May 16, 2016 12:41 am
Dr Who: People assume that time is a straight progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey-- Voltron, Defender of the Universe: From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of the universe, comes a legend.
♪Tell me Doctor, where are we going this time? Is this the fifties? Or 1999.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen, it's time. The Fandom Podcast Network proudly presents: The Fandom Flashback.
Dr. Emmett Brown: If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious sh--
2:05 Kevin: Welcome, Highlander fans! Welcome to the next episode of Highlander Fandom Flashback here on the Fandom Podcast Network. We are really, really excited. We have an awesome, special guest today that you guys are going to love. But before I get into that, I want to introduce my co-hosts, here. I want to introduce Kyle. Kyle Wagner, how are you, my friend?
2:26 Kyle: I am beyond excited for what we are about to experience today. This is why you and I started this, Kevin, was for days like today.
2:35 Kevin: I know and I know someone else who's also very excited about this. He has kind of a personal stake experiencing--seeing this gentleman in person. Our third co-host here, and Kyle, I know he's excited, and Norman, I know you are ready, to talk to our next guest! Norman C. Lao, welcome!
2:57 Norman: Thank you for having me back, and yes, you are absolutely right, I am incredibly excited to talk to this special guest, because this individual has meant so much to me personally, as a fan of the history of what we're going to get into. I don't want to spoil too much! And just the over-all quality of the Highlander series in total. I've always wanted to have this opportunity, and I can't thank you guys enough for having me along to join you on this journey.
3:29 Kyle: Wow. Yeah, it's our pleasure, Norman! Yeah, a lot of this wouldn't be happening without you being here, so thank you too, sir.
3:39 Kevin: Yeah, and I know our group in the Blood of Kings Facebook page here are going to be excited about this interview, and the guest that I speak of is Sword Master, Fight Stunt Choreographer of the Highlander TV Series, as well as many other projects, and also the Highlander Endgame, and that is Mr. F. Braun McAsh! He's agreed to come on and talk about his experiences with the TV show and, Norman I know you know a lot about him. I want you to kind of take the lead here, and talk about what you know about his past, and his education, and maybe a personal account on why you're so excited to talk to Braun today.
4:23 Norman: Well I think... and not to spoil too much of what's going to happen with our questions in the interview, one of the things I've always really admired about him was just the level of consummate professional that he is, and what he brought to the series in terms of real history, historical swordfight technique, and being able to drive the narrative of each and [every] individual episode through the character study that he did. How he informed those particular guest stars of the style and the combat technique, and just the brief amount of time he had to work with each and every single one of them to give them the best possible training and expertise in order for them to tell their part of the story, so there's this great symbiotic nature between this: the Sword Master and the Fight Choreographer, and how he can, in this case F. Braun, can impart all of that information in such a short amount of time to maintain both the safety factor and the story-telling quality per episode. And that was about seventy-seven episodes, I believe, that he was able to do this for, plus the feature film: Endgame. So, he has done a LOT for this franchise, and we as the fans are definitely on the receiving end of all of that quality.
5:37 Kevin: Yeah. I'm going to ask him about this in the interview. But the first time I heard his name... obviously he was in the credits, but I saw him being interviewed in the DVD Special Features, where you would hit on the episode and there was a little director's symbol there. I guess the little clap thing, you know. They would get into the history. They would interview the actors, of course, or the guest stars of that particular episode. But Mr. F. Braun McAsh was starting to be interviewed, and he would talk about the actual fight scenes, and maybe the style and the weaponry. And it was nice to put a face to the name. But you've known about him for quite a while, and I know you've probably got some questions you're going to want to ask him. Regarding his background. Was there any particular thing about his background that really stood out to you?
6:31 Norman: Well, I think it's just the longevity that he's had with this particular discipline, and the respect that he has for it, and just the overall level of personal commitment that he has brought to that, and how he has applied that to his whole body of work, and not just Highlander. It's staggering; how much that he's absorbed and learned and has been able to not only learn for himself, but teach back! So, it's really important for, I think, as many people that are as interested in his work as possible, to understand what he does! He is literally a walking, and talking, and teaching, and learning encyclopedic tome of information! A human tome of sword history! And I'm probably--I know, I'm heaping accolade and accolade on top of this, but that's how I feel! When you see somebody of this quality, of this caliber, in the fandom that we love, he's such a huge--and I don’t want to say this in any type of droll way, but the resource that he is, the ability of all the people in Highlander to be able to tap him as this particular resource. It's just staggering that he has so much in his persona! I almost feel like ... we should take his Quickening so that we can preserve it for all time. *laughter* Just to throw it into Highlander lore!
7:57 Kevin: Yeah, I know what you mean. He's kind of at a level of a lost art, and that we're kind of hoping that maybe he has taught someone a fraction of his knowledge so it can live on. Kyle, I wanted to ask you: Did you know of Mr. F. Braun McAsh at all, or is he kind of new to you, on how involved he is with Highlander?
8:21 Kyle: Well, no. I knew of him. If you're a Highlander fan of any kind, you know who he is. Because one of the things for Highlander for me that's always stood out was the ability to adapt so many different fighting styles. That was just amazing, and you know, when you see, with what Highlander has done over the years... you have people coming in and you know these actors don't know these styles, and to be able see them come in and perform how they do, you know what kind of training they're getting. You want to know the mastermind behind that. So, when the opportunity comes to know about that person, you take that chance. Take any opportunity.
9:10 Kevin: Norman, I wanted to ask you. When we talk to him, I know we're going to touch base with certain fight scenes, obviously you want to ask him about the famous episode "Duende", but when you're looking back on his history, was there anything that stood out, that caught you by surprise? You know, because there's so much about fighting and history. Was there something that stood out for you?
9:37 Norman: Well, actually, something I also wanted to ask him about. I didn't know about some of the works that he's published. I have to get my hands on a copy of, not only his DVD--The Actor's Blade, I think it's a few hours on stage and combat choreography--but he also has a book out there called "Fight Choreography: A Practical Guide For Stage, Film And Television". I do believe that, once we're done with this part of the podcast, my hot little fingers are going to be going to Amazon pretty soon and hunting down a copy of that, because here's the bottom line: It's kind of like when Bruce Lee wanted to make his mark, and leave his history on the printed page, he produced the "Tao of Jeet Kune Do" and that was his history. What he has learned in Martial Arts and how he wanted to preserve it and teach it. When you have people that have the knowledge that Braun has about this type of, not just the sword history, but the sword technique, remember: the Martial Arts of Medieval sword-fighting was a real thing. Martial Arts doesn't just mean Asian Arts. Martial Arts means the combat arts of a particular country and history. So, what he has learned is this: this is the Martial Arts of Medieval sword-fighting and Medieval history, and obviously I can't speak to it as eloquently as he will be able to, but that's what really fascinates me about that. When you see some of his period pieces like Braveheart or Henry the 5th with Kyle (KENNETH) Branagh, you see the combat, but you just want to understand a little bit more about how authentic that combat really is, and I think that he will probably give us a little bit more insight into that.
11:14 Kevin: It's an honor to do an interview with you guys, and specifically also an honor to share this with our listeners. So, Highlander fans, here is our interview coming up here with Mr. F. Braun McAsh. Enjoy, and please follow him and get his works. Anyway, here's the interview.
11:32 Kevin: Welcome, Highlander fans! Here we are on Highlander Fandom Flashback. We have a very special guest here for our episode. Along with myself, Kevin, and my good friend Norman, how are you?
11:45 Norman: I am doing fantastic tonight! I am so excited with what we're about to bring to our listeners, I can't even--I can't even tell you. I'm a little nervous, but I think I'll settle in quite nicely.
11:56 Kevin: We have a very special guest, Mr. F. Braun McAsh, we will call him Braun for short. He is... I would say a sword master, fight expert, worked on Highlander as well as many other projects. Mr. Braun, say hi!
12:12 BRAUN: Hello. Yes.
12:13 Kevin: You're on. Mr. Braun, how are you?
12:14 BRAUN: Not too bad.
12:16 Kevin: We are very excited to have you here. We want to talk about your history. We want to talk about, obviously, your experience with Highlander. We also want to get back into your past and talk about your education as well. I just want to echo my co-host's feelings. We're really excited to have you here. We really enjoy the work that you've done, and we're very honored to have you on board.
12:27 BRAUN: Well thank you very much. Quite frankly, it's a privilege to be talking to you guys, and it was a privilege to work on the series, and I'm here because of all of the Highlander fans who made the series possible and made it go six years, so hey.
