Why I Fight! (2011)

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The Making Of Essay

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Hard Blows: The Making of Why I Fight!

The genesis for this film is two fold. I don't know which came first, as they both happened around the same time, so I will tell it in this order of interest. Benjamin Green is a boxer and one night he fought in boxing match where each round they changed the opponent. This went on for 7 bouts. (For a while I would say that Benjamin had fought in 7 matches, until I was corrected) Afterwards a woman asked him why he did it and his response was the voiceover for this film. He just made it up on the spot and it's a helluva answer to that question.

The second thing that happened was that I was asked to shoot a showreel piece for Elizabeth Knight, which was called The Fighter. She was looking to get cast in a film and wanted to show the director what she could do. The scene was of two characters talking in a gym. I asked Benjamin if he would play the other part and if we could shoot it at the gym we shot Moving Forward in. He agreed. After that shoot, Benjamin said he had a boxing script and was I willing to shoot it. I said yes.

Working with the Canon 7D

The Fighter was the first time I shot on a DSLR. Up to that point I had shot on video tape. The only thing I had shot non-tape was the Habeas Corpus camera and that was on a RED ONE camera. It was like an old Panavision camera. (It certainly weighted as much as one) So I was convinced that you could shoot good footage with a DSLR. Benjamin had access to a Canon 7D. His friend Stafford had just purchased one and was willing to lend it to us. I said okay, thinking that it was going to look awful, but I was blown away by the look of it.

Shooting on a video, I had always tried to get a cinematic or filmic look to my footage. The goal was to get a shallow depth of field so that the actor is in focus and the background is out of focus. With the video cameras I had shot on, everything was in focus. On Blood + Roses, we had to use a lense adaptor to get that shallow depth of field. But with these DSLRs, it was there straight out of the box. (This is due to size of their sensor) It also had a nice look to it, so when it came to shooting Why I Fight!, I didn't want to shoot on anything else but the Canon 7D.

Stafford was willing to lend us the camera again and offered to take behind the scenes stills for us. Benjamin wrote the script quickly and we planned to shoot the following month.

José Cuenco as the Trainer

The other person to join us was José Cuenco. José trained at the same boxing gym as Benjamin. He was very willing to come onboard and play the part of the trainer. So in the lead up to the shoot, Benjamin and José trained together for all the sparring scenes. Benjamin wanted to show off his speed and so they both came up with a routine that they could repeat over and over again.

So for a fourth time, I turned up at the Gym in Blackfriars to film. (The previous three being Moving Forward, Keeper and The Fighter) Planned to shoot for one day. We would shoot all the training footage first and then changing room stuff second. The day went without a hitch. We did have to stop half way through to recharge the battery on the camera and get the footage off the flash card, but we did that during lunch, so it didn't really effect our day.

You looking at me?

The one thing that shooting on the 7D reminded me of was all the productions I worked on that shot on film. The interchangeable lenses. Only being able to shoot for short amounts of time before haveing to change the reel or disk in this case. You couldn't keep rolling, like you can video tape. (Now you can as memory cards have become less expensive) You really had to plan your shots. And you could shoot slow motion. We used slow motion for the some of the training shots. In the end, only one slow motion shot got used, but I was able to put the rest of the footage in the end credits.

We didn't spend much time in post production. I was able to get Jon Orten and Marecllo Fossá from Blood + Roses to do the music and sound. It was my idea to give everybody boxing nicknames on the end credits. But not being too familiar with boxing, I asked Benjamin to provide them.

The film was received very well in the festival and screening circuit. (Being under 3mins really helped) This was the start of a very productive year. After Why I Fight!, we shot Stakeout and Sans Sous-Titres (Withou Subtitles), all on a Canon 7D.