Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Week 10 Report

When I originally conceived this project, I had envisioned that I would have been done shooting in March. Then I looked at how many weekend there were things I wanted to do with the cast to help and promote the project, including going to grappling tournaments and comic book conventions. I also had the idea that we would need a few extra weeks to really work and hone the routines. So I thought that this week, April 11 would be a good day to shoot. A closer inspection of the date revealed that this was the week after I-Con, and I had too much going on at I-Con to miss it, and we would definitely need a week after I-Con for a "dress rehearsal."

However, some drama occurred that meant that this was not to be. A large and significant portion of the cast participated in a martial arts tournament on week #7. This was cool, I thought, as it would give the cast martial arts cred and be a great promotional opportunity. The following week, however, not a single member of that portion of the cast showed up at rehearsal.

It turns out that there was a bit of internal dissension in the group, and some members no longer wanted to work with other members, and my project was stuck in the middle. I had to have lengthy phone conversations and in-person meetings to find out what was going on. In the end I had to make the very difficult choice of who to let go and who to keep, because I was not going to be able to have everyone in that group work together.

So in week 10 six cast members I would have lost if I had followed the woitshes of one other cast member returned to the production. I had a talk with them, along with one other cast member who was close to the one. When I reported the results of the meeting to the one member later, he decided to withdraw, and the one other member went with him.

But in the meantime we had to continue working on the movie.

I focused on continuing to build routines, and I am very pleased with some of the results we are getting. Kirkland and Dan have built a "wrestling vs. kung fu grappling" routine that is quite interesting. Kat and Vince have built a wonderful romantic comedy storyline. And Bundy and I have a spectacular routine for the tag-tam match. I am getting concerned, though, because I am having to spend so much time directing and producing and writing that I am not having any time to train.

Oh yeah, I was able to distribute the Sprawl shorts and shirts to the cast members who needed them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brimstone supports "Redemption"

Last week I posted a casting call to fill a few openings in the cast that the course of attrition and a few minor dramas over an 11 week rehearsal process had left. Also, I needed to cast a few referees.

The response to this was astounding. Where were all these people three months ago when I started? I got calls from real hardcore MMA guys, ten year competition veterans, high-ranking martial artists, and an Israeli pro wrestling champion. I also got a call from Brimstone, an indie pro wrestler of some renown who offered to do a celebrity cameo.

We shot the cameo on Sunday, It was the scene where Captain Zorikh gets the contact information for the legit martial arts team that he will join. It was shot outside Otto's Shrunken Head with Frank Wood. Brimstone was also kind enough to shoot the following promo:

Cool, huh?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some thoughts about sports, martial arts, and gender

The origins of this movie lie in the activities I used to do with a female wrestling team that made videos, competed in legit tournaments, performed in night clubs and fetish parties, and did wrestling sessions. I loved the diversity of activity we were able to do with the same skill set: submission grappling. As a long-time supporter of Equal Rights, I also was pleased that we happened to be demonstrating that women could be every bit as hard-working, aggressive, and competitive as men when it came to sports.

By the time I started this project as it is now, however, I was no longer working with that group, so I had to hold an open casting call. Through this casting call, and other casting calls I have made for female martial artists, wrestlers, and grapplers, I have found that most female martial artists who are also actors are more into the kicking and punching and "cardio" martial arts than the grappling arts. Upon reflection, whenever I have gone to grappling trainings or tournaments, there have always been very few women, and very few of those had any interest in show biz.

I recently recalled how when I was trying to help start a legit women's grappling school, research showed that while female participation in sports and martial arts has been skyrocketing lately, the slowest-growing field is wrestling.

Since I started making this movie, and even back when I was making "Combat Twister," I have run up against the perception that what I am making is a "catfight" or fetish video.

Yes, I have made wrestling fetish videos, both as a producer and a performer. No, I am not a wrestling fetishist. While I can tell how someone would find two women wrestling sexy, it's not what gets me aroused. I am more interested in the drama and skill of the fight, and I appreciate it when comedy is well integrated into the match.

The original version of this movie was going to be for the fetish market, but as I thought more about the movie, and the dramatic and comedic potential of the story, the more I thought it did not have to be strictly a fetish movie. And when I realized that I was not going to be making it with the original people that I had been working with, any pretense that it would be served to that market went away for me.

The whole premise of the movie is about how a man learns how to actually stick with an activity until he develops a skill he can be proud of, and the gains the courage to face his adversaries regardless of the potential outcome. It just so happened that the activity that inspired this movie was submission grappling, and the adversary in question was a fetish wrestling goddess. So in order to make this story work, I had to create a world in which men and women have the opportunity to compete on the same level in submission grappling. This, inadvertently, allowed me to express the idea that when you are training and competing to be the best you can be at what you do, you should not limit yourself to competing against only one gender.

I like this idea very much. I have lived with this idea as a part of my life. And now, as a writer, producer and director, I have a chance to make it come to life. But the realities of the grappling world and show biz are making it a challenge to realize that vision.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Week 9 Report

Several of the cast members who had been absent the past two weeks returned, but several key members did not. Tony, who had been with us the first two weeks, returned, and brought with him Manuela, a new addition to the cast.

We worked on routines through the entire rehearsal. We figured out how Kat would spin and throw Yousif. Kirkland and Dan fount the completion of their match. GA and Vince figured out how they would do a move I had wanted GE at do since I saw his "Osirus" videos: a flying triangle. Bundy and I worked on our routine, which will have some spectacular stuff in it. And Sam and Lou continued to provide good advice and training.

A few key people were not there, though. I am starting to get concerned about the attrition rate among the cast. I expected a few people to drop out for various reasons. One woman dropped out early because she was concerned about injury. Another dropped out because she was concerned that too many people would think this was a fetish video and she had to think about her career. Another woman dropped out because she thought the "darkness" in this movie would affect her. And yet another female cast member had a pretty horrible family tragedy strike. And now a few cast members are saying the don't want to work with each other. I am certainly going to have to get to the bottom of this.

Hopefully I won't have to have another casting call. I love this cast. Their unique personality and chemistry has informed and inspired my vision for this movie so much, I can't imagine what I would do if I had to replace too many of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Week 8 Report

For some strange reason, all the people from Martial Arts Madness failed to show up today, so I was not able to do all of what I wanted. Instead we learned a new sequence of guard pass, submission attempt, and counter, divided up the group available into the two teams, and discussed costuming.

Then we set up another improv scene, in which we rehashed "Captain Zorikh challenging the Adversary" that we had done two weeks before. This time I had Joseph Jordan stand in for CZ, and GA West and John B. Thierse played the "mentor" character. Lee Boria played the Adversary again. I had the cast run through the scene twice, and make different choices each time.

It was amazing how uncomfortable I felt watching someone play myself and watching myself be abused and made fun of. When I heard Bundy and Kamikaze shout "Captain Dork," and saw Joe stutter and stammer his way through his challenge, I was taken back to some of my less pleasurable moments in school and summer camp. That's when I knew that this movie has potential. We are not just punk kids half-assing grappling technique and fooling around, we are making a movie that people will be able to relate to, that they will respond to.

And that's what this is all about, isn't it?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Week 7 video Part 1

Here is some video from week 7. This was the week that Sam and his team of Martial Arts Madness fighters were competing at a mixed martial arts tournament. So with a smaller cast of attendees, and with Lou Nogueira leading the training, we learned a new sequence and continued working routines.

Stay tuned, because in the next video, we will finally learn a little bit about the cast members themselves.