12:57 Kevin: So, I have to mention that, other than seeing your name on the credits on the Highlander TV show, it wasn't until I got the DVDs and they started interviewing you on the special features of some of these episodes, and seeing you talk about them, and give insight to these fights, was fantastic because it made watching the show much more interesting. And watching the scene that you're talking about, whether it's the sword or the style, or the guest star, it was great seeing you go into--my first question before I'm going to turn it over to Norm here was, when you got to do those special features, was this something that you were used to before, or was this something that you were like "Yes! I finally get to get in the spotlight, here!" and talk about your experiences on this.
13:43 BRAUN: Well, I'd been a choreographer for many, many years prior to getting the Highlander series, which was very much, quite frankly, a tremendous amount of luck. But I had been interviewed by television shows and newspapers and whatnot quite often prior to that, because I was working at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the Shaw Festival, the Canadian National Opera Company, and in Toronto and so on and so forth. Not only as a fight choreographer, but as an actor. So, yeah, I was pretty much used to being interviewed, but it wasn't until the Highlander series that all of a sudden this level of national and international exposure actually was given to me and I just, like I said, I hope I did it justice. It was a wonderful experience to be not only associated with the show but to think that I was even important enough to interview, when it comes right down to it.
14:42 Norman: You know, Braun, we're going to actually touch on the Highlander part of your career a little further on in the interview, but one of the things I wanted to start with is to introduce our listeners to your history. Specifically, I've always wondered, because you have had a very long career doing what you're doing. But how does that start? How did you discover this path of being, almost at the same time, simultaneously, a student of this history of sword combat, and a master in the combat arts? What is it about this philosophy that connected with you so strongly, so early, that it became almost transformative in its influence over your career?
16:22 BRAUN: Well, first of all, I don't really consider myself a "master". I actually have two international titles that call me a master, but to be very honest, it's not that I disregard them, it's just simply that I don't really feel that I'm worthy of them. I will never become a master of anything, because after forty-three years of working, doing what I do, I've realized how much there IS to know, and although you can possibly call yourself a master in a very small rubric, or particular skill or style, I am a generalist out of necessity, even though I do actually specialize in certain things. So, when I'm looking at being a master choreographer, I'm not. I have to have the greatest amount of knowledge that I can possibly find, to be able to be as adaptable as I can, to be able to literally tailor fights to a wide variety of venues: age, film, television, music, etc. etc. So, I don't consider myself to be any more than a choreographer who is trying the hardest that he can to continually learn everything that I can about the combat arts in reality and history, and then try and relate as much as I can to an entertainment medium, as well as being an historical combat instructor so, there is that.
17:00 When I first started, years and years ago, when I was in theater school as an actor, I had the privilege of studying for two years in theatrical swordsmanship under the legendary István Danosi, who was the Hungarian Olympic Coach, who was also a master choreographer for Shakespeare and whatnot. And that was when I first started, when I was in theater school, choreographing fights because I would be doing productions like Romeo and Juliet and whatnot and they said, "Well YOU know how to fence...." Well, I was a competitive sabre fencer for a long, long time, but I said "Well, okay. I know how to FENCE. That's not quite the same thing. That doesn't translate into theatrical choreography. But I'll do what I can." So, after I graduated from theater school, less than a year after that I was accepted by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as an actor. And I also got to study for well over four years under the utterly legendary Paddy Crean, who was Errol Flynn's stunt double! He choreographed a lot of movies. Incredible movies! He was a contemporary of Basil Rathbone, and so on and so forth. He was one of the most amazing people--he was actually one of the very first people who was actually hired professionally to choreograph fights for movies! And he was an utterly amazing man, and actor as well, and just the most extraordinarily generous of people in terms of his skill, saying "Yes, of course I will teach you! This HAS to be passed on." And in one of his last interviews, and he passed away in his nineties, he said, and I quote: "We must never stop learning."
19:00 And that's been my dictum, as it was Paddy's dictum. You can never stop learning. Of course, I've been privileged to study under other people, unfortunately all deceased, like the incredible English Master Henry Marshall. I studied briefly with William Hobbs, Bill Hobbs. He choreographed, well he's one of the most famous movie choreographers in British Cinema. Basically, I've just tried to study with as many people as I can, in as many disciplines as I can, including the Asian Martial Arts; you know Japanese, Chinese, Korean etc. etc. because, like I said, it never stops. So, I've done what I can, and well that's basically it. I study to this day. There is no one who cannot teach me something. Literally, I believe that.
20:00 Norman: I guess that leads me into my next question, Braun, because that's... I appreciate you saying that, that quote "This HAS to be passed on," because this is a part of our history. Our collective history. I've seen you say this in other interviews. That this is who we are. It's how we established ourselves as a society, we've learned and conquered nations through this martial art of sword combat, but when is it, when somebody, say in your profession--and you've been studying this for a long time--when does that switch go off and [become] "You know what? I HAVE to do this. I have to be this person, to continue this." I'm sure that there are other people that are trying to follow in your path, that are just as passionate about it. How do you advise them to move forward, and exactly how do they follow your type of instruction?
20:47 BRAUN: You're cutting out just a little bit. But nonetheless, I get the gist of the question. It's kind of hard to say because, as I've said, that's very... I've studied my arts now for literally forty-three years as well as practicing them that long. I've studied other arts longer than that, because I started in Asian Martial Arts before I got into theater school and became a fencer and became this and that, so ******. But, [the] bottom line is that what I'm trying to do in historical combat, and making sure that the historical skills, Western, European Martial Arts, i.e. English, French, Italian, Spanish etc, which have absolutely the equal validity of any of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. Martial Arts, and the East Indian Martial Arts, which are amazing. But they all actually have equal validity. I used to do some lectures where I stood up and held up a single-handed European Medieval sword, and said "This thing has changed more history than any other single object in the world." And it's true. Entire nations and empires have risen and fallen based on people being able to use this weapon. So it IS an integral part of our history. It's a part of world history, and cultural history, and the fact that it's a combat art does have a tendency to put people off. But on the other hand, they really can't say, with any degree of historical validity, that this is not so. We may not particularly like the fact that killing weapons have changed so much of our history and culture, but it is a fact, and we need to give them their due, in terms of making sure that the values the warrior class inculcated aren't lost to us. Not just as an historical abstraction, but simply saying the European knights, the Japanese Samurai and so on and so forth, they had systems of value. And these values were far more than simply the use of the sword or a weapon. We should recognize that fact, and we should understand how that affected society as a whole, and not simply the fact that we're talking about weapons that kill.
23:30 Kevin: I have to ask, was there a specific time in your life, whether it was fencing, in college, that you [decided] "I need to do this as a profession." Was there a certain moment that just went off in your head, or something that says "I want to do this. This is made for me."
23:49 BRAUN: Well, actually, no. Because when I really started doing this apart from, like I said, in theater school, it was when I was at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. One particular year, we were doing Henry V and Henry VI One, Two, and Three, and just... [there are] an incredible number of fight scenes inherent in all of these shows. And I was cast as an actor in all FOUR of these shows. But they were also in two different theaters. Because Stratford at the time ran three different--still does as far as I know--ran three different theaters. The main stage, the Avon, and Third Stage, which it was called at the time. And of course Paddy, as the fight director, he was physically not capable of choreographing all of the shows. By that I don't mean that he wasn't physically able to do so, but it was physically impossible for him to choreograph and attend the rehearsals for shows in two entirely different theaters that were essentially going to be running simultaneous[ly]! So the Artistic Director, Robin Phillips, said "Would you like to help choreograph Henry V, and choreograph Henry VI One, Two, and Three?"
25:12 Kevin: Wow!
25:13 BRAUN: Of course, there were other shows that were necessitating fight scenes, and of course Paddy being the resident fight director, obviously he was doing that, too. It was essentially a big opportunity for me because simply, it was utterly impossible for Paddy to do this. And of course, respecting him, they said "Would you mind if Braun did this?" and basically Paddy said "Not at all. Of course. Somebody has to. I CAN'T." So, I got to choreograph a little bit of stuff in Henry V, and then I choreographed the entire Henry VI One, Two, and Three trilogy. And, Stratford being Stratford, and being internationally reviewed, which is kind of terrifying and you go out on this stage... when I came to Stratford I was only twenty-three! And all of a sudden you're a twenty-three year old actor and you know playing a speaking part, even a small speaking part, that you are going to be reviewed by newspapers and TV in twenty different countries! It's a little bit daunting!
26:22 Norman: *chuckle* Absolutely.
26:25 Kevin: A little bit of pressure there!
