Choreography in fighting
This week I will be researching choreography in fight scenes, this will allow me to create a storyboard that is effective in matching the themes and communicating the emotion and personality of the characters. I will conduct this research by first doing secondary research to understand the basics and then taking it further by analysing some fight scenes that from films, this will allow me to learn techniques used in the industry and compare them with other film fights.
The official guide
When looking through some secondary sources through the internet, I found a guide created by Yung Lee (also known as GakAttack), he is an action designer and a friend of Rocket Jump.
When reading the guide, I found that there are four key points, pacing, performance, a reason to fight and the way the camera moves. When discussing about pacing, a fight scene needs a rhythm to it and depending on the tone of the move, this could affect pacing as well such as it can be fast and frenetic for an action film or slow and dramatic for a horror film. This is because if you had a fast paced fight in a horror film, the horror and drama would be lost as there wouldn’t be enough time to build up the suspense, so the pacing plays a very big part in the film depending on its genre.
The performance is about the actor and the character they are playing, this is because a character’s personality determines the way the fight scene plays out, as personality can determine how the character fights and approaches obstacles and react to situations. A fight scene has the same purpose as any other scene, to advance the plot, this is why it is necessary for there to be a reason for the fight, along with that it has to be a good enough reason and believable, otherwise the audience won’t be invested in the scene.
The camera plays a very important role in a fight scene as it is the thing that is capturing the fight, this means that the choreography has to be created with the camera in mind, such as how the camera will follow the fight. The camera can also be used to emphasize certain points in the fight, such as fast movements at points, powerful hits, etc.
A video tutorial
I have gone further and looked at a video tutorial on YouTube to learn more about how choreography of fight scenes are created.
The first thing Rustic Bodomov talks about is camera awareness, this is where the choreography changes depending where the camera is, such as if we have two actors facing each other and positioned the camera to be an over the shoulder shot. The actor punching the actor facing away from the camera would make his fist go further, along with the other actor turning his face a little more, allowing the audience to get a better view of his face so he can communicate the pain more to the audience through facial features.
The next topic he talks about is intensity and control, this is where precise hits look better in a fight scene and shooting the scene takes less takes; along with that, pacing is important as if you do the movements faster and faster, it makes the fight look floppy.
Timing; in nearly every fight scene there is always an irregular tempo, this means that the fight is a constant tempo, hit after hit after hit, it is broken into pieces of different tempos depending on the choreography, this makes it more interesting for the audience as it becomes unpredictable. Usually this irregular tempo is practiced with a partner before shooting the fight scene to allow them to figure out the different tempos and gain some muscle memory for the fight scene.
Distance is important as a common mistake for actors is when they start crowding in, this doesn’t allow them to throw their punches and kicks as far, making there hits not look powerful. Foot work also plays an important role, that’s why it’s important to learn some martial arts and boxing basics, this allows the actors to use and change into different fighting stances, allowing the fight to look more interesting.
There is a term used in the industry called “45s” is when you have legs bent and always facing at a 45-degree angle, this is used to control the distance between the two actors fighting as it allows them to walk and change stances as the fight goes on. Another small factor that makes a great difference is a ghost beat, this is used when the actor looks a bit awkward when waiting for the next move from his partner. A ghost beat is where the actor throws in an improvised movement to fill in the extra space in a fight and not look like he/she’s waiting for his/her partners next move, this is done by ever moving their hands or throwing in an extra kick or punch.
Another good tip Rustic Bodomov gives is that when creating the fight, it is also important to remember acting as the character in the story, such as is the character tired or energetic, is the character scared or angry. This changes the choreography of the fight as some punches and kicks can be more aggressive and out of control or they can be weak and slow. The final tip is to make both actors open to the camera, this means having both actors clearly visible to the camera which allows the audience to get a better view on what is going, usually this is done by having an actor in a stance on the left side of the camera and the other actor in a stance on the right.
Looking at fight scenes
The fight scenes I will be looking at will be similar to what I will be aiming to make a rough, wild, realistic fight.
The two similar fight scenes I will be looking at (suggested by my tutor) are The Bourne Supremacy fight scene and Grosse Point Blank fight scene.
Looking at the fight scene in Grosse Point Blank, the fight begins right of with both characters delivering blows to each other, you can tell they are both professionals from moves and blocks they do, this makes the fight intense as it is longer than the usual fight which creates suspense and we know that they are both professionals making the scene a lot more deadlier. The camera is quick and smooth when following the movement of the fight, such as when one of them delivers a lot of power into a kick, punch or shove and it follows the direction of the movement and continues with the one receiving, following him move from the force. The camera shots are also connect to the different moves they use, when comes to up close, short punches and grabs, the camera is a lot more closer to the fight, however when the moves are lot more bigger and have distance between both characters, the camera shot is a lot further away to show the actual movement at hand. Looking at the pacing of the fight, it matches very well with the song playing in the background, being at the same pace as the song; because of what the song is, this creates more drama to the scene as it is a fun fast paced song which contrasts to the serious fight. However, because of this pacing, it makes the fight scene look more staged as the actors seem to be taking turns at each other, this could be improved if the actors through a couple of ghost beats in to fill the space in-between of each action.
Looking at the fight scene in The Bourne Supremacy, as soon as the fight begins the camera becomes instantly shaky and rapidly adjusting to capture key points in the fight. This makes the fight seem more intense as its gives the impression that it is wild and out of control, this makes the fight unpredictable which creates an intense fight scene. The camera uses the same techniques as Grosse Point Blank, it follows the direction of the action however it does this by going at arches and being very shaky instead of the fast-straight pan. The camera also doesn’t have a lot of wide shots of both actors, making it harder for the audience to understand what is going on in the fight. The actors are able to make the fight scene very real, there are no pauses, there are lots of grabs and it is very aggressive which makes the scene very intense and real. The pacing of the fight is barely noticeable as follows an irregular tempo, this creates a more intense feeling by making it seem a little wild and chaotic like a real close quarters fight.
From this, I have learnt the basics of how to shoot a fight scene and how the choreography changes depending on multiple factors like environment, camera placement, pacing and timing. This will help me to create the storyboard of the fight scene and shoot the actual fight scene properly for the project. I believe for this research I could have used more sources, however due to the amount of time of this project and my plan, I believe it would be more sufficient to move on.
B, R. (2017, March 2). How to SHOOT a Fight Scene: MOVEMENT, CHOREOGRAPHY (taught by stuntmen . Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxap6jc9Sbk
Haroutunian, L. (n.d.). INTRO TO FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY (WITH YUNG LEE). Retrieved from RocketJump Film School: https://school.rocketjump.com/learn/directing-container/intro-to-fight-choreography