The Good, the bad, the ugly

First the good:
An article on Garrett Warren, in which he talks about the artistry of movement in stunts, and also appears to be getting good recognition for it. This is nice: stunts have traditionally been the gimp in the basement of the film industry, not something they want to acknowledge- especially in terms of stunt doubles. Concern it will ‘break the illusion’ or some other such silliness. Okay, so there’s legitimate respect for folks like Jackie Chan and Tony Jaa who earned their stripes by doing cool stuff on their own without doubles or CG (albeit still by making stuntmen go flying, smashing into walls, etc). Still, especially with things like mo-cap animation (which may be why Garrett‘s easier to talk about?) I don’t think anyone’s going to be too disappointed to find out that a specialist portrayed a known actor in some scenes. Granted, it may still be a while before we get to have an Academy Award for stunts instead of having just the separate Taurus Awards, but hey, at least we’re getting good press here.

The bad and the ugly are one, today.
Cross blog-posting with a martial artist:
Wm Demeere’s post on brutality.
Martial artists and stage combatants alike will at some point (or perhaps regularly) be challenged by someone going hey, that stuff’s not real/that would never work/what if I did this?/I could totally kick your ass. Now in stage and film there’s a decent chance that the proper answer is just to say yes: yes, it’s fake, it would never work like that in real life, but it looks pretty and it’s what the director wants so shut up and do your job. Except said more politely and tactfully.

There are times though when to one degree or another, it helps to convince actors, stuntmen, or even directors you’re working for that what you’re portraying is at least to some degree legit. Without getting in to actual damaging or painful techniques, Canadian stunt coordinator Rick Skene has also talked about the usefulness of legitimate takedowns (done safely) on actors or stunt guys that just aren’t cooperating mid-shoot. Of course, afterwards, you help them up, tell them they did a good fall, that they are really great stuntmen… and then just don’t hire them again.

So as with martial artists dealing with the walk-in random self-proclaimed expert’s challenge to their legitimacy in training, there’s that very fine line to be walked, of how much is too much, be it of pain, humiliation, conflict, etc. You never want to get caught in a straight-out pissing match about ego, especially with folks who are overly tense (which often these guys are, making them more liable to get actually injured), drunk (opposite of tense, but means they may not stop when they should), or mentally unstable (such as the guy in the video above, who thinks Jesus gave him his red belt).

Always have to stop in the moment and think “what am I trying to accomplish here?” I know in college I was more used to martial arts, especially where grappling is concerned. When a stage combat instructor (I believe it was K. Jenny Jones) came in to help stage a show I was working on, and I was fight captain, I remember holding an arm bar thing on her that half second past when she tried to get out- something passe in a martial arts context where you need to know the technique actually will hold someone against their will, but which I immediately regretted- not because Jenny was anything but gracious, but because I just had a sudden feeling of “wait, wrong context, that probably comes across here as just me being an ass”. My martial arts instructor back in College (yes, I studied a Ninjitsu art in the town of Arcanum, in Darke County) talked about one drunk challenger who walked in to his dojo and wouldn’t stop fighting even with the instructor’s thumb halfway in his eye socket. For the record, my instructor chose not to permanently blind the guy, but to back down, say yep, you beat me, you sure are tough, congratulations now go away. And that was the right choice to make. For actors and stuntmen, I’d expect that line to be drawn much more on the side of conflict avoidance, but I think for a martial arts instructor he did fine; no serious injury, he took it as far as he was willing to go and then backed off.

It takes a certain awareness of the rules of engagement, the levels of force… but then, any fight choreographer worth his or her salt should be aware of that anyway, and making character choices about it in their work.

Fortunately I’ve yet to be truly confronted by anyone out of context- there was a drunk one time I was rehearsing in public who was trying to tell my partner and I about how samurai fighting was the only real fighting, and those sam-you-rai could have kicked our butts around China (we were rehearsing for SAFD Sword & Shield, back in 2001). Smiling and nodding did the job, and he soon moved on -especially after being told firmly that no, he could not play with any of our swords.

Anyway… play nice, play safe; speaking pragmatically, hurting someone else, whether you think they’re asking for it or not, can put you out of the game even longer than getting hurt by them. And stomping on someone’s head without damn good cause? Not cool.

Oh, and the lesson from Garrett: Be careful who you marry!


Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *


%d bloggers like this: