Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Working on the choreography for Merantau was a great experience. The team were always open to discussion and the whole process was truly a collaborative effort.

On The Raid we've continued to use the same approach. For each scene I give the guys a situation, a sense of location, number of opponents and any weapons or props that could be at hand and then from there they would workshop the scene themselves. I'm not a choreographer, I have a very basic understanding of silat so all of the technical elements of the choreography is entirely left to both Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian.

Workshopping ideas for choreography (Yayan, Esa and Iko)
Where I come in is to help shape the fight giving more in terms of pacing and tone figuring out with them the order of the opponents and finding ways to either maintain a breakneck pace or to find moments for the audience to breathe. Occasionally I will have specific ideas in mind for stunt sequences but then once we return to the hand to hand combat the team resume complete control. 

The next step in the process is for the roles to be assigned. During pre-pre-production on Berandal our casting department at the time Icha (Melisa Hana Kristianty), Fadi (Fadiptya Hadi) & Asep (Yoghi Andre Mulyanto) scoured Indonesia for fighters of all backgrounds to feature in the film. As Berandal got delayed, then pushed back even further we were lucky enough to still have folders full of names to call upon for use in The Raid

Casting one of the gangs in The Raid

With everyone together they then go through the choreography learning each move, while building a sense of trust with each other (this is hugely important) before I come in and make a video storyboard for each sequence. The video storyboard is basically handycam footage shot and edited to be as close to the final film as possible. 

Using this time in pre-production helps us find a rhythm to the fight sequences and allows us a chance to fix any problems in the choreography design, shot decisions or editing way before production begins. We don't have the benefit of experience as other filmmakers working within this genre, so this process helps us enormously to craft our action sequences. 

Later in production we use the video storyboards as a template for all departments to use as a reference including our on-location editor who then replaces the edits in the timeline with the final shot delivered straight from camera. Nothing is ever perfect, and this on-location editing process allows us to be as sure as possible that we have a functioning sequence that is free of any jarring edits before we move onto our next scene/location.

A New Approach

Earlier in the first blog I spoke about how I've become bored of watching martial arts films where the only interest lies in the action. Apologies but I'm going to repeat myself here. Often I sit to watch a movie and I find myself amazed and in awe on the first viewing, but then when it comes to the 2nd and 3rd time round I'm skipping forward only to see the fight sequences. What I hoped to achieve with Merantau and what I hope to continue with The Raid is to make a film that would work just as well as a drama as it would an action film. Although in all honesty, The Raid is going to be one breezy drama, with our action kicking in around the 15mins mark and barely letting up until the final shot.

When you see a film like Ip Man or Flashpoint what makes the fight sequences so thrilling is not purely the choreography on display but the fact that we as an audience have invested a certain amount of time in the characters and that the fight sequences genuinely count for something. They're not filler, they have a sense of worth and purpose. That's what I hope to do with this movie, spend enough time fleshing out the characters and storylines so that when the action comes it's got a certain weight behind it, with more at stake than just how cool the fight looks.

The differences between The Raid and Merantau lie within our presentation of Silat. Due to the psychology of Iko's character in Merantau as someone who sought a peaceful solution to any obstacle faced his fighting style started more stand-offish before becoming increasingly aggressive as the film went on. In The Raid however, every attack is a life or death situation therefore the choreography design is way more direct, more brutal and less merciful. People are going to get a kick out of the fights and stunts we have lined up, it's pretty punishing stuff.

Another difference is that we are accommodating more fighting styles into the mix this time round. With each film we hope to introduce new talents so we give our supporting cast their own moment to showcase their skills in fight scenes designed specifically to their strengths. National Judo champion Joe Taslim has a brutal fight where he gets to showcase throws, grappling techniques and pure upper body strength while Eka (who some of you will recognise as a stunt performer from Merantau) is given more to do as a swat team member in a major group fight sequence.

