With so many production personnel moving over into drama productions from factual or children's television the big lie has started to gain some traction with those who are uncertain how to approach action sequences in film and television, believing it hook, line, and sinker. The lie is this:
If an actor in a fight falls to the ground during the action it's a "stunt" and not a "fight" and you cannot use a Fight Director to stage it. This is what is known in the biz as "A LIE."
Before I go any further let me just make clear that 90% of the fight sequences I have directed over the years, end with an actor on the ground. Handy, don't you think, that this lie would if swallowed leave me with only 10% of my previous business?
The Competition Act 1998 is a key piece of UK legislation that governs anti-competitive behavior and market abuse. It prohibits certain practices that might restrict, distort, or prevent competition, such as cartels, abusive behavior by firms or organizations holding a dominant position, and certain types of anti-competitive agreements. The Act also established the Competition Authority, which is responsible for enforcing these rules, and provided it with the power to conduct investigations and impose penalties on companies, individuals, or organizations that violate the competition laws.
When the Competition Act is applied to the big lie, it exposes it for what it is. A falsehood put about by unscrupulous stunt coordinators to ensure that they get the work whilst at the same time demeaning reputable fight directors like myself. This statement as laid out by the act is not only unfair but fundamentally illegal.
I think it's very fair to say however that a lot of so-called fight directors, fight choreographers, or fight arrangers - all of which mean the same thing by the way - are NOT qualified, professional, or trustworthy. Some of them are downright dangerous. I have a very short list of fight people based in Scotland that I will trust with fight action coordination, and down south I only trust fight folk with qualifications gained via either the BSR, the BASSC, or the BADC. I stand fairly unique in Scotland as I am the last man standing of the fight directors trained by the former Olympic coach and founder member of the British Society of Fight Directors, Prof Bert Bracewell, who trained and mentored me in fight and stunt action from 1992 to 1999.
The big lie was repeated to me fairly recently by a representative from a high-end TV company for which I have directed fight sequences for many years. It was presented to them by a London producer who had been told it directly by a BSR stunt coordinator. I was lucky that I had allies in the production who quickly quelled this disinformation, but what if they had not? ...and how far has this lie spread?
I had, once before, heard the big lie said by a stunt coordinator but laughed it off as I thought it was a joke. A quick call around some high-end fight director friends down south confirmed that they had all heard it and were not at all happy about it!
A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Mark Twain.
With the loss of my friend and fellow fight director David Goodall, I feel very much on my own in this business. Amongst other things in the works when he passed, he and I were working to counter this nonsense. I now find it entirely upon my shoulders to try and tackle this sort of thing. I hope that I have been successful.
Let's be careful to remember that if someone is not a neutral party and has something to gain or lose based on a result, you best take a pinch of salt with whatever they are trying to feed you. You could say the same about what I am writing now, but unlike the originator of the bombshell LIE that I am reporting on, I present clear and precisely traceable evidence to confirm its lack of validity.
Please remember that if you want to continue to have access to a genuinely Scotland-based fight director (ie me) you really have to dismiss any anti-competitive rumors spread by those who have a horse in the race.
As we move into 2024, I want to reaffirm my availability and expertise in teaching safe, engaging fight choreography for film and TV in Scotland. I'm BBC-approved, insured, and can provide valuable input in casting and production. Feel free to contact me for collaborations or advice.
James McAvoy and Michael Moreland in "My Son". Fight Director: Carter Ferguson