Fight Choregraphy with
Chuck Oneill

To make a good fight scene you need a professional fight choreographer.

Did you know that the best film fight scenes are planned down to the last detail?

Every action or fight choreographer has
their own process and style.

What is Film Fight Choreography?
Why Do You Need Fight Choreography?
Film Fight Choreographer in Malta

Every action or fight choreographer has their
own process and style.

Train with the best

What is Film Fight Choreography?

Nothing you see in a film action scene happens by accident.

Every punch, kick, choke, throw – even the use of props – is mapped out in detail by a fight choreographer. It’s then rehearsed repeatedly by stunt performers, actors and the choreographer long before it’s filmed. Ironically, all of this is needed to give you the effect of a “spontaneous” film fight scene.

A fight scene can be something as simple as a few punches between the actors, a quick gun or knife disarm. It can also be as complex as a full 5-minute sequence with multiple actors, stuntmen, weapons, props, breakables and special effects.

A well choreographed fight scene can be gritty and realistic (like The Bourne Identity) or range to the fantastical and improbable (like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). It really depends on the film genre, performer skills, story plot – and the directors’ vision.

And to make a good fight scene you need a professional fight choreographer.

Why Do You Need Fight Choreography for Film?

There are several reasons that professional productions use a fight choreographer:

Most people don’t realize that fighting on film translates very differently to fighting in real life. A brutal street fight in real life can often look weak or boring on film.

Or, if it’s too fast and tight, the audience won’t be able to follow the movements visually – leaving them confused. A professional fight choreographer understands how different physical movements translate on to film.

They can craft a fight scene that looks both believable – and interesting to the audience. This can elevate the film, enhance the actor’s character – and give the audience something to remember.


A good fight choreographer also ensures that all of the space is used to the full effect and that the fight scene fits with how the director wants to film. Directors have different filming styles. As a fight choreographer, it’s my job to make sure the action scene can be done so it fits seamlessly with the director’s filming style and vision.

Fight scenes have an element of risk (especially for inexperienced performers or actors). It’s a fight choreographer’s job to make sure the action is mapped out, planned and rehearsed so we can minimize the risk of injury. I also need to be aware of just how far each actor and stunt performer can go, their skill set and control level – as well as how they will interact with those around them.

Working with a fight choreographer isn't just about creating visually stunning action—it's about crafting moments that resonate with audiences.

A fight choreographer also usually trains the main actors (or stunt performers) in the action sequences, taking into account their strengths, weaknesses and overall abilities.

An action scene is much harder on the actors than a regular scene. They have to learn the movements, make them look crisp and sharp – while also reacting in a believable way. This is a lot to handle in a short space of time. As a fight choreographer, it’s my job to work with actors to help them learn the sequence quickly, look authentic while doing it – and feel comfortable during the process.

So a fight choreographer does a lot of things. Ultimately, they design a fight scene that fits seamlessly into the film, matches the director’s vision, elevates the story – and keeps everyone safe.

Film Fight Choreographer in Malta – An Overview of the Process.

Every action or fight choreographer has their own process and style.

As a film fight choreographer currently working in Malta, I like to pull from my background of over 30 years in martial arts and defensive tactics including Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, Wing Chun Kung Fu, Filipino Kali (empty-hand, knife and sword), Kick-boxing, Jeet Kune Do, and World War 2 Combatives. I’ve also used some of the tactics I learned as a Close Quarter protection specialist and from my work with defensive tactics for law enforcement in Canada.

The first thing I like to do when preparing for a project is to read the script from cover to cover. From there I gather ideas as to the style of fighting for given characters, their motivations, how they think, how they would react and move.

The next step is to start visualizing some basic fight choreography based on the script. It’s also imperative to talk to the director to get a better sense of their vision, how they want to shoot the fight sequence, (shooting in segments with multiple angles or as a large “oner”) and any props that we may be using including breakables, weapons, environmental, etc and special effects. I also need to know which actors they’re using and how much of the scene they want the actor to perform (vs stunt doubles).

From there (ideally), we would see the set locations to get a sense of space and environment. At that point, I would bring my fellow Phantom Stunts team members together and develop the fight choreography with pre-viz to send on to the director for their approval and feedback.

After this, the actor(s) come in, so we can meet and do a basic assessment of their skills, abilities, physical limitations etc. This is so we can best adapt the sequence around them, make adjustments as necessary – or identify when a stunt double might be used.

From there, we start actor training – working on key fundamental movements for the fight choreography. I also train the stunt performers in the given action sequences – since this gives us more flexibility in filming options or angles.

At this point I also start working the actors into the actual fight sequences. My goal is to try and break it down into small, digestible blocks at first and adapt the training to their unique learning style. From there we can accelerate their learning as they work on the movements and get comfortable with the choreography.

I update the director on our progress on a regular basis.

As we move closer to the day of shooting – when possible – I like to get to the location a few days beforehand. This is so we can have at least one rehearsal to ensure that all elements work well and make any necessary adjustments. My ultimate goal is to make the day of shooting run as smoothly as possible – with no unexpected issues cropping up.

If schedules permit, it’s also preferred to have the director and DOP present for this rehearsal. This is so we can discuss the strategy to shoot the sequence in the most efficient manner possible and they can bring up any final concerns they have.

On the day of filming, we warm up with the performers, making sure they feel fit and addressing any final concerns they have before shooting. We then do a half-speed rehearsal on set to ensure everyone is comfortable. Then it’s on to the actual filming.

If I’ve done my job well, at the end of the day the director is smiling, the fight scene looks amazing and we’ve done something unique that the audience hasn’t seen before.

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