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Beyond Fright Interview: Writer/Director Rob Hawk Talks FIGHT VALLEY, MMA/UFC-led Action Films

mma5Opening today (July 22nd), Rob Hawk’s FIGHT VALLEY explores the death of a female fighter, who was killed during an underground fighting ring and stars UFC Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey-defeater Holly Holm, and UFC newbie Cris “Cyborg.” The action film is one that’s very realistic and quite an enjoyable experience. We thought it would be cool to chat a bit with Writer/Director Hawk regarding the film, its inspirations and what attracts people to UFC/MMA fights. Read on!

What inspired the story of a woman trying to solve the death of her sister?

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

Tapping up and coming real life MMA/UFC fighters is a good touch, it adds to the authenticity of the project. Did you always envision Holly and Meisha in the film’s roles?

I originally had cast Ronda Rousey for the role. I don’t think anyone knows that. We never locked her in contractually. We exchanged a few emails with her camp and ultimately she had been doing her first film at the time as well. Her schedule was going to conflict with ours. I was new to the whole UFC sport. Ronda mmaseemed to be the biggest name at the time while I was doing my research. I thought ,”Man it would be neat to get this girl to star in the film because she hasn’t done anything big in film yet.” I think I can get her. After not attaching Ronda I decided to study the UFC rankings more in depth. Every time I Googled Ronda Rousey I would see pictures of two other fighters: Miesha Tate and Cris Cyborg. I quickly learned that these girls all had a constant feud with each other. I wanted to act quickly and approach Miesha because I knew that someday she will be seeing Ronda in the octagon and so would Cris Cyborg. It was certain that Cris or Miesha would eventually have the title. I didn’t expect to get them both but I shot an offer over to both of them and to my surprise they both agreed. So Miesha became “Jabs,” who trains another girl to fight someone who killed her sister, and Cyborg, as tough as she looked and IS, well….she became the killer. Holly came about because I needed a female who could challenge Miesha and match her strength. Cabrina Collesides, who plays Jamie, told me about Holly. After watching Holly’s fighting highlights, I knew that Holly was unstoppable and headed for a big fight eventually with all these other girls. I just knew they all were going to be title exchangers some day and the movie would re-circulate in the media over and over every time each of them would fight each other. From a marketing standpoint, it worked out exactly as planned. Did I know them personally? No. Did I know they could act? No. It was a shot in the dark and we crossed our fingers. What I do know is that the three of them are extremely nice and professional , and it was very sad to see them depart from the set. They all hold a dear place in our hearts and they came on set and gave it their all .

What is it about MMA/The UFC that so many people seem to latch onto?

We live in a fast paced world where almost everyone is on the edge. Everyone is stressing to make ends meet. At the end of the day, we seek to de stress using mma3many different tactics. Watching sports such as MMA/UFC and two fighters beating each other to a pulp is actually quite entertaining for a lot of people. As humans we are competitive by nature. Sports such as baseball , football, basketball and the like are all team related. The MMA sport allows us to really focus and devote our attention onto one character, one champion. This goes way back into early centuries. Pit fighting or hand- to-hand combat between soldiers, gladiators, vikings and the like. Is it fair to say that we love to sit and watch people beat each other to a bloody pulp? Might sound a little grotesque or offensive, but it’s the world we live in and it’s been around for centuries. Throwing women into the sport certainly spiced it up a notch. The way that the UFC/MMA will draw up the friction between two fighters in their marketing campaigns, and with the ever growing trend of cyber bullying being so easy now, people want to see the outcome of the fight because one fighter called said something inappropriate about another fighter. The “Oooohhhhhhhhh shiiiiittttt” factor kicks in and you are almost forced to run to the TV at fight time to see them beat the crap out of each other after all the tough talk online.

I love how realistic the fighting seems in the film. Was that approach something you really wanted to push for, the almost MMA/UFC event tone?
I originally wanted to do a film that was ALL real fighting. That was going to be my marketing pitch. I wanted REAL hits, REAL blood. This would certainly be something everyone would talk about right? So my plan , to limit the amount of injury, was to cast REAL fighters who can take a REAL hit. This plan wouldn’t go over too well with your everyday regular actors. Someone would get hit and head home crying. If I got fighters who took punches in the face for a living I could possibly pull this off. Needless to say, that plan failed. (I’m still doing it someday though) So we went ahead and did the standard fight choreography, fake hits and such. Ultimately I wasn’t 100% satisfied, but what can you do? I am going to step it up in Fight Valley Part 2.

What’s next for you, another fighting film perhaps?

I have 3 films in near future. A film called “WORTHLESSwww.theworthlessmovie.com , FIGHT VALLEY 2: Lockdown (Now Casting UFC fighters), and CON-8 with Jessica Eye.