ACTION DESIGN BLOG: Culture, The Missing Element

Football-Culture- the missing element.jpg
Football-Culture- the missing element.jpg

ACTION DESIGN BLOG: Culture, The Missing Element


Do you think the Italians know soccer? Texans know football? Canadians with hockey? The French with car racing? Residents of Hong Kong with Fighting sequences? What about bikers at Sturgiss?

They have one thing in common – Passion. Passion can take you long way to conveying. Passion comes from tradition and tradition comes from culture. 

We talk about the acting, the writing/story, lack of budget, etc. But when making an action movie, sequence, script, the one missing element is often culture. If that is missing, it’s dead, especially in the 2nd unit realm.

A filmmaker who has my deep respect is Oliver Stone. Here’s a man that submerses himself in the environment of his story. He is a master at culture. When he wrote the script Scarface, he immersed himself with drug cartels. Platoon, some say those were personal experiences. And, for the purpose of this article, Any Given Sunday. One of the best displays of 2nd unit and culture. Some of the sequences are so real that you actually feel that you are “participating”.

Let’s break this down. Alan Graf, the 2nd unit director, played professional football in the NFL. Dick Butkus, Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor-all legends who changed the game. And mean S.O.B.s on the field! Do you think they had any influence on the filmmaking process? It’s in the details. Stone masterminded that, but it’s his sense of realism that brings the team together.

Stanley Kubrick and James Cameron are great examples too. Kubrick who researched Napoleon amassed a collection of books over a 30-year period. Cameron was obsessed with Titanic. He actually went down to see the Titanic. This will translate, to some degree in realism. The way I see it, is that there is difference between research and absorbing; and experiencing culture. You cannot live life in an Ivory Tower.

Hollywood is a very small community. Despite what you see on TV programs of epic events like the Oscars, filmmaking is a personal business. People like to work with people they trust. They are buying insurance, so to speak. This can be a detriment if that awareness of the subject is not fully known. Moreover, Hollywood is running out of time, as algorithms are not the answer. Culture, won’t save it either, but it will create buzz without social media. A good product, is a good product.

Lawrence Ribeiro

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