The quick and dirty video

There’s an entire mini-industry around short, crappy films… and when I say industry, I don’t mean that the filmmakers themselves are making any money off it, but groups like the 48hr film fest have been staying in the black for years… with many spin-offs and other short competitions.

Why is this?

Not as much because people really want to watch them (despite the efforts of at least some streaming services to create a market for shorts), but more because we need to make them, and we need a kick in the pants to get it done.

Nobody is born a great filmmaker, and most budding filmmakers have no real idea if they’re any good or not. Trust me, I worked for my fair share of indie filmmakers in my time that were convinced they were going to be the next big… whatever… and… weren’t.

But as a learning project, there’s few things that can beat just getting out and doing it, provided you approach the project with reasonable expectations, communicate those expectations to your team, and make a deliberate effort to actually learn from the process. This means opening yourself up to criticism on what I’m sure isn’t your best work. That’s hard, but it’s also how we get better.

Been thinking about this a lot this last month or two, and I have some examples I can share.

First, this short, shot a few years ago, in under five hours with a couple volunteers who hadn’t ever really done screen acting or stunt work before, and with a crew of… me. Written, shot, edited, armed, choreographed, lit, location managed, everything else. Is that ever how I’d want to shoot a legit project? Oh heck no, and there are things in this that, were I focused on one of my usual aspects, like fight coordination, actor training, gun handling, etc., I never would have let slide. But that’s the nature of the beast. At the time, I was working on The Screen Combat Handbook, and was wondering what I was forgetting – as well as feeling a bit like it’d been too long since I did some of these aspects of production, so I needed to test myself again. I also tried staging a few image ideas for the book (which counted towards that five hour total), most of which I ended up not using (although a picture of my Final Cut Pro timeline for this is in the book). Thanks to Dusten and Cody for being willing to play.

More recently, I was asked this summer to both help with a Cleveland 48hr Film Fest project, and to head up the inaugural Filmmaking intensive for the 10th annual CombatCon.

The 48hr film project was an invitation/request from B.J. Halsall and the Freke Show team, some of whom I’d met previously at Cleveland Indieclub meetings (a decent way to try to get a feel for the scene when you move to a new town). Nobody else on the project was stunt or stage combat trained, but they were interested in having that be an element of the project this year, and I had some time, and was itching to spend more time on set; all I’d done so far this past year in the realm of film/tv/video was acting (two industrial/training video scenarios for Steamfitters – playing a bar manager – and a day on Mayor of Kingstown, which was actually pretty cool). So I showed up, bringing a couple mats and my thinking cap, and ended up being both fight coordinator and one of the actors.

The short was well received. Brad’s New Job won 7 Awards, getting the most nominations and the most awards.

*Best Film – 4th Place

*Audience Choice Group B

*Best Ensemble Cast

*Best Use of Character

*Best Use of Line

*Best Of Screening

*Best Trailer

*The Danny Bass Award

Additional Nominations: Best Editing, Best Supporting Actress – Celine Kowall, Best Special Effects, Best Choreography (for my fight choreography)

Perhaps even more important, it was a fun and validating experience.

Then the week after that I went to Vegas for CombatCon, where the filmmaker’s intensive was set up basically as a “48hr film fest… with knives!” (in the words of one of the convention coordinators). Frankly I’m not sure that was the best use of the intensive, from a learning perspective – making it project instead of process focused made it less valuable as a learning experience, less educational for the students paying to be there, and it also was a bit of a logistical mess as we figured out how to make it work this first time. Number of writers/scripts was changing up until the day before shooting, casting was a mess up until halfway through shooting day (I ended up stepping in as cast, having not intended to do so, and taking off my mask for that is probably why I came back with COVID), and the hotel conference center made for a very limiting venue. The overlapping intensives included a McLemore system martial arts tomahawk and bowie track, so that also kinda dictated the weapons. We had less time to shoot these projects than any 48hr film project I’ve worked on or heard of (basically 11am-5:30pm) and each project essentially had a crew of one once production began. That said, both filmmakers in attendance completed projects in time to share at closing ceremonies, and hopefully learned from the process.

In a world of YouTube and Vimeo and TikTok and ubiquitous video it’s easy to put stuff out there. Maybe too easy, because there’s plenty of stuff out there that’s just not great work, whether it’s amateur shorts or people’s stage combat test scenes. From a curating-your-online-brand perspective for performers, why bother making things like this, let alone sharing them? Why would you want stuff out there of you being mediocre due to crazy time constraints, new and untrained colleagues, etc.?

