So your upcoming project is well on track. The Scenic Designer is onboard with your concept, costuming is coming in well under budget, Light and Sound plots are all but nailed down. Things are looking good.

But, uh-oh, there’s a sword fight at the end of Act 2. Now what?

Do we really NEED to hire a Fight Director? After all, we’ve all seen Braveheart and Troy, can’t we just fake it? Is a Fight Director really necessary — after all, I’m pretty sure that they’re expensive and it would take time away from the “real” rehearsals!

Inevitably, these topics will arise in most pre-production meetings, even in Equity houses where the rules are much more stringent regarding fight scenes and actor safety. But let’s forget actor safety for a moment (that’s another post) and focus solely on the physical storytelling of your script.

So you have a sword fight. I am pretty sure that Shakespeare, not wanting for words, did not prescribe a fight for lack of textual inspiration. And I am also quite sure that the placement of the fight is not only intentional, but also necessary for the development of the dramatic action/plot.

Fight Theory,” much like Musical Theory, adheres to the principle that dialogue can only go so far. That is, when words fail, violence begins (or song in the case of a musical). The fight must happen because of the inability of language to contain the dramatic action.

All this aside, how do we know, and I mean really know, when acquiring the services of a Fight Director is an absolute necessity?

Here are some tell-tale signs to look for:

1. Your armory consists of 3 cup-hilt epees and a stainless steel smallsword.

2. You are considering slo-mo fight “choreography” to make it more suggestive

3. When you hear an actor say: “It’s okay, just slap me”

4. When your fight scene is silent…literally.

5. You are considering Shakespeare in the Park for summer stock

6. If you interpret “They Fight” as just another stage direction

7. When you hear the director say: “It’s okay, just slap him”

8. Your lead actor lists “Combat Expert” under Special Skills

9. If you think that fencing is sword-fighting

10. If you think The Matrix is an adequate fight training video