FIGHT DIRECTORS | Cutbacks
My thoughts have changed on fight matters over the years. I’ve become less and less interested in moves and more and more interested in creating interesting and exciting drama which just happens to contain a fight. It’s getting hard to keep my head above water though in this ever changing / cut backs ridden world. The recent decisions of some production companies to actually cut the fights out of their shows or to “do it themselves” is worrying.
I see three major issues with cutbacks affecting fights:
1/ Removing the “drama” from drama. Fights happen at the most heightened point in a drama, so to remove them from the plot weakens the whole story. Its very unfortunate to let an accountant limit key moments in the drama for the sake of a few hundred pounds.
2/ It’s a false economy to just let actors and directors “do it yourself” on fights. More than that, it is dangerous. It is the FD’s sole job to look at reducing the risk to actors, crew, props, costume etc etc. Those who have other responsibilities cannot possibly be expected to take on this role, which should have a dedicated person attached to it.
3/ Bringing in a “friend” who knows how to do Karate, Judo, Kick Boxing or whatever. These people are not used to working on drama productions. They have little or no knowledge of camera and less and less of an idea of what drama is. Their fights although technically competent are usually very weak dramatically. For those that agree to do it they are setting themselves up for real problems if there ever actually happens to be an accident. Effectively the producer could wash their hands of the affair and its the “friend” that would be sued by the insurance company.
This is not an FD moaning about the loss of wages, this is a fight director pointing out the obvious. Something’s gotta give and sadly it’s going to be through the injury or death of a crewman or performer. That’s unfortunately the only reset button on this matter that I have noticed people sit up and listen to in the past.
And accidents do happen! Look at Brandon Lee, killed by a blank primer charge in a pistol because someone that didn’t know what they were doing set it up. Of course that’s an argument for an armorer but you get my point.
Those who think that a fight directors role is just to “block” fights should step into my shoes for a day. I write the risk assessments, liaise with ALL departments, negotiate between those departments, guide the director, calm the actor, re assure the producer and do my damnedest to REDUCE THE RISK, which often cannot be eliminated altogether. Even when engaged I often find myself working with next to no rehearsals because someone controlling a budget won’t put out for this most basic of necessities: Time.