February 6, 2020

Dive into the Stunt Secrets from 'Birds of Prey'

Birds of Prey - Cathy Yan
Are you an up-and-coming director working with stunts and VFX for the first time? Then you can learn a lot from Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan.

The newest DC superhero movie Birds of Prey comes out this weekend and we couldn't be more excited. The film digs deeper into the psyche of Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, who gets into fresh hijinks alongside Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

Among the tantalizing behind-the-scenes footage being released this week is a quick glimpse at the fight choreography from IGN. Watch it below.

Working with Stunts for the First Time?

The film's director, Cathy Yan, exploded onto the scene with her Sundance-winning feature, Dead Pigs. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, she admitted feeling uncertain about taking on this much bigger project and even called Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins for advice.

"I’d never had preproduction for so long," Yan told the Post. "I’d never worked with this many people. I’m working with two departments—VFX and stunts—that I’d never worked with before.”

How does a director take on such a daunting project?

Jenkins told Yan to embrace the fact that no one can know the film better than they do. So take ownership of your work, know it inside out, and you'll be able to make decisions that reflect your goals fully.

Assemble a Great Team

To create the film's fast-paced action sequences, Yan turned to fight coordinator Jon Valera and stunt coordinator Jonathan Eusebio. Both have worked on films like Deadpool 2 and Black Panther. Both are also members of the stunt group 87eleven, which was founded by John Wick director Chad Stahelski.

Which worked out well for everyone, especially since Yan wanted a John Wick and Hong Kong-style of fighting in Birds of Prey, a fighting style that relies on practical, in-camera choreography, and very little CGI.

Birds of Prey - Margot Robbie
Credit: DC Comics/Warner Bros.

Yan recently told Slashfilm that she and Eusebio both share a love for Jackie Chan action movies, which she wanted to emulate in her work.

"Jonathan Eusebio, who’s our stunt coordinator, we really got along and we talked a lot about Jackie Chan movies and how practical it was and how you weren’t cutting really quickly," Yan told Slashfilm. "You’re kind of staying on it and staying on the action."

This is a great example of a director having a clear vision and finding exactly the right team, who is just as passionate about her ideas.

In addition, Yan has been open about the fact that the studio asked for some reshoots of the action sequences, which went to Stahelski, who served as second-unit director. This will hopefully keep the film's aesthetics and fight style cohesive since so many 87eleven teammates are cooperating.

All of this sounds amazing, but in addition, longtime Darren Aronofsky cinematographer Matthew Libatique shot Birds of Prey, so it's sure to look gorgeous, as well.

What's next? Check out more on Birds of Prey

Learn how Yan pitched her way into a big-budget DC film. Check out our interview with Yan about her first film, Dead Pigs. Then read our take on how Yan preserved her vision in Birds of Prey.

Will you be seeing the movie this weekend? Let us know in the comments!     

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