So your upcoming project is well on track. The Scenic Designer is onboard with your concept, costuming is coming in well under budget, Light and Sound plots are all but nailed down. Things are looking good.
But wait, there’s a sword fight at the end of Act 2. Now, what!?
But wait, do you really NEED to hire a Fight Director? After all, we’ve seen Braveheart and Troy, can’t you just fake it? Is going through the process of finding and hiring a Fight Director really all that necessary? After all, you’re pretty sure that they’re expensive and it would take time away from the “real” rehearsals, right?
Inevitably, these topics will arise in most pre-production meetings, even in Equity houses where the rules are much more stringent regarding fight scenes and actor safety. But let’s forget the safety issue for a moment (that’s another post) and focus solely on the storytelling aspects of your script.
I am pretty sure that Shakespeare, not wanting for words, did not prescribe a fight for lack of textual inspiration. I am also quite sure that the placement of the fight is not only intentional but altogether necessary for character development and furthering along the dramatic action.
Much like Musical Theatre Theory, Fight Theory adheres to the principle that dialogue can only go so far. That is, when words fail, violence begins (or song in the case of a musical). Violence has then become inevitable and, therefore must happen due to the inability of language to contain (or further develop) the dramatic action.
Performance theories aside, how can you know when acquiring the services of a Fight Director is an absolute necessity rather than a budgetary luxury?
Here are ten tell-tale signs to look for:
1. Your armory consists of 3 cup-hilt epees and a stainless steel smallsword
2. You are considering slo-mo fight “choreography” to make it more suggestive
3. When you hear an actor say: It’s okay, just slap me!
4. When your fight scene is silent…literally.
5. You are considering Shakespeare in the Park for summer stock
6. If you interpret “They Fight” as just another stage direction (ala Tennessee Williams)
7. When you hear the director say: It’s okay, just slap him!
8. Your lead actor lists “Combat Expert” under Special Skills
9. If you think that fencing is sword fighting
10. If you think The Matrix is an adequate fight training video