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Call To Action: Stunt Industry To Rally In Beverly Hills For An Oscar Category On Wednesday
Photo from the set of Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Courtesy Of Joel Kramer)
Good stories and good acting are key to making any film or TV show notable and watchable. The same goes for action movies, and in that respect, even greater action and stunt work is what's required to sell an action product. Without it, most of our habits wouldn't exist today.
More specifically, it's a field that influenced my interest in online independent action by inspired filmmakers back in the early 2000s as many of the people I've written about on this blog have risen to some major career successes in the field. It's why we enjoy a lot of the Marvel and DC films we see today and enjoy some of the smaller scale productions like Sakamoto Koichi's Broken Path or Dennis Ruel's recently released Unlucky Stars, a fact that still raises a lot of questions among those working today regarding why an Oscar category for Stunts don't exist.
For 25 years to date, the stunt industry has been campaigning for an Oscar category of their own, and it's something that's as important to them, and for good reason. Do they make a lot of money? Sure. However, that amount of income doesn't come without its huge share of risk as many people who perform the feats we enjoy watching have spent their years earning their stripes through more than the usual cuts and bruises. Some of them get badly injured, and have even died on the set of many of the very films we've watched in our lifetime.
Knowing this, you might think they're crazy for doing what they do, and to some mild extent, you're right. It definitely takes some outside-the-box thinking to go out in the world, venture into uncharted territory and do some of the most insane and electrifying things that not a lot of us would want or have interest in doing, and virtually all of them do it for the simple reason that most artists do what they do in general: They love it. Ask anyone of them and they'll tell you the same thing as I myself have yet to meet a stunt professional who would imply having gotten into this field for the check or did it because they were bored. It's a reason similar to why I spent many of my younger years as a pencil artist and doing favors for people with portraits and even winning a few art awards in my time, why I took up improv acting and even singing and songwriting for a time up until I was in college, and why it is I do what I do here on Film Combat Syndicate for the last three years and onward, not having ever seen a check from Google (yet), and having put up with a good number of jerks and liars to meet, greet and support many of the people I write about on this site: I freaking LOVE it.
Forgive me if you feel like you've accidentally stumbled into an online rant. Sure, I'm kind of venting, but you can't argue that the people I'm addressing in my article here don't have a case to make. They do, and they've made it time and time again for close to three decades. The 88th annual Academy Awards show is this Sunday with a number of films, including George Miller's Spring 2015 blockbuster, Mad Max: Fury Road, currently up for possible some Oscar wins of their own, and as of this article, if you go to their website, you won't find a single column attributed to the stunt performance and coordinator field. Not one.
Jackie Chan on the set of Dragon Lord (1982)
As it stands, stunt performers do have some annual award shows of their own, be it the Tarus World Stunt Awards which debuted its commitee a year before its first ceremony in 2001, or events like the SAG Awards for film and TV and the Action On Film festival which is held annually varying in different parts of California as of 2004. Nonetheless, the Academy Awards is where most eyes convene; James Cameron's Titanic made its stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet household names while earning nearly 2.2 billion dollars globally at the box office in 1997. A year later, 57 million people watched as the film took home 11 wins and 14 nominations, making the 70th annual Academy Awards show the most watched event among its shows.
That's 57 million people who will probably don't know the name Sarah Franzl who doubled actress Winslet on Titanic among over 140 other stunt performers and coordinators re-enacting some of the film's memorable moments; This is the same Sarah Franzl who also has work credited in upcoming action thrillers like Ariel Vromen's Criminal and the Idris Elba action starrer, Bastille Day. But more importantly however, this is 57 million people who bring tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to the box office every year to watch and admire their favorite stars and directors.
And so it goes - if you're one of those moviegoers who, like me, watches action films, it is inherently in your best interest to extend your graces to many of the kind people who make what you enjoy so much more fun - People like Franzl and stunt and action directors like Joel Kramer (Furious 7), J.J. Perry (John Wick: Chapter 2), Joey Ansah (Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist), people like Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung and MANY others I write about here at Film Combat Syndicate or include in my weekly Hit List column every Monday.
This is one of the many cases that protestors and folks within the stunt community will be making when they attend the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday afternoon in Beverly Hills with a petition 45,000 signatures strong. Check out the flyer below, and if you're in the neighborhood and love what these people do, come on over and share your support.
I think it's safe to say you know your movie sucks when you not only screw the rights holders whose name and content you base your unsanctioned film on, but when said rights holders join the chorus of critics panning your movie from literally every angle of the internet. That is the level of achievement you have reached if your name is George Nolfi and you've directed a film called Birth Of The Dragon, long hyped to be a hopefully legendary homage to Bruce Lee, the late founder of Jeet Kune Do and patriarch of American martial arts movie fandom.
I could go on and on until I'm blue in the face about how excited I am for the new action thriller, Triple Threat. I won't, but I will throw my hat in with some words for seasoned stuntman and filmmaker Jesse V. Johnson who, in the wake of a stagnant directing career salvaged by the appeal drawn from his latest release, Savage Dog, has risen above expectations in opportune fashion.
It truly is something to be proud of... a succession accompanied, no less, by a line-up of some serious, prominent action starpower; Names like Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais and Tiger Chen as well as Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Michael Bisping and Jeeja Yanin are all but what one would dream of seeing in a single movie together on the big screen, which, at least until starting late last year, almost felt like an impossibility.
Then again, there were people who thought that Jaa would never appear in a movie with Donnie Yen dating back twelve years ago as the Thai action star took the mantle with groundb…
You've seen him play the Game Of Death opposite Bruce Lee in the late martial arts star's final film. You've watched him go down in the iconic bar room brawl as "Sticks" in Out For Justice. You might have even caught him in a heartfelt and defining moment in the finale scene of David Mamet's 2008 martial arts drama, Redbelt.
Or, if you're immersed in the martial arts niche enough then you've likely given a glance at martial arts legend, Dan Inosanto, in various viral self-defense videos online or in segments from the many documentaries he's been featured in within the last few decades, namely Jay Ignacio's The Bladed Hand: The Global Impact of the Filipino Martial Arts or Pete McCormack's I Am Bruce Lee. For certain, the actor and ardent teacher and FMA mainstay's relevance is guaranteed this week with the news of a new biopic based on the Guro's little-known life and history which includes helping the Dallas Cowboys win Super Bow…