Interview with an Action Coordinator: Ronin Traynor Discusses his Work on Ren

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Sophie Skelton and Ronin Traynor_by Laura Radford

Ren: The Girl with the Mark, the award-winning indie fantasy series, has entered the last few days of its Kickstarter campaign to fund new episodes. In this final part of our behind-the-scenes series about the show, we talk to action coordinator Ronin Traynor of Independent Drama to find out how the impressive fight sequences were devised and staged.

Ronin, what was your career path to becoming an action coordinator?

I initially did an insane amount of stage combat training courses and then some actor training. After about six years I undertook teacher training with the British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat. The teacher training really complimented some of the skills needed for coordinating and I had over a decade of event management prior to that which has also proven beneficial. After choreographing on a few theatre shows and short films I was fortunate to be asked back or recommended to other people and it just developed from there. 

How did you get involved with Ren?

I met director Kate Madison on Born of Hope [her popular Lord of the Rings fan film] as I brought a small fight team along to one of the action shoots. It was great fun and we stayed in contact, so when Ren came around we essentially sat down and had a meeting to see what was possible. 

What sort of prep and rehearsal was involved for the fights?

Prep varied greatly. For some of the action, such as Lyanna’s fight, I created pre-visualisation so that the director and DoP (director of photography) could get an idea of what I wanted to achieve and see if that matched with their thoughts and ideas. I got to work with the actress during that process, but other action I had to create on the day.

Ronin Traynor and Christopher Dane_by Laura Radford

What were your influences when designing the fights for Ren?

I wanted Hunter to be practical and efficient, and Lyanna to be nimble and avoid a lot which suited their physics and provided a contrast between the two friends. For Karn a little influence came from characters such as Strider from Lord of the Rings with a sense of direct purpose.

On a more basic level I designed the fights around the people the main cast had to fight. We had quite a mix of people ranging from experienced fight performers to people who had never picked up a sword before so it was important to balance what’s actually achievable versus what I may want artistically.

Richard Zeman, Neil Oseman, Ronin Traynor and Duran Fulton Brown_by Laura Radford

How did the main cast handle their action scenes?

Pretty well. All the cast had to do their own fights and we had a fast work rate. They had to pick up choreography relatively quickly and handled that with enthusiasm. We were fortunate (or it was good casting!) that quite a few of the actors had done a decent amount of action before Ren so we did some back-to-basics training but did not have to start from scratch.   

Duran Fulton Brown_by Laura Radford

Were there any particular challenges on Ren?

Yes, there were many, mainly due to not having the resources available that would normally go with this scale of show. The fact that Ren even exists is a testament to the hard work of the Ren family and its supporters.

The Kah’Nath military uniforms, which looked amazing and really helped bring the world of Ren to life, had some practical drawbacks. They were generously loaned to production and when you’re crowdfunding you’re grateful for such help, but the upper body chest armour was very inflexible. The main costumes created by Miriam Spring Davies were great however, and allowed us to get much more natural movements from our actors.

We also relied on volunteers to fill the roles of Kah’Nath soldiers. They were the lifeblood of the production and were willing to help out both in front of and behind the camera. For fighting this meant a very quick intro to sword work before shooting the action. For some fights this all happened in the same afternoon.

A specific challenge was that just before we were about to shoot the forest fight, actress Dita Tantang (Lyanna), dislocated her shoulder in an unrelated random occurrence. After she had it popped back in she managed to perform the fight, saving the scene, as there was no opportunity to go back later and do pickups.

Christopher Dane_by Laura Radford

What are you looking forward to tackling in the new episodes?

I’m excited to work with the cast, crew and all the volunteers again as it’s a really great set. I’m looking forward to hopefully having a little more lead-in time so we can source some decent prop weapons. We’ve also got quite a few fight team people interested in working on the new episodes, so that will help raise the bar for action to another level.

Cast And Crew_by Laura Radford

You can help Ren: The Girl with the Mark bring all this exciting action to the screen by helping it reach its Kickstarter target by midnight (UK time) on Saturday the 29th of February. You can back the show at kickstarter.com/mythica/projects/ren2 and get various rewards in return, from collectibles to unique on-set experiences.