Veteran Stunt Performer Anthony De Longis Discusses His Shanghai Adventures in FEARLESS with Jet and Yuen Woo Ping (April '06). Hong Kong Calling: It all started with a phone call from IMPACT Magazine Co-Editor Mike Leeder announcing his international casting quest for the best European and American style fighters and martial artists for a new Jet Li project filming in Shanghai. One of the roles called for an actor who could portray a Spanish sword expert who was also highly skilled with a whip for two featured fights in the film’s final tournament sequences, one of which would be with the films star. I’d played Spanish sword master Ottavio Consonne in the memorable Duende episode of HIGHLANDER: the Series in an episode written for me and filmed in Paris. The role not only offered a fantastic character to inhabit, it afforded me the chance to co-choreograph the action with my pal F. Braun McAsh and introduce the uniquely Spanish style of rapier and dagger fighting to the screen for the very first time. Series star Adrian Paul was a superb protagonist, and the highlight of our collaboration was the climactic rapier and dagger fight in the rain on the Spanish “mysterious circle.” I’d also created a more effective and filmic “rolling” style of whip manipulation for Michelle Pfeiffer’s CATWOMAN in the film BATMAN RETURNS. I’ve continued to explore and evolve new theatrical and combative applications for the whip, man’s first supersonic weapon. Mike explained in his call that all his casting inquiries kept leading him back to me. Mike’s searches had taken him and his team to Japan & Europe, and most recently England where the weather had been dreary and the locations for their behind the scenes “search for the masters” documentary oppressively claustrophobic. He said the director wanted a location with better visuals and more dynamic production values. I invited Mike to visit our web link at [www.delongis.com/indalo] for a taste of what we could offer and suggested that Rancho Indalo, our work-in-progress dream home just north of Los Angeles, would be a perfect place to shoot some auditions. We live three miles up a winding dirt road that climbs steadily to the top of a 2500 foot mountain with a 360 degree view of the surrounding hills and a “high ground” defensive position that commands the valley below and the entire approach to our hilltop aerie. In addition to the heart pounding climb with its precarious drop offs (the director filmed their progress every step of the way and at each of the three water crossings like an episode of Wild Kingdom), the location provides endless cross country horseback riding opportunities from challenging to extreme as well as an inspirational training spot for the variety of martial and weapons disciplines that I teach. We’ve hosted professional performers and enthusiastic amateurs from as far away as Germany and Australia. I’ve been a professional actor, fight director and sword & weapons specialist for over 30 years, but this was the first time a casting director ever came to audition me in my home. How cool is that? I’d invited two of my favorite sword partners, actor and film maker Bob Chapin (www.robertchapin.com), and fellow actor and swordsman TJ Rotolo to also audition for the roles of the French and German swordsmen. We put on a hell of a show in my horse arena for Mike and his film crew with a variety of bladed weapons and fighting styles. My wife, Dr. Mary De Longis and I performed our synchronized bullwhip tango to show off the finesse of the whip. My friend Joe Ordaz, a talented and courageous stuntman, dressed in protective armour, so I could illustrate the explosive power and surgical precision of the whip. Ever the showman, Mike Leeder let me cut targets from his fingers with the whip from the back of my galloping horse Latigo, another first for a casting director. We finished with interviews in my living room to round out their “behind the scenes” coverage. All in all I couldn’t have asked for a better audition opportunity. When Mike first called and asked if I’d be willing to travel halfway round the world to battle Jet Li, my first thought was that I’ve been training my whole life for this opportunity and I’m ready to give it my best. After a couple of months of negotiations and filming delays, the foreign fighters had dwindled from twelve to only four, but I found myself on a plane en route to Shanghai with the promise of a featured fight with Jet and the chance to work with the legendary king of film fight action, Master Yuen Woo Ping. Before I go further, let me tell you a bit about Mike Leeder, who is nothing short of a Renaissance man. A superb writer and editor, Mike’s contribution to the success of the renowned IMPACT Magazine, can be seen in his knowing and witty articles that grace each issue. His considerable sense of humor and attention to detail makes working with him a genuine pleasure. I came to know him quite well during both the audition process and the subsequent contract negotiations and conversations on my behalf with the producers, director Ronny Yu, Jet Li himself, as well as the action coordinator, Yuen Woo Ping. Throughout the entire process, Mike championed my cause and I’m sure the other performers he recommended received the same exemplary treatment and attention. My expertise in western weapons was requested by the production team and Mike again helped immeasurably to clearly communicate my suggestions to the artistic director, costume designer and the property department. Over a period of several months before I got on the plane, we exchanged lengthy emails and telephone calls keeping me informed of the film’s progress and forwarding production questions. His untiring efforts assured clear and speedy resolutions to each of their requests. Along with his partner, Ean Tang, Mike made my working experience in China pleasant and uncomplicated. Their help allowed me and the other western fighters do their best work by always keeping us informed and by handling the details of communication every step of the way, including acting as translators on the set. This was invaluable as you will later see. Their untiring dilegence on my behalf left me free to focus on my performance. Without Mike’s efforts, I wouldn’t have had the chance to make my contribution to FEARLESS, and I will always be grateful. Mike is also an actor and transformed himself into the referee during the tournament sequences at the director’s request, so look for efforts on screen as well as off. Evolving the Story Specifics of a Good Film Fight: Good choreography is a conversation between characters given greater voice through action. Action that doesn't progress the story and say something unique about each character is indulgent, lazy, and a disservice to the project and the audience. Part of my job as the Sword Master or Fight Director on a project is to play detective in search of clues. I begin with the text or script; the author’s vision. Then I talk to the director to find out what he wants the action to accomplish and the scene to say to the audience; the director’s vision. The actor performing the role has the same sources of text as well as the director to guide his ideas, but he or she will have their own interpretation of how the character should be played; the artist’s vision. I have my own experience and imagination to meld all of these elements into an exciting tapestry by choosing physical elements and combinations of techniques that best tell the desired story. Working on a film is always a challenge and there will always be problems, both expected and unforeseen. Movies are like balancing on a beast that is constantly moving beneath your feet. Making movies constantly tests your abilities and demands your very best efforts at all times. I tell my students, you only have the skills you show up with on the day. The set is not the place to hone your craft. You must assume responsibility for your own training so you’ll have as many tools as possible to do the best job you can. Opportunities are scarce and second chances are very hard to come by. The more skills you’ve developed, the greater your range of choices to tell your character’s story. You can