Because we need to learn. Because learning comes from vulnerability and sharing and accepting critique… okay, maybe not random YouTube commenter @butthurt6969 who just says “haha you suck and you’re ugly go die in a fire”, because posting things online opens us up to stupidity like that as well, but solicit honest feedback. See what you’re embarrassed about still a year later, and make sure you never do it again. See what actually holds up, and do that more. See what you wish you’d done different, and go out there and freaking do it differently. Besides, most gigs will not be your best work anyway – there’s always something, from time constraints, to a bad partner, to weather issues, or an editor who butchered your work, or whatever, so there’s something to be said about what you do in bad circumstances being just as much who you are professionally as what you can do when given all the right tools and time.

…but also try to curate a ‘best-of’ demo reel, and make sure that’s the one you actually promote more widely, if you’re trying to make it as a performer and not just someone who got to do a fun project over the weekend. Yeah, an update to mine is definitely on my to-do list…

For what it’s worth, here’s a share of the BEST of the 48hr films I’ve ever worked on… but this one was insane in the amount of money and other resources they poured into it (and yes, I did get paid to work on it as a gun wrangler etc.). It’s extremely rare for anyone to pour those kinds of professional and financial resources into a non-paying project like the 48hr film fest… but it does sometimes happen, and I feel sorry for everyone else who had to compete against it. I’ve done 48hr films in Seattle, Richmond, and Cleveland, going back at least 13 years, but this was a highlight, quality-wise:

Celestial Bronze? Percy Jackson sword experiment

Finally got around to trying something I’ve been planning/thinking about/working towards since last Fall:

Using some of the Sur Fin Chemical aluminum coloring treatments on some Rogue Steel Leafblade swords I built up from blanks.

This was all kick-started by hearing the rights to the Percy Jackson musical The Lightning Thief was going to start licensing rights publicly, which predictably means some high schools and colleges are starting to do the show.

Knowing the books, the weapons used by the pubescent demigod heroes in the series are supposed to be made of “Celestial Bronze” (or Imperial Gold for the Roman counterparts to the original Greek heroes, or Stygian Iron for some of the antiheroes). So I figured I’d see if I could go a step beyond what the original production did, and actually make props look like bronze. Sur Fin Chemicals and I found each other at just the right time… but it took me a while to finish the hilts, and the weather wasn’t conducive to mixing potentially non-friendly chemicals this winter anyway. So the coloring has been on hold… until today.

It’s interesting stuff, and goes pretty far (I mixed more than I should have, expecting it to be a bit thicker perhaps). Overall, I’d call it a success.

Before treatment:

During:

After one treatment/pass/coat:

After another pass… untreated sword left, then two treated other swords (did I mention I mixed too much?), and then these two again:

More on the video:

https://youtu.be/q5g16UoTObY

MoCap Project!

Yes, it has been over a year since my last post here, so this is probably long overdue, but I realized that sharing a page is usually more algorithm-friendly than sharing a YouTube link, so perhaps it was time to dust off the ol’ WordPress blog.

It’s been a long, hard few years for many, and I’ve had a lot less exciting creative professional projects this last year or two than I normally would, thanks to COVID-19. I’ve gotten to help with fights for a few gigs here and there, some online conferences and workshops, and some classes, I’ve been doing more service work with the SAFD and other organizations, made and modified some props I might talk about later, but the biggest continuing pet project of the past couple years has been a constantly-evolving grant-funded project on motion capture as a pedagogical tool for movement training.

This actually started more specifically as something about VR/AR and the potential of true first-person content as maybe better for learning some physical skills than the usual third-person video content. My first year at it was a Freedman Fellows project on that, and I did some initial experiments in first-person VR video recording to see if that was viable, too motion-sickness inducing, or just not worth it.

But I pretty quickly realized that VR wasn’t ideal, because the viewer had no idea about where their own body was in space. This is problematic for learning because you can’t compare yourself to a model, and for safety because you can’t really move freely around the space without running into things.

So then onto Augmented Reality, where you can see something 3d projected into your actual surroundings. I had high hopes for things like the Microsoft Hololens, because I knew Case Western had been working with them already and had some in their possession, but when I was finally able to test some out, I quickly realized they wouldn’t work. Too narrow a field of vision, too laggy, etc. The Oculus Quest 2 has some AR tools coming soon, apparently, using their low-res black and white cameras to sort of do AR, but the developer tools don’t seem to be available to the general public just yet. So that part of the project got mostly put into the theoretical future bin.

