Follow your dreams. The stuff Rocky movies are made of, but for every Rocky there are a thousand failures that worked just as hard as Balboa himself, maybe a wrong turn, a zig instead of a zag or a single poor choice set them on an unrecoverable path down – or sideways – through the rabbit hole. Who knows? ‘The world needs ditch diggers too’ they say. O fortune, monstrous and empty fate, following your dreams is mental masturbation. Hudson Philips posted a thoughtful article on artists and the prescribing to the inaccurate idea of ‘following a dream.’ No. There are people on this earth who simply must fulfill what they were meant to do. Dustin Poirer, Tim Credeur and Fightville director Michael Tucker are doing what they were meant to do.
From the moment Fightville starts you can tell that as an MMA fan, we’ve been here before. The usual exposition on the evolution of the sport from ‘human cockfighting’ to the noble competition we know and love, opens the film with a thumping soundtrack oozing southern style and personality. In my personal opinion, good documentaries are as much about the creator behind the film as they are about the subjects. This is evident in Fightville. The usual MMA documentary that we’ve seen so many times before quickly turns into a film from a man who’s admitted going into shooting as an MMA novice, to a fan. In this, Fightville is satisfying for multiple reasons. We need less MMA fans making MMA films in my opinion. I know that’s hard to grasp, but Fightville’s simple, but gripping visual style comes from a filmmaker, not a fight fan, and I think that’s needed in order for this sport to grow. A fight virgin’s vision of the down and dirty regional MMA of the south. It’s refreshing.
So are the stars. I always enjoyed the escapades of Tim Credeur, but his standout pupil and and owner of a spot damn near the top of the featherweight rankings, Dustin Poirier provides the backbone of the film. They serve as a sage guide and a shooting star for Michael Tucker to follow. Knowing that Dustin Poirier is on the cusp of a title shot against Jose Aldo with a win over the Korean Zombie next month makes this all the more relevant. Poirier’s determination in fulfilling his destiny is clear, and we get a first row seat to view his ascension into MMA stardom.
Simply put, Fightville is a great. It’s easily in the discussion for best MMA movie ever (take from that what you will), but it’s also a smart look into the world of martial arts. It’s memorable, it looks beautiful, it captures a time and place in MMA that will be painfully quaint in twenty years. Fightville captures a moment in time where dreams are dreamed and people did what they were meant to do.
I’ve seen almost every MMA film out there, I don’t have to name them, some not even released yet, so I’m just going to say it: there is no better way to spend your 4/20 then with Fightville on your viewing device of choice. It doesn’t insult our intelligence, it reinforces it. Fightville hits theaters in LA and NY, but I suggest you purchase the HD versions on Itunes or Xbox Live. Seriously, if you are a fight fan, you’ll dig this.
Four point five MiddleEasy Monsters™ out of five. I wish I had a little graphic I could put here to show the little monsters signifying excellence. To be honest, one of the main reasons it wasn’t five stars is because I thought it was too short…I was so enamored with Fightville despite it’s brevity, I picked director Michael Tucker’s brain via email on the creation of the movie. Below is our correspondence in which for some reason I picture Michael Tucker being on a train and he’s wearing an overcoat.
Was the ending difficult to conceive or did it come naturally and you said ‘that’s a perfect moment to stop’ ? The ending–which we won’t give away–was a blessing. Dustin was offered a last minute fight out of the country and he literally had days to prepare. I followed and the rest is, well, history. It must be said that filming fighers is stressful for something like this is stressful because all it takes is one punch for dreams (including ours) to be crushed!
We talked a year ago about your marginal MMA knowledge coming into Fightville, have you kept up with the sport?’ I have to admit I am a fan now. I was with Dustin and Tim at UFC 129 and fell in love with the world of “the show”. I love live fights and now watch PPV fights when I can.
How has the Making of Fightville treated you as far as the MMA world (media/fighters/etc). Following you on Twitter it’s pretty obvious that some news outlets ‘get it’ some don’t and some truly still think that this is an extremely negative sport, if a sport at all. Can you tell us what it’s like as someone who came into ‘our’ world basically as a neutral player, to make and market this movie? The MMA world has been fantastic and so supportive. The one thing about MMA is that it has an incredibly wired and sophisticated fanbase. That’s a great thing to tap into when you are in the business of telling stories. The mainstream is difficult. There are people who truly hate this sport and by extension they will hate this movie. At the end of the day, all that matters is that the subjects of the film feel like we captured their world. Listening to them, we did.
Any film festival stories? We had great festival premieres SXSW, HotDocs (with UFC129), but the best was Abu Dhabi where my co-director went with Tim Credeur. They were treated like royalty because the sport and BJJ are so huge there.
How big is your filming crew? On location, it was just me most of the time. A major task, but it’s how I prefer to work. It’s hard to develop trust with a crew–whether that’s in Baghdad or at a gym.
Logistically, what did you think was the greatest challenge? Shooting fights is touch. Major props to people like Esther LIn–that girl works to get those shots! But the biggest issue was, again, trying to capture the rise of an athlete without knowing where the endpoint would be–always one punch away from the end.
How difficult was this to edit? This was a tough film to edit–we had dozens of fights, from more than two years of material shot in Lafayette. On the other hand, the time gave us the ability to get it right–it wasn’t like shooting in a hostile country where you can’t go back to pickup material.
What do you edit on? We are all Apple all the time. Final Cut Pro. Best thing that ever happened to video.
Tell us about your background in film making, you have a distinct visual style. I started shooting in 1990–began working in remote locations around the world. Lived in Vietnam and Thailand in the early nineties and then moved to Berlin in 1995. Style developed from making do with what we have. The best feeling in the world is discovering a shot that you didn’t know you had–a sort of controlled chaos.
The soundtrack is awesome, plug it. Alex Kiment is our composer. He’s a Russia analyst by day (he’s currently in Moscow) and a genius by night. Right after doing Fightville,he moved to Brazil and wrote the Financial Times. There, he was blown away by how HUGE the sport is. Apparently, everybody watches the big fights. We are hoping to go down to the Silva fight.
When you captured something like, for example, Dustin’s incredible match (his 2nd to last in the movie) which is just one really long scramble, was that impressive to you as an MMA novice at the time? Or have you re watched the movie recently and now that you are more knowledgeable it’s something you can appreciate more? The ground fights were always a little confusing and difficult to film–not knowing as a novice what to be looking for.
As a one man crew, how do you capture your audio? On camera, with wireless and hidden recorders.
Was it difficult to shoot in the gym during practices? I can imagine you were just as sweaty as them towards the end. The gym was horrible. Tiny, smelly, staph, ringworm. Worst place I have ever filmed–but the tiny backroom was a great location.
The lighting of the film seems equally cinematic yet natural. Did you light the film at all or did you point and shoot? All light was natural.
Do you have any interest in sticking with these MMA stories or is it time to move on for you? What’s next? MMA is fascinating–we’ll see where we go next.
Not to delve into psychology, but why documentaries? I feel documentary filmmakers are a different breed from ‘fiction’ filmmakers. Documentary is interesting because you come to understand new worlds. It’s more like truly living than just filmmaking.
Did you get staph or ringworm? I got staph last year and it was the worst experience of my life outside of high school. Luckily, not.