Tapped film taps a UFC star-studded cast

Director Allan Ungar (pictured left) tells Playback about how MMA fan interest in the yet-to-be-marketed film is being piqued online, and that he also wants to hit up the Karate Kid retro audience with the film.

Upcoming Canadian feature Tapped has attached some of the biggest names in the UFC and director Allan Ungar says he’s hoping to mix the nostalgia for classic fighting films with the cult following of the modern day ones.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Krzysztof Soszynski got involved with the film after receiving the script written by Ungar.

Ungar admits he didn’t initially write the UFC stars into the script because he thought it would be unlikely that they would agree to be a part of the production, but the fighters jumped on board after they were contacted through the film’s producers.

He credits this to the fact that Tapped heavily emphasizes the importance of the characters, something that he says sets it apart from previous MMA films.

“We were grounding them in reality and contextualizing them to sort of make their roles relevant,” he tells Playback.

Tapped is the result of five-time karate champion Cody Hackman and Ungar meeting in L.A. and coming together to flesh out a story that Hackman had thought of.

After Hackman and Ungar finished collaborating on the story, Ungar went on to write the script for the film, which also stars actors Michael Biehn, Martin Kove (The Karate Kid) and Nick Bateman (Hobo With a Shotgun).

“We wanted to hit that retro audience by giving it that Karate Kid feel but merging it as well with the modern MMA,” Ungar says. Hackman, he says, “took his philosophy and ideas and gave it to me and I sort of placed it throughout the script having two worlds collide.”

Tapped tells the story of a disgruntled teen who, after being sent to a karate school to do community service, enters an MMA tournament to face the man who killed his parents.

The low-budget independent film found its financing early on through a private equity investor that backed the film but still gave Ungar final say on the cast and the final edit.

“We locked down the financing side and were ready to go while the casting was still taking place,” he says. “It allowed us to have all creative say on who we cast and who we went after.”

Due to the presence of the big-named MMA stars, Ungar says companies attached to the fighters, such as Nike, Silva’s sponsor, were happy to allow their brands to be showcased throughout the film.

Production wrapped on the film late last year. Tapped was mostly shot in London, Ont., with the exception of some key scenes with Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida that were shot in the Xtreme Couture gym in Toronto.

While the marketing strategy is still being discussed, the film already has a presence on many MMA forums and MMA blog sites.

The film already has a Facebook page in place and is planning to link it to the Twitter feeds of the UFC fighters that star in the film.

“We’re slowly rolling out the buzz,” Ungar says. “But we would like to do it closer to the film’s release. It helps the film track a little better.”

Currently, Tapped is set to be released by the end of 2013 or by early 2014. Although no deal has been signed yet, Ungar has a release plan in mind. The Canadian director admits that ideally he would love to get a limited theatrical run in Canada and a video-on-demand release in the United States.

“[VOD] is a really popular platform for independent films or films that are low budget,” he adds. “At this point I think it’s a bit too early to determine what will end up happening but we are hoping that it’s a film you will be able to go and see.”

Ungar hopes the audience is not quick to dismiss the film.

“I think a lot of people are expecting this to be a typical mixed martial arts film but at the end of the day it’s not,” he said. “I wouldn’t even categorize it as an MMA film. It’s a film about a character but its set in that world.”

Pictured: 1 – Allan Ungar and Krzysztof Soszynski; 2 – Anderson Silva

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to clarify a reference to product placement. In fact, the producers obtained product clearance from those brands.