The Fighter or the Boxer?

An old college theatre friend brought this story to my attention:

How The Fighter shot 35 days worth of fight scenes in three days

Always wear protection.

I was actually asked a very similar question by a local indie filmmaker; she wants to shoot a boxing match, and was wondering if she should go with actors/stuntmen doing something choreographed, or find boxers and just shoot them. The answer I gave is that it depends on what you want- if just shots of people boxing, then just get some people boxing… but if you’re trying to tell a narrative, then by all means choreograph it in advance.

My big beef with the story linked above is that they failed to make the disclaimer that they’re shooting a boxing match, not a fight. The actors all have padded gloves, mouthpieces, a sprung floor, no weapons or boots or hard clothing, there are rules against any moves likely to cause actual serious harm, and they had some actors (and/or stuntpeople) who were up for it. The film crew had a lighting grid as a part of the visible set, multiple cameras and no need to hide any of them, since the event they were portraying also has multiple cameras- so no need to move the lighting, hide all the equipment, move the dolly track, etc for reversals. Under these very specific circumstances… Sure, give it a go. But would that work for anything meant to be a real (intent to damage or kill) fight, with an actual narrative progression involving injuries? No. Would it work in a fight in an open field, a small alley, or pretty much any other setting besides a sports match? No.

I find fault not in the act here, just in the bravado of the telling of it. Wallberg’s done enough movies by now he should know better than to talk trash about the usual way of shooting fights… a part of me hopes the next time he’s portraying a military hero involved in a more martial arts style fight, possibly involving weaponry, someone quotes this back to him. After all, he doesn’t want safety. “No, we’re going in there and beat the shit out of each other and we’re going to make it real.”

In better celebrity news, kudos to Tom Selleck for responsible firearms knowledge on set.

For any Richmond, VA area locals, do check out the upcoming free (donations accepted) workshop on shooting fight scenes (without beating the shit out of each other!), hosted by the Richmond Filmmakers group. Please do let us know if you’re coming, so we can plan accordingly.

One Comment

  1. Posted April 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Not to mention the fact that most of the choreography was taken from the original fight footage.

    While yes they were able to do it when conventional wisdom says it should have taken longer, we’re definitely looking at an exception to the rule.

    It is the only style (professional televised match) that would allow for the type of filming that they used. He is a bit arrogant in proclaiming that “beating the shit out of each other” is a good way to shoot, but for what they were doing it was effective.

    The key is the whole, asking the right questions. Because the film didn’t need long drawn fancy fight sequences with special effects, but some films do. So the question is always what is the story that you are telling with the fight, and what is the best way to get it onto the screen.

    Kudos to The Fighter for doing their fights well, and with the best methods that served their film. I just hope it doesn’t fool other films into thinking that they need to do the same thing when that is not what the film calls for.

    Great post Kevin!

One Trackback

  1. By Bonzuko » Fighting or Boxing or Stage Combat on April 10, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    […] Categories: Film, Martial Arts, Stage Combat Tags: Jenn, Lifetools, Martial Arts, Stage Combat Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment Trackback […]

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