Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Zara Phythian- Exclusive interview (C) 2011 Danny Templegod, A Dan's Movie Report Exclusive!

Photo Credit: Aimee Spinks She is a fantastic photographer.

Photo Credit: Emrah Mihyaz /He is an expert at shooting martial arts and architecture Check his website @

Update 6-20-12! Zara Quote, Words to live By, a statement for all time:
"It's time to raise your standards. It's time to expect more out of yourself than anyone else. Accept nothing less than your absolute best in all that you do and you'll have no problem creating your ideal life. After all, you'd expect nothing less than living the life of your dreams."

Actress Zara Phythian has a long history in martial arts, with the release of The Hike in late October she hopes to make a big splash in the movies. Although she has been in several films before The Hike, this film represents her first true starring role. Zara takes time out of her busy schedule for the Dan's Movie Report interview.

What made you get started in martial arts?

I got involved in the martial arts at 6yrs of age. It was pretty much by chance as my father took me to a local shotokan class at the time that my sister had begun training at. Traditionally our family ( 4 girls) have always been involved and encouraged in sports, mainly swimming and water sports which I wasn’t so talented in as my sisters turned out :-) Martial Arts was my thing it turned out, I was hooked on it straight away.

What are the disciplines you are trained in?

Up to now I've crossed trained most my life in various martial arts and continue to do so where I can, traditional martial arts gave me a strong base in my childhood and youth years which included Shotokan Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Sport Karate etc, but I've also trained heavily in Kick-boxing , Reality Martial Arts and Chinese Arts and weapons.

What is your favorite aspect of martial arts?

To be honest, martial arts has been my way of life both physically and spiritually for most my life, although I love and more likely to be known for the modern aspects of martial arts today people who know me know that its the spiritual empowerment that martial arts provides from the true traditions of the art that is my first love with any martial art I study or watch. I love most things about martial arts, no matter the style I'm always fascinated by it.

Photo Credit: "Spirit To Power" documentary martial arts film

How did your teaching career start?

Being a black belt member of the School of Champions for many years was a very special part of my martial arts training and built the direction to my success not only as an instructor but also as an international competitor in various styles, and one of the most influential moments that had a massive impact on my life today was at the age of 16yrs the SOC decided to open a second full time school in Nottingham and I was employed there at the time as a part time Instructor which within a year I soon became a full time manager/instructor of the school on behalf of the SOC. I loved it, for me it was the best decision both my parents and myself had done, The SOC had two major schools in Nottingham, one I taught at the other I trained at, between the two we had around 500 members in Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing and Freestyle Martial Arts, a strong competition team that traveled the world and an awesome traditional standard that never lost it true quality through commercialization. When I look back I often wonder did we take it all for granted at times.

Do you still like teaching even after working as an actress?

Yes, it is my life, I now own/run a successful professional academy myself, have done for the past 6 years here in Mansfield, very much with the same ethos as the original SOC way, we have nearly 200 members , it’s a small family style full time academy, we teach Moo Gong Ryu Tae Kwon Do, Freestyle Karate, my system of Education Development Martial Arts which we call CDK4Kidz including our own version of preschool martial arts for 4yrs to 7yrs, we also have a strong adult membership with Kick-boxing and reality martial arts as well as sport martial arts. I'm really lucky to have the opportunity to do and teach what I love and I have the most amazing and dedicated students, and instructor’s team.

How did the role of The Teacher come about in the movie Underground?

we (Vic and Myself) had recently returned from my first project in USA when I got a call from Mark Strange asking if I’d be interested as a featured fighter in a project they were doing (Underground) . I think at the time we had returned from the states we had started marketing me towards getting involved in the UK screen Fighting circuit and I had just finished a UK music video project as well so I had a tiny bit of show-reel material. Anyway I went to an audition with the direct Chee, he seemed impressed that I could act emotionally (for a martial artist) and that was that I was cast in my first feature on home soil. I have to say, it was a great experience, I was still very new to it, only experience I had on features was from a small budget project in the states, but I learned so much from the Underground shoot and made friends with people who have gone on to do great things like Joey Ansah who went straight on to Bourne Ultimatum and has remained a great source of advice and support.

What about fighting against guys who are much larger than you on film, is it harder?

hmm difficult one because to be fair there are different types of fight choreography , mainly Hong Kong style which is my favorite and much more contact and there's Hollywood style which is a lot less contact but can be just as demanding physically. However I've never found it hard because its males, remember end of the day as long as you are trained it is pretend fighting :-) Most of my competition fighting career I trained only with guys, I've broken my nose, and broken their noses lol, even though it is a sport, martial arts it is for me much more dangerous for injuries than most fight scenes I've done so I think that put me in good stead for action work. That doesn’t mean action fighting on screen is easy because it isn’t, it can me seriously demanding and with that that's when it becomes even more risky with injuries. But fighting men much harder on film, hmm fighting anyone on film is as hard as you put in to it. but also very rewarding.

Any painful stories On Set?

Not really.. I've had a few bruises, a torn hamstring, no broken bones yet, but I’m trying honest lol. I think sometimes because I'm female, the danger is there when someone tries to take it easy, then they don’t fight or take a shot as they would prepare for a male, but as soon as I'm allowed to do my thing that soon changes haha. Male ego's on set have been known to get dented, even hospitalized, but that's all im saying lol :-)

Above Pic: Zara in Iron Monk promo shot

Do you feel that women in action films are getting more roles now than ten years ago?

