One of the more common bits of feedback I’ve gotten when showing Stir Fried Justice to people is “when you guys are doing that karate stuff, you guys did a great job of making it look like you were hitting each other.” “Actually, it’s funny you should mention that”, I usually respond, “because except for some of the head shots, we pretty much were really hitting each other!”
Having been a martial artist for many years, I have the good fortune of knowing a number of people through my training who I was able to call on when John and I got the idea to make a silly karate movie trailer. Pretty much everyone you see in the film throwing punches and kicks has trained at the same school that I workout at.
Another added bonus is that since we have all trained together, we all have a level of trust that everyone will be able to control what they’re doing enough to make stuff look good without anyone actually getting hurt.
For example, you’ll note that my character, the propeller beanie wearing thug gets hit in the nuts a couple of times. First I took a kick, in the other, I took a chop while I was on the ground. I was wearing a cup for both shots, but trust me, both of them connected. The kick in particular was a doozie, as it actually lifted me off the ground!
Another notable sequence is when after I throw a couple of kicks at him, the Black Thunder character played by Victor Milbourne takes me down in a sleeper hold. You’ll note my arms and legs flailing as I go down (the choking sound was recorded from the comfort of my home office). That’s because I really couldn’t breathe. Granted – some of that was acting, but some of it was an attempt by me to tap out. Actually – at one point, when we were filming a closeup of the punch that takes me out at the end, Victor hung me up in the sleeper hold a little prematurely while John was checking something on the camera. All of a sudden, things went woozy, I tapped out and Victor let me go. I then proceeded to stumble around a bit and finally puked. If I’d gone a second longer in that hold, I would have gone right out.
You’ll also note in the film several closeups of faces getting punched or stomped on. With a couple of exceptions, we never punched anyone in the face. All those shots were controlled. To get a closeup showing impact, we filmed the shot in reverse, showing the punch being pulled away, and then when in post-production, we reversed the film to make it look like someone was being punched.
Note that I said a couple of exceptions. In the scene where one of the Damsels in Distress characters punches me in the face, we wanted to have my character spit blood. That would be very difficult to film in reverse. In those cases, I was actually punched in the jaw. I just clenched my teeth tight and rolled my head with the punch.
Lastly, in watching the film, you may note that some of the martial arts may look familiar if you’ve ever seen kenpo. A number of us study kenpo together and we used some self defense routines from kenpo as the base movements for some of the sequences. We didn’t necessarily copy the sequences movement by movement, we weren’t teaching kenpo here, we just took the movements as a basis and then had some fun with them. Given that we did this under a time crunch, we shot everything in a day, it was handy that we knew a number of techniques I could call out by name and know that the other person would be able to know what I was talking about. This was a lot easier than if I’d had to choreograph everything from the ground up!
This was a complete departure from all the films we’d done previously. No zombies. But it was still incredibly fun making it, and we learned a lot about coordinating a film shoot with nearly a dozen cast members.