We've also worked to establish a sense of hierarchy amongst the opponents they face. As a kid growing up seeing the incredible Dick Wei (My Lucky Stars, Heart of Dragon) appear in a Jackie Chan movie always signalled an upcoming fight that was going to be more than just a goon being beaten in a few hits. 

The legendary Dick Wei (狄威)

This guy was a formidable opponent, and a serious challenger to the antagonist. The plan is to build up a certain degree of expectation in the audience so that each opponent carries with them an element of danger, that they could very well tip the balance and cause an upset.

We are also looking to explore more in terms of camera movement this time round to accommodate this shift in fighting style. Our plan is to really experiment with the flexibility offered by the technology we have at hand and see how to best serve the choreography. 

Panasonic AG-AF100: Very light and flexible, this will be used
for 95% of the shoot with a PL Mount & Zeiss Cine Lenses.
Panasonic AG-HCK10: Used for one extremely claustrophobic
set piece and giving a POV perspective to some fight scenes.
Testing the GoPro HD cams, we later opted for the Panasonic AG-HCK10
instead for more image stability during rapid movements.

For anyone worried, no we will not be doing a bunch of shitty close-up rapid edits - my team worked their asses off for months designing kick ass choreography and I intend to show it all with as much clarity and fluidity as possible.


Not many questions this time round, but I'll answer those that asked.....

Q. Just want to ask, do you have any female roles in this film, and if so who is playing them? (From A-Bye)
A. We do have some female characters in the film, Rama (Iko's character) has a wife expecting a baby at the start of the movie. I'll announce the cast in another blog update soon, so until then I won't mention any names yet (though my cast are doing a pretty shitty job of keeping details quiet - just check their twitter accounts if you absolutely must know who is involved.)

Q. Mr. Ray Sahetapy is playing in this film also? Is he playing Tama? (From Sam Na'a)
A. Ray Sahetapy is indeed in the film, and yes he will be playing Tama. Absolutely cannot wait to work with him on this role. He has some killer scenes and it's great to have someone of his seniority lending his talents to this film. Again, I'll have more details on casting in the next blog.

And finally regarding the bootcamp blog and the boat carrying punishment my favourite question...

Q. Who fucked up? & Let me guess, was it Iko who fucked up?  

(From our awesomely loyal Facebook Fans Surya Adiputra & Narpati Wisjnu Ari Pradana)
A. Iko always fucks up, that much is a guarantee, but for the bootcamp I think everyone had their moment to show their abilities in fucking up. Thankfully they learnt a lot also and have come back saluting and shooting like pro's.

That's it for this week, as always, thanks for reading and if you have any questions please add them to the comments section below.


Sunday, February 6, 2011


Partly to bestow a feeling of authenticity and partly so I could make my actors suffer, we sent the guys that make up the key members of the swat team to do bootcamp training. We were lucky to have the support of Kopaska (Komando Pasukan Katak - Indonesia's Navy SEAL) as their instructors who put them through a 5 day intensive course so they could learn the basics of weapons use, strategic attacks and defense techniques.

They all came together as a group laying down the foundations for the chemistry I need to exploit in the film. It helped that each person threw themselves into it in a big way, while we gave some notes in order to gradually establish a sense of hierarchy and authority. Joe Taslim (playing Jaka in the film) showed exactly why he was cast as the leader of the group, he's a fucking towering presence leading them through drills. After seeing how dedicated and committed he has been to this project from choreography to bootcamp he should be coming out of this film a seriously big name.

We had our behind the scenes team taking footage of their experience throughout and once we start releasing video blogs it will definitely be a part of the collection. 

Until then here are some photos showing the ups and downs of the bootcamp training.

Day One: Pick up at 04:00am

One of many drills.

Everytime one of the team fucks up, the whole group had to carry this boat around the grounds of the base.

