Rob Hawk Talks about Fight Valley

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Rob Hawk has had an interesting journey into the Martial Arts film genre. Most people would not assume that someone who started off as a break

Miesha Tate is Jabs in 'Fight Valley'

Miesha Tate is Jabs in ‘Fight Valley’

dancer and eventually joining a boy band called Dfe. Hawk eventually transitioned into music producing and had worked with classic freestyle and hip-hop artists before shifting his focus to film in 2005.

Hawk’s other passion, MMA tied into to his love of film with fifth full-length film, Fight Valley, where a group of Knockaround Girls train an upper class woman to avenge the death of her sister who was apart of an underground fighting circuit to make ends meet.

We caught up with Hawk and here is what he had to say about Fight Valley and the process of making this film.

R.C. Samo (RCS) – There have only been a handful of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) movies, but none that have the plight of female fighters, was that one of the reason why you wanted to tell this particular story?

Rob Hawk (RH) – Yes. There are so many Fight Club or gang-related type of films out there that would of made this hard to market or stand-alone. The approach was to focus on giving females the starring roles where most films of this type usually just have women float in and out of the screenplay. 

RCS – You have three of the most dangerous women in the world of MMA, two of which are former UFC Bantamweight Champions and the current Invicta Featherweight Champion. How did you find the balance between the fighters pulling their punches to be actors and the actors stepping up their game in playing fighters?

RH – This was very difficult for both sides. I originally had wanted REAL fighting. REAL hits. Hence why I wanted to cast REAL fighters who take hits to the face professionally. How do I take a regular actor and tell them “Ok this is gonna hurt a little bit”, or take a REAL fighter who has never acted and get my fight game accurate but have bad acting.  Sure, I could have casted “stunt actors,” but then I would have no “marquee names” in the film. It was a question I pondered for months before casting. So I decide to go with a leap of faith that the fighters would pull off the acting and try to sell the realistic fighting in the film. Low and behold, we ended up passing on the real fighting as well. So we went with Miesha, Cyborg, and Holly, and just choreographed all the fight scenes. It was really weird for the fighters, because they are so used to connecting with a punch and trying to tell them “No, you cant really hit her” confused them a bit. Erik Aude, our Stunt Coordinator, did a great job working with them and I did the best I could as a director really trying to get the best out of them acting-wise. We were on a very limited schedule and we only had the girls for a few  days so you can imagine the struggle we had on set. It was a challenge, but we managed to pull it off as best we could. Looking back now, I wish I had extended their length of stay to really polish up all of the scenes but we really were on a limited time frame and needless to say, we only had a few takes of each scene then had to move forward. We were fighting temperatures of approximately 110 degrees every day on set . With 100 or more people on set somedays, you have to keep everything moving along as quickly and safely as possible.

Cris Cyborg is Church in 'Fight Valley'

Cris Cyborg is Church in ‘Fight Valley’

RCS – Fight Valley has all the makings of a cult classic. What martial arts cult classics inspired you and helped influence Fight Valley?

RH – The movie was inspired by the 1983 drama “The Outsiders” directed by Francis Ford Copolla. I was just a very young boy at the time, and I lived in Trenton NJ. I was surrounded by gangs growing up and even became part of a gang just to have some sort of protection. I had a pretty big share of fights on the street .  I loved “The Outsiders” at the time because I felt a huge relation to it with my current friends and brother and how we looked out for each other.  When I became older and ventured into filmmaking I originally was going to do a re-make of the film, but I decided to make my own approach and show the female perspective this time because it would certainly different from any other gang type related film out there.  

RCS – As the film was being promoted we saw Holly Holms win the Bantamweight title from Ronda Rousey and in her first title defense lose it to co-star Miesha Tate. For those of us who are competitive people, has it been an issue doing publicity with the former champions since not only do they play rivals in the film but were rivals in the Octagon?

RH – I must say that there was absolutely NO friction between any of the girls on set at all. I was really worried at first. I had hired private security for each of them in case things got out of hand. After the first day when we had them all together, and we saw them getting along like best of friends we were a little more at ease. After the filming? Well… Getting the fighters together was impossible for any media.  They all had big fights coming up. They knew they had to detach from friends, and get ready to face off against each other. It took our communication with them from limited to none.  The last thing they want to focus on while getting ready for a big fight, or coming down from a loss of a fight is a movie. Fighting is their life. Film is not. They did do their fair share of facebook/twitter posts from time to time in support of the film. 

RCS – Fight Valley is a story of revenge. Miesha Tate’s character Jabs tries to convince Susie Celek’s character Windsor that revenge is an ugly game that never allows you to find peace. How difficult is it, as a filmmaker to convey that message without coming across as, “preachy.”

RH – No matter how you convey it, it’s always going to sound the same whether its coming from your father or grandpa giving you a lesson on revenge. It was a challenge to approach it both creatively and cinematically that would be something the audience would remember above and beyond the same old speech. I think with Jabs, she teaches Windsor that even though you plan for revenge, it’s a loss even if you win. The Knockaround Girls , specifically “Yanni” does a good point at this in the film when she addresses Windsor. No matter if you win or lose it’s still a fight, and one fight leads to another and to another and it never stops. I think we nailed it without being too preachy in the best way I could to entertain the audience and make it memorable.

RCS – Fight Valley was shot on a very tight schedule, what were some of the creative ideas that you came up with in order to make the filming work with the limited time you had?

RH – VERY tight schedule! That may even be an understatement.  I am the kind of director who wants to film, film, film . No breaks. If I could make everyone wear a one of those helmets with water in it and drink through a straw without having to leave the set I would.  I hate down time. The problem was, I scheduled the shoots so close together as I only had Miesha, Holly, and Cyborg for approximately a week. This caused a lot of mayhem on the set, as the crew and cast grew tired and hot.  We managed to pull it off but I will never run a schedule so tight again. It was literally FIGHT VALLEY behind the scenes of FIGHT VALLEY.  The film was shot completely out of order and I tried to shoot all the scenes at each location when we were there. This caused a lot of issues with continuity and such, as we had to take a beaten bloody fighter, clean her off and proceed to a funeral where she would be sparkly clean, and then get her back into blood for a fight scene right after.  Challenging, Challenging, Challenging. Many friends were made on this set, many were lost. The end result – Fight Valley. It was real. 

Miesha Tate is Jabs in 'Fight Valley'

Miesha Tate is Jabs in ‘Fight Valley’

RCS – How satisfying is it when an idea goes from pen-to-paper to final product and ready to hit the big screen? Is it more satisfying when it is your own independent project where you have full control or when a big name studio releases it but may stifle your creativity?

RH – Anytime a writer sees his work come to life is satisfying. That’s why we write. Some of us will never see the material any further then in our own imagination. When it comes to life from your pen to the screen it’s the biggest thrill in the world. My problem as a director is I’m never satisfied with the end result. Sometimes I see it much differently in my head. But that’s the movies. I am still learning as a director and with FIGHT VALLEY 2 just around the corner, you are going to see a absolute masterpiece from all of my prior experience. 

RCS – If there was one thing you wanted fans of action and martial arts films to take away from Fight Valley, what would that be?

RH – I want FIGHT VALLEY to be one of those cool little cult/grungy films that everyone will remember. With three of the biggest names in the UFC making their acting debut, I think we have made a collector’s item. I plan to continue the franchise and move on with multiple sequels featuring more UFC/MMA talent. 

Fight Valley is available now on VOD.

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