only wing it successfully, if you’ve got the skills to fly. I was to about to discover how true and prophetic my words have been. Telling the Story in the Fight Originally I was slated to have two fights, one with the bullwhip against the character of Jet’s best friend, and the second a combat with swords against Jet himself. Of course there were also supposed to be elimination rounds between a dozen fighters from many nations. By the time they got to filming the climactic tournament sequence, the fights had been trimmed to just four, with only three western fighters and a final combat against a Japanese champion. JC Leuyer played the American bare knuckle boxer and Brandon Kuemmerle, portrayed the German lancer. This was a last minute change from the planned German saber techniques Brandon had prepared so he could more easily match Jet in a battle of Chinese spear vs German military lance. I was to bring to life the style of a Spanish saber fighter facing Jet and his Chinese gin or scholar’s sword. There are three ranges of combat; long, medium and close up and personal. Each offers specific opportunities to create tension and heighten your character’s story. It can also give the camera a logical reason to follow the action to a close up of the actor’s face. In my opinion, the current mania for too close coverage robs both the performer and the audience of the actor’s full power. The character’s story should be told from the ground up, each action motivated by the feet and the hips and supported by the power of the entire body. The intelligence and dexterity, both mental and physical, of the characters is lost when all you can see are straining faces. The prevailing wisdom in many western films thinks that close up contortions of an actor’s face will draw the viewer deeper into the story of the action. Close ups are a good way to hide the physical shortcomings of your actors but I believe it confuses and distances the audience. Many directors believe that bombarding the audience with strobe quick flashes and extreme close up partial images will dazzle the viewer into believing they’ve seen a good fight. I find it accomplishes precisely the opposite. If the audience can’t follow the logic and story of the action, there is no comprehension and no empathy for your character’s peril and ultimate triumph. Thankfully, I knew Jet and Woo Ping don’t subscribe to this flawed notion of film action. I’d get the chance to use my whole body to tell my story. I was also pleased when Director Ronny Yu voiced his interest and approval for these action philosophies as expressed in my article The Sword Master’s POV for Martial Arts Insider and Sword Master Magazines. Choosing the Weapon Some swords are predominantly thrusting weapons such as the small sword. Some are best at thrusting but can also cut, such as the rapier. The military saber is predominantly a cutting weapon that is also capable of effective and illusive thrusting attacks. It’s greatest advantages are a sturdy and substantial hand guard and the ability to inflict damage from a distance with both the edge and the point. The nature of any bladed weapon dictates how it should be utilized to its full fighting potential. Each weapon has strengths and weaknesses. I’d been asked to offer suggestions for sword designs and with the help of my long time friend and weapons maker extraordinaire, Dave Baker (contact at firstname.lastname@example.org), we created a perfect fighting weapon. Dave is also a swordsman, so each sword he designs and manufactures fits and balances easily in the hand and flows naturally from one action to the next. For my character, we settled on a weapon inspired by the 1904 Austrian military saber. Although I was a Spanish cavalry officer, this design was an almost universal standard for European military sabers and offered a workable filmic compromise. Using the model from my own collection, Dave crafted a beautifully balanced weapon from scratch, with a gently curving aluminum blade for surgically precise cuts and thrusts while protecting the hand behind its wrap around perforated hand guard. It looked great and was so easy to wield, I commissioned a second saber to be sure we’d have two camera ready hero swords when I arrived in China. After filming, I kept one and presented the other to Jet. I prefer working with aluminum bladed weapons and not steel, even when the steel blades are dulled. Using sharpened swords is a foolish and absolutely unnecessary risk and has no business in creating the illusion of combat that is the heart of good film and stage action. I’ve had to resort to steel on several projects, due to time, money or limited location manufacturing capabilities, but aluminum is always my first choice. It has less weight, while retaining the substance and blade profile of steel. It’s still metal, and therefore hazardous, but it’s easier to manage and control. But the Chinese team had their own preferences. The first decision Woo Ping made was to change our curved 1904 cavalry saber to a straight bladed 1911 model Patton saber. This would match Jet’s straight bladed doubled edged Chinese scholar’s sword with a similar straight bladed European counterpart, my only advantage being the sturdy hand guard. This caused a flurry of activity in the props department as they labored virtually overnight to create perfect bamboo bladed replicas of the Patton saber I had also brought with me. Long a tradition in Chinese and Japanese action film, this was my first opportunity to utilize bamboo blades in a film fight. Covered in shiny metallic mylar skin, each weapon was crafted to resemble perfectly it’s sharp steel counterpart. Being much lighter, they are easier to wield but they require full body support for each action in order to create the illusion of a weighted steel blade. While it’s unlikely that you’ll break any limbs if an accident occurs the way a steel or even aluminum blade can produce, bamboo blades are not without risk. At the speeds Jet and I performed, a wrap to the face or the back of the hands would shatter small bones and the sharp points could easily pierce eyes, throats or other exposed flesh. As the Sword Master or Fight Director, I always incorporate the seeds of combative truth to provide an accurate foundation for the story. When there is sufficient time and rehearsal, my favorite way to choreograph is to evolve the story until it flows smoothly and logically from moment to moment to tell the story of these specific characters in conflict. This provides the audience and the camera with a clear and dynamic narrative for the fight’s emotional progression. My opponent initiates an attack. I offer a series of defensive options and follow up offensive responses, then choose the ones that best tell the desired story. I like to clarify the changing moments of jeopardy by working to create the precise environment for the chosen technique to be the best response to thwart that specific attack and create an opening in my opponent’s defenses. My partner responds to this new peril with an answer of their own. And so on, until the crafted phrase tells the exciting, and visually dynamic story we desire. Then we play with tempo and rhythm to accent and clarify the emotional elements for the audience and camera. This is how I like to work. But this isn’t my party. I’m a guest in Woo Ping and Jet Li’s house. I wondered how they like to make their magic. They work a little differently in China Time to “”Stand and Deliver.” After a week of waiting and training to stay at the peak of readiness, the day arrived for me to experience first hand the Chinese creative process. I was really looking forward to working at this high level, to step into Jet’s arena and provide the motivation and reactions to help him tell his character’s story. I knew the fights would be good. They always are when Jet and Woo Ping and his team are involved. But not everyone works the same way to arrive at effective and dynamic story action and I was curious to discover what they had in store for me. I met Jet for the first time when I climbed the stairs to the raised tournament platform and shook his hand. We immediately set to work. Under the supervision of both Jet and Woo Ping, Didi Koo and Woo Ping’s brother Eagle Yuen created each phrase with Didi playing Jet’s part and Eagle portraying a western saber fighter. I was a little concerned when their first moves for me consisted of three retracting arm pumping point pokes at Jet’s face. This is not a technique I would ever use, especially in the opening salvos of an encounter. A good swordsman never retracts his arm to deliver an attack. This negates his advantage of distance and offers a clear opportunity for a devastating counter time strike by his opponent. I realized, to my dismay, that their fight team thought western swordplay consisted of the techniques they had seen in Hollywood movies! With few exceptions, these are usually a poorly executed miasma of misinformation. They were also choreographing my western saber like a Chinese sword without taking into account the advantages offered by my substantial steel hand guard. This did not bode well but I resisted the urge for legitimate protest and walked their ideas with one of the other members of the fight team. I tried to offer a couple of minor suggestions to improve the look and effectiveness of my attacks, but they were insistent on their selections for this first phrase and I realized I had a choice. The action was my only acting opportunity to tell my character’s story. I couldn’t service the project or myself by looking inept and performing badly, but if I was difficult and made a fuss, I’d probably get myself doubled by one of their fight team. Obviously this would limit my characterization opportunities considerably. Or I could step back and focus on the big picture. This is Jet’s film and my job is to be a strong and challenging adversary that believably motivates the extremely cool moves the team was choreographing for him to execute. I’d have to bring my Spanish character’s western style of fighting to life utilizing their choreography and I’d have to do it instinctually and intuitively while performing the action. There wouldn’t be a lot of rehearsal or time to try things and they certainly weren’t going to slow their creative process to accommodate me so I’d have to do all this on the fly. To play in this league, I’d have to work by their rules of engagement. Fortunately I’ve been training for over three decades with the sword and this was a doable accommodation. Zero to Sixty Miles Per Hour I continued to walk their ideas indicating to Jet precisely where on his body I planned to target each cut and thrust. This area of basic safety was one the team had neglected in their rush to make up the five days they were behind in their shooting schedule. If we’d had the opportunity to train together as originally planned, this would have been addressed, I’m sure. I would also have had the chance to feel the rhythm and pace the Chinese team used to execute their choreography as well as explore the dynamics of their footwork and distance, both critical to creating a safe and exciting combative illusion. This missed opportunity is the only regret I have for my entire adventure in Shanghai. Safety for Jet was the one place I refused to compromise. Without making it a separate issue and having the process grind to a halt, I verbalized to Jet where precisely I would be cutting and thrusting for each of the attacks the team had created while we walked the moves. I always build in several layers of safety whenever I’m performing. Absolute control of the weapon is accomplished by the use of a pivoting grip that make the blade an accurate extension of the hand and arm, driven by the torso and supported by the legs. The second layer of safety is targeting to specific places on the body for every attack. A cut to the shoulder, a slash across the belly or a thrust to the face must be precise and exact and the delivered with the same accuracy and commitment every time, or someone is going to get hurt. Exact targeting also clarifies the jeopardy and clearly illustrates each specific danger to the audience. Parries that really work allow the partner to commit fully to each attack. Finally, controlling distance makes sure each action takes place in the correct relationship to the technique and the partner. Footwork is an essential and much underdeveloped skill for most performers. In both a real fight and a choreographed theatrical illusion, controlling distance is essential to survival and victory. Staged combats are essentially partner katas that depend on sensitivity and awareness to your partner’s energy and movements to execute most effectively. Distances for both the body and the weapons are constantly adjusting and changing and each filming take is individual and unique even though the choreography remains the same. Jet understood immediately my concerns and was very appreciative. He said that I was very skilled and I obviously had a lot of experience making films and handling weapons. He said, “I can see you’re very interested in my safety.” I assured him that I was, not wanting to be remembered as the guy who hit Jet in the face with a sword. “So am I,” he said, and gave me one of his rare beaming smiles. With our safety net in place, we were free to go all out and that’s just what we did. Partnering Jet took my very best efforts at every moment and I joyfully embraced this challenge. The Process As soon as the fight team had created an exchange Jet and Woo Ping liked, Jet stepped in and he and I walked the choreography only two or three times before they rolled three cameras to capture the action from multiple angles. Jet immediately exploded into a full speed blur of motion, and Jet at full speed is really something. It was like dodging and dancing with a formula one race car capable of zero to sixty instantly from a standing stop. After we’d shot our first phrase I said to Jet, “you’re like fighting a Ferrari.” He laughed and said I was pretty good too and compared me to a Porche or BMW. Coming from Jet Li, that’s a compliment I can live with! After the first phrase the fight team saw that I could work at Jet’s pace, remember long sequences of choreography and execute whatever they came up with. There was no longer any worry about my being doubled and we kept creating and filming at a blistering pace. The team assembled a phrase, Jet and I walked it a couple of times adjusting to each other’s responses and then we shot it. Woo Ping watched the monitors and requested specific tweaks in speed or internal blade positioning to get the exact visual story he wanted. One of the advantages Woo Ping has earned in his long career is to get to edit his own fight footage, which is what makes his action so seamless and effective. We usually shot two takes but rarely more than three before winning Woo Ping’s approving, “Good,” and moved on to spontaneously create the next entirely new phrase. “This gweilo knows what he’s doing.” As the fight team came to trust my skills and knowledge, it became increasingly easier to offer the occasional suggestion when a move was awkward or didn’t flow logically for me. After the first two phrases they allowed me rework their combinations for variety and to best suit my character’s style of body and blade movement as long as I arrived at the exact time and place necessary to motivate Jet’s responses to the attacks they had designed. Mike Leeder told me that early on one of the fight team had demanded, “Who’s choreographing this, us or the gweilo?” and Woo Ping replied, “This gweilo knows what he’s doing.” That gave my confidence a welcome boost. Every action beat has four story telling opportunities; the moment before, the action, the reaction, the moment after. Each moment is vital to the illusion of combat that you and your partner are trying to create. It’s very important to realize the power and story potential each element has to offer and to take full advantage of the opportunities each can provide to clarify and justify your action choices. I often like to extend a moment to articulate the acting beat, but Jet and Woo Ping achieve the same result through unremitting speed and syncopation of rhythms to create their visual dynamics. At least that’s how they’d chosen to tell the story of our sword encounter. Trained fighters respond to the energy they perceive, sometimes intuitively. Good choreography should strive to create the specific combative environment for the chosen choreographic technique to be the logical and correct one to successfully thwart the opponent’s attack. This creates a more realistic story and invites the audience to truly participate in the fight because they can follow the logic and perceive the shifting vulnerability and danger for each individual as the encounter progresses. None of this was a conscious or intellectual process while we actually performing. Everything was an organic, in-the-moment cause and effect response to Jet’s energy & execution of each attack and defense, and his responses to mine. In combat you must commit totally to each attack, yet when creating the theatrical illusion of combat you must always control the power and penetration of each cut and thrust to avoid injuring your partner if anything at all goes wrong. Commit to the moment but always be ready for anything if your partner has a lapse in memory or slips or stumbles or simply changes their reaction to your energy organically due to the lack of rehearsals. Both Jet and I were in full performance mode and all of my senses were at their peak, including my peripheral vision and awareness. I felt alive in the way you can only feel when you are working at your peak potential and everything is meshing perfectly. It was a challenging and totally exhilarating experience; everything I’d hoped for when I imagined getting this opportunity. The quest for the second weapon, The whip is one of civilized man’s oldest and most powerful and versatile tools. Images dating back to 3000 BC, in both the Chinese and Egyptian cultures, illustrate whips helping man control and motivate a variety of animals—both wild and domestic. The whip is the ultimate flexible weapon: precision, power and almost unlimited versatility in one explosive package. It is also civilized man’s first supersonic weapon. The speed of sound is 1085 feet per second. The tip of the whip shatters the sound barrier! Literally faster than a speeding bullet, the tip of the whip can reach speeds of up to 1400 feet per second and cut through exposed flesh like a knife. I’ve spent the last twenty years developing and performing my own distinctive methods for using the whip for film, television and in my martial studies. I’m currently creating a multi-range combative protocol for the whip and I’d polished a couple of unique techniques in the hopes of using them in Jet’s film. Remember, the original plan was to have me wield a whip in one of my fights. Although this encounter was eliminated when the number of fighters was trimmed, I’d never given up hope of introducing my newest whip stylings on film. I couldn’t think of a better place to apply my creative efforts than as the second weapon my character pulled when the going got tough against Jet. I’d been lobbying for this ever since it was suggested that the Spaniard would ultimately produce a companion weapon to try to give myself an advantage. Typical bad guy stuff but I wanted something totally unique and not just a second sword or hidden dagger. But the team had another surprise for me. By the second day of filming, I could feel the momentum of the fight was nearing its climax. If there was to be a second weapon, it was now or never. In a quiet moment between shots I talked to Jet about pulling the whip from a place of concealment as my second weapon. J et said, “You don’t have a second weapon now. You’re an honorable fighter, a hero. We’re going to exchange swords. Didn’t anyone tell you?” Well no. No one had mentioned this impromptu promotion from bad guy to respected adversary. An unexpected reward for my efforts. Although it’s not in Ronny Yu’s final cut of the film, Woo Ping shot this surprisingly touching moment. I hope it makes it into the DVD extras. It goes much better when Woo Ping is in a good mood. I’d been told that things always went better when Jet and Woo Ping were in a good mood, but delays in filming had put them behind and the mood among the fight team was a bit tense when we first began. However, with the success and speed of completion of the opening phrases, the mood relaxed and everyone was working with smiles and a relaxed mood. Jet and I finished our entire fight coverage in less than two days and we were able to catch the company up three of the five days they were behind in their shooting schedule. This is a good way to make a first impression and I hope our successes lead to other overseas opportunities. In between takes I had the chance to talk with their wonderful and amazing Director of Photography, Ah Poon. Mike Leeder told me Ah Poon used to be an action film performer before he moved behind the camera. Ah Poon and I got along famously and he started showing me wing chun kung fu techniques saying he could see the parallels in my sword work. This was very gratifying and we had a very good time sharing and exploring techniques in between shots. Apparently this was a first and Jet made a point of taking pictures of Ah Poon and I playing. It was a very good time and I felt very honored to have Ah Poon take the time to offer me some of his considerable knowledge. By the middle of my second day we were crafting the final phrase of our fight where Jet barely avoids my furious assault and ducks, spins and disarms me with a surprising and incredibly adept reversal. It required razor thin timing and total commitment on both our parts to execute. Jet and Woo Ping debated the rhythm of the final move and Woo Ping jumped up to demonstrate what he wanted. He executed the drop and spin and the surprise ascending “little blossom” thrust perfectly but while deep in the twisting pose, he began to lose his balance. So slowly as to be almost imperceptible, Woo Ping swayed and toppled like a tree falling in super slow motion but without ever losing his perfect form. There was a moment of hushed silence, then Woo Ping, looking like a dead dog with his legs in the air, starting laughing and kicking his feet and crawling around on all fours cackling and joking with the team. Everyone broke up. Woo Ping was having a great time and I knew that he was pleased and satisfied with the work. I treasure that moment. I’ll wager very few have the privilege of seeing the master that relaxed and playful. Looking Forward and Looking Back FEARLESS opened in Hong Kong last January, a mere five months after principal photography, to much deserved acclaim. I’ve seen a Chinese language only version of the film and the action of the western fighters opens the film’s tournament sequence. I got the chance to see my own work with Jet, as well as the rest of the films considerable action. All of the fights are wonderful, of course, and visually stunning. How could they be anything less with the skills of Jet Li, Woo Ping and director Ronny Yu and their talented team of performers? Each fight sequence takes full advantage of Ronny Yu’s excellent direction, Jet’s incredible skills as well as that of his partners and the creativity of Woo Ping and the entire fight team and they push the story opportunities of each location to the fullest. The fights incorporate the gold standard in top level wire work, superb gymnastics and the occasional visual assists that post production tweaks can offer to add to the visual impact and tell their story in grand and glorious fashion. The fight with Jet and the Spanish swordsman has almost no close-ups and only essential insert shots. Only those that advance the specifics of the moment are included. The rest of the story is told with our entire bodies moving all out, with the action covered in full figure master sequences rather than shot and assembled in bits. There is a purity to watching two performers bring their characters to life and tell an exciting action story with only the give and take between experienced and skilled performers, without any tricks or high tech assists. I’m very proud of our work together and very pleased to make my contribution to the success of this project. I hope FEARLESS garners the attention and acclaim it deserves. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!
