Fight directors working with other fight directors? It’s a world gone mad! Well… not really. What I’m getting to here is competition for work and how the fear of losing work to another FD can create a resistance to working with “the competition”. I am lucky because I have a number of regular contracts, and Scotland has a very small number of new fight jobs which come up each year. I am in a somewhat more secure position than some FD’s, however I still have to do other work to pay my bills and it has to be said that gigs like the OutPost movies where I was employed for 5 to 7 weeks full time actually come up very rarely. I was once hired to train 40 swordsmen for The Battle Of Stirling Bridge on a 3 month contract but that was some 15 years ago and I’ve never had a gig of near that size since. I trained in swords for 7 years, yet I’ve never once been hired to direct a sword fight on film. In Scotland especially, and I’m talking collectively in theatre, film and tv combined; there’s very little fight work available. So if there’s so little work around why on earth would I want to work with another FD?
I have a keep it in the family attitude. If I cant do a job because I’m already committed something else then I’d rather the work went to someone I know and trust, than to someone I don’t know. The people that I recommend I know for a fact are competent FD’s with amiable personalities that would be professional and on the ball. I never recommend people I don’t know, and I never recommend people (FD’s or fight competent actors) who have acted in an unprofessional or rude way towards me. I won’t be responsible for unleashing a troublemaker on a production as it does me no good in the long run. I’d also rather be the FD suggesting reliable crewing solutions to a theatre, film or television company than be the FD that walks away leaving a production floundering for competent fight personnel. In theory but not always in practicethis “keep it in the family” attitude is reciprocal, and jobs can come back to me from another FD when they aren’t available to do a gig at a later date.
A situation that comes up very often is a shared contract. I’ll do some days and another FD will do other days. I feel its important to recommend the FD who covers the days I cant. That FD always appreciates the work and you can have a good flow of information between you. This actor is difficult…. The 1st AD likes to do things this way or that way… The director’s stylistically after such and such a thing… If you have brought someone in that you know, these chats are very easy. On occasion you’ll be in on the same day. eg This happened on Outpost 2 when James Fleming was on the 2nd UNIT shoot whilst I was filming (boring) main unit stuff. I had to stay with the main unit as it was part of a larger sequence I’d already worked out on another day and James covered the 2nd UNIT simultaneously. I later came along and joined him on the much more fun second Unit stuff…
Working with another FD (or stunt coordinator), on the same job on the same day? Well this does happen. In these situations I personally like a pecking order. When I joined James Fleming on the Outpost 2, 2nd Unit shoot, I didn’t take over. He was in charge, and my arrival as senior FD on the film didn’t change that. Instead I watched the monitor whilst he interacted with the director and the actors. If I had something to say, I said it privately to him on the side. If he felt my comment important he would pass it on to the people he was working with. Doing things this way creates a mutual and again a reciprocal respect. I also worked on Outpost 2 with Abbi Collins, who was stunt coordinator. On several occasions, due to the size of the action sequences, we were both working simultaneously with the same group of people (extras drafted in from the TA to play US soldiers). We soon developed a good working relationship, and that was largely because as Abbi was stunt coordinator my belief was that she was in charge. Her title trumped mine as FD. I was there not only to support the director or the cinematographer but also the stunt coordinator. It made for a strong working relationship and we have worked together several times since. Abbi is the main stunt coordinator I suggest when I’m offered work that is clearly outwith my remit and is in the stunts category. (Filming of a firefight on Outpost – Black Sun is shown above.)
Recently I’ve been working reasonably regularly with associate FD James McCreadie (Pictured at the top and at the bottom of this page), a friend of mine with black belts in various martial arts, a background in acting and screenwriting and a general good attitude. I cast him originally in Outpost 2 as a victim, which he played very well. We brought him in again on Outpost 3 largely because 1/ We knew he could act and 2/ Because he’s reliable. In week 5 of Outpost I took ill and, as I was off set for a day, Jim took over. After that I worked with him and encouraged other production companies to trust him and use him as an associate FD working under the umbrella of fightdirector.com / I am very happy with this situation.
Above: Terratorial Army Guys were drafted in on Outpost – Black Sun to play the US troops in many of the firefights. This saved a significant amount of time in terms of training and rehearsals.
One last situation I’ll mention, where the title of Co-FD comes up, is when I’m asked to come in on a pick up day and reshoot or rework a fight that another FD has already done. This comes up more often than you’d imagine and about once or twice a year I find myself in this situation. Embarassing for the original FD but a legitimate job none the less. Quite often I’ll only find out that I’m reshooting the work of another FD once I’m already on the job. It’s something I dont feel too bothered about, and as a professional I accept it and move on. This is business after all.
I’d encourage other FD’s out there to think outside the box. To be inclusive of other FD’s but to be wary of the nutter, which this business certainly does attract. Try not to fear the competition, but embrace it and work with it. We all need to pay our bills and don’t want to lose work, but if when it comes down to it you’re just not available to take a job that’s offered, then have a few names up your sleeve, and recommend another FD. In the long run, it will do you good, and you’d be surprised how many employers phone you back for the next gig rather than the person you just recommended.