Weapons orientation.
Eka testing a Heckler & Koch MP5
Iko Uwais at the firing range.
Vehicle exit techniques.
Locate and capture exercise #1
Locate and capture exercise #2
Locate and capture exercise #3
Locate and capture exercise #4
Locate and capture exercise #5
....And someone fucked up again.

So that's it for this week, next I'll talk a little more about the choreography design and shed some light on Berandal also. We're currently preparing materials for a press con to announce production in the coming weeks. We'll be making a teaser poster for Serbuan Maut soon, once it's completed I'll post it on here along with any other materials we give out.

Until then if you have any questions at all please feel free to post them in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer as many of them as possible.

Cheers for reading.

An Introduction

I'll start off immediately by saying I'm most likely going to be quite a shitty blogger. 

There's going to be a bunch of times where I forget to update this as production gets busier, but I hope throughout I can provide as much insight as possible into the shoot on our new film "Serbuan Maut" (aka The Raid).

Yayan Ruhian (left) and Iko Uwais (right) enjoying another day at the office.

"Serbuan Maut" came to be after spending a year trying to get "Berandal" off the ground. Berandal, a gangster, prison movie was initially meant to be Iko's follow-up after Merantau. But as that project started to grow in scope and budgets in Indonesia started to shrink to freakishly low levels we chose rather than try to shoot "Berandal" on a limited budget and lose the scope and size we wanted from it, we would shift focus and tell a different story altogether, one we could make without sacrificing quality and keeping investors happy.

For anyone that doesn't know yet, here's the official synopsis for the film:

A swat team arrives at a rundown apartment block with a mission to remove its owner, a notorious drug lord named Tama. The building has never been raided before, never been touched by police. Seen as a no go zone it has since become a sanctuary to killers, gangs, rapists and thieves seeking accommodation in the one place they know they cannot be touched.

Making their move in the break of dawn the swat team work their way up the building under cover of silence. But when a chance encounter with a spotter blows their cover and with news of their assault traveling to Tama in his penthouse suite the building is locked down with all lights out and all exits blocked.

Stranded on the 6th floor the swat team must fight their way through every floor and every room not just to complete their mission but to survive.


Since I was a kid, I was obsessed with a Chow Yun Fat film called "Peace Hotel" (Directed by Wai Ka Fai). I was never able to track it down in the UK and only had the poster image below and a vague synopsis to go by.

Peace Hotel (1995)

I loved the concept of an isolated building that offered sanctuary to criminals, but when I finally saw it over 15 years later my "imagined" version of the film was completely different to what I eventually saw. I had imagined a dark, noirish film with danger on every floor with the action confined to an interior space filled with shadows and dread. I also imagined it would have a lot more action, instead of the light hearted, sweet romantic angle the film eventually took.

But the central concept stuck with me. 

After spending most of "Merantau" sitting waiting for the rain to stop, my natural progression was to set the next film indoors as much as possible. 95% of the duration seemed about right. I started watching a bunch of films for inspiration, classics like Assault on Precinct 13 and Die Hard looking for how to structure the story, how to develop the action scenes in as natural a way as possible.

What I've always wanted to do is find a way to mix genres together, to bring more to a martial arts film than just purely the action. I know this is the key ingredient that most fans of the genre (myself included) want to see, but to me if that's the only thing of worth then it's a dull experience. 

With Serbuan Maut, we're planning to explore different shooting styles and atmospheres as the film mutates to allow tonal shifts and genre changes. The central concept of a swat team stuck inside a building with attackers all around them opens up a lot of options for us not just to explore the action choreography but to give a genuine feeling of suspense and tension, even horror.

Shooting is due to start mid-March during which I'll be posting on set photos and stories about our experiences shooting the film. Before then we have the soul crushing boredom of pre-production. Once we announce the cast or have anything interesting to share I'll post it here. In the meantime, the films DOP Matt Flannery will be posting about his experiences using the new Panasonic AG-AF100 and detailing all the rigging specifically designed for the film.

You can find his blog at:  http://matt-flannery.blogspot.com