Tell about yourself and stunts, Anthony! I’ve been a professional Actor, Action Actor, Sword Master, Whip Master, Fight Coordinator, Weapons Expert and Voice Artist for nearly 5 decades and counting in Film, Television, Stage, Voice & MoCap and Opera (staged action for LA Opera 1985-2005) and live stunt show entertainments (choreographer and fight trainer for Universal Studios Conan Sword Spectacular, Waterworld, Wild West Show). Please visit my IMDB page at [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0209815/] to view a list of my work in film and television. I have deep knowledge of European weaponry (12 years saber training with Maestro Ralph Faulkner as well as broadsword, rapier & dagger, small sword, etc), Japanese Katana and Bo (Shinkendo Black Belt and Instructor - 12 years training with Kaiso Toshishiro Obata and Sensei Mathew Lynch) and Filipino double weapon and knife arts (10 years training with Guro Dan Inosanto), as well as staff, spear, lance and archery, and I do them all from horseback. I’m skilled with throwing knives and axes and a member of the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame and the Black Belt Hall of Fame. I’ve performed with a variety of bladed weaponry and sword styles in 13 countries on 5 continents. Yuen Woo Ping flew me to Shanghai to duel Jet Li with saber vs gin in the FEARLESS tournament of masters sequence (read my STUNTS 101 - JET LI JOURNAL: [https://www.stunthustle.com/post/stunt-101-fearless-by-anthony-de-longis] I guest starred twice on HIGHLANDER - THE SERIES in both Vancouver and Paris. In season 3 in Blackmail as the Irish Immortal Lyman Kurlow (broadsword vs katana) and in season 5 in Duende as the Spanish Swordmaster Ottavio Conssone. I introduced the unique Mysterious Circle system of Spanish rapier fighting to the screen for the first time in Duende and my rapier & dagger fight in the rain with series lead Adrian Paul is widely regarded as the best fight in the 7 year history of the show. You can view both of these sword fights and others utilizing a variety of bladed weapons combinations on my Sword Reel at [https://vimeo.com/124346745]. I'm an expert in flexible weapons, especially the Bullwhip and Fire Whip. I created a more efficient, accurate and visually dynamic method of Whip artistry for Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman in BATMAN RETURNS and shared these methods with Harrison Ford for Indiana Jones in KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL and the whip fighters in THE RUNDOWN. Please view my WHIP MASTER Reel at [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EGtXziroq0] to see me cut the wick from beneath a candle flame, slice effortlessly through a hand-held wine glass and sever targets from horseback at full gallop from the fingers of an opposing rider. You will also like the final neck wrap around my wife's throat. In the hands of an expert, the whip can be as gentle as a caress or as sharp as a knife. What inspired you to become a stunt person? I began as an Actor performing Shakespeare at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. That’s where I also started choreographing fights and weapons action which grew to became a parrallel career both onstage and in film and television for the last 47 years in venues and projects all over the world.
I quickly realized the power physical action has to captivate an audience emotionally and the credibility powerful action conveys to your characters. But it is essential to develop the skills to be as eloquent acting with physical dialogue as you are when acting with words alone. My favorite roles have been the ones where I was able to combine both, each element informing the other to create multi-faceted dynamic characters. What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it? I specialize in helping Performers, Stunt Coordinators and Directors to create character driven action and to make the most of their project's action opportunities.
My greatest skill as a Stunt Performer / Fight Coordinator / Weapons Expert is to create a dynamic action story with a logical and easy to follow visual and emotional narrative. This comes from my stage training where there is no ‘back to one,’ and there are no edits or cuts to tell the story for you. You must be able to actually execute and perform the action you’ve created and captivate the audience every night for 6 months while performing 8 shows per week. There is no better training.
When I choreograph action, especially weapons action, I choose and execute actual combative techniques to tell a very specific story about each individual character. This becomes the action dialogue that gives visual and emotional credibility to each character. I study and train every day to develop and maintain skills and finesse to execute these techniques practically which makes shooting them on film very easy. What is the best part about being a stunt performer? Working with the Team, the Stunt Coordinator, the Director, the Actors and the Stunt Team to bring the Director's vision to vibrant and exciting life on the screen. It’s a team effort that requires skill, diplomacy and great creativity, and of course superior skills that must be honed by the stunt performer before arriving on set.
I remind young stunt performers to never say they can do something unless they can deliver superior execution under great duress. It will almost always be awkward and difficult and you must be able to rise to the challenge and peform with safety and excellence. Tell your all-time personal favorite stunt story! I have a lot but the JET JOURNAL about my Shanghai adventures in FEARLESS with Jet and Yuen Woo Ping is one of my career favorites. Read it here: [https://www.stunthustle.com/post/stunt-101-fearless-by-anthony-de-longis]
I’m currently writing a book chronicling 47 years of my adventures in Show Business as an Actor, Action Actor, Fight Coordinator, Choreographer and Voice Artist in Film, Television, Stage and Opera (I staged action for LA Opera 1985-2005 and got to pull in several teams of stunt performers over the years to share a very unique action experience with them). What advice would you give other stunt people? Never stop training, never stop learning. I have two mantras that serve me well.
The first is, “You can only wing it if you have the skills to fly.”
The second comes in handy for me as a Senior Performer. “If I’m not getting better, I’m just getting older, and there’s only one of those I can do anything about.” So I never stop training and sharing and learning. Anything else you would like to tell the community about? Rancho Indalo (www.delongis.com/indalo) is our one-stop multi-skills training facility. We get clients both local and international come to learn and train and add to their skills. We're located top of the mountain in Canyon Country, about 45 minutes north of Universal Studios. This is where I have my DPACA school (De Longis Performance & Combat Arts) and where I teach, train and stay performance sharp.
Disciplines include whips, swords, weapons on horseback, on-site live fire gun range, archery, knife and hawk throwing, world class riding opportunities, fine dining and spa. I've taught and performed with such worthies as Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jet Li, Tom Cruise, Brendan Fraser, Christian Kane, Anjelica Huston, Bo Derek, Placido Domingo and a host of others. Sword Reel: Whip Master Reel: ADL Horse Skills Reel: Website:
Tell about yourself, Talyn! I'm an edgy and offbeat Laura Dern with sprinkles of Zoey Deschanel who often plays an anti-hero. I'm an adopted girl who was raised on a ranch in Oklahoma and briefly attended school in England as a child. I have degrees in acting and graphic/motion design from Oklahoma State University. In addition to training for stunts, I did theatre and musical theatre until I graduated from University. I first moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to pursue my childhood dreams of being a successful performer. A few of my favorite activities are martial arts, rock climbing, snowboarding, yoga, swimming in the ocean and riding my motorcycle. What inspired you to become a stunt person? I've wanted to be a stunt performer since I found out what stunts were in my early high school years. I've done acting and martial arts and athletics since I was seven years old, and once I found out that there was a job I could do that included both of the things I love more than anything else, I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life. What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it? My passion is fighting. My father and I got our black belts together (he made it to first degree, so I of course had to top him and get my second degree black belt) when I was younger and I've always been most fond of fighting and weaponry. What is the