Fight Scenes: How to make a Short Film with Stunts

Hey guys! As you all know, I’ve been getting really busy with my stuntman career over the last couple of years, as well as teaching How to do Stunts on my YouTube channel, which has been growing exponentially.. hence the lack of blog posts. But I recently had a Film School student send me a series of questions about fight scenes for some research she was doing, and I would like to share my response with you!
Rustic Bodomov playing a samurai with armor made out of books for a music video.

Book Samurai on a Music Video

Below is my brief email interview with this Film Student, as I answer questions regarding all aspects of Stunts and how it pertains to a short film she is planning on filming.. Enjoy!
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State your name, age, profession and years of experience.
I’m Rustic Bodomov, 26 years old, Hollywood Stuntman and Stunt Coordinator with 7 years experience in the industry. My physical training background started with Taekwondo at 7 yrs old, and Judo at 12 yrs old.
 
What are the important skills required for performing fight scenes?
The most important skills are air awareness, body conditioning, knowing how to fall, and the ability to learn new skills quickly. The skills and conditioning levels required take years to master.
 
What are the risks of being a stunt performer?
Stunt Performers risk serious injury, and even death.
 
Are there any differences when conducting stunts such as car crashes, falls from great height, explosion and fighting?
Yes, those stunts are all different. They all require good body awareness, but each one uses different skills and equipment.
– Car Crashes require knowledge of your whole vehicle and years of training, as well as specialized seat belts, helmets, roll cages, and pads..
– Falling from heights requires EXCELLENT AIR AWARENESS and specialized Air Bags and landing equipment..
– Explosions require highly skilled pyrotechnics technicians, stunt riggers, and safety people. The performer must have a good sense of timing, and a special awareness of everything in the moment in order to make adjustments..
– Fight Scenes have a whole other set of skills which require full control over your body, the ability to learn and perform fight choreography quickly and safely, and the ability to work with any partner effectively (whether it’s a seasoned stunt performer, or a brand new actor) to make a fight scene look good.
 
PRE-PRODUCTION:
1) Rustic, I will make an action short film next year for this research study. Can I conduct my own stunts in a short period of time? If yes, what do I need to prepare for my film production?
It depends what kind of stunt you are talking about. If you are doing a simple fall onto a crash pad that is out of frame, or doing a simple fight scene, you can definitely learn it in a short amount of time. In this case, I would recommend watching my tutorials on Youtube on how to learn basic stunts…. if you are planning on having bigger stunts like Car Crashes, Car Chases, Falls to the Ground, etc, I would recommend you hire a professional Stunt Coordinator to help you out. When working on a low budget, you still might be able to find people in your area who are starting out, who will work with you to build their resume.
 
2) How to direct fight scenes with my team?
You need to start with your script, and design your fight scene choreography based on several factors. Take into account how your characters move, what your location will look like, if they have any props or weapons… and most importantly, if you’re working with actors on a  low budget, pay attention to what your actors can actually do! Don’t design anything for them that they will look awkward doing. Again, I would recommend getting a stunt coordinator or fight choreographer involved as early on as you can, and they will help you out immensely.. (I have several tutorials about how to perform fight choreography, but I will make another one on design soon.)
 
3) What kind of equipment is suitable for filming fight scenes and stunt movement?
You can film on anything, as long as you understand how to set up your framing, where to hide pads, and how it will edit together.
 
4) How do I apply camera movement in fight scenes and how does it relate to fight choreography?
Watch my tutorial on Camera Tips (episode 2), but if you’re asking how to do camera “shake”.. you need to imagine your camera is someone who is actually watching the fight, and trying to follow it from the inside. Try to keep the action (your stunt hits and reactions) in the center of the frame, while adding a little camera movement in the direction of the impacts and fight choreography… don’t shake, but float with the fight.
 
CASTING:
1) How to stage the cast or stunt performers in fight scenes?
Make sure your actors are adjusted differently for every new angle that you film. The “stacking” will work differently depending on where you’re seeing the choreography from. A general rule is to keep at leas 6 inches of space between someone’s attack and the other person’s reaction.
 
2) What if the cast doesn’t know about performing stunt choreography? Would they need special training from a stunt coordinator, and how long would that take ?
If your actors don’t know anything about fight choreography, I would DEFINITELY take them somewhere to train. The more they can prepare, the better.. the most important thing is for them to look like they’re actually comfortable throwing punches and taking reactions. If you have a qualified fight coordinator training your cast, you can expect your actors to have the basics down within 3-4 training sessions… but if you need a complicated fight scene, they would likely need 3-4 weeks.
 
3) Who casts the Stunt Doubles for Actors? How?
The Stunt Coordinator and is in charge of picking the Stunt Double. Once you know who your Actor is, the stunt coordinator looks through his network of stunt performers, and picks someone with the same Height/Weight, and body build. Then the stunt coordinator sends that stunt performer’s info to Production to be confirmed.
 
4) Are a Stunt Performer’s training background and physical fitness important? Why ? How ?
– YES, as a stuntman it is very important to have a background in what you’re doing. If you have someone who has trained in Martial Arts, they will look better in a Martial Arts style fight scene, than someone who doesn’t. If you need someone to do a chase on a motorcycle, you want to hire someone who has raced motorcycles.
– Physical Fitness for stunt performers is also VERY important. Professional stuntmen and stunt-women go to the gym, and train their bodies every day for years, in order to be able to perform stunts over and over without hurting themselves, and be safe to go to work the next day.
 
5) Is the staging of your cast, and the application of camera movement in stunt choreography related to each other?
YES! And a good stunt coordinator will help you choose the best angles for your action.
– In Fight Scenes, the body placement and footwork of your actors, the fight choreography, and the camera movement all need to work together to get the best angles.
– In other Stunts, such as High Falls, Car Hits, and any other impact. Camera placement ALWAYS works in tandem with your stunt performers to make the action look best.

 

POST-PRODUCTION:
1) How do I edit fight scenes in post-production?
This is a complicated question, that I will be answering in my next couple of editing tutorials (I am planning 4 of them). But the quick answer is.. you have to do it at least 5-10 times to get the hang of it… so go shoot some practice fights, and start learning!
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Rustic B dressed as a character from Assassin's Creed, doing a wallflip.

Wallflip for a Rap Battle I did as Assassin’s Creed

Let me know if you guys enjoyed this type of article and would like to see more!
Feel free to email me at rusticbfights@gmail.com if you have questions or feedback!
About

Rustic Bodomov is a Hollywood Stuntman and Stunt Coordinator, who shares his experiences in the action film industry. He also creates instructional and entertainment YouTube content under the name Rustic B

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