Making of Crime Action | Choreography & Direction Notes
Forewords: Welcome to the breakdown of the Demo-reel where you can take a peek behind the curtains; the reasons and thought processes behind the 6 pieces. This is the last part of the 6 article series. If this is the first article you are reading, do check out the other genres by clicking on the links at the end of my article.
Sixth Genre: Crime Action | Peps Goh Fight Design
Screen Time Duration: 3 mins 19 secs
Shoot Duration: 4 hours 30 mins
Shoot Date: 16th October 2019
Director of Photography (D.O.P): Shian Wen
Stunt Assistant Tiffany Yong
Production Manager: Dexter CJR
Makeup Artist: Eileen Koh
Cast: Peps Goh & Kasimir Poh Cieslak
Composer: John Paul Balthasar Kwan
Choreography Notes for Crime Action Genre:
The goal I had in mind for this segment was to create a sequence that is gritty and messy in a way that would make it feel more realistic in a way of having elements of almost unplanned struggling. To make something that translates the sense of pain to the audience as well as fatigue. In fact, I wanted to be able to make the viewers feel a sense of exhaustion of their own while watching this segment.
There are 2 main driving forces behind the choice to do this genre like this. First, we had twice been asked by productions to “choreograph the scene to look un-choreographed, like can you make it look like a real fight.”
I hope this piece answers the question positively, it could afford to be pushed further for sure, and over time I’ll come up with more ways to do that while maintaining safety. Second, I had been told that I do mostly flow-y choreography and that there’s concerns that I can’t design grittier sequences, so with this I set out to hopefully be able to fulfill that request.
The cuffed together trading blows was done in an almost freestyle play sort of manner. To keep it safe, we set a premise, I let him know beforehand that I will be aiming at his face, whilst he knows where I’m aiming and can block it with shoulder shrugs he doesn’t know when I will swing it.
Meanwhile, his instruction was to get me in the ribs, but to switch up the timing and play with feints to get me while I don’t expect it. Then we just let the play begin, almost like a game of who can get whom more times, and shot it for over a minute once from ground level, and once from top down. From there I picked and chose the moments I wanted to use. That’s how I gave those 2 moments a little sense of being un-choreographed and genuinity.
And we did the same for the part with Kasimir pinning my knife arm and yanking me around. My goal was to pull my arm back, and the job I assigned to Kasimir was one to keep me from doing it, and two to trip me twice in different ways and aim to off-balance me. It was genuinely exhausting.
Another point of focus was the knife disarm, the hammer fist down against the red water knob. It was a very deliberate design choice hoping to make the viewers cringe. I tested it with a few test audiences and 7/10 of the time it had the intended effect, and I hope it gave you the viewing experience the design intended too. If not I’ll find something else even more painful next time hahahaha.
Finally the last 4 punches dealt to Kasimir during the cuffed-together was a fun thing to design. It’s an unusual situation to be put in for sure, but when here, there is an interesting opportunity. To be able to use the cuffed arm to off-balance and yank your opponent into your attacks and redirect their arm to get a clean access to the face and ribs. Even using his own arm to block himself, that’s a unique choreography that I don’t think I’ve seen very often if at all.
If there was anything I would change about this segment is that in retrospect, the knife stab and block sequence at the beginning feels very choreographed in contrast to everything else in this particular choreo. I have since come up with a possible method of free-styling the stabbing safely, back then I was quite iffy about stabbing a knife (prop knife, but still, anything going that fast can potentially hurt) at Kasimir without him completely knowing what I was gonna do.
P.S. Safety is a big priority for my designs, and if it’s something I don’t even feel completely safe with giving to a performer as skilled as Kasimir, then I wouldn’t give it to any other actor either. The whole point of this project was to demo my designs meant for professional work anyway, hence I had utilize tested and proven material that I’m confident of imparting to actors within a couple of rehearsals.
Direction Notes for Crime Action Genre:
Disorientation via gratuitous amounts of dutch-tilts, we tilted A LOT. This is an element that is to the credit of the D.O.P Shian Wen, which was that the tilts always leaned according to the direction of the person who has the upper hand in each given situation of the choreography.
So that gradually, subconsciously the audience would catch on to the consistency, and hopefully it added to the viewing experience. As an alternative to excessively shaking the camera for disorientation which when badly done may become a reduction of viewing experience.
Another thing we had in mind when working on this was to cut at atypical points of the fights. We didn’t want it to look too much like there’s a cut after predictable blocks of choreography. Good editing and good direction is supposed to be when the audience doesn’t notice the cuts happening.
There are several ways you can do this; either by cutting in the middle of a motion instead of at the end of a motion, or cutting with the focus of the shot in consistent positions of the screen as mentioned above in another genre. To keep the length each cut deliberately inconsistent, instead of 1, 2, 3, 4 punch to gut cut, 1, 2, 3 ,4 punch to face cut. Audiences are intelligent and they catch on really quick to lazy directing.
Apart from that, a big visual reference we had would be Special ID (2014), again, another piece by the amazing Mr Donnie Yen. His works are a big influence on me, both intentionally and occasionally even on a subconscious level.
And with this final genre, we wrap up this project!
Full Video by Peps Goh Fight Design
The crime action genre is last part of the 6 genres. Here’s the full video for your viewing.
Menu: 00:12 – Comedy | 01:00 – Sport | 04:05 – Heroine | 05:22 – Dramatic | 07:40 – Oriental | 11:02 – Crime
P.S. Click on the above link to check out each genre’s choreography and direction notes. If you have any thoughts about my choreography works, feel free to leave your comment here or email me!