best part about being a stunt performer? My favorite part about being a stunt performer is that it brings me genuine joy in addition to senses of pride, presence and peace when I have the opportunity to create inspiring and aesthetically pleasing content with people that I like. I find ultimate satisfaction when I get a call to work on set because I am literally living my childhood dreams when it happens. I feel so honored to be respected enough to work in this amazing industry alongside people I enjoy and admire. Additionally, the opportunities for constant learning and growth charge me and give me so much energy to share with others. It's truly a magical profession. What advice would you give other stunt people? Don't do it if you don't love it. The journey is difficult. It's better to be over-prepared than underprepared. Don't have expectations. Be safe and keep your body as healthy as possible. Learn to not let the negative energy of others have an effect on you. Have fun! Anything else you would like to tell the community about? Mentors and friends of mine— thank you so much for teaching me such incredible amounts as I forge my path. I am honored to have made it this far and to have you in my life— you know who you are! Your encouragement, acceptance and support mean more to me than you know. Instagram: @TalynEdelson IMDB:
The truth is, I never wanted to be a Stuntman… I wanted to be everything. A Space Explorer, discovering new planets. A Pirate, pillaging the high seas. A Superhero, battling insurmountable odds. A Cowboy, with his trusty horse and six shooter… Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movies and television shows from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s fueled my imagination as a child. Everything from The Dukes of Hazzard, and Gilligan’s Island, to Conan the Barbarian and 2001 - A Space Odyssey, showed me that anything was possible. One day, my Kindergarten teacher gave the class an assignment. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid who, up until a moment ago, was probably playing Star Wars (and incase you’re wondering, “Jedi” was not an acceptable answer). So, I thought about the question, I knew that there was no way I could possibly be all of the things I wanted to be… or was there? The answer I came up with, was one which I believed, would encompass all of the wonderful adventures and experiences I wanted to have, while simultaneously, not committing to any one thing… “I want to be a Movie Star.” Time went on, school continued. I got into higher grades and consequently loaded down with more school work. Day dreams were replaced by math problems, and proper grammar. (Eventually, I couldn’t count the times me not know what next do for dream.) So, I put my dreams on the back burner. In High School, I got into Theatre. Performing in front of people, bringing a character to life, escaping the monotony of everyday for a moment to live in someone else’s shoes. Theatre was as close to achieving my goals as I had come. When it was time to start college, I needed to pick a Major. (a.k.a. A financially obligated equivalent to “What do you want to be when you grow up?”) This was a decision that would ultimately define the course of the rest of my life. Once again, thats a lot of pressure. I thought back to Kindergarten, often, our first reactions to things are right, but over time we start to doubt ourselves and our abilities, and so we choose the practical over the fanciful. High School theatre had reignited my imagination to be everything. There was only one job where I knew, I could accomplish my dreams. I decided to Major in Theatre… So I could be a “Movie Star”. Fast Forward to June 2000, I graduate with a BFA in Directing. I’m out of school, need a job, and would prefer to to start working in the industry, but with no idea as to how to achieve this feat, I start working at a local News station in Austin. A wonderful experience, where I even got to do some on camera work for a local movie review program, but it wasn’t enough. A few years later, I’m running a handheld camera, ringside, for a local Wrestling program in FT Worth. Through some conversation with one of the other camera guys, I find out that Six Flags over Texas is hiring for their summer Stunt Show “Rangers and Outlaws”. What do you do in a stunt show? I asked my friend. He described it as “Full Contact Acting”… Well hell, I can do that, so I go to the audition. The audition location was empty, and my heart sank. After looking around and being unable to find anyone, I place my headshot and resume on a nearby table with a note explaining my predicament, and leave expecting to never hear anything. A few days later, I get a phone call, inviting me to the callbacks for the show. The Rangers and Outlaws Show was hard, hot, humid, smelly, dusty, sweaty, sticky, work, and the most fun I had ever had for a job at that point. A few years later, I find out one of my show buddies is in LA, and in dire need of a roommate. I wrap up my affairs, and made my way out west, and within 7 months, my buddy and I were working at Knott’s Berry Farm, in another Wild West Stunt Show. In 2008, I made it into the “Indiana Jones: Summer of Hidden Mysteries” stunt show at Disneyland, and the WaterWorld Stunt Show at Universal Studios Hollywood. In the summer of 2008, I was making a living as a full-time performer at three different theme parks, with some of the best people I have ever known. The WaterWorld show, to my surprise, helped to create the opportunities I had been searching for. It was a prestigious stunt show, with talented performers, and established stunt alumni, who were consistently working in the Industry. I showed up, did the work, listened to my trainers and peers, improved upon my mistakes, tried harder, practiced, and did it all over again the next day. Eventually, I was presented with an opportunity to work on CSI: NY with Norman Howell, and get a SAG voucher. A few months later, Norm helped me out again. In late September of 2009, for my final voucher, I rode my Harley about 500 feet, with a screaming Felicity Huffman on the back, for Wally Crowder on Desperate Housewives. Unfortunately, the scene was cut from the episode, but now, after over 10 years of trying, I finally had three vouchers in hand. The next week, I walked into the SAG office, paid my dues, and I got my SAG card. Since joining SAG, I have worked in films, TV, and MoCap as a stunt performer, or action actor, usually as a Thug, Biker or Inmate. I have a “unique look” (so I've been told) and stand out from 99% of Hollywood performers. While I do typically play a “type” of character, and am usually limited to fewer work days because I get killed off quickly, I get to experience something amazing. I consider it to be, the best of both worlds. Not only do I get to act while the stunt folk are eagerly waiting to play, but I get to do cool stunt gags while the actors take their turn sitting on the sidelines. Five year old me would be ecstatic. Growing up, I never wanted to be a stuntman. My dream was, and still is, to be a “Movie Star”. I have to stay true to the little boy who couldn’t think being just of one thing, so he decided to be everything. That has been my motivation since the beginning. After a decade in the film industry, I have found that the camaraderie within the stunt community is second to none. I have accomplished many wonderful things, and met many spectacular people and performers. I have had mentors, and coordinators share their wisdom with me, and in return I have had the opportunity to share my knowledge to future stunt performers. I have forged lasting friendships, and found a wonderful and accepting family amongst these unsung heroes of the silver screen. I never wanted to be a stuntman… But, I’m glad I get to be one now. Stunt Players Directory:
