About three dozen people are crowded around the boxing ring in Lower Sackville's Clinch Martial Arts & Wrestling Academy, cheering as two fighters face off. But a glance around the room shows that this isn't your usual kickboxing match. The ring is lit up by several tall floodlights while two cameras record the action. Off to the side stands a make-up artist, a bottle of gelatin and water in hand, ready to spray fake sweat on the actors if the real thing doesn't come soon.
The fight is actually a pivotal scene from Blood Fight, an independent martial arts film being shot in Nova Scotia. It's the third movie from Bad Acting Good Kung Fu, a small movie studio lead by former Canadian karate champion Elliot Scott. Its first project, They Killed My Cat, was a revenge flick shot in New Brunswick for $5,000. In it, Scott plays an amnesiac man who must find the men who killed his girlfriend (and the titular pet cat). It can be rented from Video Difference for free as part of the store's emerging filmmakers program.
Scott says he and the crew were as surprised as anyone when the film broke records. "The first one actually became the highest grossing independent film in New Brunswick history and with that we were shocked," Scott says. "I didn't even know we hit those record numbers until I got a phone call from the CBC and they said, 'You've sold over 3,200 copies, you now have a record for the province.' I was like, 'Wow, really?'"
Bad Acting Good Kung Fu used the profit to make Stalker and the Hero, which they hope to release later this year. While the two previous films were mostly shot in New Brunswick, for Blood Fight Scott moved the base of operations to Nova Scotia since that's where most of the crew lives.
Before making They Killed My Cat Scott was involved with other martial arts films, including Direct Contact, in which he fought B-movie icon Dolph Lundgren. "He told me that with my background," Scott says, "I should start doing my own movies."
But when it comes to stunts Scott takes more after Jackie Chan, putting himself in danger over and over again for the sake of the movies. Since starting up Bad Acting Good Kung Fu, Scott has set himself on fire, jumped from one moving vehicle to another, jumped back and forth between buildings, and crashed through a glass skylight.
Today, the most dangerous thing he plans to do is a couple of backflips, but there's still a nurse on set, just in case. While Scott doesn't shy away from the stunts and admits that's what people come to see, he says his real goal with the films is to showcase different aspects of Asian culture. The films feature not only various martial arts but also a traditional Korean fan dance, a Japanese tea ceremony and a Cantonese lion dance.
"There's a lot more to martial arts than fighting, and people don't see that in movies today," he says.
Like the previous films, the budget for Blood Fight is low, with most of the film's funding coming from a grant from the Japan Film Society and Scott's own pocket. The movie relies on volunteers and local businesses for extras and places to film. But as the crowd around the ring proves, there are plenty of people willing to come out and cheer on the good guys.
"People like that I'm making a high-powered energy action film in the Maritimes, and no one else is really doing that," Scott says. "I don't know anyone else who is jumping through real glass windows or from building to building."