She Kills Monsters

The play She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen is a show breathing new life into theatre. Its reliance on sword fights at important moments is making the study of stage combat more popular, and because the story focuses on two sisters, it encourages women toward action-hero roles. Here’s the short synopsis from the publisher, Samuel…

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Simulation over Style

My approach to stage combat has three priorities: Safety, Simulation, and Story. This is a small but important departure from the standard Fight Directors Canada version that students will see in their glossary: safety, storytelling, and style. Here is why I believe simulation beats style and gives us a clearer understanding of what we do…

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Emotion in Action Film Editing

As combat performers, we often get obsessed with the improvement of our physical performance. We often assume that the emotional aspect will happen by itself. But, it’s important for both choreographers and performers to incorporate the anger and fear and pain and exhaustion of battle into your rehearsal and practice. I’ve expounded on this before.…

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Copyright and Choreography

I’m rewatching a fun horror/comedy called John Dies At the End. It opens with a zombie variant on Theseus’ Paradox. The question posed in this paradox first posed by Plutarch is: If a ship gets damaged a little bit voyage by voyage and is gradually repaired so that every plank of wood is different from…

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Is Focus Stressful?

Do you find it stressful to keep trying the same combat movement again and again, knowing with each pass that it still needs improvement? When working with a partner, does it raise your blood pressure when things go wrong? And as soon as it goes correctly, do you want to stop? Alternately, in some cases,…

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What Are You Simulating?

In stage combat, we have three priorities: Safety: all movements must have built-in safety so the risk to actors is minimized. Simulation: every movement should look genuine and feature authentic-looking intent. Storytelling: the combination of movements should match each character’s personality, level of aggression, goals and further the plot of the story if possible. The…

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Theatrical Deaths with No Blood

Blood adds horror. That’s the single reason to add a blood effect to a death scene. So, the only creative question in whether to consider a blood effect is: does this scene need more horror? In Romeo and Juliet, for example, do we need Mercutio’s death to be horrific? I’d say yes. Do we need…

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A Month of Action with Film Riot

The team at Film Riot have just finished Action Month, during which they shot several short action films (and a lot of behind-the-scenes footage) with their production company Triune Films. Listen to host Ryan Connolly describe the reasoning behind decisions and choices of equipment made in the early stages of pre-production planning, through the process…

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Romeo and Juliet at Bard 2016

At the top of the year, I was approached to be the fight director for Romeo and Juliet at Bard on the Beach. Kim Collier is directing the play, and liked my work on her Hamlet two years ago. I was very proud of our results in that play, and was eager to put some…

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Trailer Ricochet: Assassin’s Creed

Okay. This is Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the movie adaptation of Assassin’s Creed. Let’s do this. Is that the story of Assassin’s Creed? Also, why’s he running around? Also… I don’t understand anything that happened there. Has There Been a Good Videogame Movie? A comprehensive list of movies based on video games can…

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Action Acting Outline

For a better understanding of the daily breakdown of lessons in our Fight Directors Canada Basic certification course, I’ve prepared this outline. You may find this useful if you’re a participant (starting tomorrow) or if you’re considering signing up for September’s session. (Online registration is now closed, but there are still spots in the session…

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Swords Fighting

A sword fight is NOT a fight between two swords. Always remember that the two people are fighting to the death, and they’re using very effective tools to do so. Otherwise, your fights become dances. I hope in these clips you can see that most of the time, the actors look like they’re choreographed because…

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Pause for Effect

Recently, the most effective tip I’ve been giving actors again and again is “take a moment”. It’s very easy to go to the next move in the fight choreography. However, there are important times to pause for effect. Laugh Lines You shouldn’t build a pause into your performance expecting that the audience will laugh. However,…

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Skill Retention Tips

Any skill you want to keep should be rehearsed weekly. Any skill you want to improve should be practiced daily. Spaced repetitions In the case of learning new vocabulary, or memorizing names, we have a lot of good data from psychological studies. It is well known that there is a certain frequency of reminders that…

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Infinite Things to Learn

Does the list of things to learn seem endless? It is. The more you think about the possible shows that require fight choreography and their potential needs, it can seem like an impossible task to be prepared for it all. One hand, two hands, look ma, no hands! When it comes down to it, you’ve…

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