26:25 BRAUN: So, what I was doing, when I was doing the fight choreography I thought, "Oh, god! This better be good or I'm going to just become... if I'm thinking of a career here, this could be the ender. Fortunately, of course, I had excellent actors. Very, very dedicated actors. I also had three months of rehearsals, which is utterly unprecedented. And it went off very well! I got tremendous reviews for it, which were... the actors' reviews as much as they were mine, because even though I performed a lot of the fights, I had nine different fight scenes in the Henry VI trilogy myself. We had thirty-six different fights, including battle scenes. The actors, these are the people who were actually doing it, not me. That was basically the start. And then after I left the Stratford and Shaw, where I did two productions of Peter Pan, and actually choreographing fights on wire, you know the flying sequence, which was very interesting, I went to Toronto and stayed in Toronto for almost ten years. And this sort of reputation, as much as you can say on the basis of three or four shows, becomes a professional reputation, kind of followed me. But on the other hand, at that time, which was the 1980s, quite frankly there weren't that many people who were working as fight choreographers. So, I had this lack of competition which kind of helped me. So I don't really say... No, there's no point in my time, in my life, where I thought: "I'm going to be a choreographer." I always thought that it was a very interesting thing, and I thought that it would be something that would augment my other careers, because I'm an actor as well as a choreographer. I'm also a professional writer, and so on and so forth. So I thought, well, you know, this is something that I'll do. And just essentially to try and stay working in the Arts as much as I can, in any venue. And then of course I was also teaching theatrical choreography combat and so on and so forth. It was only later on that I started teaching documentably authentic historical combat. But of course that took a tremendous number of years of research before I would even presume to say "Okay, this is how they actually did it." And of course, we can't even really say a hundred percent for certain that that IS the case, nowadays, but I try and teach as much as I can document. So, that is essentially where I came from and where I am now.
29:18 Norman: And then you take all of this collective knowledge and then... and then we all know, all the Highlander fans out there that are listening, know that Bob Anderson was the Sword Master for Seasons One through Two, or almost through Two, and then you said that you'd lucked a little bit into the sword choreography position for Highlander. So how did that all come about? Because now I'd like to start transitioning a little bit more towards that part of your history, so we can see how you have brought all of your collective knowledge to what you wanted to offer to Highlander.
29:48 F: Okay, that is actually very strange. *laughter*
29:51 N or K?: Nice! The stranger the better!
29:52 BRAUN: Seriously strange! I was working on a movie of the week. The Return of Popeye Doyle. And a friend of mine--
30:02 NorK: Is it the sequel to The French Connection?
30:02 BRAUN: --who I worked with as an actor in Toronto--Yeah. And this was being shot in Vancouver, I'd just recently moved to Vancouver--
30:09 Kevin: Is this the Ed O'Neill version? ((Yes, it is.))
30:11 BRAUN: I have no idea. I don't even have a copy of this thing. Anyway, we were in the Craft Service Room. We were shooting on location in a private house, and one of the empty bedrooms was the craft service table where people have, you know, snacks and coffee and so on and so forth, and there were just the two of us. And he was talking; because I had actually done some fight-work with him in Toronto and so on and so forth, and he said: "Oh, there's this TV series, Highlander, has sword-work. Are you involved in that?" And I said, "No." I submitted my resume as an actor, and so did my agent, obviously, and I also submitted to the producers a letter and resume saying "I am also a fight choreographer. If Master Anderson needs any help, of if I can facilitate the process of your show in any way, shape or form, as a performer or as an assistant, please don't hesitate to ask." And of course I heard nothing. And of course why would you? I mean, Bob Anderson! How much better can you get than Bob Anderson? But, as we were talking--again just the two of us alone in this room--this other chap wandered into the room. Didn't recognize him, had no idea who he was. And he got a coffee, and he was sort of listening to our conversation. And he came over to me and he said "You're Braun McAsh." I said, "Yes, I am, and I can prove it. Here's my birth certificate. And you are?" And he said: "I'm the Line Producer. Brent Karl Clackson. I'm the Line Producer on this MOW." I said, "Well, wonderful. Thank you. I'm glad to meet you." He said, "I am also the Line Producer of the Highlander TV series. And Bob is leaving the show. We need a new choreographer. And I pulled your resume a couple of days ago." To which I didn't SAY but was thinking "Yeah, of COURSE you did." But he actually HAD, and I thought, well, alright. And he said "Can we organize a time for you to come in because--first of all, do you have any video of your fights?" And of course, back then I said, "No, I don't." He goes, "Alright. Can you put together a couple of fight scenes and show it to us? I'll bring the producer, and so on and so forth."
32:37 And I said "Alright, Absolutely." So I got a friend of mine, who is also an expert swordsman, and I choreographed and rehearsed with him three separate fight scenes with three different types of weapon styles, in COSTUME changes. And I went and I performed this for Brent and Ken Gord, who was of course the main producer of the series in Vancouver, and then they brought up another producer from L.A., and basically we came back and we re-did these fight scenes three ef-ing times. And of course I'm just sweating bullets, but they then offered me the series on a show-to-show basis. After having a personal meeting with Adrian, going "Well, you know, if you can't work with Adrian or he doesn't like you, obviously we can't use you."
33:33 So, during my first season, the beginning of Season Three, I could have been fired after episode one easily, basically saying "No, you didn't work out," or "Adrian can't work with you," or "No, your work is crap," or whatever. A show-to-show contract until the French season. And then of course, Bob Anderson was going to do the back nine on the French episodes, but then for health reasons, he couldn't, and they said "Would you--" First of all, they said "Would you work with Bob Anderson as his assistant?" To which I said "Are you kidding me? Of COURSE I will!" And then I got the back nine as the main choreographer. And after that, I was on the series for the next four years as a season contract. But the thing is, and this is the thing that really gets me, to this day, Brent Karl Clackson is a very frugal man, and he likes to keep a very good--he likes to present a very good sort of example. He doesn't go to craft service. He doesn't do this. He does--the day that Brent went into the craft service room--when my friend and I were talking about Highlander?--was the only day in that entire shoot, that he went to the craft service room.
34:45 Kevin: Wow.
34:46 Norman: Amazing!
34:46 BRAUN: That's the truth. Brent will attest to that. That is the truth. So THAT is how I got the Highlander series, and holy cow! What can you say? *more thoughtfully* What can you say?
34:59 Norman: Well, I guess my next question would be for you, Braun, when you finally got the position of being the fight choreographer, and met Adrian, were you very surprised at how far he's come along? Because I don't think he did any serious training, but he is an incredibly adept and flexible athlete. So, was it just easy to work with him from the very start, or was it hard to transition him from, say, what he learned from Bob Anderson, to what you would eventually start instructing him with?
35:30 BRAUN: Well, sort of yes and no. First of all, Adrian was a professional dancer, as well as an actor, so he is very used to learning choreography and learning it very quickly. And consequently he was extremely body-aware, and very, very, very controlled. He was also a semi-professional football player, er soccer player, I think, and he had been training in the Martial Arts prior, too. Things like Wing Chun and stuff like this. Although to the best of my knowledge, until he started working with Bob Anderson, he hadn't trained formally in the Sword. The fact that Bob is--was an excellent choreographer, he hadn't trained that much in the Japanese Sword Arts, like Iaido. I have been formally trained for many, many, many years in Classic Iaido, so, apart from knowing how the Japanese sword was actually used in combat, again I've been training in an awful lot of other weapons forms; European, East German, and so on and so forth, so... yeah, I guess that I could say that I... people have actually commented, saying that Adrian's style had changed when I took over the series. Especially in the use of the Katana. Then I suppose it did. But, that's neither here nor there. It takes nothing away from Master Anderson. It's just that we're now spending a lot more time using the weapon much more intensively than prior, especially because the very first episode that I ever did was "The Samurai." And ALL of the fights were with Katanas, so we sort of got off right on the get-go with something that would establish the Highlander weapon, the Duncan MacLeod weapon, as well as explaining where it CAME from: why is HE carrying a Katana, as well as Connor. So it was a very fortuitous episode.
37:34 But it was, ah, it was also a thing because Adrian was so intensive in front of the camera, we had very little time to rehearse. So, we were all pretty much sweating bullets on that one, but I think it turned out fairly well.
37:48 Norman: I think it was brilliant. And then you also had, aside from Adrian, and if this was your first episode that you did the choreography for, you also had the brilliant Robert Ito as Hideo Koto. And then you had Stephen McHattie as Michael Kent, so--
38:00 BRAUN: Oh, yeah.
38:01 Norman: --it was kind of like a triple-threat for you on that episode!
38:03 BRAUN: Stephen just worked his ASS off. Every second that he wasn't on-camera, or prepping for going on camera, he was going "Come on, Braun! Let's rehearse! Come on, Braun, let's rehearse!" Robert Ito is actually a Black Belt in Aikido, and once you get into the Black Belt levels in Aikido, studying the Katana is mandatory. So, he already had a very good skill level. Not like I really taught HIM anything. It was really quite amazing!
38:32 Kevin: What was your first impression of the first Highlander film, with Christopher Lambert, and what did you think of the fight scenes there, and what was your--tell us a little bit about that, and what your impressions were at that time. Before the TV show ever came out.
