~Samantha Swords

New Zealand/Aussie artist, writer, and sword-fighter, works in the film industry as cast and crew. Outgoing, adventurous and in love with life!

Swords in New York

image

image

It was awesome to be visiting Sword Class New York this Monday when the NY Times published their awesome coverage on competitive Historical European Martial Arts, featuring the very people I was training with!

(Below: The NY Times bring their cameras to Longpoint, one of the major HEMA competitions in North America)

image

thingsthatliveinmybrain said: You're probably asked this a lot and I understand if you can't give a direct answer. I know you've said your chest armor was made by a friend at WETA, but what about the rest of your fencing gear? The sword in your photo is also particularly good looking.

That’s a good question! I have a collection of gear from lots of places, a lot of it was made by blacksmiths in the medieval reenactment community, or from suppliers like Revival Clothing. The sword that I fought the Harcourt Park tournaments with was made of surgical steel and borrowed from a friend, as my weapon at the time wasn’t as good. :)
I made my own shoes and parts of my armour, and jointly built my gauntlets with the creator of the green breastplate. I also modified and built a lot of my own medieval helmet, which isn’t seen in the photo. I hope that helps. My apologies for the late reply!
Cheers,
~S

cantankerous-hack said: What have you written and where can it be read?

Hey C-K,
I’ve worked as a ghostwriter and editor for all kinds of things (such as internet articles), have submitted a lot of political letters and -if I feel it is important enough- take part in the occassional online debate. I recently wrote a guide to Combat With Historical Realism in Roleplay (aimed at tabletop players) which I intend to publish later this year.

Years ago I equaled 2nd place in a national poetry competition in Australia, and I did really well in an LA-based scriptwriting competition for an original TV pilot.
I’ve been actively writing novels, children’s stories and a graphic novel series for the last 8 years, and have been doing world design for much longer than that. I also have developed scripts that have been used for short films and theatre shows.

Most of my writing is for myself or to help out friends. All of my creative work is yet unpublished, so I don’t tend to talk about it. Thanks for asking though!

Regards,
~S

The International Film Fest, some medieval combat, an invitation to Pinewood Studios…. Toronto, you know how to show a girl a good time!
If you’d like to clink a cold glass of something with me this Friday night, I’ll be downtown at the Hair of the Dog (on Church), from 8.
:)
~S

A Swordsmaster for Summer

At last, I have been able to do a proper write up about my outstandingly fun summer!

I’ve always wanted to be part of an ‘American Summer Camp’ experience. Coming from the distant South Pacific, where holidays are a few weeks long at most, the idea of months of endless fun in a camp setting was a real draw for me.
image

Then I was invited to take part in Guard Up’s Wizards and Warriors summer camps, which are live action role play adventures themed as an apocalyptic zombie war (with Nerf blasters and water pistols) followed by two medieval-fantasy sessions. Each camp is unique, with a continuous and completely dynamic storyline that adapts to the decisions young Heroes make within the world.


Run by a team of multi-skilled actor/counsellor/educators, the fantasy world is populated by monsters and NPCs, and filled with quests that build up to an overall story.
(For more on Zombie Camp, check out my previous post or see the camp video)

image

Above: My character seeks aid from the greater spirit Coyote, a master trickster who is only engaged when he is entertained. To achieve this, she burst into spontaneous singing and dancing for his (and the Heroes’) amusement.

Below: One does not simply waste summer…
image

There is a strong educational component (cunningly disguised as ways to upskill a character) and young heroes have the ability to solve problems together that lead to solutions within the game. The camps are set in the world of Sidleterra, a place that has the power to summon beings from mythology or literature, and Heroes to fight for the good of the land. This year was a combined Doctor Who and Norse theme, and my character was revealed to be really be Muninn, one of the Ravens of Odin.

image

Above: Charging into battle with fellow Heroes.


Roleplaying a character every hour of the day for weeks on end was wonderful fun. Samwyn Silverheart was a shapeshifting warrior who was fierce, decisive and brave. She had a deep moral code, was quick to act against enemies, and could be ridiculously silly in the company of friends. Having spent thousands of years changing into raven form she had some very birdlike mannerisms, was very proud and sometimes easily offended, especially when other characters joked about birds. She could also be overwhelmed by masses of Heroes running at her, and definitely did not like dogs.


image

Samwyn was initially a virtuous paladin-style character but I adapted her into a mysterious figure throughout the course of the story. I did this to work with the young heroes who were making questionable choices in their role play, to show the complexity of still being a hero even when faced with dark decisions and surrounded by monsters. As a counsellor, I crafted a character that could relate to those whom I felt needed guidance the most.

image

Above: Despite walking in the shadows, Samwyn/Muninn was very pious, especially in the presence of the Norse gods or greater spirits of Sidleterra.


