSG Boards, hehe.

18.Do you still have your DVD collection? Starting early like you did, I am sure you have some gems in your collection. A lot of OOP (Out OF Print) DVD & VCD. Is there anything in your collection that stands out?
Unfortunately I’ve sold about 200 of my DVD’s a couple of years ago and the last 500 left are in boxes in a warehouse, as I don’t have the space to keep them at home. However we are planning to move and hope someday to be able to have a room dedicated to my films and video game hobbies.

19. During the two years it was just you and Peter doing reviews, do you remember reviewing any movies that were just bad? Anything that made you think “ OK, what did I just watch, and how am I going to review this?” Or a movie that was so good, you couldn’t wait to start reviewing it. Was there a format you guys had when you set out to review your earlier films?
I would say that very good and very bad movies were the easiest and more fun to review. Those 2.5 or 3 stars are more problematic. It’s like everything was so generic and average that nothing stuck out and nothing was bad enough to the point of being laughable. Unfortunately nothing really comes up in my head because I’ve just erased those films from my memories.

20.I know that Peter ended up moving on to other things later on. How did you handle the daily operations after his departure.
The departure of Peter did not have a major effect because at the time we had a pretty solid team at KFCC. Janick’s part of the work load was manageable, consisting mostly of uploading new reviews. We did not have specific plans for the future, so we took things day by day.

21.I would like to talk about someone very dear to the Kfccinema team. David Leong ( Magic 8), how did you two meet. I know he used to do reviews for http://www.hkmdb.com. Did he come to you about joining the kfccinema? If anyone had a smooth transition into the site, it had to be David. He really took our site to the next level… Very professional.
David Leong was a longtime member of the forums. He was very active and an overall positive influence on the community. If we remember correctly, we had given him a position of moderator on the forums at first. Later, he took over as lead editor of the front page and news. He was a really valuable member to the team and will be missed very much.

22.When David joined the site it was a true blessing. He knew how to make everything look perfect on the front page. Everyday we would go over the news and I would let him do his thing. His editorial skills were unmatched.
Yes, you’re right, he brought a more serious angle to our front page news.

23.The weekend of March 18 2006 you received some very sad news. You were the first among the team members to find out that David had passed away due to natural causes. You found out through his brother, right?
I had not heard from David for two days. It was his brother who contacted me to inform me of his passing. It was pretty hard to believe at first, like a surreal experience. Especially strange as we’ve never met in person, but it was someone I knew well and worked with almost daily.

24.It was hard for me to believe the news of David passing. We talked daily and we used to trade movies all the time. Though I live in South Carolina, we were both from New York, and talked about hanging out the next time I was there. A few days after news of him passing, I just happened to get one last batch of movies in the mail from him. I was never expecting that to happen. The good thing is that David left a huge mark in the Asian Cinema Community. His body of work will live on.
He made some great contributions to the community, and is definitely missed by many.

25.Lets talk about Todd Brown, creator of Twitch.com. Why did our site clash with them so much?
A short time after they opened their site, we happened to notice that their news was rather similar to ours. In fact, their Asian news was often posted only a few hours it had been posted on our messages boards or main page. What we found disappointing about this was that there was never a source attached to any of their Asian news.

26.Yes, I remember the issue with our news. We tried, and worked hard to set ourselves apart from other sites. I think we succeeded in this. In the end both sites were able to iron out their differences and get along. Which was good we were able to do this before the site went offline.

I regret how I reacted at the time, and not only with Twitch but also with City on Fire. However I still firmly believe that stealing info without giving credits is wrong. I remember once that we had a reporter who was at a film festival, sorry don’t remember which one, under the KFCC banner. We’ve received an email after posting his many reports that 1/3 of his stuff was copy/past from another web report. We publically apologized, and told the guy that he’ll never be able to receive accreditation from KFCC and removed all of his articles.

[b]26.Do you care to talk about the infamous Twitch code you made that switched their links posted on our site to Bitch?
This came about from exploring the forum options to censor some foul language problems we were having on the forums. I added a series of words to the filter and that site’s name was one of them. I was curious to see what would happen when people post link from Twitch on the message board. It was more of a humorous test than anything else. However, Twitch.com did not find it so funny. I think it only lasted about a day or so until it was removed, along with the foul words feature.

27.We were hit with virus a few times. Sadly this is what cause the site to shut down. It was 3 times if I am not mistaken right?
More like 10 times, it was a recurring problem. One main source of the problem was using open-source software that had known exploits that people could figure out. Most of the hacking and introduction of viruses was on the message boards.