38:48 BRAUN: Well it was a wonderful movie, and of course, the first movie--the first of anything is the defining thing for anything that comes after. So, essentially all we tried to do is live up to the first movie. The only thing I didn't particularly care for in the first movie was when Clancy, as the Kurgan, puts his sword together.
39:11 Kevin: We knew you were going to say that!
39:13 BRAUN: The blade is in TWO PARTS, and I'm just sort of like "Oh, COME ON!" But, again, it's sort of like, it's a movie, get a life, for godsakes! This is a story point, don't worry--we're talking about people who are IMMORTALS, seriously, and you're worried about the blade coming in two parts--
39:30 Kevin: I can think of many fans listening to this who will be happy to hear you say that. *laughter*
39:37 BRAUN: I mean, serious. So, you know, it's not like that bent me out of shape. So, when I did the fourth movie, that was an entirely different thing. We were trying to re-establish a lot of stuff. But no, the first movie was the defining movie, and I thought it was just SO wonderful that in the first episode of the TV series that Christophe Lambert was in it! And you established the link between Connor and Duncan and so on and so forth. It was really nice!
40:07 Norman: So you actually had to work with so many people, Braun, in the series, do you have any memories of who was probably--aside from Adrian--who was probably your quickest learner, and some that you've probably had to coach a little bit more, just so that you maintain that safety measure that you always discuss in all of your interviews, because I think that's one thing that you feel is SO important, is the safety.
40:29 BRAUN: Well, this isn't reality. It's only supposed to LOOK real. It's not supposed to BE real. This is movies, it's television. Tony De Longis, obviously, I mean. He is definitely an old friend of mine. But he is a Sword Master in his own right, and is a magnificent swordsman, in a wide variety of weapons and also Martial Arts and styles and whatnot. When Tony and I did an episode of Mythquest, when I played King Maleager and he played Sir Lancelot, that was the first time Tony and I got to fight each other, ever! And it was such a wonderful privilege! Because when I work with somebody like Tony, we can go "I'm not going to choreograph this! We'll collaborate, we'll co-choreograph it, we will discover the story of the fight together!" And that's exactly what we did! And we came up to Vancouver, and we did pre-rehearsal, and we filmed it for Stefan Scaini, the director, and said "Here's what we're going to do," and so on and so forth, it was so absolutely wonderful! Not simply working with a great friend, but career-wise, we can do anything! *gleefully* We can literally do anything! There's nothing I can't do, that he can't do, let's just go nuts, in terms of the story of the fight, and the restrictions of the weapons, and the trade! That was an incredible experience. Of course, Valentine Pelka, another person who is highly sword-trained, absolutely incredible--a man with great characteristic integrity and so on and so forth. There were so many!
42:13 Claudia Christian. You know, I've done seventy-seven episodes of Highlander, and to try and pick out individual actors, apart from just there, and then of course Peter Wingfield as Methos, I mean... He's an amazing chap. So, yeah, it's hard to say... you're now looking at "Okay, what was the weapon, what was the time-frame, what was the fight," and so on and so forth. It's not really fair to say this person was better than that person, because the weapons aren't comparable, the choreography isn't comparable. There was just an amazing number of actors, they all did their own fights. I only replaced actors two or three times with stuntmen, and in two of those things they were simply partially replaced, because the actor came in on the day of the fight, and they were like "No." Obviously not. So, the actors did almost 99% of their own sword action. And that's the way it should be. They're the characters. They move the way THEY move. Stuntmen cannot, in episodic television, stuntmen cannot move like the actor moves, because they don't have the time to study them, study their actions and movement, and look LIKE them. Even the best stuntmen can't do that!
43:37 Kevin: I'm actually glad that you brought up Tony, because I think that in most Highlander fans' opinion, probably the most memorable sword-fight was Duende. And I know that he brought a lot to the table when it came to the Destreza and creating the character of Otavio Consone but, and I even saw this in Under The Kilt, that the choreography, the rain, the purchase that they couldn't get on--there was a lot of issue going on with that, and I really would love to hear your story about that.
44:04 BRAUN: Well, I mean, I'd been studying the Destreza for quite a few years prior to that, although nowhere near what I've done--at this point in time I've studied the Destreza for seventeen years. As a matter of fact I just taught a course in it, just last weekend. It's an incredibly complex and elegant system, and extremely deadly. Spanish fighters were literally universally feared in Europe. But Tony had brought the concept of the Destreza to the producers saying, "Wouldn't this be an interesting thing to do?" So, the episode Duende was as much HIS concept as anybody else's. Of course, obviously he DID do an awful lot to bring the fights into reality. The fact of the matter is that most of the choreography is not classical Destreza technique, in any way, shape or form. Because it can't be. It's far too esoteric, and far too economical and fast to make it look good in an entertainment media where you're trying to tell the story of the fight, and bring the audience into understanding the relationship between the characters and the swords, and how they converse between their weapons and so on and so forth. So it definitely wasn't, in any way, shape or form, pure Destreza because visually, and any other way, it really couldn't be.
45:35 On the other hand, what they were doing at the end, and of course in the first training scene, when you see this diagram; that is, when Tony and Adrian are fighting; that is a real Destreza training diagram, which comes right out of the manual of Thibault d'Anvers, of The Academy of the Sword. That is how Spanish fencers or Destreza students actually trained. Everything on that diagram is totally authentic. Everything means something. And if you look at the overhead shot, which I really demanded, the crane shot, you'll see that in a lot of cases, Adrian and Tony's swords are actually following the lines, called chord line, which is about direct thrusts to specific areas of the body. Eighty-three discreet angles. And they're actually following lines! Now, unfortunately, when they made this thing, when we were shooting in France, obviously they drew it on, and they painted it, they didn't mix any sand with the paint. Which, because we knew, it could rain, I said, "Mix a little bit of grit into the paint." They didn't do that. The other thing was that all of those chord lines weren't painted on. They're electrical tape. They're black electrical tape. Which of course, grabs the heels and stuff like this. And it was COLD that night, and it was absolutely pissing down rain, once we started the fight, and we filmed this fight for six hours. We actually filmed from daylight to night. And the grippers on their shoes, because they were so wet and it was cold, the grippers peeled off so eventually these guys are fighting with flat leather-soled shoes on a wet surface with electrical tape. And yeah, a couple of times, Tony fell. And God bless him, because he has the skill, he'd just sit there like "I'm going down!" threw his weapon away, away from Adrian, and sort of, you'll see the blooch of the water coming up. But it was massively horrendous. And when we stopped filming the fight, when we finally finished filming the fight, it stopped raining.
47:39 Norman: Of course!
47:40 BRAUN: It's like somebody had turned off a tap! And the ironic thing is that the rain doesn't show up on camera! Because rain has to be coming down like God's own water-hose, before you actually see it on camera. But the thing is you do see it on clothing, you do see it on hair, you do see it on faces. So all of the rain you see in that Duende fight at night... was CGI!
48:07 Norman: Is that right? Wow! **Kevin: I did not know that!
48:09 BRAUN: That was added in post! There was a feel like "Oh, give me a break!" But it was quite frankly one of the most brilliant fights I think we ever did.
48:19 Norman: Well, regarding fight scenes, I think Duende is probably the pinnacle of... throughout the entire Highlander series. But I wanted to ask you about, what other fight scenes were you really proud of, of how it came out, or maybe surprised. Give a little insight to that, whether it was the way it clicked with a guest star, or Adrian, or maybe it--something changed, you know name some other episodes and some other fight scenes that you were really proud of. You know, maybe one that was really challenging as well.
48:50 BRAUN: Oh gosh. I was proud of them all. I mean, because like I said, the actors did 99% of their own action, which is absolutely unprecedented. Every now and then, at conventions, people would ask, "How long did the actors get to rehearse?" And I never really had thought of it! So, I started breaking it down and I realized, to my horror, that the average actor only got four hours of rehearsal amortized over two or three DAYS before they actually performed the fight live in front of the camera!
49:21 Norman: It's amazing.
49:21 BRAUN: That was IT! That was all they got! That was all that was able, because we shot an episode once every seven days, and sometimes even once every SIX, so, yeah it was just like "Holy crap, are you kidding me?" But welcome to the reality of episodic television, and quite frankly, slowly but surely, welcome to feature film. Because this is what happens. I've actually done fight scenes myself while on camera. Or, as the actor AND choreographer, I showed up on the day of the fight scene, choreographed it, rehearsed it, and shot it two hours later. So it's insane. It's absolutely insane. And stage isn't immensely better, although fortunately it can be. But, oh, just in terms of Highlander fights, I honestly can't say, and quite frankly the great big huge epic battle between Methos and Silas, and Adrian and Kronos, at the end of that episode. You're shooting two fight scenes simultaneously, mostly simultaneously. And all these guys are fantastic! And it was a massive, massive undertaking. And of course, fortunately, we were working with extremely good, physically capable people and excellent actors, but it's kind of hard to say, because I've just done so many at this point because *wheezy voice* I'm old! I'm getting to the point where I literally have to go "What episode? What character? What are you talking about?" So like stars at conventions, going "You guys can recite the lines? I'm sorry, I've done seventy-seven episodes. No, I don't have the slightest clue what you're talking about, so..."
