Interview with James Banford, fight coordinator of Arrow

Interview with James Banford, fight coordinator of Arrow
We present an exclusive interview to James Banford, fight and stunt coordinatr for Arrow.

Hi James and welcome. First of all, can you tell us something about you and your work?
My name is James Bamford. I’ve been a stuntman/stunt coordinator/fight choreographer for over 20 years now within the film and television industry. I am currently the fight coordinator on WB’s ARROW alongside the stunt coordinator, JJ Makaro.

How did you start to work for the series Arrow?
I had a long professional relationship with the Pilot’s stunt coordinator, JJ Makaro. While I was shooting a film in Havana, Cuba in January 2012, JJ sent me several messages asking me about different fighting skills and training for an actor. When I returned back to Vancouver, he just decided to ask me to come and work on the Pilot episode of Arrow….not only as the fight coordinator…..but as a bad guy actor as well. The Pilot shooting schedule fit right in to my future plans on the Halo movie schedule…..so I said “yes”….and after the pilot was finished being shot, I was asked to be a part of the series as well.

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What is a typical day like for you on set?
There is no such thing as a “typical” day on set. It simply does not exist.

Which fighting techniques have been used for this series? Can you tell us about them? I also noticed that very peculiar fight moves are used. Is it because you want fight scenes to be as real as possible?
Do you mean techniques, or style? I incorporate several styles into the choreography… in the story, the main character has studied under several different masters, so he is not limited to one style and is always adapting to new challenges which emerge throughout the season.

How much training and work are needed to create a fight sequence?
First of all….the stunt people need to arrive with years of experience, or I won’t hire them. Secondly, the actors require a working knowledge of athletics and basic martial arts. They need to know how to at the very least throw a punch. Rehearsals run anywhere from 4 hours to 20 hours… depending on the size and importance of the fight sequence within the storyline of the series.

Did your work involve the stunts only or did you work with the actors, too? If so, can you tell us about your work with the protagonists of the series?
See above answer. I work very closely with Stephen Amell in the development of his fighting abilities, and choreography knowledge.

How did you design the scenes with the bow, often used from a very short distance?
I had to work with the weapon provided to me by the script of the show… in this case, it’s a bow. I quickly adapted the use of the bow incorporated into a closer range fighting style than it is usually meant for out of necessity.

As fight coordinator and fight choreographer you must deal with many different aspects of a movie or a series. In your view, which of these two jobs is the most creative and difficult?
They are the same job… just different titles… and they are both creative. It’s much more difficult working on a TV series than a feature film as there is not the relaxed large amount of time as you encounter on a feature film to prepare. In addition, a TV series has to constantly change develop new and interesting material… a feature is only the one script. A TV series has 22 or 23 scripts to contend with.

You worked both for cinema and television. What are the main differences between these two worlds, if any?
Time and money.

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Kelly Hu took part in the series, in the role of Chyna. I guess she’s already familiar with these kind of scenes. I bet this made your job easier. Can you tell us about her?
Kelly is a wonderful person and a talented martial artist… she makes my job flow like water.

What upcoming projects do you have planned? Arrow season 2 will start soon…
We are already working on a secret project involving some of the Arrow creative team… and I have a small directing deal to complete before the end of June… then it’s back to Arrow. Hopefully I will have 6 days to have a short holiday in there… somewhere.

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