Tonight's episode of Arrow, titled "Brotherhood," saw the directorial debut of veteran stunt coordinator James "Bam Bam" Bamford, also known as the voice of all those cool Arrow Stunts videos on YouTube.
Among our topics of conversation? A crazy action sequence, done all in one shot, during the episode's fifth act. He said you'd recognize it when you saw it, so comment below: What was your favorite action sequence of the night?
When ComicBook.com visited the set of Arrow in Vancouver last month, we were in on a roundtable with Bamford, in which he talked at some length about the episode.
What were the challenges of directing this episode?
I've directed second units and I've directed action before but this is my first time directing a full episode of television. So in my mind, the challenge was direting actors outside of just action and performance with intent emotional content in the scene, and stuff like that.
But having been an actor myself back in the day, it was pretty natural, actually, and the performances I got out of our cast were just amazing. There was nothing I asked of them that they wouldn't do.
Did it help that you already had a working relationship with these people?
I think so. My first day on set, my first scene was with Willa and another, newer cast member and they just made me feel like it was home. And after my first scene, from then on, every scene we shot it was just like "Oh, here we are. I'm home."
Speaking of Willa, Thea is a lot more active now. What was it like developing her fighting style?
At first we started with her last year, training with Malcolm as you recall. A lot of sword work and it was a little more serious, as you would develop as a martial arts instructor with your student to begin with. And it's akin to military training: you're very hard on your student because you want them to succeed, and let's face it, training to be a fighter or a soldier isn't easy. You're training to survive, it isn't just about "look, I can do this to you!" But what do you do, or how do you react when you get hit or you get knocked down? You have to get your ass back up and continue to fight, or you're dead.
I tried to instill a lot of that into her character and Malcolm being such a badass...I try to consider with each character who they've trained with or who they would have trained with, so whenever we have a new character on the show, if it's Deathstroke or whoever, right from the beginning, I always question Marc and Andrew and Greg and Geoff Johns or whoever has the answers: where did they come from? Obviously I have a full DC library of who trained with who, but in our world, we don't always follow the comic world exactly, so I always ask, what's their training, who did they train with, what's their skillset, that sort of thing, and that sort of helps me develop.
And then from there, I see where the actor takes their character personality-wise and then I throw in bits of personality to their fighting style as well. So with Thea, Thea's a smaller-statured person so I have her throwing a lot more kicks than you've seen some of the other people throwing. Arrow's a big guy, and if he hits you, boom, you go down, whereas Thea's smaller and if she hits you with a punch, she'll probably break her fist. She's smaller, so she's throwing more kicks and she's utilizing weaponry more often and so on.
Stephen was really praising this action sequence in the episode. Did you feel like you had to challenge yourself in your episode, action-wise?
Of course, yeah. I felt a lot of pressure that way because assuming that's what's expected out of my episode. Everyone was joking, "Oh, when we write your episode, wait until you get your script. There will be no action in it, and there will be a love scene or something."
So I was halfway thinking that's what it was going to be, would be Felicity and Oliver making out the whole episode. That's not the case, but I was kind of hoping for that, though. That would have been a different sort of a challenge.
My assistant Curtis and our other stunt coordinator Eli really stepped up. The difference with me directing versus being the stunt coordinator is that I can ask for very specific action and I design the shots. On eof the shots, which you'll see, I've been waiting to do it for about twenty years, and we got to do it in my episode.
There's a shot and a fight designed around each other, and it's a continuous shot that goes on for a while. It may not make it to its fullest-length form in the episode becuase we're constrained by broadcast time and whatnot, but its' something that we're very, very proud of and something that you haven't seen on the show before.
Actually, there's a few mini-versions throughout. I have some continuous action shots with no cutting, just a movement of one camera. There are several of them in my episode of different sizes and lengths. It's something you do when you're the action guy as opposed to the other directors, I go away, shoot a rehearsal, present it to the director, and then they shoot it the way they want to shoot it. That's every director's prerogative and directing is basically an opinion. So what I've tried to give to the audience and the fans is my opinion of the show.