View Full Version : Wacky MA instructor wants to make Ninja movie

7/09/2003 1:29am,

Lcoal martial arts instructor tapes action movie


By Matt Leclercq
Staff writer

Angel Rivera performs a stunt kick on George Beidleman during the filmining of 'Secret Warrior: The Awakening.'

Once upon a time, the Soviets secretly trained children from all over the world to fight like ninja spies. After communism fell, they returned home to live normal lives - until Cuban terrorists prompted the secret warriors to return to duty and kick some bad-guy butt. It sounds so Hollywood, but this adventure was born in Fayetteville. Angel Rivera, a martial arts instructor who owns Angel's Gym on Raeford Road, has spent the past two years developing the plot for his first stab at making a low-budget movie.

Rivera had plenty of material to pull from. Ninety percent of "Secret Warrior: The Awakening," which started shooting in April, will be action sequences. And for that, Rivera has more than 30 years of experience in kickboxing, self-defense, scuba diving and listening to the real-life adventures told by soldiers in his martial arts classes. "I'm going for the realism," Rivera said. "When one of the guys get kicked in the head ... you're going to see blood and teeth and gums fly out. That's what happens when you get kicked in the head. I know: I've been kicked before." Rivera has a leading role in the movie as Nicolai, the leader who trained the secret warriors. A half-dozen others from Fayetteville - including some of Rivera's students, his two grown children and a few friends - also have roles. He needs more extras, especially people who can dance for a nightclub scene in a few weeks. The actors aren't getting paid; they're working for fun. The scenes are shot around town, though the crew expects to go to the Florida Keys later to tape underwater action. For such a complicated story, Rivera is operating on a minuscule budget compared to the usual Hollywood fare. The whole project will cost $30,000 to $40,000, much of which he expects to spend in Florida. Rivera and a cinematographer from New Jersey are putting up the money as an investment.

Rivera wants to distribute the movie through video rental stores. He has contacted one national chain, which told him they would consider the movie once it's finished. That may take several years, unless Rivera finds more investors, he said. With some financial backing, the whole project could be finished in a few months.

Bruce Lee genre

Rivera, who is 54, said he has wanted to make a movie for a long time. He got tired of the fancy, high-budget flicks that star pretty-boy actors who don't know the first thing about martial arts, he said. Rivera wants to return to the old Bruce Lee genre of little dialogue and lots of drop-kicks, mixed with a touch of romantic subplot and humor.

Dennis Desjardins lies on the pavement after getting 'beat up' during a fight scene as cinematographer Todd Wiedeman films. (Staff photo by David Smith)

As described by Todd Wiedeman, the cinematographer from New Jersey: James Bond meets Jackie Chan. "Hopefully, if it works out, we have plans for a No. 2 (sequel) that will be very extravagant," said Wiedeman, whose fish tattoos on his arms reflect his specialty of underwater shooting. "We're going to go wild with the special effects." Wiedeman and a dozen or so of the actors taped scenes June 28. They taped footage of a mock landing in a private jet at Fayetteville Regional Airport, as well as fight scenes in the parking lot of a Bragg Boulevard nightclub. They tape each scene twice - once in English and once in Spanish. Rivera bolted around the parking lot, giving directions and explaining scenes to the "thugs" who get beat up by the secret warriors. "Can you fake pain?" Rivera asked Dewayne Kocher, an extra who was about to fight. "Yeah," Kocher said, a bit hesitant. "I hope so. Or we'll have to do it for real," Rivera said, darting off before Kocher could respond.

Chani Rivera-Basden, left, takes a gun from Dewayne Kocher, in truck, as cinematographer Todd Wiedman films the scene. (Staff photo by David Smith)

Jo Clouse, a 32-year-old lawyer, plays one of the secret warriors named Ice. She's the only actor with experience, having performed in Fayetteville theater productions. "(Ice) is the munitions expert - firearms, explosions," said Clouse, herself a target-shooter. "Her specialty is not ninja fighting. She does a little of that, but more just standing back with a rifle." Two hours later, the fight scenes are finished. The actors are sweating in the humid heat. Tatiana McCuen, a native Russian who plays a well-dressed, classy secret warrior, left a footprint on the chest of the thug she "beat up." "I never realized movie-making takes so long, and it's a lot of work," McCuen said, standing in the shade. Earlier in the day, she pretended to taxi the jet at the airport, and that was fun, she said. But the fight scene seemed to make her nervous. She didn't want to hurt the extra, Dennis Desjardins, with kicks to his stomach.

"Just walking and talking is easier than actually kicking," she said. "It looks so easy on the screen, but it's not."

Staff writer Matt Leclercq can be reached at [email protected] or 486-3551.


Edited by - kungfoolss on July 09 2003 01:53:19

7/09/2003 2:22am,
The cool thing about movies like these is that the actors are primarily martial artists, marksmen(women), and occasionally stuntmen too. What they lack in acting prowess, they more than make up for in crowd pleasing.

This film should be a gooder, as far as B grades go. I look forward to seeing it.

"Everybody knows...if the police have to chase you down, they're brining an ass kicking with them". - Chris Rock

7/09/2003 7:47am,
Dos he do his own stunts :)

7/09/2003 7:50am,
Cool...Angel Rivera? Isn't he the character in Ready2Rumble?

Jeremy M. Talbott

Owner of Kungfools, Scourge of Kungfools' joke-based logic, and the Preeminent Force in putting dumbasses like him to bed

7/09/2003 8:32am,
Most people in low-budget film do their own stunts - they[producers] can't affort to pay for a professional stunt person to double for actors.

Especially the actors just starting and trying to make a name for themselves try to do their own stunts in low-budget films. Lots of bumps and bruises(and worse) for these ambitious actors, moreso when someone with experience isn't avalable to ensure safety.

What is really bad is when one of those well-meaning actors gets a few films under their belt, then thinks they can coordinate fight or stunt scenes. Usually leads to more injuries, which the production is trying to avoid.

R. McLain

7/09/2003 5:26pm,
The cool thing about movies like these is that the actors are primarily martial artists, marksmen(women), and occasionally stuntmen too. What they lack in acting prowess, they more than make up for in crowd pleasing.

This film should be a gooder, as far as B grades go. I look forward to seeing it.

Oh like Gymkata, No Retreat No Surrender 1 & 2, Kickboxer 2 & 3, and many more. You got to be kidding me.

7/09/2003 6:22pm,

"I do injoy using words like **** **** bitch ho etc."

7/09/2003 7:32pm,
Ok Ok I'll leave Gymkata out of this. There are plenty of below B-movie martial arts flicks out there. I'm sure this will be another one for the pile.