But the other realization I quickly had with the 360 video was that true first-person perspective would require motion capture, since a physical camera can never really be put inside your head. You can do first-person video where you control the perspective, like Hardcore Henry did, but not in such a way that the user can decide where to look.

And this took me in another direction, based more around motion capture. The Freedman Fellowship really only funds hiring a student or other support for labor, not equipment, so I started applying for others, and landed an ACES+ Opportunity Grant and then later a Glennan Fellowship, and between those and the tail end of my setup funds, I was able to get the basic equipment need to buy a basic motion capture set.

I chose the Perception Neuron Studio system, because I needed something relatively affordable, portable, and with pretty quick setup, which the better optical systems just don’t offer, and I also had a preference for straps over suits, since I wanted to be able to put different students in it without worrying about suit fit, having to launder things constantly, etc. (which ruled out Rococo, the other main competitor to Noitom). I also wanted something I could do a one-time purchase of and own, since that’s how grants work, and some of the systems out there are subscription-based for the software. I’d used an inertial/magnetic setup previously at the Paddy Crean workshops, so those were already on my radar.

2015 (?) at the Paddy Crean Workshop in Banff, Canada, working with
professionals from New Zealand, the UK, Norway, Canada and the US.

I wanted to try two main things in terms of classroom usage: Base mocap data for movement and postural analysis, and mapping on to other characters as a sort of modern descendant of traditional mask or puppetry work. The VR/AR thing is still in a possibly/maybe/eventually list, but classroom use came to the fore.

I originally leaned towards Unreal for the latter, as perhaps more of an industry standard in video games and movie/tv production, but the student I was able to hire for the second year of Freedman Fellowship support was familiar with Unity instead, and with their purchase of the WETA tools and some of their new demos, Unity’s definitely still a player in the market.

Anyway, after working on this idea for over a year now, I’ve been able to test these ideas in the classroom:

…and yes, this is part of a longer series/playlist of videos I’ve made long the way, trying to figure out how to make this all work.

Up next, in a couple weeks:

…and I’ve just found out that our Cardinal Richleau at the CPH Three Musketeers (just went into rehearsals) is someone else I know, who’s worked on cartoon and video game mocap, so this may grow.

Looking forward to seeing where all this can lead!

Yep, still here. Mostly.

Hanging in there, like most folks I know!

Just closed out my first directing gig in the age of Covid. Was assigned by my department with the intent of being a quick staged reading, going up the second week of classes… but I really didn’t want to offer just yet another Zoom meeting with people talking – and with strange speech patterns on top of that. So I opted to keep rehearsal to about a week and a half before classes started and into the first week, then record them, and do a little basic editing of the Zoom recording. The actors all had varied audio gear, internet quality, lighting, etc., and none of them had green screens, but the Zoom virtual background of a chromakey template did a good enough job for what it was. I added in some basic sound effects and background atmosphere, some subtle setting intro fades for scenes, and a scroll of the script. Seems like it got a pretty positive response, which is gratifying, and it fit the slot we try to offer every year or two of a classical or otherwise heightened speech piece:

Now I’m able to focus more on the wacky world of online teaching (this semester it’s an undergrad Acting class, and Stage Combat with the MFAs). Starting to get my space and tools figured out by now:

As with I think everyone, gigs are kinda slow right now… did a little work on a BIPOC-led cop drama thing last Fall and might do a bit more with that later if they get more funding. Might be working on a Karamu House show that’s recording and then going online later in the Spring. Just sent off an audition tape for something shooting later in the Spring. That’s about it… but it’s also been good to have time to focus more on keeping the household/family running and together, on my teaching, etc… plus the usual committees and service that faculty work entails; we’re in scholarship audition season, so I’ve been putting together videos for undergrad recruitment, doing Q&As and mini workshops, and will have a full day of auditions this coming weekend.

Looking forward to a time when enough of us can get vaccinated and we can all meet again.

Stay warm, safe, and healthy my friends!

Lockdown

Oof. It’s been a heck of a long year, these past nine months or so since my last entry.