There was one time where the site’s server was hacked and banners ads were introduced. It was a pretty fatal blow to KFCC; the hackers managed to get control of our email and other things. While we managed to get the server back, it was a serious battle to fix all the damage.

With some creative online detective work, we managed to trace the attacks to the source. It was from the network of a High School in the US. We had talked to the administration and had found the students, who were begging us to not press charges at that point. I am surprised to this day at how we managed to turn that situation around.

28.The last time the forum was hit with a virus, was it really beyond repair, or was it just time for you say this is it.
The last virus was pretty fatal. Peter looked at the problem to see if anything could be done, but unfortunately the forum data was too corrupted to recover. As the forums were the embodiment of our community for the last few years, it was a major loss.

KFCC had been running for 10 years by then. A lot of the core team had moved on to other projects and a lot of new team members came and went. KFCC was not like it used to be back in its golden days, so we decided to close the site and move onto other things rather than trying to restart from such a massive blow.

29.What would you say if I told you that people still have fond memories of Kfcinema, even though it went offline officially in 2009? With Filmsmash being an continuation of the Kfccinema family, it has become a major stepping stone for our new site. It is a good feeling to hear former members thank us for keeping the legacy of Kfccinema.
I’m still very impress by the print we left on the internet, and even a have hard time believing it. To tell you the true, I sometime miss it myself, but like I’ve said before, I had to move on because of time constrain

30.Did you ever think that Kfccinema would become as popular as it did? A staple in the Asian cinema community
Starting off, we had never imaged it would get this popular. Our goal was always to provide Asian film fans with the info they needed to discover great new movies. In retrospect, we can be really proud of our accomplishment. At our best, we were in the top 30,000 sites as rated by alexa.com. Having done this before there were viral means to spread information such as facebook is a pretty nice accomplishment.
KFCC was a great experience, we learned a lot and made a lot of good friends along the way. We hope we were able to give something great to the Asian film community as much as Asian films have given us.

31. Do you two still keep up with Asian Films? What are some of your favorite recent stuff you have viewed?
Yes I try to, but with the kid and other hobbies, it’s hard. I try not to miss the most talked about of course, but I can’t watch everything just like before and concentrate on the best stuff only. Like I said earlier, Jee-woon Kim movies like The Good, The Bad and The Weird and I Saw the Devil are amazing films. And I’ve discovered Bo Huang in Crazy Racer/Silver Medallist, really funny actor.

32. Do you think we will ever get to see the HK version of The Expendables? Do you think someone will be able to get the greats together to do this before Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung Retire?
That would be fun. I dont think it will happen, but we never know.

33. We have all dreamed of a Jet Li VS Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan VS Donnie Yen, But unfortunately it has only been done by Hollywood. One would think it would be so much easier to make this happen back home, and without all the Hollywood restrictions. What’s your take on this?
The Forbidden Kingdom was a big let down. That was an huge missed chance there, but to tell you the true, once Ive heard what they were doing, my expecation was at it’s lowest possible, so I wasn’t too dissapointed when I saw the actual movie. At least Donnie Yen and Jackie, Shanghai Knights was a decent film, maybe not their best martial art prowless on screen but nice to see.

34. During the heyday of Asian Cinema early 90’s, Quentin Tarantino had his stamp on a handful of movies. Many of the members used to joked about this all the time. But it has been sometime since we have seen his name slapped on the cover of an Asian DVD release?
Well I guess that the the Kill Bill popularity thrend has faded out, and Asian cinema is now more recognized than 10 years ago. He is no longer needed as an marketing tool or commercial drive for Asian movies anymore.

35. The million dollar question, Which has been asked since the days of Kfccinema. What do you think of the Remakes of Popular Asian Movies? Specially with Akira and Oldboy still trying to make it to the big screen after being in Development Hell for years.
The Akira remake is a big farce in my opinion, the setting, actors and most everything involved in the production sounds like its going to be the next Dragon Ball movie. Personnaly I dont really care about remakes, I just stick with the original and I simply ignore them. Let people enjoy what ever they prefer, I am fine with that, but I will say that 95% of the time, originals are still better.

36. Kfccinema was an great learning experience, and a lot of fun. We didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace back then, we all interacted through the forum. I personally would like to thank you and Peter for creating Kfccinema.com. I would also like to thank all of the Kfccinema team members, thank you for the great, and crazy experience of working with everyone. Most of all all the members who make the site what it was.
Thank you very much and I would like to mention that those years are very special to me. Ive had chance to work with really great and talented people. Ill never forget you guys! Ive always enjoyed interacting and reading our viewers comment on our message board and I miss that a lot. Thank you again everyone!

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