51:12 Kevin: Well, you brought up members of the Four Horsemen, there, and when it comes to Highlander fans for the TV show, the Four Horsemen is probably up there as one of the best episodes. How did you approach their styles? You mentioned that some of them were gifted with the sword in their own way. How did you approach the styles of the Four Horsemen: the actors, and how they were going to be fighters, in the history of all that?
51:38 BRAUN: Well, first of all, I designed all of their weapons.
51:40 Kevin: OH! Go into that, please!
51:42 BRAUN: Kronos' sword, known as the Horror Sword? I designed that. That sword never existed in history until I designed it and had it made for Kronos. And it was designed for very, very specific features, some of which, unfortunately, worked a little bit TOO well, which I had to work around. Like I said, Valentine Pelka is a superb swordsman. Silas. Fights with an axe.
52:05 Norman: With an axe, yeah.
52:06 BRAUN: And that was a big axe. And I designed that, too. And Caspian fights with another sword, and a dagger, and that sword that Caspian fought with, I also designed and had manufactured, and it contains a lot of different designs. Individual features that have existed in individual weapons for over 1500, 1600 years, but have never existed in a single weapon as a composite design. So, that was another thing. I only really designed a few weapons for Highlander from scratch, but this was the first time that I designed them absolutely from whole cloth going, "These weapons have never existed in history, but I know how weapons work, so I'm going to design them. And they WILL work."
52:54 Kevin: Wow... **Norman: I remem--
52:55 BRAUN: Because not all of them have. When people, props people and so on, design weapons, and they don't know how weapons work, very often you get stuck with something that's not usable. Ask Tony about that, someday. Because he's gotten stuck with that a couple of times. So it's nifty to actually be able to design weapons and go "Okay, I know this works! So, if the choreography doesn't work, guess what, it's MY fault." So they did it extremely well. And I still have the original Silas axe, and the... the... oh, what's his name--Marcus Testory's character--
53:37 Norman: Caspian!
53:37: BRAUN: I've got his original sword. We donated the Kronos swords to our charity auctions. I wish I had some of them, but it's neither here nor there. It doesn't matter. The charity auctions were wonderful things. Caspian and Silas, I still have a couple of their weapons. I also designed weapons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, for Henry VI, because it was set in a sort of science fictiony genre. So, a lot of those weapons never existed in history either, but like I said they were based on the functionality of weapons. So, I've done that a few times, and it's a nifty thing to do, but the prospect doesn't come up very often.
54:24 Norman: There's something that I wanted to ask you, Braun, about your character in the Modern Prometheus, Hans Kirschner. Because, you've extended his lifespan a little bit, per se, with a story that you wrote for the Highlander Anthology: An Evening at Joe's called, "Death Shall Have No Dominion". Could you tell us a little bit about that?
54:40 BRAUN: Oh, "Death Shall Have No Dominion". That was just, seriously, late in the beat (???? Light and upbeat?). They asked me to write this, so I wrote a sort of novella. I was the only person to get my work in on time, by the way. But no. There was no back story. In point of fact, unless it's specified in the script, there is no back story to any of the Immortals per se, so they're sort of like: Who do you think they were? So I extended my back story in my novella to the time of Dracula. As a matter of fact, at that point in time he's four hundred years older than Dracula. And I had played Dracula on the stage, so it was sort of like: Okay, I know this character historically AND theatrically, and I also know the history of that country, militarily and politically and so forth. So, this would be an interesting thing. "Here's a possibility. Prove me wrong." I'm actually writing a full novel based on an immortal Dracula, but not within the confines of the Highlander universe. Obviously that's an entirely different thing. This is a whole different world, also based largely on history. So, I thought, well what the heck? Who's to say this couldn't have happened? It's an interesting way to explore Kirschner's character in relation to other people, and it's interesting to be able to do this when you actually played the character yourself, but still don't have anything... you really have to worry about any of the writers contradicting you, because now you're taking it back hugely on what they predicated when they wrote the original script. It was a lot of fun!
56:36 Norman: I saw that on your Wordpress bio, that you are writing, or developing a full-size novella--or novel based on Dracula. Where does your fascination with the Dracula character come from? Does it come from your travels, the history of the swords that you're studying, or just--I know you've travelled to a lot of--
56:51 BRAUN: Yeah, I've been to Romania twice. Like I said, I've played Dracula on the stage. In the original script, the John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane script, which is extremely faithful to the novel, I consider himself... I consider the character to be a character of great pathos. Not necessarily evil. In the novel, and in the excellent Coppola movie with Gary Oldman as Dracula, when he's killed there's this tremendous look of peace that comes over his face. Basically saying "Oh, thank God it's over. Thank God I can now go to my rest." But he was, historically, a character of great consequence; a tremendous warrior, a consummate politician, who is greatly misunderstood. And because the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker is so utterly uncharacteristic of any of the things that Bram Stoker had written PRIOR to that. Totally uncharacteristic, which I tried to bring out in my novella in the Highlander Anthology. Sort of saying, "Okay, look: why is this night different from all other nights? Well, why is this story different from all of his other stories?" So, it's something that I like to explore. I like to put out things as a writer, or even as an actor, going "Why is this? Why do you think?" That's what we try and do. We try and say "Here's what you think you know. Maybe you should reevaluate." That's part of what I do.
58:27 Norman: I think that's also kind of like a romantic notion that Highlander also brought to a lot of its audiences, and before we pivot away from the Highlander portion of this interview, I wanted to share with you one story, if you would indulge me. I actually was about... in 1998 I was at the Anaheim Convention. You were there, heeheehee.
58:45 Kevin: Norm's been really excited about asking you about this, Braun. You know, Norm and I go way back, and we're big Highlander fans, and he recently relived this moment, and so this is one topic we definitely wanted to cover, and I know Norm's very excited about this.
59:02 Norman: Well, I actually gave up-- **BRAUN: Oh, okay!** --I'm sorry, go ahead Braun?
59:04 BRAUN: Go for it!
59:06 Norman: Okay. So I was actually in your panel. You were with Tony and you were doing the choreography of a sword fight. And I think it's just because that you and Tony trust each other, and the professionalism between the two of you was so high, could you--I mean, I wanted to ask you so many questions, I didn't have a chance to because everyone pretty much mobbed the scene when Adrian stole the sword from your hand--*laughs* He came out from behind the curtain--
59:30 BRAUN: Well he was intended to, actually, so...
59:33 Norman: Oh, is that right?
59:34 BRAUN: Oh, of course. We all knew that Adrian was going to come out.
59:39 Norman: Oh. Because it was just... it was a phenomenal thing when the three of you were working together because, I think that for all the fans, we wanted to SEE something like this. An actual choreographed live full-speed scene between the three of you involved. So, do you remember much about that? Could you tell us a little more about your experience with that, how you came away with it? Because EVERYONE at the end was just on their feet. I think the roof was just torn off.
100:04 BRAUN: Well I just--I remember it very, very well. Yeah, I mean, like I said: Adrian learns choreography at an incredible speed, and is so physically capable and precise! If Adrian and myself and Tony could just do fight scenes in movies and TV, just the three of us, for the rest of our life, I would be perfectly happy. I don't care who choreographs them. Well, maybe just Tony and me. But anyways-- *laughter from all* No dis[respect]. Choreography skills are entirely different from fighting skills. But, in any case, no it was a wonderful thing. It was absolutely funny as hell, and it was supposed to be. But it was supposed to give the audience an appreciation of a: How FAST we have to work. BRAUN: How fast you have to subsume the essence of the scene, going "What's this about, who are the people? Where are we supposed to go? How is it supposed to end, and how do we give the audience the fight scene in a way that they are drawn into it, and can understand it?" Because, unless the audience--see, part of the thing with my choreography was that the first phrase of all of my fights is essentially teaching the audience how to watch the choreography, so that as the fight becomes faster and more complex, they actually are subconsciously understanding more and more of what they're looking at and don't miss critical things, especially when we get into subtlety, albeit we can pop in for a close-up on this or that. The whole idea is don't insult the audience's intelligence. Bring them along. You don't have to talk down to them. "Here's what we want you to watch. And here's how we're going to show it to you. Now come on and be part of the fight." So, that was part of it as well, and that was why it was so great. Especially because a lot of the stuff was being thrown at us from the audience. Well, guess what, as choreographers, we don't get to write the script, either. So, here's what we have to deal with: "You, sir, sitting in the third row, what do you want?"