Fall actually got me in trouble a bit, over-extending myself. Between the book deadline, directing a show, and multiple fight choreography gigs, I short-changed the time and brainpower and sleep required to do my best work as a teacher. Got called out on that, and have had a hard time making it up to my grad students. Tried hard going into Spring, and only had a few gigs (I’m de-facto resident fight person for Cleveland Playhouse, and had a blast working on CLUE with them), but then the whole pandemic hit.

First week or two of that, my laptop died (with no Apple store open to take it to) and I lost all my lesson plans. I was sure they were on my cloud drive, but maybe having it open when the laptop died screwed that up. Had to get a new motherboard and hard drive and screen. Then my wife got sick, and was in quarantine in our bedroom for a few weeks, while the three kids were also transitioning to online instruction, and while that was happening also our fridge died, several light fixtures died, some toilets needed fixing… it was just a string of crises, and I got a bit overwhelmed, and again, asked too much of the grad students in terms of solo projects between online checkins, and wasn’t the most transparent with the constantly changing game plan. Teaching movement online is a challenge. Internet connection at home was inconsistent, don’t have a big space to move in while on camera, some lesson plans had to be put off and new ones thrown in. Still waiting to hear what Fall will look like, but I’m sure it will also involve lots of constant adjustments. I’m committed to doing better, but if we can’t meet in person or come in contact, things like stage combat (which was supposed to be more than a semester before they leave at the end of next year) may not work. The SAFD won’t allow online-only certification, nor should they; partnering skills, distancing, etc. are a huge part of stage combat. It pains me, since that’s what I’m best at, and I sorely need to shine a bit with this cohort, but if it means paring it down to Spring in the hopes of getting to meet in person, and doing something else in the Fall, that may be what happens. I’m also down for an acting class and an undergraduate movement class this Fall. The writing seminar I did this last Spring worked just fine with the transition mid-semester to online-only, but performance classes are going to be much harder.

But, on the productive end of things:

The Screen Combat Handbook is now out!

It’s available on Routledge.com, Amazon, and elsewhere. Glad to have that off my plate finally, and I hope it can do some good out there.

The PewTube and Fight Designer YouTube channels both have new content from this past couple months.

I’ve started catching up on updates to the Fight Designer website, but still have a ways to go.

There have been a few online appearances (a panel at ZoeCon, and an upcoming stage combat online workshop class I’m prepping for), some online trainings (the Social Distancing Showdown happened the weekend I would otherwise have been teaching at the Allegheny Alley Fight, so I jumped on as a student, and I’m hoping to participate in a Synetic-sponsored online movement workshop series this week).

But mostly I’m still busy with keeping my household from falling apart. I got a list from the city last October or something of things we had to fix, and weather has kept me from doing most of them until recently – it’s been a late, wet Spring here, and things like driveway work and masonry don’t go well with that. Not the most creative or satisfying work I’ve ever done, certainly, but older houses take work and money, and it’s just one of many things I’ve neglected (and to be fair, it has like an 85 year head start on me, and we just moved in last year).

I think there are many things that I hope never return to quite what they were before, as I hope this has made obvious some of the failings in our healthcare and political systems in the US… but I can’t wait for the day we all feel safe returning to the classrooms, theatre, and film sets. And I hope enough of those institutions survive the interim, because I know they won’t all.

Hope everyone’s staying healthy and sane.

Fall Cornucopia

My horn of plenty overfloweth!

A professional life, especially one associated with the gig economy, is always a balancing act. Even before you add in family and other considerations, there’s the uncertain dates on gigs, the auditioning for multiple overlapping projects in the assumption you won’t get most of them (and the pleasant yet panic-inducing feeling when you do), the travel plans… it’s a good struggle to have, because it means you must be doing something right… until you start screwing things up because you bit off more than you can chew.

I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

Currently writing from my airBnB in Brooklyn, teaching for the Summer Sling stage combat workshop. First time back here (both workshop and NYC I think) since 2011, when I interned at the Sling and got some renewals as a part of my build-up to the Teacher Certification Workshop (which I did in 2012). Great to be back. Got in midnight last night, thanks to some travel delays, but basically came here straight from Orlando (flew back to Cleveland, swapped suitcases from the car in the satellite parking, went back to airport).

Earlier this summer I did fights for more shows with Karamu House (The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God) and Dobama (When Farah Cries), both for the BorderLight Theatre Festival, and Tom at the Farm for Convergence/Continuum.

