Rob: Hello Zara, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Zara: More than a pleasure. Now stop creeping and ask me the questions ha-ha
Rob: You are a remarkable 13 times World Martial Arts Champion. Could you let us have details of what started you into this field, together with your disciplines?
Zara: I started in martial arts when I was a wee little girl aged 7, originally my dad got me into Shotokan Karate under the tuition of Mick and Wayne Tucker, in fact I remained studying karate for 6 years but in that time I’d also been fortunate enough to be accepted for tuition at the renowned school of champions academy in Nottingham. From there I continued training in Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do, Ho Shin Sul, Sport Karate and Shaolin Wu Shu and developed into the national team in competition, although I enjoyed my years in international tournaments , martial arts is a way of life for me, I love to study and teach rather than compete.
Rob: How did you get into the world of screen fighting?
Zara: I was actually competing in USA when I got spotted for a film, on returning to UK after the film project (which was a Sci -Fi, no martial arts at all) I got the indie film bug, and it was then I realised to my amazement there was so much going on back here with stunt fighting in martial art UK productions. With my connections in the states along, with friends here in UK, it soon became more common to study screen fighting , how it works, the difference between film fighting techniques and real martial arts etc. In fact I got asked to teach some workshops on it as I got more and more detailed in the technicalities of industry standards such as line of impact, falls, safety lines, etc. There is a big network of screen fighters here in the UK, but martial art practitioners are generally un- aware of this, especially those who aspire to become martial art actors. So the workshops provided a good link up for this.
Rob: This year you have managed to set up the UK Black Salt Screen fighting Team, as well as become the UK Representative for the Fighting Stunts Association (the stunt team behind Sin City). That is incredibly quick! What is the secret to your success?
Zara: The secret is this, it’s nothing to do with me, it’s the fact that so many martial artists out there didn’t realise screen fighting was about, everyone thinks that you need to be a registered stunt person and go through all that, which is good but not the only avenue for martial art actors. The Black Salt team was made up out of a demand for networking and team practice in screen fighting, we are very lucky to have such a great group of people involved from around the country, up coming stars like yourself, Kayley Marke, Rob Comrie, and so many others. There are other teams in the UK, all very good, and with this brings more awareness to the indie film maker who didn’t have access to action fighters before for their projects. FSA got in contact soon after Black Salt team appeared, after talking to them extensively over a couple of months I found we were really on the same page, my involvement with them came out of the fact I really like what they are doing for martial artists to get into film industry, whether it be small or big budget, plus the knowledge is invaluable to the team.
Coming back to building the Black Salt screen fighter team, another inspiration is the team from Glasgow – The Total Combat team. They are awesome, I really like their work, in-fact I’m able to work with them on a project at present. The more teams that
form the better I think, because there will be more indie productions as well as bigger production opportunities. Hopefully the UK will start having regular action martial art related films being made with all this talent available.
Rob: Who in the martial arts film world is your inspiration?
Zara: Bruce Lee still does it for me. You just think, the films were made in the 70’s yet he still commands that tingle down your spine when he is on screen. Jet Li is also a hero of mine, but to be honest I love most martial art movies, USA, HK, Europe etc, Cynthia Rothrock I’m a big admirer of too, I still think she’s the queen of martial arts ha-ha
Rob: Zara, you will soon be shooting, “Shiai – The Game”. What would audiences see that would differ from the majority of current martial arts films?
Zara: My character I am hoping will show that a female can hold her own on the screen with having to battle different styles and not fight the same but adapt and adapt well to survive, I think that will be different for a female lead character in a martial art film, so fingers crossed.
Rob: What in your opinion, makes a good fight sequence?
Zara: wow, well it all depends on the project. Different projects mean different type of fight scenes and choreography. I must admit one of my favourite and hard worked fight scenes to date is with Joey Ansah (Bourne Ultimatum). We worked on the film ‘Underground’ and the fight scene in that wasn’t your typical girl kicks high etc, it was a tough battle and we both came out with bruises, I for one knew when I came out of that, that we’d done a good job. I think as long as an audience can see the fighters really work it, then the fight scene should be cool , but lets not forget is down to the editors after that ha-ha.
Rob: I have attended your screen fighting seminars; and whilst challenging, are most enjoyable. What do you see happening for the stunt team you have created?
Zara: I haven’t created the team, the team have created themselves, a bunch of positive thinking talented people coming together on a common ground. I think the team like other teams in the UK will continue to grow and develop in various projects, whether it is on film, TV, commercials or music video’s. Obviously a lot of them work with me on projects I am sometimes involved with, but they also work on their own stuff too. The team is about being a team, supporting each other in whatever we are doing, whether we are involved in the same project or not, it’s a support and training base. I know you’ll see more of the team in the near future appearing on big and little screens.
Rob: Furor appears to be a change in direction for you. How do you think this project will challenge you Zara?
Zara: hmmm, without giving too much away? Lol Ok , well Furor for me is a acting challenge, you are hopefully going to see some demanding acting from me emotionally, well at least though parts of the film ha-ha. It is a change for me, as all the roles I’ve played so far are tough chicks, and in this for some part I do as well, but there is also a very different type of role for me too, without letting out too much :o)
Rob: What advice would you give to anyone who is interested in venturing into the martial arts media industry?
Zara: Seek good advice, I’m not the one to give it, I’m still new and a baby to all this. But, there are some good people out there, people who have made it so to speak and with real experience in this industry. They are here in the UK, and they are nice people too. Talk to the action actors that are doing the work out there, I for one have learnt a lot in this last year alone by networking. I’ve been fortunate to work with the likes of Mark Strange, Nathan Lewis, your self, Joey Ansah, all the guys on the Underground project (some awesome peeps on there) also working with George and Mandy at Total Combat has helped me a lot. Network, Network, Network!
Recently I joined the SOOPA 8. An amazing group of models, actors, performers and business venture’s, even through this, networking and gaining knowledge has been incredible. There are a lot of talented and helpful people out there, so again, start networking!
Rob: I got to know you via Myspace. How do you rate Myspace as a networking tool for screen fighters?
Zara: It’s great. We may never have met if it wasn’t for Myspace. Now look at us… we’re working on two films together one in the States & one in the UK, you can’t argue with that! Myspace is great for contacting people you didn’t get opportunity to contact directly before, so for networking it is cool, as long as you keep it professional. However, with every good thing comes the down side, and yes Myspace has its down side too. Like some unprofessional people on there dare I say, in fact, there are a lot of profiles of stars that aren’t really their profiles. I talk to a well known international actor (not going to name him) who actually has 3 myspace sites claiming to be him, although none are!
Rob: How do you juggle your martial teaching with your screen fighting projects? You never seem to rest!
Zara: it’s tough, but I love it so much (teaching and screen fighting) that it doesn’t seem as tough as what it looks on paper. I run a full time business with my academy in Mansfield, the Personal best Academy , here’s my plug – www.personalbestacademy.com ha-ha. I love the place, the students and the fellow team staff. I’m also still a member of the School of Champions Academy, which is still my training home, training these days are limited for sure, the hardest transition is from my usual 7 days a week training (sometimes twice a day) to now juggling between teaching, managing, filming and finding that one moment where I can use the opportunity to train. That is the hardest thing, as training is still my biggest buzz.
Rob: I am fortunate to be a member of your stunt team, and you have become a great friend. What is your philosophy on life Zara?
Zara: To beat you up if you call it my stunt team again lol… Seriously though, I just love life itself, corny, simple I know, but it’s true. I love martial arts as you know, and I seriously love the film industry related stuff, but for me as a person, meeting people, different cultures etc is something that means so much. Being the best person you can be with yourself is surely something to look back on with pride. Have a goal in life, then keep that aim, if you haven’t got goals then how do you live your life?
Rob: Where does Zara Phythian see herself in the future?
Zara: 80 year old woman in the back garden doing her tai chi and loving it :o) the rest in between? Well, I intend to enjoy… whatever it may be.
Rob: Thank you very much for doing this interview. I wish you all the success in the future.
Zara: I wish you success too, you thoroughly deserve it sir!
Interview by Rob Ho