Another aspect of my role with the camps was to work with the Rangers, the older campers who were ready to expand themselves and become leaders to others. The Rangers spent a lot of time together on special quests or doing personal development like warrior meditation, stealth exercises, and honing their fighting skills. It was a wonderful rewarding experience to work with these young people in a story setting, but seeing them develop real-world values and abilities.


Below: Instructing a young fighter in the use of swords. Even though the weapons were made of foam and latex, many of the physics from real combat still apply.

image


My overall role was Swordsmaster to all of the heroes of Sidleterra, so I worked with the fighters guild teaching skills that could be adapted within the foam sword game system. Spatial awareness, blade dynamics and self control were useful for heroes of all ages, but with the older fighters I was able to teach more complex skills that related to their chosen weapon.
It was a constant challenge to adapt real combat skills into a safe gameplay system of latex and foam, but the sheer level of fun that drove the camp and everyone that was a part of it made the experience a joy at all times.


For more, check out the great news story on Guard Up’s YouTube channel or check out Wizards and Warriors Summer Camps.


Below: The wonderful team of counsellors bonded over an intense week of training- this included mandatory foam sword wars and water fights.

Far bottom: The camp directors gave all the staff personalised Lego figures of our characters- hand painted with love over several long nights.

image

image

image

image

Camp photographs courtesy of Guard Up! Inc.
Australian Raven photograph by Julian Robinson

Specialty green armour provided by Shari Finn, New Zealand.

image

If you are excited about the revival of medieval fighting arts, check out this Kickstarter by Cédric Hauteville. It’s a beautifully-shot introduction to Historical European Martial Arts, and it’s only the promo.

Note- it focuses on historical swordplay, but if the project achieves its stretch goals it can explore more of the rich martial heritage of the Western world.

For anyone who wants to see a great documentary about real sword arts and their practitioners, this is the project to back!

Manuscript image: From Paul Mair’s “Greatest Work on the Athletic Arts” ca1550

Sunset in Salem

I recently visited Salem, Massachussetts to enjoy a permanent Hallow’een culture, and explore some of the history behind the fame.

image

It may well be a hotspot for Wiccans today, none of the 19 people executed in the mass hysteria of the 1692 trials were actually witches.
Outspoken and bold Bridget Bishop, who dared to push the boundaries on the role of a woman was the first to go.

Bridget sounded like neat lady: headstrong, capable, contested equally with her husbands (she had a few!), dressed as she wanted, owned a tavern and overall didn’t care what society thought of her. She was a clear target for narrow-minded Puritans looking for someone to blame.

Despite being given no graves at the time, Bridget and the other men and women are now honoured with stones in the old town square where people still pay their respects.

image

image

Above: Twilight in the old town square beside the graveyard, where the victims of the insane trails have a marker stone each.

Salem is a terrible reminder of how irrational people can become when they fear someone daring to be different.

In one of history’s ironies, these days one may openly practice witchcraft in Salem, surrounded by a joyous celebration of the occult.

image

Above: At the Cinematic Monster Museum and Nightmare Gallery- a shrine to lovers of classic horror.

Below: A favourite off-beat film of mine is Paranorman, which mirrors the happenings in Salem to tell the age-old tale of the unlikely hero.

It’s a stop-motion masterpiece by Portland’s Laika Studios about how people with special abilities are outcast, but through courage and being better than their persecutors, ultimately valued and understood.

image

image

image

The Strain: Guillermo’s Dream from Book to Screen

It’s exciting to see that Guillermo Del Toro has finally been able to realise his rich and terrifying vision for 'The Strain'.

I worked with Guillermo years ago whilst he was directing The Hobbit, and also had the chance to create a unique window display for his New Zealand release and book signing of The Strain in 2009.

image

Above: Part of the window display for Unity Books, Wellington.

For the display I made a dead version of myself in a body bag, and Guillermo nicked my ‘face’ from it for this freaky photo (below).

image

I’m pleased to see brilliant work that the Toronto special effects team have crafted with Guillermo for the television series- as covered in this month’s edition of Cinefex.

Physical effects are alive and well, especially when this master of storytelling is calling the shots!

image

Above: As seen in Cinefex, actor Andrew Divoff poses beside his sculpted likeness created by the highly skilled artisans at Applied Arts FX Studios.

“To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail.”

—   Ed Catmull (via disneypixar)

Had a blast at the Boston Science Museum with Kiwi fight designers Tony & Josh Wolf, running an ‘Action on Screen’ Workshop for the international computer clubhouse #Teensummit14.

Highlights: teaching shy teenage girls from Jordan how to fight with steel swords (despite language and cultural barriers), connecting with outstanding youth who had never before left their own countries, and hearing the story of an amazing 11 year old who has so much presence and knowledge in her field that she’s teaching adults.

Tomorrow’s leaders look to be all flavours of awesome!