I feel more actresses are getting action roles yes, but are more Female action actresses getting more roles, I'm not sure about that. Hong Kong and Asia movies yes, here in UK I still think they rely on doubles for the actors, which is understandable as a lot of top action females seem to go in to the direction of stunt work and not acting. The males its different I think, many understand and work towards acting and the study of acting.

What about tackling a dramatic role without any fighting, does that appeal to you?

Of course, this is why The Hike appealed to me. I am constantly trying to find roles as an actress, not as an action actress, although I obviously love the action stuff and doing my own stunts but I know I need to work hard on my acting, as this is what I want to be known as, an Actress (that also kicks ass for real lol)

Regarding your role in Warrioress, not very often an action film has a female based story, must have been fun?

I didn't get much set time as many others, think I did one weekend but as always it was a pleasure to work on a project for Cecily Fay who is an outstanding female martial artist both modern and traditional, and was the first time I got to work with Ross Boyask. It was fun, of course, and very relaxed, I think it was a great concept from Cecily and I know they have put a lot of time and effort in to it. I was also fortunate as for the scene I shot they bought in Joey Ansah to choreograph, which gave the fight scene that extra special touch, I cant wait to see it to be honest :-)

Do you like the action without wires aspect of Warrioress?

Yes , but having said that vie only worked so far in non wired projects :-)  I wouldn't mind a bit of Hollywood wire work though :-)

Above pic: The Hike movie poster

Discussing The Hike, how did you get that role? Was there an audition process?

Ben Loyd Holmes (co star) is the producer of the hike, he wrote the story and we had already been in contact discussing our thoughts mainly on acting and how I wanted to work as an actress and not as a double or stunt person. Originally the Hike was a small budget horror that he cast me for but then I thought all was lost when I heard a better budget had been invested and Rupert Bryan had been attached to direct along with MPH Films (Ghosted) to film it. Ben had met me and kept a lot of faith in me and put me forward to audition with Ru down at MPH Studios, I was so nervous, yes I'd been to auditions before but as an action actress and had the security of what I do behind me to impress so I was always up for it, but this was different, I actually thought I was auditioning for a smaller role as well, which I was more than happy to do , but when I got there and realized it was for the character of Kate I lost it with nerves at the early part of the audition, but I stuck at it, and for some crazy reason Ru and Ben gave me the thumbs up. The hike was another step up for me, working with Jemma, Steph, Lisa - Marie and Barbara could only help me, and it did, I learned a lot and got a lot of help from all of them the guys too :-)

How long was your portion of the filming?

Forever ... no seriously the hike project was the toughest shoot I've ever done thus far, it took about a year to do, we had re-shoots , adr work etc. Because I was so focused in the early days of shooting on the character of Kate in the film it didn’t hit me until the first month in to the shoot how demanding making this would be on all of us. You’ve got to remember that this film is set in summer yet we filmed most of it in freezing cold winter which meant looking like we were having a great time in the hot sun and warm evenings and dressed for that yet we were freezing our butts off big time.

There was some seriously long night shoots , in fact all night shoots were so demanding, mostly 12 hours on set, stop shooting 5am when day light broke then back on set for some day and night shots after little sleep. It was a massive effort as a team, that is what got us through in the end, everyone believed in the project, I was actually quite ill months after it, I honestly gave everything as did everyone else, but the experience of it all was worth it.

I’ve seen a screening of the first cut of the hike but I'm so looking forward to the premiere on 19th October in Leicester Square, I know the UK has the censored version of the Hike as the original cut was really disturbing, but I just want to see how it all turned out and what people think of it. Rupert didn’t put the gore angle on it all, but relied on the horror of the story to sell itself, I think it will be controversial but I think it is very real and believable and with that you get quite uncomfortable with it. It is amazing when you see the scenery and shots on what both Ben and Ru achieved on the budget they were limited to.

Do you have a better appreciation for horror films after shooting The Hike?

I have a better appreciation of indie film-making with a limited budget and making the film cinema quality within that budget regardless of what Genre it is.

Do you feel that women are too often portrayed as victims in horror films?

Not sure really, not these days, but I think it’s also down to what budget level genre you are talking about. For instance it’s pretty much still that way in the non to low budget or B movie genre yes, but the indie and higher budget I think its not as much as it used to be.

What are some of your upcoming film or TV projects?

I’ve been really fortunate to work on some cool projects since The Hike, all of which I'm sure you’ll see more of over the coming months, however at present I'm currently due to start working again with Matt Routledge on his Sim Card project which is being filmed for a 3 episode TV airing in the new year, as well keeping up with work on a couple of commercials before I start on a couple of features such as Dean Meadow’s ‘ Fridays Child ‘ with Cynthia Rothrock and Ben Trebilcooks ‘ Knockout ‘ . I’m also attached to Ben Loyd Holmes next feature ‘ In To The Fire ‘ which I believe we start shooting in the new year as well and the movie ‘ Iron Monk’ along with Silvio Simac. Hopefully it’s a very busy 12 months ahead.

Thanks for your time and for answering the questions.

No problem thank you for having me, hope to see you at The Hike Premiere?

For more information go to her official site @

Follow her on Twitter @!/Zaraphythian