Had a good and productive time at the ATHE theatre conference this past week. presenting on Consent in Movement and Combat Instruction and Evolution of the Michael Chekhov Technique, both panels filled with old friends at this point. Tacked on a couple days for Disney with the family, who joined me in Orlando. Means I showed up here in NYC already having blisters and sore feet from all the walking, but it worked! Lots of great momentum at ATHE around Intimacy work (both IDI and TIE were well represented) and diversity (plenary sessions and keynote talks and panels), both of which are at the forefront of our evolving industry. I managed to land an Assistant Faculty position with Theatrical Intimacy Education (TIE), but they have their certification process on hold while they figure out inclusivity and intersectionality questions, so I’m not sure where exactly that’s all going to go in the coming year, but I look forward to finding out. In the meantime, it was great catching up with a lot of VCU alums, ATME members, stage combat buddies, and other connections I hadn’t seen in ages. That wasn’t something I could do while based in Wyoming, between the geographic isolation and the complete lack of professional development support.

Here at the Summer Sling, I’m teaching morning sessions on Sentiment du Fer (had that this morning), Rhythm as a choreographic and expressive tool in unarmed (tomorrow morning), The moulinet in combat, and assisting with the choreography track the rest of the day(s).

Also trying to edit my second book (need to cut about 20K words still, plus do more illustrations and video), and get ready for the show I’m directing in the first slot (Bethany, which auditions the first week of classes, the week after I get back). The day after I get back I’ll be in the first rehearsal for Into the Breeches, my first real solid fight gig at Cleveland Playhouse, plus probably one of those nights back at Dobama theatre to help with some gun stuff for Stupid Fucking Bird. Sent in one video audition while in Orlando, for the first thing sent on to me by Docherty Talent, and just got another one from them today. Also had one through the local stunt coordinator. Several faculty and advising meetings the week I get back as well, so it’s all packed in nicely. Should be able to pull this all of, so long as I don’t get sick (several family members are, and I was just sharing a hotel room with them in Orlando). Falling behind on things like PewTube videos, especially since my laptop has been filling up with book image files.

Wishing I had more time to enjoy NYC while I’m here, but one can only ask so much of life!

 

Spring Projects

The end of my first year teaching at Case Western! Grades are in (nobody failed), teacher evals are in (I didn’t fail either, apparently), shows happened and nobody died doing my fights. I get points for that, right?

It’s opening weekend for the musical (not the opera) Aida at Karamu House, which marks the first time I’ve gotten to play with sword choreography in Cleveland, and my first time working on that particular show. Great working with Tony again (who also directed Fences, my first Cleveland fight gig), and getting to meet and work with Treva, the choreographer. It’s also the chance some of my aluminum swords have been waiting for; there’s a forward-swept style I have a bunch of, built on blanks made for the Prince of Persia movie, which are an exotic enough profile I haven’t found a good use for then until now. Finally hilted up the last four for this gig. Had to make matching ring holders for them at the costume designer’s request, and while they flop around a lot, everyone’s digging the ‘schhhinnnng!’ sound they make when drawn, something movies have I guess conditioned people to expect.

A week ago I was getting back from my first regional workshop in this region, the Allegheny Alley Fight. I hope to be able to join them again next year – it was a blast getting to see and play with folks like FD Emeritus Michael “MJ” Johnson, Fight Master “Sifu” Mike Chin, CT Darrell “Rushtar” Rushton, CT Mike Speck, CT Paul Ray (who I haven’t seen since we both lived in Seattle), and to meet a bunch of new folks (including one of what will be the new class of CTs after this Summer). Cleveland at least started to represent, with two local actors I’ve been working with on renewals coming up (they got recommended passes on both my broadsword fight and MJ’s unarmed fight) and one of my CWRU undergrad students from stage combat coming up for the second day (she’s my fight captain now on Aida as well). Hopefully we can keep building on that, and keep building the local scene.

Photos by Derek Lynch

While at that workshop I stocked up on some PewTube footage as well. I haven’t quite kept up with my goal of weekly episodes, but I’ve come close. Darrell and MJ both have tons of experience with firearms (Darrell more with theatrical, MJ more with the real deal) so it was great to get to do a three-instructor class with them. I got an interview in with Darrell, and still might do a Facetime one with MJ. PewTube has also featured some new props, and I’ve updated the plan on FightDesigner.com so I can keep updating it.