102:19 Norman: Oh, that's right! There was audience participation in that! I'd forgotten!
102:23 BRAUN: Yes, there was. And I've done that with Bob Chapin at a con as well, where the audience totally dictated what they wanted to see and so on and so forth. Yeah, welcome to my world. This is how we have to deal with it. So it was sort of bringing the audience in as an active third-party participant, and that was one of the things that really made it great.
102:45 Norman: Yeah. That was a lot of fun. There was so much energy in there, and I guess from some, for those of us who always wanted to try, and we see something like this and we'll go into our first course: you are actually offering something like that now... well I mean not just now, there is--I'd like to talk a little bit about "The Ring of Steel", and the program that you're offering there.
103:05 BRAUN: Okay, well, The Ring of Steel is--and The Ring of Steel website, google theringofsteel.com, is a school that I run with Joanne Bentley. We've been doing it for quite a while, now, and we offer courses in historically--documentably historically authentic Western European sword-work, using proper weapons with the right design and balance and weight and so on and so forth. And we also do theatrical courses. But mostly, this is about "You want to learn how the German Longsword school worked? Want to learn how the Italian Longsword school worked? Want to know how German Dueling Sabre, the Mensur, worked? You want to know how Italian and Spanish Rapier and English and Italian smallsword worked? We will teach you." And that's what we do.
104.00 We also do something entirely different outside of the venue of the school, which is Combat Knife Defense, and Joanne is also a professional Falconer. So she teaches people how to handle raptor birds! And she is one of Canada's great and most experienced Falconers. She is one of the only Canadians certified in England to what's called Lantra Three, which allows her to handle eagles. She has quite a few birds of her own. I've been associated with... training with her for almost eight years now. I wouldn't call myself a falconer, but I can handle myself with falcons and hawks and so on and so forth. I am greatly in love with all of her birds. She is my apprentice, and I'm hers. That's what Ring of Steel is about. There's a link to her website, thefalconlady.com on The Ring of Steel.
105.02 theringofsteel.com is nothing but historical essays that I have written. Scholarly essays on how weapons were really used, with original period pictures, bibliographies as to where did I get this information, basically goes right back to the Roman Empire. So, there's probably well over fifty major two, three, four-thousand word essays on that site right now. Take a look at it and see what you can learn, and suggest other things. I haven't been able to put anything new on it for a reasonable amount of time, because I've had some somewhat disastrous things happen to me over the last little while, but we will be getting back to it, and I'm planning on putting several other historical essays and instructionals on it. But basically that's what The Ring of Steel does. We travel all over the place teaching people how to use swords in the proper historical manner. And we also teach actors.
106.04 Norman: And I think that the three of us are definitely going to hit that and see... because I think we're all, in some way, an enthusiast of different degrees. One of the things I really wanted to ask you, all the way back then, in 1998, Braun, and I still want to ask you this now: As someone who wanted to start off--and I'm going to try and put myself into the shoes of the general audience who probably feels the same way--I took a small little fencing instructional at the Renfair. I thought it was fascinating, but I'm not sure exactly what direction I want to go in moving forward. Do I want to continue with the Collegiate-style--and forgive me if my nomenclature is wrong--but the Collegiate-style, or the Ring of Steel's historical direction of studying. How does one help make that decision? Who can I talk to? Or how do I approach that as someone who wants to start but doesn't really know what path to follow?
106:56 BRAUN: Well, first of all, what do YOU want for yourself? Most people take my workshop because, what I tell them is, "Take one workshop or two workshops and see whether this is actually what YOU want to do and to continue studying." Because you probably have quite a lot of misconceptions about what the European--the Western European--fighting arts are about. You can study Asian fighting arts everywhere, and they're excellent. But the Western European fighting styles, swords and so on and so forth, and unarmed combat, have every bit of validity, and they're every bit as effective. As a matter of fact, German and Italian swordwork, especially German swordwork and the Japanese Classic Katana school of Iaido have so many physical similarities that people will go, "How did this happen?" Well, the human being wielding a bladed weapon against another human being... how many ways do you think works? So, the first thing you have to do is educate yourself and find out whether your misconceptions are--how many misconceptions do you have, and whether you would like to commit yourself to doing this short-term, long-term, whatever, and why are you doing it? Are you doing it because you want to be a competitor? Because there are Western European Martial Arts competitions with longsword and Dussack and rapier and dagger and so on and so forth all over the world. This art has been growing for a long time now. Or whether you just want to do it as an academic thing and go "Okay, now I actually know. Now certain things about history make sense to me that didn't before because I don't know how these things work." It's sort of like the person who tries to draw a one hundred pound English yew bow for the first time and goes "Oh, shit! That's interesting!" And Joanne is also a national champion archer. So, she does that as well.
108.55 It's basically, what do you expect to get out of it? Now, if you want to do it theatrically, that's good, too. Because, as I've always said: If you use the weapon the way it was designed to be used; i.e. historically authentically. Not to compromise choreography, that's an entirely different thing. We have to tell the story of the fight, and historical authenticity, quite frankly very often, like Duende, sometimes gets in the way. But if you're using the weapon the way it was designed to be used, it's safer. When you're not trying to force the weapon to do something it wasn't designed to do. That's the big thing: safety. As I said before: This isn't supposed to be real! It's just supposed to LOOK real. It's the choreography as well as the execution. So, the more you can inform yourself about a wide variety of weapons and how they're properly used, the safer you are--for yourself. The safer your opponent is going to be. It might possibly make a difference between you getting a job or not. Because, you know, you can demonstrate your chops. I mean, I always say in my theatrical courses: "God help the man who lies on his resume!" If you show up on my set and you don't know what you claimed to know, you're done. *laughter*
1:10:12 Norman: "We will call you Sir Charlatan."
1:10:18 BRAUN: Well, the thing is that choreographers--there aren't that many choreographers. There are a lot of stunt coordinators, and a lot of them don't really know too much about historical weapons. But quite frankly it doesn't take that much for word to get around going "This person is dangerous and he LIES."
1:10:38 Norman: I'm sure.
1:10:38 BRAUN: And that's a job killer. That is absolutely your job killer. So--
1:10:43 Norman: Just an extension on what you were talking about, with the weaponry: in several YouTube videos that I've seen from you; I've seen one on Urban Rush, it was an interview you did in 2011, and Studio 4, also in 2011, You focused both of your interviews on using the two-handed broadsword. Why that sword in particular? Because that's the one you always come up and talk about: the weight, the balance; it can be used with one or two hands... is that the sword that you would start off training somebody with?
1:11:11 BRAUN: No, not necessarily. I mean, in theater and film I'm going to start off training the person with the weapon that they have to actually use. I do this because I know I have to demonstrate it with the host, and a two-handed weapon is more controllable than a one-handed weapon.
1:11:27 Norman: I see.
1:11:29 BRAUN: It's sort of like... I'm trying to protect myself as much as anything else. *laughter* I also just happen to love the German long sword because it's part of my cultural heritage. I'm Germanic as well as Scottish. It's a very impressive looking weapon because it's fairly large. It's not overly complex; it doesn't take a lot of explanation in terms of describing what it does and how it does it. And like I said, when I put it in the hand of the interviewer, I'm reasonable assured that I'm going to walk out of the studio alive!
1:12:04 Norman: Well, I have to imagine, with your history with fight choreography, with swords and edged weapons, that you probably have a pretty decent collection on hand in your home and I have to ask: Is there any particular swords or knives, any type of cutlery that you're fond of, in your prize collection and what's the history of those?
1:12:32 BRAUN: Well, to be perfectly honest I don't really have a prize collection. I have very few actual REAL historical weapons. First of all, because they're bloody expensive. The other reason is that I simply don't USE them. I have a relatively small collection of things like two-handed swords, single-handed medieval swords, rapiers, small swords, sabers, main gauche daggers, knives, historical knives as well as modern combat knives, and of course katanas. But to be perfectly honest, my own personal collection is mostly for my own practice purposes, and also for demo purp--I have a couple of swords that I would never use for demos, like one of my katanas, for instance. Which is REAL. It does not ever travel out of the house because it's dangerous! I know how to use it, but I'm not going to put it in anybody else's hands. Generally speaking, when I train people in katana, I train them with wooden boukens. The only time I actually use the real sword with the saya, the scabbard, is when I teach the draw and the re-sheathe. And that's done extremely slowly and very, very carefully.
