REVIEW OF FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY
The Art of Non-Verbal Dialogue
By Dr. Craig D. Reid
This is the first time in any language that a real unifying approach of how to mix all the cinematic elements of fight choreography has been engagingly detailed into a veritable know-how of historical and technical clarity. “Fight Choreography: The Art of Non-Verbal Dialogue,” by legitimate martial artist and Hollywood fight choreographer/stunt coordinator John Kreng solidly lays down a path for anybody interested in learning the process of creating a simple or stylized fight scene for TV, film, stage and videogames.
The creepy thing about this book is that if you absorb and understand the essence of its pages, you will have the upper hand over most of the stunt coordinators working in Hollywood today.
Over the past 15 years, I have visited over 300 film sets and interviewed more than 100 of Hollywood’s top stunt coordinators, stuntmen and fight coordinators and so the curious mind bender is that if they knew even half of the information this book offers, then American films that feature martial arts and non-ballistic weaponry action fights would have been more exciting, entertaining and comprehensible.
In a recent exclusive interview with Kreng for kungfucinema.com, he relates, “I wrote this book out of frustration, because dealing with western filmmakers, one can see they don’t understand how to shoot action. You will see many fight scenes in the west that just don’t make sense, like when the DP (director of photography) wants to get in close to the action to feel like you’re in the fight, where it is more about emotion. But when you do that you’re missing the non-verbal dialogue of the technique.
“This book can be the beginning of a bridge of communication of what we do as fight choreographers so that DPs, editors, producers and directors can understand what is involved, because in the west, filmmakers all believe that anybody can put a fight scene together.”
This book is also truly the first academic examination of fight choreography. Not only does Kreng go beyond the call of duty delivering unique exposition in concise, cohesive and clever narrative but he also intelligently combines choreography theory with the art of screenwriting. The information provided and discussed on the script writing process is comparable to what major universities offer as screenwriting 101-102, yet Kreng’s rendition is 100 times cheaper and more efficient. Furthermore, he uses action film examples that most individuals have already seen; therefore, they can quickly align themselves to envision the sensibilities, notions and emotions that Kreng is trying to relate to the readers.
Kreng’s dedication to authoring this book stems from three years of intensive research, where he has delved into the dusty cobwebbed corners of fight theory long gone or even ignored. He has essentially brought to the surface a novel fight choreographical modus operandi that culminates with the successful integration of the wild and wooly dynamic visuals of the East with the fastidious storytelling underpinnings of the West.
“I was initially just going to describe the process and not going to define the process,” Kreng continues, “the book was originally going to be about 300 pages but half way through the book as I was piecing it together I thought that the readers wont figure this out and that I have to show them an overall process.
“I spoke to Jeff Imada, James Lew and Yuen Woo-ping’s people and they told me their process. I thought about my process as a fight choreographer and felt that I needed to go beyond mine and everybody else’s stuff, and come up with something universal and all encompassing, so anybody who has a project can look at the process and figure it out.”
Anyone who wishes to pursue or improve one’s professional career in film, TV and stage as a fight coordinator, combat choreographer or stunt coordinator will greatly benefit from this book. For those who are interested in improving the quality of your action You Tube presentations, engaging in cosplay or even performing live martial arts demonstrations, Kreng’s meticulous yet uncomplicated instructional devices will bring your sight-gag infested productions into the 21st century with impressive vim and vigor that will undoubtedly wow your audiences.
Furthermore, any university that claims to have reputable Film Departments or intense extension programs that boast about providing complete curriculums and courses that fully prepare their students for a career in film, TV and video production, should use “Fight Choreography” as a required text. Why? Despite what movie critics or professors of film studies may think, many of today’s action films are successful because of the action, yet film study programs nationwide do not train their students in the nuances of writing, shooting and editing fight and action sequences
The only thing missing from this book is how one can take this newfound knowledge and understanding, and use it to break into the industry of which Kreng shares, “Sometimes it is really just about falling into it. Nobody goes out and says they want to be a fight choreographer or a stunt coordinator; you need a certain background to do it. Bottom line is you do what ever you can to get in there.
“Start off as an extra, watch and study, take stunt classes, stage and film combat classes, learn about what is a hit or a miss. Martial arts classes is not going to get you into the film industry, it used to be that way, but not anymore. Filmmakers are expecting much more from a screen fighter than just fighting skills.”
“Fight Choreography: The Art of Non-Verbal Dialogue,” by John Kreng. Thomson Course Technology PTR, Boston, MA. 508 pages. $34.99.
For further information on how to purchase the book go to Amazon.com or directly toCourse Technology.