Props-wise, I’ve been renting a few things, and working on a few others. The Benaiah Anderson blank firing musket I purchased last Fall came back from a gig with a broken rear stock, so I’ve been making a hardwood replacement for the resin one I got it with. Certainly a lot more work fitting a wood stock around a blank firing revolver than fitting a grip around a sword tang, but I think it’s coming along nicely. Another client already wants to rent it soon, so I’m hoping to get it up and running soon.

Also been dabbling with axes, in part because I had been intending to do a tomahawk or axe class at the AAF workshop (which ended up getting swapped for another class of mine). Both have involved customization jobs: One a bit of carving and dremeling a rubber dummy to match the real steel, and one creating wood slab ‘hafts’ to make better looking props out of some aluminum trainers. I’ll probably do a Fightdesigner YouTube video about that stuff when I get the chance.

I also recently was awarded an internal grant to buy some broadswords for the school to use, so I’m in the process of comparing quotes and planning that all out. Also was told Docherty Talent would represent me, although we’ve yet to have the business meeting to make that final. I’m on the list now with Ohio Stunts as well, and hoping to get back on set one way or another in the coming year.

Of course the biggest project I really need to be getting more done on is my second book, which I’m behind schedule on. Hoping to get that finished this summer, including accompanying video content. Granted life gets in the way; this last couple weeks has been full of end-of-year concerts and activities for the kids. One of our kittens had double knee surgery, while my 18yo Tybalt is still hanging in there but also needing more than he used to. On the trip to the AAF workshop my car started breaking down again, and I told myself after replacing the transmission and having other work done on it this past year I was done sinking any more into this old thing, so I’m working on replacing it with something newer, more trustworthy, with better mileage but still able to hold kids and a cello (my eldest plays) and/or a load of swords, shields, prop guns, mats, and camera gear (like I took to the workshop).  I’ll be both directing (Bethany, for the BA program) and fight choreographing (Into the Breeches, for Cleveland Playhouse) in the first Fall slot, so I’ll have to spend some time getting ready for those, plus the ATHE conference and possibly some other events in late Summer. I still have every intention to deliver a book I can be okay with putting my name on though, and Focal Press has so far been willing to work with me despite the delay. I suppose a successful first book helps; I sold another half dozen copies at last weekend’s workshop, and heard from others about how it’s been useful to them. I just hope I can repeat that!

 

 

 

 

 

Checking in and Sharing Links

 

 

News of the Fightdesigner:

Props stuff has been busy, after a lull that was partly explained when I realized I didn’t check my spam folder for all of February. Mixed in amongst the website contact messages about sexy singles, bitcoin, and increasing my web traffic were a few legitimate rental inquiries, most of which I’d now missed. My sincere apologies to those in that boat, and I now have a calendar reminder to check my spam folder weekly…

On the other hand, I’ve now sent off rare blank firing props to an opera in Georgia (the pair of blank firing black powder style dueling pistols from the first PewTube episode, which I’ve now sold them and which at some point I’ll need to replace…) and to a premiere of a show down in Florida (two select fire machine pistols, an Umarex Chief’s Special in brushed steel, and a few other revolvers), and I have about 4K worth of cutlasses also down in Florida for a pirate-themed corporate thing a buddy is doing. Found at least one thing I never got up on the website, and un-found (can’t find) something that is, which is driving me bonkers wondering where I packed it during the move out here. But getting some business is good. Granted, I still haven’t caught up from how much I overspent last year on the business.

Choreography-wise, I had the pleasure of helping Dobama briefly with a slap in The Nether which opens this weekend, with Karamu‘s Two by Tennessee that’s currently running, and I’ve just started rehearsals for Gloria at Cleveland Public Theatre and production meetings for Aida at Karamu (the musical, not the opera). Probably starting on As You Like It soon too, for the undergrad show here at Case Western Reserve. I held a little demo thing on stage combat for Cleveland Playhouse during their run of Sherwood, and will likely get to work on one of their shows next year.

The Banff Centre has shared the video their crew made during the last half of the Paddy Crean Workshop this past year:

The videos Lawrence and I generated every day are also now up on youtube on the official IOSP channel:

…as are the videos I made from the previous workshop (well, the documentary and the montage mainly)

This weekend is the Mid-Atlantic Theatre Conference which is here in Cleveland this year, so I’ll be going to my first MATC and presenting a few things.

PewTube is up to 14 episodes now, and I’ve been almost able to keep up with the one-a-week plan.