1:13:39 So, my collection is not as much as you might think. The school, The Ring of Steel, we have a whole slew of long swords, we have a whole slew of rapiers and small swords. But they're students'. I have the ones that I use and the ones that I used to compete with (because I don't do competition anymore) but they are, like I said, for my own personal use; for demonstration purposes. And for examples when I'm teaching, and showing up on TV shows going: "Okay, this is totally authentic--except it doesn't have an edge or a point--and you stay over here and do what I tell you and try not to kill me." So, that's basically it, apart from some knives that I have, which are practical combat knives, which pretty much NEVER leave the house; that's all. I don't really have an incredibly extensive collection per se.
1:14:31 Norman: Well, I wanted to touch on an interview that you did on YouTube, an audio interview with YouTube, with the Urban Tactics Krav Magra people--
1:14:42 BRAUN: Oh! Krav Maga, yes! That was Borhan Jiang's school!
1:14:46 Norman: Yeah! I wanted to touch base with you: you touched on something briefly that is near and dear to my heart: That was the tragedy of Brandon Lee's accidental death on the set of The Crow. And the firearm's safety and how that could have been--if done properly that should have never happened. And I want to touch base: you have some history with firearms instruction as well? And if so, what's your history with that?
1:15:14 BRAUN: Quite a bit. My firearms training literally dates back to when I was thirteen. I also served in the Canadian Army Reserve, and a few other places. I've actually served overseas. I don't really want to get into that right now, because it's not the most pleasant of histories. But I have a very extensive background in both civilian and military firearms. And some very, very significant military firearms. I used to teach the Firearms Safety course, and Acting With Firearms courses for the Union((??)) in Canada until they CANCELLED them! I have no idea. They suddenly decided that it wasn't germane to what they do. But I've taught them privately for quite a while. Yeah, the tragedy of Brandon Lee is that it was entirely preventable. It was absolutely, totally, 100% preventable at any time of the day. This wasn't something that just happened, BANG, on the set! This was an ntemet((??) that compounded itself every time the firearm changed hands, and it was--the bottom line is that a very fine martial artist and extremely promising actor is no longer with us, and it simply didn't have to happen. So, that's one of the things in--I've written a book called "Fight Choreography: A Practical Guide". I have a chapter on firearms in this book, because even though firearms isn't exactly a part of fight choreography, it needs to be said. The whole idea that a blank makes a firearm safe is utter nonsense. A blank is incredibly dangerous for many, many reasons. Under certain circumstances, a blank can actually KILL. i.e. Mr. Hexum.
1:17:11 Norman: Yes. Kevin: Right, Right. Norman: From V-- (Voyagers)
1:17:12 BRAUN: He killed himself with a blank! He killed himself with a blank. It was a firearm that was totally overloaded, and should never have been left on the set after the scene had been over. Period. But the thing is that... swords, even knives, have a certain aesthetic distance. When you look at swords, you have a length of two blades separated by space. Knife combat is incredibly dangerous in the real world, it's also quite hazardous in film because the proximity is so much closer, and it doesn't give you the same degree of latitude. The control has to be THERE. Firearms give you no chance at all. Once that trigger is pulled, it's over. Period. That's IT. If you haven't put all of the safety measures in place... right now, once that trigger is pulled, it's done! *highstress in voice*
1:18:07 There was an actor in Toronto just recently who damn near blew the roof of his mouth off with a firearm that still had a blank in it, after he was supposed to fire it a couple of times into the ground, expend all of the rounds, and then put it directly into his mouth and pull the trigger, in an attempted but failed suicide, all in the same continuous shot. Which is absurd. That's not necessary whatsoever. It happened so fast that nobody could stop him, going "The second round didn't go off, don't do that--" BAM! It was in his mouth and he fired. That's utterly... to me it's incomprehensible. But I've been on so many different sets over the years as an actor, where I've seen almost-accidents with firearms, going "Oh, for godsakes, let's just stop this right now." Because, as I said, guns don't give you a second chance. And especially when you're talking about things like flintlocks and black powder weapons, where things are actually leaving the barrel, like miniature shot! So, yeah, I've used black powder weapons in battlefield scenes. In War of 1812 scenarios and stuff like this in movies and just sort of like, "No. No, you can't point it in that direction. No, you can't do this. No, you can't do that." So it's just, it's horrendous. You literally have to have eyes in the back of your head, but the fact is that everything starts in prep. Everything has to be... does the director understand what they can and cannot do? How can you work with the DOP to eliminate the necessity of pointing anything at anybody, and mostly having good firearms handlers on the set going "No, you can't do this," and spotting the things that you can't gaffe. Because you just simply cannot have eyes everywhere at the same time. I mean, I've had over four hundred people fighting simultaneously in a movie. You can't look everywhere. It's physically impossible. So, safety procedures have to be set out very, very scrupulously, and they have to be maintained. Well, again, that's the bottom line. Firearms, as I've said, do not give you a second chance.
1:20:30 Kevin: Well, I appreciate your attention to safety, and sharing that. You know, before we wrap things up: You'd mentioned your book. I'd like you to talk about, or promote what you currently have, and maybe some upcoming projects that you'd like to speak of. I would love our Highlander fans out there to follow you, and pick up your books or see any videos or anything. Is there anything you'd like to promote, and to bring out there to our fans?
1:20:56 BRAUN: Well, like I said, I only really have one book on the subject. It's called 'Fight Choreography: A Practical Guide for Stage, Film and Television', which goes into all of the venues. Which I procrastinated writing for many, many years because I said "Oh, I haven't done this, I haven't done that!" And then finally when I had, literally, done film, television, stage, motion capture, dance, ballet, video games--"Oh, okay, what are you waiting for, now? Stop it and do it." So I took the better part of a year off and wrote this. It's published by Crowood Press in England, it's available on Amazon.com, and you can find it on the ringofsteel.com website, a link to it. I have a DVD called 'The Actor's Blade', which is a two and a half hour instructional on cut-and-thrust weapons for film and television and stage. It's a theatrical, actor-oriented, and stunt choreographer thing, which has been out for quite a while. Really, apart from that and the actual Ring of Steel website, that's pretty much all I've got. I've been kind of lazy in producing the thing. Obviously it takes some resources to do this. On the other hand, that's what I've done so far. I'm looking at producing some more things, hopefully in the near future. That's, for the most part, pretty much it!
1:22:29 Kevin: That's great! What we'll do is on our Fandom Podcast Network, we're going to put links to the book and the video and stuff, and also, Norm and I admin a Highlander fan-page called Blood of Kings: A Highlander Fan Page ((A Highlander Fandom Group)) and we'd like to have you back sometime on some future episodes, talking about Highlander, I--
1:22:54 BRAUN: Oh, here's another thing!
1:22:55 Kevin: Okay!
1:22:56 BRAUN: This is just fairly recent. I have every Highlander script that I shot. I have seventy-seven scripts. And I have fight-scripts and call-sheets--
1:23:09 Kevin: Oh wow!
1:23:10 BRAUN: --for half of them.
1:23:11 Norman: I think all of our listeners' ears just perked up. *laughter*
1:23:14 BRAUN: I also have the script, and the fight-scripts for the Highlander IV movie. And very soon they are all going up for sale.
1:23:22 Kevin: *slowly* Really...! You going to have it as an auction or something?
1:23:26 BRAUN: Yeah. We're just sort of setting it up. Carmel MacPherson is helping me here, because quite frankly I have the computer skills of a dyslexic gerbil. *K laughs* But generally speaking, what we're going to do is we're going to put them up a few at a time with, I would imagine a five or six day bidding period, with a reserve bid of "Okay, this is the least amount for the script, and also for the fight scripts that go with it"--because obviously they're not going to be a package. But I have, including re-writes, I have seventy-eight of the original Highlander: The Series shooting scripts. Over half of them have fight-scripts, including things like 'The Samurai' and 'Duende', they have ALL of the fight-scripts for all of the fights--
1:24:17 Kevin: Expect Norm to put some bids on those episodes! *laughter*
1:24:22 BRAUN: The call-sheets I'm not going to be charging for or anything like this. They come WITH. And like I said, the Highlander IV movie, I have three full shooting scripts for that, plus fight-scripts and so on and so forth. They are all going up for auction. I've been carting these things around for seventeen years, and it's time the fans had them.
1:24:47 Norman: Do you have an ETA when those are going to go on sale?
