"History Channel’s Vikings is just as brutal as GoT"

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Tony Wolf
Posts: 98
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:04 am

Re: "History Channel’s Vikings is just as brutal as GoT"

Postby Tony Wolf » Sat Oct 15, 2016 2:07 am

Roland Warzecha wrote:Keith,

thanks for summing up some of the reasons. I had some talk with Tony Wolf about that dilemma. The thing with the entertainment industry is that they just recycle what has been done before and what earned them money. Until somebody comes along and dares to do something new which by accident turns out to be successful. Like wayback in 1995 when Gibson's Braveheart came out and influenced all medieval battle scenes ever since (not saying his approach was realistic, but it was something new). Or ten years ago in the Matrix movies where they came up with brand new camera technology to freeze frame fast fighting action. Again that has been copied hundreds of times.

Years later ...

Going by context clues, I think I was probably referring to the combination of technical ignorance and fiscal conservatism in the film industry when it comes to specialty hires like fight choreographers.

It typically goes like this; a big budget movie or TV series is green-lit and an enormous production machine cranks into gear. If the movie requires fight scenes then at some stage - generally, and quite frustratingly, later on in the creative process than would be optimal - a committee of people, often including the director, producers and other senior execs, meet to decide on a fight choreographer. It's very likely that none of these people have any technical expertise in martial arts, let alone knowledge of martial arts history.

Therefore, they refer to what they do know - the movie industry - and generally default to fight choreographers they've worked with before and know they can trust to do a professional job, or to "unknown" fight choreographers whose work in other movies/shows is at close to what they have in mind for their new project. In the latter case, it's a major plus if the movie/show in question earned big money and critical acclaim. It's very rare that fight choreographers are "auditioned" per se, though it does happen.

The detail of exactly how the choreography is put together is often collaborative; the director has the final say, some stars are very "into" fights and like to have a hand in the chory, etc. Sometimes, also, the shooting script will call for specific actions and then it's everyone's job to make sure those actions happen safely and convincingly, even if - as sometimes happens - they go against the fight choreographer's grain.

It's also really important to understand that the fight scene isn't there to educate the audience (unless you're working on a documentary). The temptation to do that can have the strength of Hercules, but seriously, if the fight looks like a textbook martial arts demo. then it's automatically a bad movie fight. Yes, an expert choreographer can draw serious inspiration from a given style while creating a fight that serves the story, but safety and storytelling always trump concerns about historical and technical accuracy.

HEMA instructors typically lack the professional resume that would enable a production company to assess their work - again, success in tournaments, teaching, etc. isn't part of that equation. The best and most realistic "angle of attack" would be to affiliate with a professional stunt crew and become known as "the sword guy" while building up a solid stunt CV. That's really crucial because that's much more to the business than just being a martial arts expert - you need to know the language of film/TV, on-set protocols, how to safely modify real techniques for performance (an art unto itself), how to train and direct actors who are there because it's their job rather than because they want to know how to fence, etc.

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