Students participating in the Interterm course “Essentials of Stunts and Special Effects” got an exhilarating treat last week!

After an intensive month of near-daily meetings, lectures, demonstrations, and projects, the students in Professor Andy Lane’s Stunt class were given the chance to experience a Dodge College first: actual (sharp!) sword fighting, right in the Cinematography Sound Stage!

As part of the class’ goal to educate students about how to properly, and safely, film staged sequences, the thrill-seeking young filmmakers learned

about the planning and execution of stunts and special effects in motion pictures and television. Two of the most essential yet least understood areas of filmmaking process are stunts and special effects. Not every filmmaker truly understands what defines a stunt or special (or physical effect as opposed to a visual effect) effect. When is a stunt a stunt? Is it falling off a tall building or is it falling off a barstool? Special effects are defined by everything from pyrotechnics (explosions and fires) to atmospheric effects (wind, rain, dust).

From bullet hits and stunt car modifications to crackling fireplaces, these special effects are a crucial yet common area of production that is often linked with and a part of a stunt. Highly experienced professionals from the many disciplines of filmmaking will present to the class how stunts are conceived and executed in their areas of responsibility i.e. directing, stunt coordinating, cinematography, art direction, etc.

As you can see, it’s much more about how to seamlessly incorporate a stunt scene as a vital aspect of a film, from the technical filming needs to the post-production considerations.  And specifically, in this scenario, it takes a team of trained, professional safety instructors to make sure all the students involved left just as intact as they began.  “Sure, we’re here to entertain, to bring excitement to life.  But when someone actually gets injured on set, it’s anything but entertaining.”

And so, the class and Professor Lane welcomed Dan Speaker and Jan Bryant, from the Academy of Theatrical Combat, to teach the class a thing or two about how to — safely! — use swordplay as an action element of their short films:

Dan Speaker and Jan Bryant (Master and Commander, Hook, Army of Darkness, Hildalgo and more) are among the top experts in fight design, action choreography, and weapons combat for the motion picture industry. With years of experience bringing some of Hollywood’s best fight scenes to life, they can provide action tailored to the needs of any project, complete with choreography fitting the story and characters, on-set coordination of the action, and specialized training for actors in any fighting style, historical or modern, necessary for the production.  The Academy Sword masters are available for film, TV, Internet, video games, or stage combat projects. While specialists in sword fighting, they will create choreography for all types of weaponry.

Check out what it looked like, on set:

It was a huge privilege for our students to be taught by such renowned, experienced performers and teachers as Jan and Dan.  On behalf of all the Dodge College students who got to learn this unique filmmaking technique from them — and especially all the future actors who will remain unscarred by working with them — we say, thank you!