1:24:50 BRAUN: I honestly don't know. I'm in the process of talking with Carmel about setting this up, because like I say, she is mostly going to be coordinating this. And she's just coming off of a ??cher project of her own. I announced this on Facebook several months ago, and also a list of all of the scripts and fight-scripts and so on and so forth. I'm sure that the fans are going "Well, when? Come on, when?" I'm doing the occasional update. I honestly don't have a date right now, but they will--hopefully fairly soon--be on eBay. There will be a reserve, and at least a five-day period of bidding. We obviously won't be putting all seventy-eight and everything up simultaneously, that would be ridiculous. Every fight-script--every individual script will have a photograph so that you know what the condition of the script is. Pretty much 99.9% of the time, they're in mint condition. Because quite frankly all I did was "Oh. How many fights? Oh, shit, are you kidding me?" *laughter* And that was pretty much it. Apart from a little bit of annotation and the occasional dog-eared page, they are in exactly the same condition that I received them in, including the miss-spelling of my last name on half of them, because the production company apparently didn't--no. It's M-small c-capital A-s-h. *coughs* But that's pretty much it. That's coming up soon.
1:26:21 Kevin: Well Braun, we'll definitely help promote that for you. **BRAUN: Oh thank you!** And we'll be in touch about that, because we would love to help out with that because we have a great built-in audience here with the Fandom Podcast Network, and the Blood of Kings Facebook page. So [we'll] be more than happy to help out with that. I'm sure we can probably drive up some of those bids! *laughs*
1:26:41 BRAUN: Well, like I said, it's time that the fans had these things. Because we're not doing conventions anymore and I'm not putting fight-scripts or anything like this up for the charity auction, this is just a way of going "Alright, you're the fans. If you want this, here it is."
1:26:58 Kevin: Well, we want to thank you, Braun, for joining us here for this interview. This has been so insightful and as I said, both myself, Kyle, and Norman, were huge fans but we'd also like to, if you can let our listeners know, the best way to keep in touch with you, and what's happening with you online through social media. Are you on Twitter? You're on Facebook, obviously.
1:27:21 BRAUN: It's only Facebook. And Facebook has been fairly recent for me. Essentially, once a day I go on Facebook and post absolutely tripe. *laughs* Like I said, I've done some announcements about the fight-scripts and whatnot. Generally speaking I write political polemics, because actually I did a political satire blog for a year called 'I, Rantibus.', which isn't available anymore. I didn't--I only wanted to do it for a year. But I also write political humor and satire, and it's fun. I like to be informative. I like to--as Tony De Longis sometimes gets back to me when I post something on Facebook, he says "Why am I just finding this out from YOU, for godsakes?!" *laughter* So, you know, I have friends in low places, and have access to some material that some people don't have. But mostly passing things on that seem to get ignored, and I think shouldn't be. So, you know, take it for what you will. I'm on Facebook, and if you want to get in touch with me, that's essentially the place to do it.
1:28:32 Kevin: Well, thank you so much for being on our show--
1:28:35 BRAUN: Well, I thank you very much, and quite frankly it's my honor to be interviewed by you guys. And it's amazing to me, doing the job that I did, that it's just gone on for so long, and the recognition and so on and so forth. I owe it to everyone who is a fan of Highlander, for the livelihood that I've made from it, and as much as I can give back, I will. So, thank you guys, thank you very much.
1:29:08 Norman: And for me, Braun, I just wanted to say personally that, as a fan of Highlander and a fan of your work, it's been so inspirational to me. It's been such a great pleasure to be able to talk to you tonight, and for all of us here at the Fandom Podcast Network. I think that it's a fantastic thing that the fans have been able to do for you what they have done in so many different ways, because what you have given to US, in terms of inspiration, in terms of your work-quality, that has inspired US to do other and greater things for ourselves as well. So, I think the only way that we can perpetuate all of this good faith is to be able to support you and to be able to support your future projects. So thank you.
1:29:44 BRAUN: Thank you.
1:29:45 Kevin: Well thanks again, fans, for listening and again, please follow Braun on Facebook. Please check out his book, and look out for these awesome auctions that are coming up! I can't wait to see those happen! Again, Braun, thank you again so much!
1:30:00 BRAUN: It's been a pleasure and an honor. Thank you, gentlemen.
All hail the mighty sword
Article about F Braun McAsh in Maple Ridge News June 19th, 2012.
The News You Didn't Know:
Political Insight and the News They Don't Tell You.
1:30:02 Kevin: Well there you go, Highlander fans! There is a great interview with Mr. F. Braun McAsh. Man, that was insightful. What a wonderful and gracious guy! You know, we could have just gone on-and-on. I have to ask you, Norman, what out of that interview was probably one of the highlights for you? What was one of the things that you found really interesting?
130:28 Norman: I love how he calls Tony 'Tony' with such affection. Tony De Longis. Because you know that these two have--they spent some time together, and I think they respect each other at the highest level. I'm sure they are very close friends, and I really would love to see a troupe of Braun and Tony and Adrian just go around and either teach choreography, or just educate people on what they have learned. I really do hope that Braun or Tony, or the both of them, get involved with Adrian Paul's The Sword Experience, where Adrian is going around from different places across the country, across the United States, and even overseas to London and Germany. This year, 2016, I would love for them to be able to hook up with him sometime, because that is a ticket I would definitely buy.
1:31:12 But the other thing was, I love how deep he was in the Dracula lore. The Bram Stoker Dracula lore. And I'm really looking forward to where he's going to go with the novel that he's working on as Dracula. I didn't know that about him; I thought that was really neat, and I think that's just part of just the overall education that he has given himself. You know, he has sought out this history, and I think that it's just fascinating that he does this!
1:31:36 Kevin: Yeah, he has a thirst for knowledge. One of the things in the interview that I really liked and I didn't know, was when we touched base on The Four Horsemen, and how he came up with the weaponry that they were going to use! I did not know that. That was fascinating! Kyle, what about you? Was there anything in his interview that stood out for you?
1:31:57 Kyle: The whole interview was just amazing! I feel like I just went through a college course and just got a huge education. For me, a couple of things that stood out was finding out he was trained by the stuntman for Errol Flynn. That's amazing! **Yeah!** Another thing to me that stood out, and it shows his passion: when we got into the firearms and he was talking about some of the tragedies that happened; Brandon Lee; Mr. Hexum, stuff like that. You could feel his passion and also his frustration at those situations. It just shows what a professional he is!
1:32:36 Kevin: And his attention to safety!
1:32:38 Kyle: Yeah. But I mean, you hear he takes it so personally. And it's so refreshing to see that, because you hear so many stories, and it's gotten better, but you hear so many stories, especially in the eighties, of these kind of accidents happening when there's just absolutely no need for it.
1:33:00 Kevin: Yeah. Well, on behalf of myself, Kyle, and Norman, we want to thank Mr. F. Braun McAsh for being on our show. It was very enlightening, and we're looking to have him on again on a future show. We want to thank the listeners for your support. You can please check Fandom Podcast Network on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, and on Facebook Fandom Podcast Network. And e-mail us, please, at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @fanpodnetwork! Any closing thoughts? Kyle, let's start with you!
1:33:31 Kyle: Again, just an absolutely amazing interview, and I know we've got some other things we're going to hit on this Fandom Flashback. I just want to tell our listeners: stick with it. I think it's only going to get better.
1:33:45 Kevin: Oh yeah. Norman, what about you? Any closing thoughts?
1:33:51 Norman: You know I think that it's a really interesting thing, what we're doing, and being able to bring to Highlander fans, and with the growth of the Blood of Kings page, and the support that we're having through the Fandom Podcast Network being able to put up these Fandom Flashbacks, and being able to give the listeners a lot of information to digest and listen to during the course of their day. I just think it moves me to no end knowing that we're just connecting with so many fans of this franchise that, sometimes we believe it was just--on the side, there are so many gigantic and epic franchises out there. The Marvel franchise; the Star Wars franchise; the DC franchise; and the Harry Potter franchise. But there are those fans that still love this fandom! This Highlander fandom! And I love connecting with them. There are so many more out there than WE even thought there were. So please, stay with us, join this journey. And continue to help grow the fandom! This is the 30th year for Highlander. There's no better time to come and celebrate, and connect with new fans than now! Thank you for listening to what we've been producing for you. We hope to hear a lot of feedback from you, either e-mail or voice-mail, or on our Blood of Kings fanpage or on the Fandom Podcast Network fanpage. Let us know how we can make this experience even more robust for you. And let us connect with you in that sense and just, again, stay with us. We're going to have some great things lined up for you.
1:35:19 Kevin: You want to bring up one last point that you hit on, there, was that if we're going to see something new from Highlander, I think it's going to depend on how loud the voices are of the Highlander fans out there, and I think we're helping with that. We want to thank everyone that's part of the Blood of Kings fandom page, as well as the fans on the Fandom Podcast Network. I feel a surge here, guys. I think we're going to be directly involved, and I'm really excited about that. And as Kyle alluded to earlier, we've got some other special shows coming up. A couple of more episodes of the Highlander Fandom Flashback. So thank you everyone for listening to this. Stay tuned for more, we've got a lot of great stuff coming up. Thank you everybody. Goodbye.