Tell about your background and how you entered into the world of stunts. Well I was raised in the martial arts from early childhood, later as a teenager I started dancing. I’ve trained with future stunt performers at my martial arts school and later as a dancer I knew some folks that made a transition over to the business as well. I was a little hesitant to do the same at first because it seemed like everyone wanted to do it. But I decided to try and make the transition and it worked out great. What is your greatest skill? Is there a story behind it? I believe fighting, weaponry and wrecks would be my greatest skills at this point. I’m still training and learning. Is there someone in stunts who has inspired your career as a stunt performer? There’s few people that have inspired me over the years. I love a lot of the old school guys and some new guys as well. I have a huge respect for the Hongkong style of fighting. People like Tan Tao Lang, lau kar Leung, Philip Kwok, Lo Ming. But I also love the awesome kicks of some American guys. Keith Hirabayashi, Benny the Jet, Chuck Jefferys and more. I also find inspiration in people like Jay Lynch, Aaron Tony and more. What is the greatest part about the stunt community? What could be changed for the better? The greatest thing about the stunt community is I see a quest for consistent learning. A yearning to want to always obtain information and skills. That’s what I like the most. What could be better is more unity. What advice would you give up and coming stunt performers? Funny thing is that I still see myself as up and coming. The would say the best thing to do is stay humble and learn as much as you can and stay safe above everything. Tell your all-time personal favorite stunt story! One of my favorite stories Is getting the chance will work on John Wick 3 with 8711 and actually fighting Keanu Reeves. The experience was amazing and a very great time to learn so much more. It was cut in the final edit but I was happy it happened. Is there anything else you would like to tell the stunt community? I would like to say thank you! It’s given me more reassurance that I’m on the right path of my purpose Instagram: @nemesisnyc StuntPOC:
Tell about your background and how you entered into the world of stunts. For as long as I've been alive I have always been in the performing arts and athletics in some way shape or form. Being a track and field athlete with a theater background training in stage combat, staff weapons, being a practitioner of capoeira and other martial arts, and a HUGE fan of old school martial arts films I felt like it was fate. I've always appreciated the hard work of the fight and action directors of every live show I've been in, every internet stunt team videos, every film I've seen with very intense action. One day I watched a fight scene from a stunt team known as "Zero Gravity" which eventually led to me starting my journey in the 11th grade. I studied up, trained hard, formed a tiny team of my own to do short fights and start my journey to becoming a stunt performer. What is your greatest skill? Is there a story behind it? My greatest skill: fast learning. On top of all my other skills, that is the strongest skill to have in this industry for me. Is there someone in stunts who has inspired your career as a stunt performer? Lateef Crowder, has been and always will be my biggest inspiration in this industry! What is the greatest part about the stunt community? What could be changed for the better? The greatest part of the stunt community to me is seeing every performer's skills on display. It is very captivating and gets me motivated to learn something new. What advice would you give up and coming stunt performers? My advice for up and comers: keep training hard, take constructive criticism and grow so that the next time you are on someone's set you literally show up, and show out! Is there anything else you would like to tell the stunt community? Always thank the people who help you get where you are, who helped you learn something new, who showed you the ropes, and who took a chance on you. Instagram: @Thats_darin StuntPOC:
Damali Ross was born in Guyana, South America and currently resides in New York. She grew up as a competitive USAG gymnast being one of the top 3 state champions in 2005. With college around the corner Ms. Ross became a seasonal gymnastics coach training and coaching throughout the summers and winters when back home from Oswego University. She graduated with a BA in Fine Arts and ultimately decided to become a Stunt Actress. Utilizing her extensive training from gymnastics and college she started new trainings in the stunt industry, taking acting classes/workshops and doing background acting work as well. In 2017, Damali received a Taft Hartley from Adam Sandler and Allen Covert on the set of ‘The Week Of’ and soon after landed her first official union stunt gig in New Mexico a few weeks later working for Kathy Jarvis doubling Toks Olagundoye on the entire ‘Tremors’ feature. Right after Ms. Ross was taken under the mentorship of Jeff Ward while working on ‘BlacKkKlansman’. Currently she continues to train with both NY and Georgia stunt teams and coaches gymnastics part time in between acting gigs. What is your greatest skill? Is there a story behind it? My greatest skill is flexibility, both physically and mentally. More importantly mentally however because my ability to continuously adapt has helped me tremendously on set with the constant rolling punches. My life's experiences so far has enabled me to be this way. Also I'm a mutable sign, shout out to all the Sagittarius’s out there! Is there someone in stunts who has inspired your career as a stunt performer? I’m constantly inspired by the stunt coordinators in our industry. They have so much experience and amazing stories behind them. The older they are the more I tend to be inspired by them. It’s an honor to have worked with many experienced coordinators already and have had opportunities to hear some of their experiences in person and learn, and laugh and prepare with them. I’m looking forward to meeting more coordinators and hearing more of their stories that tend to keep me inspired. What is the greatest part about the stunt community? What could be changed for the better? All the different backgrounds and skill sets you run into in the stunt community is always great. It’s even greater when we can get together to train and exchange skills and techniques with each other. True camaraderie. What advice would you give up and coming stunt performers? Train Hard, be well rounded in your skill arsenal. Be On-Time, show up earlier than your call time. Be Aware, stay alert on set at all times. Be safe, agree only to what you know you are capable of doing! Is there anything else you would like to tell the stunt community? Can’t wait to meet and create with more of you all, stay safe, stay healthy and I'll hopefully see you soon! IMDb: StuntPOC: Stunt Listing: iStunt: Stunt Players Directory:
What has been the biggest highlight of your career? It's hard to say what the "biggest highlight" of my career would be, everything links together in life that brings us to where we are. All the coaches, teachers, books we read, friends we made along the way that helped prepare us for those big moments, those big moments would never had happen if not for all the small moments. That being said, the GREATEST highlight would be that I get to work with my daughter. What is the greatest lesson you have learned over the years as a stunt coordinator? I was a commercial diver for 15 years as well as a stuntman and coordinator, the greatest lesson or quality I would say is staying calm. When I teach SCUBA I will tell them to, "breathe, relax" when you get into a situation underwater (and it's not a matter of if as it is when) you aren't going to make a good decision in a panic. When you are calm, you keep people around you calm. When they are calm they trust you. When they trust you there is a better chance of them listening to you. When they listen to you there is a much better chance of people not getting hurt. What are the greatest qualities you seek out in a stunt performer? I like to find someone who has been EXCELLENT at something, this tells me they have been coached and most likely coached along the way. It also tells me they know how to listen and they have communication skills as well as discipline. What advice would you give up and coming stunt performers? Find that thing you are great at and keep getting better. All too often we have people who only learn a skill well enough to have a picture made of them doing it and hope to get work off it. There are generally two types of people: People who know how to do 1,000 different things ONE WAY. People who know how to do one thing 1,000 different ways. I like the latter... What do you love most about the stunt community? First let me thank Wally Crowder for building us into a community, before the Stunt Players Directory we were just a bunch of small groups or individuals scattered all over the country. Props to Wally. As for what I love most is the quiet behind the scenes loving, giving and caring that goes on that no one knows about.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career? Transitioning into a young Stunt Coordinator at such an early age was a huge deal for me. A part of me wants to say being nominated for SAG Awards, Taurus Awards, and an Emmy for best Stunt Coordinator... but I feel like the early transition from stunt guy to Coordinator in my mid-20’s was a vital step in the right direction to lay the foundation early and I’ve never looked back. What is the greatest lesson you have learned over the years as a stunt coordinator? Never let them rush you, ever. Safety and preparation is priority. If you're a stunt performer and something feels off or un-safe, always go to your Stunt Coordinator and tell him, don’t ever be afraid to speak up! What are the greatest qualities you seek out in a stunt performer? 