Patrick Nan’s PZ ’20 video about martial artist and film star Bruce Lee fighting with lightsabers has reached over 2.1 million views on YouTube in the less than a month since its Jan. 12 release.
The video, titled “Bruce Lee Lightsabers Scene Recreation,” uses a scene from the 1972 film “The Chinese Connection” in which Lee faces off against an evil samurai warrior. Nan edited the scene using Adobe After Effects to turn Lee’s nunchucks and his adversary’s samurai sword into Star Wars-esque lightsabers.
“A lot of the Jedi lightsaber fights in ‘Star Wars’ reminded me of martial arts,” Nan said. “I also came to like Bruce Lee as he was one of the practitioners who first brought Chinese martial arts from the East to the West.”
Nan started making videos in 10th grade when he enrolled in an International Baccalaureate film course. He chose Media Studies as his major at Pitzer College to focus on film production.
“That’s when I took my filmmaking to the next level and started working on more advanced programs that resulted in higher quality videos,” Nan said.
Nan started working on Bruce Lee Lightsabers video shortly after “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” came out in 2015 but took a break to focus on school.
“One of the special effects editors from [‘The Force Awakens’] created this effects pack … called Saber,” Nan said. “I thought, ‘How can I make this new plugin into an actual scene, and how can I use it as a learning experience?’”
Nan returned to the project in the summer of 2017 and completed the video at the beginning of 2018.
“I was a slow worker because I wanted it to be meticulous [and] as perfect as it can be,” Nan said. “It took so long because the plugin Saber effect I was using required me to manually track the blade, going one frame at a time, 24 frames per second, for a one-minute, 45-second video.”
Nan also had to work out other details to make the scene look real and professional.
“In one of the shots where Bruce Lee had a wooden pole, I had the lightsaber start burning the pole as if it were actually there,” Nan said. “I had to cut out some characters to layer them on top of the lightsaber plugin, and I had to adjust some settings to make the lightsabers’ glow shine on them.”
Nan published the video on YouTube and Reddit. He said he didn’t expect to get so many views and likes. Since the video’s release, his YouTube following has increased from 40 to 4,500 followers.
“My phone was filled with YouTube notifications, Reddit notifications, and even messages from people I didn’t know,” he told TSL. “I was so surprised. I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, it actually caught on.’”
The viral video attracted many comments, including over 4,000 on YouTube. Nan noticed one pattern of responses that kept recurring.
“Many users were saying, ‘This two-minute video is better than the three-hour “The Last Jedi” movie,’” Nan said, adding that these comments were probably due to the polarizing effect the latest Star Wars film had on many viewers.
Pitzer’s Assistant Director of Media Studies Eduardo Gonzalez also praised Nan’s work.
“The Bruce Lee Lightsaber video that Patrick created is an amazing example of mixing two classic movie genres and giving it some contemporary pop culture appeal,” Gonzalez wrote in an email to TSL. “The visual effects he created were so well done, both creatively and technically, that it’s no surprise it went viral.”
Nan even received a message from the official Bruce Lee Instagram account, which is run by Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee. It read “We love the Bruce Lee Lightsabers video! Are you cool with us posting on Bruce Lee FB page and IG … and giving you credit?”
Nan readily agreed. He said he had a fangirling moment when saying, “Yes Shannon, you can.”
But even with all the positive feedback, Nan has received negative comments on the video — which he ignores.
“People have the right to voice their opinions, and I don’t really have the right to silence them,” Nan said. “The [negative commenters] more than often get bashed on by other people.”
Nan has received messages on his YouTube and Instagram accounts from viewers asking him to recreate more scenes with lightsabers. Despite the video’s success, Nan didn’t make any money from it and doesn’t plan to, as he wants to make videos for himself.
“I’d like to make more Bruce Lee videos, but I don’t want to make them for the sake of pleasing my small following … I just want to make fun videos,” Nan said. “There also comes the danger that I would become dubbed the Bruce Lee lightsabers guy.”
Nan hopes to one day become a film director and make action movies in Hollywood.
“Right now I’m editing several side projects,” Nan said. “I see myself starting out as an editor and working my way up.”
Nan’s other main goal is to increase Asian American representation in films, which he said he has been thinking about since before college.
“Right now a lot of Hollywood movies don’t feature many Asian American main characters,” Nan said. “I want to see more Asian American lead roles in the future, and I want to be one of the people to help (do that).”
Nan is a staff member at Pomona College’s Studio 47, a 5C film and production group, and will be teaching a filmmaking crash course there. Once the dates and times for the course are finalized, they will be posted on the group’s Facebook page.
“We're so happy to have Patrick as one of our staff members this semester, and we're crazy impressed with the video!” Studio 47 General Manager Brian Luna CM ’20 said. “It's an amazing accomplishment — and it shows that he has great special effects skills and a talent for intuiting the kinds of things people love!”