Tuesday, March 06, 2007

My Encounters with Hollywood Part 2

In my previous entry, I detail being proverbially thrown out on my rear because a cadre of Hollywood big shots thought my brother worked for the paparazzi. Once again, I offer a counter-balanced story on my experience with the good side of Hollywood.

One of the classes I'm taking this semester is public speaking. Always have wanted to take a public speaking class.

The style of presentation we were commissioned to use was "Demonstration." I like to do things a little off the beaten path, so I chose "How to Choreograph a Stageplay Sword Fight" as my topic. (The Master Replicas lightsaber model that I used in my introductory speech seemed to be a big hit, so I brought it back for an encore.) This timed nicely with the release of the sequel to the hit internet phenomenon Ryan vs. Dorkman, although Ryan posted it in the evening, not morning.

But I'm getting ahead of the story. I found my biggest problem was locating authoritative sources regarding stageplay sword fighting. Oh sure, there were a lot of fan websites that broke down the Star Wars sword fights. But there were two extremes; completely unprofessional websites with a lot of information, or very professional websites who obviously weren't in the business of handing out free information; they only provided facts about the classes they offer. And since I couldn't see my way clear to fly to England for sword lessons, I had to come up with an alternative.

I finally found some instructional videos for how to choreograph a fight, how to fence, etc. The videos were made by Tim Weske, who has worked on films such as Princess Diaries II, Peter Pan and Master and Commander, training actors such as Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock and Natalie Portman among many others.

I browsed his site, and since his contact information was on there, I sent him an e-mail with a couple of questions I had from his instructional videos. He wrote back and said he wasn't quite sure he understood my questions, and provided his phone number. I called, left a message, and wound up calling again an hour later, which he promptly returned. I talked with him for almost 40 minutes, getting tips, getting a feel for the swordmaster business, and asking his evaluation (and subsequently hearing behind-the-scenes information and details) of movie fight scenes such as the lightsaber fight from The Phantom Menace, as well as Lord of the Rings fights and the famous Princess Bride duel. (He explained that if the fight scene looked good, then who was he to be critical of it, since that is the goal of any movie fight scene.)

While at times he was slightly critical of Hollywood fight scenes (IE, they were unrealistic, because most duels or fights would be over in few moves), I wasn't quite able to understand if there was a proper balance between a good fight scene and an accurate fight scene.

The presentation went on at the next class, although I must say that his name (and the associated credibility) boosted the speech more than the information did. I hope some day to take some lessons and become educated in the true art of swordsmanship. Maybe with Tim Weske.

Until then, Mr. Weske has my sincere thanks for introducing me to a nicer side of Hollywood, for spending time in conversation, and for letting me pick his brain on swordsmanship.


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