FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

A Fight Director is a coordinator of staged violence within a production. He/ she coaches the dramatic presentation of a fight sequence with the actors through consultation with the production director. Also known as the FIGHT ARRANGER or FD. 

Why hire a fight director?

1. To make the fight safe.
2. To make the fight good.
3. To instruct and train the actors.
4. To create and deliver risk assessments.
5. To advise the production in matters pertaining to the fight action.

SAFETY is the key reason for using a FD. The fight director will work consistently towards making the fight safer for all cast and crew involved. It is also vital to have someone on set who’s only duty is to look at the fight element and who is not distracted by other matters.

An experienced FD will also install a sense of confidence in the actors which, although keeping them aware of the dangers, will allow them to perform without anxiety. He/ she will tailor the fight not just to the production, but a good FD will also tailor the fight to the abilities of the actor.

How long before the shoot day should I book a FD?

As soon as you are aware that you may require an FD and you have an idea of schedule you should pick up the phone. FD’s are generally ppenciledin for work then booked as soon as the schedule settles. Be careful that you don't lose the FD you would prefer to work with due to late booking.  Decent FD’s will suggest another FD if you are in trouble. I recommend five other Scottish based FD’s when I am not available.

How long does it take to direct a fight?

How many hours or days you require an FD for is a variable difficult to determine without seeing a script.

How long does it take to direct a theatre fight?

In theatre terms and in particular for sword fights it is usual for the FD to attend not less than 12 hours of rehearsals in four or more “slots” as rehearsals proceed. The difficulty level of the fight, the actors’ abilities and the amount of time for which the actors are actually available will all affect the quality of the end product. A scuffle with fists will not take as much time as the main sequences in Cyrano De Bergerac for example, but if the actors are inexperienced even simple action can take considerable time.

How long does it take to direct a fight for film or television?

In film and television, the fight director may only be in for a day, rehearsing and then shooting a sequence such as a struggle, or if more complex action is required or the action is of a heightened emotional level a rehearsal will be arranged before the shoot day.

When working in a specialist combat style such as with swords or even specialist fighting styles such as boxing several days or preferably weeks of rehearsal will be required. Very often the FD will be specialized in one particular element. My own specialization is swords but when I have to stage a boxing match, for example, I bring in a boxing expert to work with me.

I have pulled the safety card several times. Once the general manager intervened on my behalf when the director refused me a fight rehearsal onstage before the first performance, once a stage manager refused me stage management support on the main

battle rehearsal before a huge outdoor event, once when on an outdoor event the crowd spilled onto the performance area and I refused to go with the show until the area was safe. More recently I had a production hired boxing coach who tried to take over as FD. He thought he could sideline me as he had previously worked with the director. I refused to allow the shoot to be covered by my care, and made it clear that I was VERY UNHAPPY with being manipulated by an idiot who wanted my job. The producer and 1st Ad agreed with me and I was able to quickly work through and fix the problems presented by the “coach”. Needless to say I no longer recommend that individual.

What is the fight director’s relation to the production director?

Many a director will not want their toes tread on by an interfering FD but no FD worth their salt will interfere with the directors intentions for the scene unless safety is being compromised. The fight director may advise on certain moves or even suggest short cuts but the artistic content of the fight (Which remember is just part of the script and usually not what the script is all about!) remains in the control of the director.

The amount of artistic control allowed varies from director to director. Some will allow full control to the FD and accept what is created by them whilst others will want to sit in every rehearsal and analyze. The FD must keep their eye on the time as we are often on a tight schedule and discussion about character can really impact on scheduled fight technique rehearsals.

If the FD is unhappy with their situation and finds that they are having their time cut short they may have to play the “safety card”. FD’s can also find themselves being ignored I have to say, and I advise them to speak

to the director or the 1st AD, and make it clear that they cannot guarantee the safety of the performers without more rehearsal time, control etc. If I was further ignored I would speak to the production manager or ultimately the producer/ theatre company manager about my concerns.

Do I need additional Fight Insurance?

Standard insurance policies cover fights within production, its just another part of the whole and there is usually no additional clause. Despite some misinformation about this, no separate insurance policy covering the productions fights is required to be taken on by the FD. That said, if you are unlucky enough to have an injury in a production the insurance company will try and recover what funds it can by suing the person the blame. This could be the Fight Director. FD’s should have liability insurance in case this happens. without that, they should not be allowed to work for you.

Can I get my karate instructor to direct the fight?

I wouldn't advise it. Just because someone is a champion in the sporting field does not mean that they can cope with the specialist world of drama, or re interpret their craft for an artistic genre. I know of at least one film shoot in the UK that used martial arts instructors but that bombed due to its incredibly dull fights.

Further Questions?

Use the contact form above. If you have any suggestions for further FAQ’s then please let me know. This FAQ has been written as part oif a website revamp, and I am happy to expand on it if requested.

GLOSSARY OF FIGHT TERMS

film director
The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine

BAPAM is a healthcare charity giving medical advice to people working and studying in the performing arts. BAPAM help you overcome (and preferably avoid) work-related health problems, and we are dedicated to sharing knowledge about healthy practice.

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© 2016 by Carter Ferguson | carter@fightdirector.com

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