Life of Action, a new book by journalist Mike Fury, speaks to renowned actors, filmmakers and stunt people from the action and martial arts film genres and gains an insight into the meticulous work behind these genre productions.
In this extract, director Isaac Florentine, whose work includes Undisputed II and III, The Shepherd: Border Patrol and Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, shares his earliest memories working in America, having moved from Israel as a young man.
“My first experience making films in the US was pretty interesting. As a kid, I’d been used to following my instincts and just doing it how I wanted, but soon I found out that when you’re working on a professional film, even if it’s low budget, people start interfering. Starting out filming on Super 8 and then 16mm, I’d always think ‘editing for camera’ and would aim to get the drama spot on and then capture the action smoothly because you’re editing the fight in your head.
When I started working in the US, I saw how everyone wanted to shoot a master and run the fight from beginning to end, which just never worked for me. Maybe it worked in the 1930’s on studio films to ‘capture’ the actors, but it’s not the most interesting thing, visually, and the master shot should only be a reference in my opinion.
I think the camera can be used to enhance the action and show off the moves on screen. Remember that when you saw old Gene Kelly films, they’d be framed widely so you’d appreciate the beauty of the movement! If you have talented people, why cut it?
With a master, it can be helpful in editing but filming the actual scene like that will eventually give you the wrong angles, or you’ll see the misses, and so on. I would never shoot a master for the fights and always worked with the angles that we’d actually use in the edit. So this was a bit of a conflict I had with some producers early on because they didn’t get it.
Desert Kickboxer [his first feature] was a tough film and we only had 16 shooting days. It was a miracle we actually managed to do it. Also I was in a difficult position because, in the beginning, I tried to follow the industry standard and shoot the way they wanted it. Eventually, after struggling with what I was doing, I just had to abandon it and forget shooting masters in favour of doing it my own way. I think you just have to follow your gut and trust your instincts.”
“Life of Action” is published by Mill City Press and available now in paperback format, with an e-book edition to follow soon. You can order it from www.mikefury.net/lifeofaction