I had the tremendous pleasure of being an executive producer and fight choreographer on the set of a 30 minute short action film called “UNBOUND”. It has been out for a while but if you haven’t caught it go to www.boncrekfilms.com/unbound. You can rent or purchase it there. The name has so many meanings when you look at the storyline. It follows a detective attached to a police unit responsible for investigating crimes against women and children. She encounters obstacles in the form of two men on the wrong side of the law getting in her way. Her very soul is challenged when she is faced with some very serious predicaments.
One day out of the blue a friend/film colleague called me asking about my fight choreography services. David Johnson told me his budget and the honest truth is that at the time I was so swamped with things I was very tempted to say no. I have always had a problem saying no when friends or family need help. As much as I wanted to I could not resist when I heard the story. The topics being tackled were sexual abuse, human trafficking, and child molestation. All things I abhor and view my country among others as having a serious issue where this is concerned. I could not say no. I had to reshuffle my priorities, even cancelling an important event my wife and I were scheduled to go to because this was more important.
The biggest concern came when I heard that we pretty much had 2 months to train several non-Martial Artists how to fight and we practically only had one day a week. AY CARAMBA! This was not the preferred situation by any stretch of the imagination.
After going through the fighting styles the director envisioned, I had to meet the actors and figure out what they were capable of, what limitations they had and how willing they were to learn. Luckily, they were very enthusiastic. Unfortunately some of them had serious limitations with time and previous injuries. None the less, we knew we could not achieve some of the expert level skills displayed in many of the reference fight scenes we dug up but we found a happy middle ground that gave us the technical outcome we wanted.
Every Saturday morning bright and early at 8 am we trained. Starting off with general warm ups then getting into basic punching, kicking and footwork drills and techniques. I don’t believe in just giving pre-rehearsed moves to beginners straight off the bat. I believe they must know how to perform proper techniques first then they can learn how they blend together naturally in light sparring simulations. This was just for them to feel what a fight is supposed to feel like so that when they get to rehearsed moves, they can play the part convincingly. Next step was teaching them how to sell a hit so that the audience would believe a punch or kick is as hard as intended to be. Once they got a good feel for these skills, a choreography was created that matched their abilities and communicated their preferred fighting styles. As you can imagine, closer to the time of shooting as the intensity of training stepped up a few minor injuries crept up here and there, but it is a part of the business. They had to look believable on screen and they did.
Shoot days were long and gruelling. We shot the last scene first. One of my favourite parts of set life was meeting new people and helping a story unfold. I met a Jamaican filmmaker who lives in California named Mark Lecky. We had been acquaintances on Facebook for a while but we had never met in person until that set. He is going to flame me for this but at first I was observing him to see if he really knew anything about film production because I always saw him posting on Facebook but never anything he worked on. Turns out not only was he a great Grip and Best Boy, but he was also a cool dude. We quickly became brothers. I pretty much looked forward to seeing him and working with him on set every day. I learned a lot just observing him. This man had the energy of a 10 year old child, always moving always observant, monitoring when the fog machine needed to be turned on (Inside joke I know he will flame me for).
I got to work with Darren Scott again, one of Jamaica’s top Directors of Photography and for the first time I got to work with Gabrielle Black, the President of the Jamaica Film and Television Association which was an honour for me whether she knows it or not because I respect her work and work ethic.
Overall it was an exciting team. I can’t remember everyone but my partner in crime Robin Chin was there, our lovely Make Up artiste Katherine, Production Assistant Na-Kaydia who kept bugging me for Martial Arts lessons and was actually getting pretty good at it quickly. There are many more people I could mention but there were so many on set.
The writing duo in Director David Johnson and Assistant Director Aliceia Dawkins created an excellent film that I think is a beautiful piece of cinematography that needs to be seen by everybody.
The Finished Product
We filmed for four days. The actors were such troopers. I know how draining choreography can be on the day of shooting because you have to do the moves over and over again even more so than in practice. The lead actors Stephanie Hazle and Kevin Sean Hamilton did a remarkable job. I am looking forward to torturing them for the sequel.
Once this production was over it was on to edit, color and sound. Once that was done it was time for a premiere and a few other screenings with NGO’s. It has been quite a journey. The stunts are hard, finding the production money is hard, rehearsing is hard, but finding persons to partner with to get the film distributed properly is perhaps the most difficult but it is a journey we have been taking in strides.
So far the film premiered at the Liguanea Club, screened at the Christian Life Fellowship, UNICEF and The Bureau of Gender Affairs Jamaica. The premier had present the highest representative from the UN offices in Jamaica Mr. Bruno Pouezat and representatives from CISOCA and CDA. It is currently available on www.amazon.com, www.reelhouse.com and www.vimeo.com for purchase. It has been screened at film festivals locally and overseas and received write ups in local newspapers and magazines. We still have a long way to go but the journey is continuing to progress uphill and we are all grateful for that. I am definitely looking forward to the next instalment which will be a feature length film continuing where the short film left off.
I am a Filmmaker, Animator and Writer. I love telling stories and making them come true. You will see me on the big screen soon enough.