13th February 2012
The Weekly Score
Young Creative Council interview ID Fight Choreographer Ronin Traynor
ID Fight Choreographer Ronin Traynor was interviewed by the Young Creative Council for their weekly who's who article for the creative industries. Below is an extract from the interview which is posted on youngcreativecouncil.com
"Think ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’, who doesn’t remember the sword fight that looked like a treetop ballet! Fight scenes – beautiful or bloody, on stage or in films – are an important non-verbal dialogue in any performance. They are a small and unique bunch of creatives who make these epic moments happen. This week we cornered one of them and quizzed him (not physically of course, we wouldn’t stand a chance.)
Meet Ronin Traynor – Fight Choreographer, Action Specialist, Combat Teacher, Director and Vice President of British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat.
Is it fair to call you a bad ass Billy Elliot?
Not sure, he’s probably a better kicker.
No doubt that’s a pretty unique choice of profession. Did you always want to do this?
I always liked swords as a kid and loved any movies with knights, cowboys, Jedi etc. but never thought about all the possible roles that people do behind the scenes. Once I stumbled upon it as an adult I kinda knew I’d end up going a bit full on as I’m a workaholic generally so it’s handy to do something I like.
So what on earth do you get up to on a normal day?
Jobs vary from teaching 6 year olds how to pull each other’s hair and slap each other (safely) to choreographing opera singers how to kill each other in numerous ways.
You’ve performed fights for stage, film and motion. How many broken bones so far?
None, touch wood. Fighting is a dangerous business but part of my job is to create the illusion of violence whilst keeping the performers safe. I’ve been in fights where my knowledge saved me or my fight partner from a few serious knocks. Not everyone you work for or with realises the dangers in what they ask you to do. I’ve been fortunate that most of the people I fight with are trained pretty well. In an extreme case you are essentially putting your life on the line for entertainment so good people is key to avoiding broken bones.
What’s your favourite scene from a film?
The first 15 minutes of Disney-Pixar’s “Up!”. No fighting in it but awesome simple story telling.
Star Wars or Karate Kid?
Star Wars (before they changed it to Greedo shooting at Han Solo first in the cantina scene).
Stage or films?
They both offer completely different payoffs for fights. Generally fights are pretty boring unless you care for the characters involved. Film as a medium can really focus in on a character’s reaction in minute detail and switch between the different character’s perspectives of the fight. You can also fight in shorter bursts breaking up choreography. Once it’s finished it’s there forever to watch again and again.
Theatre on the other hand has the live atmosphere and even a simple slap can take an audience’s breath away. For the big fights it’s exciting to know the actors are really going for it. There is no second take, fight double or clever camera tricks to make them look good. Some of the screen fights I have worked on are epic and even after rehearsals it would take days of filming to get the right shots whereas on stage the actors have to do the whole thing, every night, possibly for months on end. You’ve got to respect that skill level.
Who do you think will win in a fight – Jodie Marsh or Jedward?
They should team up and become superheroes.
What’s the scariest part of an audition?
I always treat every job or training course I’m on as an audition. You never know when someone will remember you. I’ve been invited to work on some great projects purely on the basis that someone remembered working with me on a film or show a few years earlier.
If you’re auditioning for me just do your best and don’t blag too much as it only takes about 30 seconds to spot who knows their stuff. Unless it’s a specific fight heavy role then action can be devised around an actor’s capabilities and the amount of training time available. Obviously the more training pre-audition the better but that’s the same for every skill an actor needs.
You conduct workshops for companies, so how does ‘combat’ exactly help them?
In addition to being a great laugh and good icebreaker, combat is all about partnering. It doesn’t matter how good someone thinks they are; their fight will suck if they have poor partnering and communication skills. Companies tend to like it as it’s a good leveler; whether you’re the chief executive or the receptionist you both work as equals as it takes a lot of collaboration to make every move work. Also I think people like having the opportunity to punch and slap their colleagues in a fun way without getting fired.
From where do you get inspiration for such choreography?
I generally start with looking at the story and characters. It determines so much in regards to weapon choices, how simple or flash a character’s style is, whether they even want to fight and if so, will it be a character that has been trained or are they a brawler. Once the background work is done most of the inspiration comes from the actors and director. If you have an actor that has a special skill then that may become part of the fight. Equally, if they turn up to day one of rehearsals with their arm in a cast then I work with that.
What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching?
It’s great to see people achieve their goals which I’m sure is why many people go into teaching. It’s also great when an actor recommends you to work on a project as they liked being taught by you.
What was your last performance?
I recently worked on Blue Peter, teaching Helen Skelton to be a Musketeer. That was great fun and I got my Blue Peter badge so that’s one thing to do before you die ticked off the list. I’m also working pre-production on Sci Fi series Chronicles of Syntax as Fight Coordinator as well as playing the character of Hemlock.
There you have it people, an action packed score! Fight choreography is one of those behind-the-scenes jobs that can make or break a narrative. Imagine Matrix without the circumnavigating kicks or Macbeth without the dramatic on stage duels and you’ll know what we are talking about. Guys like Ronin Traynor are such a vital part of our entertainment world."
If you want to contact, like or follow Ronin: