Monday, October 19, 2009


Yesterday’s FIGHT SCENES AND FALL GUYS panel was a smash hit, literally and figuratively.

Moderated by yours truly and featuring three of Hollywood top stunt people Ilram Choi, Ron Yuan and stuntwoman Zoe Bell, the show started as I demonstrated a smashing right cross across the face of an audience volunteer (hehehe, my wife Silvia) as she crumpled to the ground into a heap of destructo glee. At the end of the event something rather interesting occurred in regard to this demonstration.

The point was to demonstrate that if Silvia was an A-list actress and took the punch as she did yesterday afternoon on a film set, she could in good conscience say that she did her own fights and own stunts, because falling to the ground after being fake-punched, is in the Hollywood books considered to be a stunt.

However, over the years we have learned that when a star says that sort of statement it does not mean they did all of their stunts and/or fights.

Stuntwomen and stuntmen are the real heroes of action film and martial arts movies. They are the backbone of action and each day they set foot onto a film or TV set, they are putting their lives on the line for our entertainment.

That takes a special kind of mentality and skill set, and it was these things that the packed audience wanted to learn about from this trio of derring-do daredevil champions of the big screen.

Korean-American Ilram Choi showed behind the scenes footage of the fight choreography work that he did on TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, where we were able to see how he and some of his fellow stuntmen’s motions became the real-time fight movements of the these giant Transformers that spun, flipped and spiraled all over the screen.

The far-out thing that none of us knew, but now we do, was that it was NOT done by the usual method of motion capture but by real physicality. The reason for doing it like this was because the film did not have the budget to do it. The audience was shocked, and that was just part of the buzz in air.

New Zealand born Zoe Bell showed behind-the-scenes clips of her stunt work on three major films: KILL BILL: VOL. 1, doubled for Uma Thurman; ANGEL OF DEATH, in which the action director was Ron Yuan; and DEATHPROOF, Quentin Tarantino’s film segment from GRINDHOUSE.

Of course most of her discussion centered around that wild and wacky car stunt she did on the bonnet (hood) of the car in DEATHPROOF, where she literally held on to the bonnet for dear life as the car swerved and sped down a dusty road.

She explained that the sequence took about three weeks to complete, in which the whole time she was decked on the hood of the car slipping and sliding all over the place.

Besides her face constantly being pelted with dirt, sand and insects, she shared that the hood of the car was so hot that she had to constantly arch her body in a way to not always be oppressed against the car. I guess this is what you would call “oppressive heat.”

We also learned where she got the nickname “The Cat.” It was given to her by Tarantino.

The final panelist, Ron Yuan, showed a wide variety of films that reflected his varying degrees of fight directing talent, but most notable was BLACK DYNAMITE.

Starring Michael Jai White, the film is homage to blaxploitation films from the 1970s and the clip showed the blocking out of the fight, the rehearsal, then in split screen showed the rehearsal segment at the same time as the final edited version from the film itself.

After each actor got to showcase their skills and speak about their clips a series of important stunt topics were discussed: The effect of mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting on the direction of fight choreography and if MMA actually limits the creativity of fight choreography; is it possible that visual effects could eventually replace the need for real stuntmen; how has fight choreography changed over the decades; for Zoe, what are the challenges being a female in a male dominated industry; and for Ron and Ilram, what are some of the difficulties face by Asian Americans in the stunt industry.

As you can imagine, time flew by faster than a clock being shot out of a cannon as the mob of question askers, autograph seekers and photo op folks made it a fitting end to a glorious panel that featured these brave champion of action film.

After the panel, an elderly lady from Taiwan came up to me and my wife Silvia saying how realistic it was when I hit Silvia to the ground, only to see Silvia standing up with a big smile on her face and in no pain.

She translated this into that in every single kung fu film ever made, the actors never get hit and so no one ever gets hurt.

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