There are playlists within it that also include some of the stuff I did in the FightDesigner channel before starting PewTube, as well as stuff from other content producers. Will any of this help bring in business or make money? Meh. Who knows? Some of it has already been useful in being able to send a video to a client with questions about a specific type of prop. I did have my first Skype consultation about prop guns a couple weeks ago, so maybe video is going to be an increasingly common tool, especially as the guest artist budget is slashed at many colleges.

SO, that’s my way of procrastinating for 20 minutes by just writing down things that are already mostly done. To sleep or to try to get more done now, that’s the question…

Falling on Ice and on Video

Tis the season for ice yet again! Record-setting cold here in the upper midwest, but right before that it warmed up enough for some of the snow to melt, and some rain to fall, so sidewalks and other non-salted areas became sheets of ice.

And with that, once again I’ve become a published expert on falling on ice. What began as answering a question on Quora turned into a late-night phone conversation with a reporter while shopping for clothes to replace lost luggage during a recruiting trip to Texas, which became a piece in the New York Times .  A year or so later, that led to an interview in the studios of Wyoming Public Radio with Robin Young (in Boston, over the phone) about falling. Two pieces came out of that, the radio spot that aired and a more print-friendly piece. And then this last week I had another interview on falling, this time from online fitness website Aaptiv.

Every time there’s been people asking for video, and thanks to a little happy accident, I can now provide that. It’s worth noting that none of the thought process I narrate was really happening as I fell, I’m just describing what I’ve trained to do. Muscle memory kicks in, even in a relatively slow fall like this one, so reading a few tips online is unlikely to prevent any broken wrists or concussions… but taking a class, training, and practicing can, and if you get it in your body, it’ll be there when you need it. It’s like falling off a bicycle…

Video Updates for the Holidays

As we head into the holiday season, I leave you with a few new video entries for my YouTube channels. First and most freshly updated, a bit on the Tinker Line swords from Cas/Hanwei, in their various iterations:

 

I’ve shared various in-progress thoughts about these swords here over the years, but now you can see them in motion at least.

And in a few days I’ll probably have a holiday-themed video up on PewTube, the Theatrical Firearms Channel I run – based around every gun guy’s favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard.

DieHardOrnament

Need to find a way to fit better in that basement space, or else another space I can shoot where I can readily access my props and not have kids or cats wander into frame. That basement ceiling is just too low, so I’m compressing myself a bit to fit, which just accents the little paunch I’ve developed this past decade or so…

In other news, my first semester here at Case Western Reserve University and the CWRU/Cleveland Playhouse MFA Acting program is coming to a close. Still a fair bit of grading and such to do, and lots to catch up on that I’ve been putting off, but classes are done, and the final testing is now finished for everything. This week Fight Master Richard Ryan came in to adjudicate our MFA cohort’s Skills Proficiency Tests in Unarmed and Rapier & Dagger, something that’s a rare treat given his usual crazy schedule of film and tv work. He’d just wrapped the final season of Vikings, and the timing worked out well. It’s funny, I actually interviewed for a job at UNC Charlotte before I got the Wyoming gig, and was sad when I didn’t get it in part because I’d hoped it’d be an in to playing more with Richard and maybe getting on set with him. Turns out his wife has quit the department since, so that was a nice vindication in how life may be steering me in good directions after all.

He’s still figuring out what comes next, but Vikings has been a great ride for him, and a fun one for the rest of us to follow:

 

 

 

My students didn’t do their best work the day of the test, yet all passed, and that in a strange way makes me prouder; they didn’t have to do their best work to pass, and in live theatre, that’s important. We had six recommended passes and ten basic passes, which I think is a solid start for stage combat here at Case. I hope to keep building on that in the years to come, and have put in my first grant application here for some broadswords to add to the armoury. I’ll have an undergraduate intro to stage combat class next semester, which won’t test, but which has already filled.

And soon I’m off to the Paddy. This will mark 20 years of me going to this workshop, and of the insight and community there helping to buoy and steer my career. I’m greatly looking forward to being back! This year’s theme is The Road Ahead (the last one being In The Footsteps of Giants), and we’re making some real changes – the first being that it’s no longer billed as the Paddy Crean International Stage Combat Workshop, but just the Paddy Crean International Workshop, as it’s come to mean a diverse mix of stage combat, stunts, theatrical movement, martial arts (European and otherwise), modern combatives, and now Theatrical Intimacy as well. My next post may well be a post-workshop report.

Happy Holidays to all!

 

 

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