WSU student relives history through King Kung Fu documentary

  • Nathan Light, a senior studying video production created a documentary over the slapstick comedy King Kung Fu as part of his practicum. 
  • The original film was set entirely in Wichita and finally released in 1987. The film premiered at the Crest Theater and had a VHS release in Japan, Poland and Taiwan. 
  • While creating the documentary, Nathan learned the ins and outs of video production and how to craft his story from start to finish. His time at Shocker Studios has given him hands on experiences.

Nathan Light, a senior studying video production, became a die-hard fan of the 1976 slapstick comedy, King Kung Fu, when he was 11 years old. 

“While it’s a corny movie, I love it,” Nathan said. “I’m a sucker for low-budget films. I remember renting it from Blockbuster all the time.”

When King Kung Fu, which is set in Wichita, finally released in 1987, the film premiered at the Crest Theater in downtown Wichita for two weeks. There was a VHS release in Japan, Poland and Taiwan as well. In archives, there are set photos, news releases, articles and documentation of Wichita in the 1970s. As time moves on, the original film becomes nostalgia for Wichita. 

After deciding to major in digital arts, Nathan took the opportunity to learn more about the film through crafting a documentary titled the "Making of King Kung Fu."  What started as a summer project turned into the work needed to complete his practicum. With over 90 hours of field work, the documentary stands as a way to remember Wichita in the ’70s. 

To create his documentary, Nathan brought together as many of the crew members possible to understand their perspective. His documentary’s focus was to retell the historical events and how Wichita had changed through the years.

“I was nervous about interviewing them because the movie wasn’t a huge success,” Nathan said. “I was worried they would consider the film a burden. But they were happy to participate, 40 years later.”

During the filming process, Nathan learned the ins and outs of how to craft his project successfully. He was able to connect with the most well-known video producers in Wichita. Throughout the process, he enjoyed editing and watching his vision come to life.

“I learned that filmmaking isn’t a one-man job,” Nathan said. “I can’t put the whole pile of work on myself.” 

When deciding on a college, he couldn’t imagine a better place to learn than Shocker Studios, a state-of-the-art production facility that houses WSU's Bachelor of Applied Arts majors. He’s learned quickly through the hands-on experiences and opportunities in class, which have helped him make connections and network in Wichita. His advice to underclassmen is to start reaching out early

“When it comes to learning the writing, editing and filming, it’s hard to sit in a classroom,” Nathan said. “You don’t fully learn how to do it until you’re on your own.” 

While Nathan graduates in May 2020, he hasn’t figured out his path and will go “wherever the wind blows.” Eventually, he wants to be a director of photography for big-budget commercials and films. In the next 10 years, he hopes to break the record for the youngest Academy Award winner for best in cinematography. The goal drives him to succeed and make connections in Wichita.

“If I don’t break the record, it’s OK. As long as I’m doing something I love, I’ll be happy,” Nathan said.

His King Kung Fu documentary premiered at the Tallgrass Film Festival in the fall. The original movie is also planned to re-release on Blu-ray within the next year. Nathan’s documentary might end up as a bonus feature on the DVD and digital download coming to Prime and iTunes. 

“I’m glad I could contribute to those who made the film. It makes me happy to be part of the King Kung Fu family.”