Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fighting on film - what I learned about movie combat, thug life, and falling on concrete

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to do stunt work for a fight scene. One of my training partners, Alethea Delmage, is directing a film called The Visitor and recruited jiu jitsu and MMA fighters as actors to play Mafia thugs in a fight club. (Like the Facebook page The Visitor Film 2015 for updates and more information).

I was pysched to be cast as "thug #1." I had never been in a movie before and I was excited to use my fight skills in a venue that would not get me beat up for realz. Plus, playing a thug would be good for my street cred.

In a broad sense, filming the fight scene reminded me of competing in a jiu jitsu tournament: lots of waiting around and warming up, without really knowing when I would be up, followed by short periods of high impact activity and adrenaline, followed by more wait time. Fight, rest, and repeat. In between rounds, I would try to stay loose and warm and not crash from an adrenaline dump.   

Here's what I took from the experience:

- Acting work is more grueling than glamorous. Overall, I spent 15 hours on set (I was wrapped before most folks, who were there for 19 hours). We filmed in an unheated warehouse and I was inadequately dressed. The scenes themselves were fun, but by the end of the night I was freezing, hungry, and exhausted.

- Thugs have a short life expectancy. True, this film is a work of fiction, but what I am telling you is fact. Watch the news if you don't believe me. If you want to live a long, fruitful life, it is best not to choose a life of crime.

- Fight scenes are not entirely fake. If you see a movie character getting slammed into a metal wall, guess what? An actor got slammed into that metal wall. Actually, between rehearsal and multiple takes of film, that actor got slammed into the metal wall 15-20 times. For fight scenes to look realistic, actors have to actually punch, kick, and throw each other. And they have to do it dozens of times for each rep you see in the movie.

- Fighting on concrete changes everything. What is easy and comfortable rolling on mats can be awful on hard surfaces. Taking falls is even worse. Solid technique can help you land safely, but that does not mean you will not take damage. I woke up the day after my simulated, movie fight feeling as if I had been in an actual fight. This drives home what my instructors have taught me - if you can avoid it, you do not want to go to the ground in an actual self defense situation. Concrete is not a friend to your knees or noggin'.

- If you are cast as a thug, it is important to remove your movie makeup before driving home, in the unlikely event that you get pulled over by the cops. My makeup looked awesome but it was waterproof and hard to remove. So I decided that I would drive home in makeup, show my hubby my cool, fucked up face, and then soak in a long epsom salt bath to soothe my sore muscles and get my face clean.

Impressive, huh?

But here's the thing - I really did get pulled over for speeding on the way home. And along with a shortened life expectancy, thugs don't get much leniency from cops. Really, would you let someone who looks like this off with a warning?

Shooting a fight scene was a cool life experience, but a tougher job than I thought. From now on when I am watching a movie and I see punches thrown, I will have an increased appreciation of what it takes to make the scene work.

Is it too late to audition for Bonanza?


  1. I saw your Facebook pictures but didn't read the posts. When I saw the pictures I just thought to myself, "Oh, Kimberdoo's face got fucked up again - bet the other guy looks way worse!" Is the fact that seeing you like that didn't at all phase me a good thing or bad? Love you Kimberdoo and can't wait to see you in your "starring" role!! (poor thug pug)

  2. Aw, thanks, Auntiedoo! Hope you are doing awesome