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.



  1. *pandangan berbinar2 setelah baca*

    nanya ttg kang yayan pasti ga akan dijawab.. jadi...saya bertanya..

    akankah ada hot bloody looking guy? cowo2 yg akan berlumuran darah? harus ada y!! *eh ini nanya apa request sebenarnya hahaha*

    btw ngeliat foto bang iko.. berarti sudut pandang kamera nya bakal lebih unik lagi ni drpd di merantau ;) apa jangan2 di merantau ada juga adegan yg pake sistem syuting kamera di tempel di badan gitu? *penasaran*


  2. Amazing read, thanks so much for posting. People always think I'm crazy when I say that martial arts films should be filmed like a musical, with the camera panning out and following the movements.

    I thought that the scene where Fan Siu Wong takes his sword in Ip Man was so beautifully shot, there should be more scenes like that. I'm so glad you're focused on quality instead of just "hard hits."

    I know that you had a small scene in Merantau, but do you plan on doing another one-shot fight scene? Those are always great to watch. Can't wait to read more.

    Thanks again!

  3. Thanks for an inside look at this, it's sounding awesome!

    I'm excited about the first person pov (but also glad you're not sacrificing the clear fight scenes). Any chance we'll get a preview of it?

    I also agree with Kelly on the one-shot/long-shot fight scenes - those are brutal.

  4. Just stumbled across this blog, and I must say I'm incredibly excited. Die Hard is my favorite action movie of all time, so a martial arts version of that premise has me pumped. Thanks for giving us a peek behind the scenes of the production. I can't wait for the production videos to start coming out. Keep up the awesome work.

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  6. I happened to watch Merantau recently and I was totally blown away, more by Yuda's character and the story than the action (which I must say was also very brilliant). I agree with you when you say that movies with only action can seldom have the impact which they can have if combined with good story and acting. Movies like "Blood Diamond", "The Last Samura" and as you pointed out "Flashpoint" stood out for me because of the deep impact the stories have on us.

    On a unrelated note, I am a practitioner of Krav Maga and been one of the biggest Martial Art Geek in my circle. I have followed quite a few martial artists starting from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan to Tony Jaa. But I found the choreography at its best in Merantau simply because of how realistic it was. Plus the story kind of made the action fit. You could actually see Yuda's character go from performance oriented moves to the moves which will inflict damage to the opponent. Iko Uwais stole the show, but the effort from every one else, especially Yayan Ruhian was apparent and obvious. If you chance upon them, do convey that they have joined the list of martial art gods who I worship!





  7. When it will be released in Malaysia?