100% honesty! Be straight up when I call and ask if you're comfortable and have the skills I need for the job - DON’T STRETCH THE TRUTH. I also extremely appreciate when the stunt is executed maybe one too many times to our liking and the stunt player's attitude gets fiercer and hungrier each time - that’s a special breed. What advice would you give up and coming stunt performers? Be patient, wait your turn, your time will come. Be sincere of who are and what you're comfortable doing. No need to fake it, you’ll be found out, and won’t work. Be honest, be respectful and have integrity. I’m a little more laid back and have more of a relaxed vibe to me so I’m really approachable and don’t mind shooting the breeze and talking story with the people I hire - I actually dig it. Be humble! Try and telegraph and always have eyes on the Stunt Coordinator so you can get what he needs before he realizes he needs it. What do you love most about the stunt community? The cohesiveness we all share. That brotherhood that’s as thick as thieves. We all have it in our own special circles we run with and work with. When the friendships flow from after work to the pool, ocean, bar, dinner, casino, on location... those are the memories I’ll hold onto forever. The most refreshing part for me is when guys can put work aside and bond over other things they’re passionate about like sports, religion, the perfect golf swing, real estate, supercross, tennis, surfing, etc... Those conversations are the ones that get me psyched because you learn who a person is on another level and appreciate them for something other than the guy you might only know between action and cut.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career? That's a tough one, but certainly one of the most exciting highlights so far has to be directing in the middle of bamboo forests and the vast coastline of China for a World War 2 feature film. Based on the amazing true story of Jimmy Doolittle and his men's harrowing mission to retaliate after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was surreal to be in the very places these brave men trudged through almost 70 years earlier. It was a defining moment for me stepping up into the full directors position from coordination and 2nd Unit. It was also the largest action and set pieces I had ever directed. What is the greatest lesson you have learned over the years as a stunt coordinator? I've been fortunate to have worked with many amazing stunt coordinators over the years that I of course begged, borrowed and stole many lessons from. Hard to say but probably the greatest lesson I ever learned is to simply stay humble, don't think you're the master of every discipline. I always look to hire the best performers, riggers, etc for the job. This ultimately helps the production stay safe, look great and of course become a smashing success! What are the greatest qualities you seek out in a stunt performer? Again I'll go back to humbleness. Now that doesn't mean you can't have confidence but I steer clear of over cockiness as that can lead to messing up or worst case people getting hurt. Important to have the skills and confidence but stay humble at the same time. What advice would you give up and coming stunt performers? Train hard (and smart) to learn the necessary skills and also focus on some specialty skills that can help set you apart from the pack. Never sell yourself on a job for skills you haven't mastered as it can not only put yourself in harms way but others as well. And of course again, stay humble. What do you love most about the stunt community? It's right there in the question, community. I consider myself lucky to have gained so many meaningful friendships and comaraderie within this community. I cherish the time I get to share with my stunt family.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career? The Marvel/Netflix show Daredevil has definitely been the highlight of my career. Not only did I get to double the main character (who in turn, is one of the most awesome human beings on the planet), but I got to grow with the show. I was able to choreograph the action, give notes on each script, even design a lot of the shots. I was able to work very closely with the actors, producers, and directors and it felt like I was able to truly be a part of the story telling. Not only did I get to do a lot, but I was able to learn a lot. Working that closely with some of the most talented actors, directors, producers, and people from every department; never got stale. Every day I was learning, and it kept me motivated. What is the greatest lesson you have learned over the years as a stunt coordinator? I have learned that a coordinator is only as good as the team he surrounds himself with. I have worked with absolute legends in the stunt world, and they are the most humble people on set. They appreciate their team, and that is why their team trusts and follows them. The synergy and general feeling of a team is reflected in everything they do. A good coordinator is a leader, not a boss. What are the greatest qualities you seek out in a stunt performer? I think the number one quality that every stunt performer should possess is physical acting. The entertainment world is all about show. Whether you are throwing a punch, taking a reaction, or filling the space between beats of choreography; performance is key. Movement to a stunt performer should be like lines of dialogue for an actor… That is our tool, which we use to tell the story.
Also, be cool. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, when a coordinator hires you, they know that they will be spending time with you. If you’re a pain to work with, they will find someone else. What advice would you give up and coming stunt performers? Make yourself more valuable that what you’re being paid. Stunt performers are paid quite well. It is important for the coordinator and every important “boss” on a production to think that you are worth every penny. This means help in every way that you can. Pull some pads, try to help the coordinator out, learn to previs/edit/etc. Expand your skills. If you’re a fighter, learn to drive, rig, skate…. The more you can do, and the better you are; the more valuable you become. What do you love most about the stunt community? The stunt community is amazing. It is filled with people from all different walks of life. One day, you’ll work with a world champion martial artist and an NFL football player. The next day you’ll be surrounded with X games champions and olympic gymnasts. There is always something new to learn and new ways to grow.
(Punisher Season 1, Finale) What has been the biggest highlight of your career? The highlight of my career would have to be 2nd Unit Directing on the amazing TV show I coordinate called "Doom Patrol," and having my wife and 3 kids sitting with me in video village during the really fun sequences I get to shoot out there. To me, everything I do is for my family so having them at my side while I work is the best reward I can get. (Doom Patrol, Second Unit, Fight) What is the greatest lesson you have learned over the years as a stunt coordinator? The best lesson I have earned over the years is that I need to be prepared for every eventuality. I need plans A-F and the best way to implement them if things go FUBAR. I also need to be prepared to explain a different way to do something that I deem is too dangerous, whether it's something the writer, director, producer or even the performer wants to do a certain way that I don't think is safe. I need everyone to go home the same way they came in, safe and sound. (Thom Williams with his family) What are the greatest qualities you seek out in a stunt performer? The greatest need that I expect in a performer is the ability to be a part of a team! I don't care how talented you are, if you don't mesh well with everyone else, and don't listen, you're of no use to me. What advice would you give up and coming stunt performers? This is a competition between ELITE athletes, treat it as such. Never stop learning. Never stop training. The moment you become soft and complacent, remember that someone else is training hard, and putting in the work to take your job. (Doom Patrol Roller Disco Battle) What do you love most about the stunt community? All that being said, the competition, the long hours, the bumps and bruises and sometimes injuries, what I love most about the stunt community is just that; we're a community. A family. I have people in this business that I truly feel are my brothers and sisters and I love my stunt family. Stay safe out there everyone, and I hope you trained your asses off over your Coronacation! (Stunt Christmas Charity Toy Drive)