Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Interview with Fighting Films' Director Danny Hicks about Superstar Judo

If you are a fan of international judo, you must have noticed the recent launch of Superstar Judo, an exciting new judo coaching site that features top international judo players. In the short time since it's been launched, we've already had insightful lessons from the likes of World Champion Neil Adams and Olympic and triple World Champion Jeon Ki-Young. This week, we have lessons from former British international and World Medalist, Euan Burton. Best of all, there are new daily clips for you to look forward to. This is really exciting stuff. There's nothing like it out there.

We spoke to Fighting Films Director Danny Hicks about Superstar Judo and what it takes to get something very high quality like this off the ground.

JudoCrazy: How did the idea of Superstar Judo come about?
Danny Hicks: We knew that we needed to create something new and adventurous. DVDs have been on a downward slope for years now.

We first created a download site, with all of our DVD content as well as new content, available (for purchase and) download. But it just didn’t work and wasn’t exciting enough. We still had the issues we’ve always had with DVDs – which is illegal copying and distribution. The only option we had was a subscription model (streaming videos), where we could not only protect our content, but also adapt to today’s market and the market of the future, which is streaming.

However, if we were going to create a subscription site we would have to get a dojo so we could shoot regularly and produce high quality videos! Quality doesn’t just mean getting top-notch judo stars and ukes, but it also means the background, the audio, the lighting and the cameras must all be the very best too. So a simple dojo would not be enough. We would have to build a studio-dojo just for this. Which is what we did.

We got new premises for our purpose-built studio-dojo, which measures 8m x 8m and has a dedicated filming area. The tatami is sprung and we have branded wall cladding which changes with each shoot. The ceiling is high, which gives us lots of filming options. It is set up to allow us to film with up to seven cameras. The studio is blacked out, with theatrical lighting in place in all corners. It’s the only studio-dojo in the world! The result is what you see in Superstar Judo.

JC: Fighting Films started with selling video tapes and then moved on to DVDs. Now, you are doing streaming. Do you feel the era of DVDs is almost over? What about video downloads? Is that something that you will continue to offer alongside video streams?
DH: Yes, DVDs are on the way out. The lack of sales on DVDs has had a big impact on Fighting Films recently. Get them while you can because we won’t be duplicating any more titles! No more video downloads, this wasn’t working well enough and it would be too much at conflict with the subscription site which is now our premium product.

JC: Fans and practitioners of other martial arts like karate, BJJ, MMA and so on are known to be willing to spend lots of money on martial arts content – whether it's books or videos. Judo players, on the other hand, are notorious for wanting everything to be free. Why do you think that's so and how do you plan to deal with that since Superstar Judo is a paid subscription service.
DH: I don’t necessarily agree with that. I still think there are enough people in the judo world that will pay money for high quality products. Fighting Films has always represented premium quality, whether it’s books, DVDs or judogis. Due to the very high investment we put into the quality of these products we have to price them accordingly. But we’ve always found there’s been a big enough market – though just barely so – to continue producing the highest quality judo products.
Superstar Judo is a cut above everything else we have done so far. As I had mentioned, it’s our premium product across all merchandise. The investment is easily 10 times higher than anything else we’ve done so far. But when you see the clips we put out every day, you will appreciate the investment we have put into this to produce top-quality stuff

We have no doubt that everyone who uses the site will be blown away by the content. This is not just in terms of the judoka we work with, but also the way the content is presented. We are using state-of-the-art filming technology and super slow motion cameras to capture everything in minute detail. You will not miss a single thing. This is excellent for learning judo!

Each and every technique is first shown in its entirety, before it is broken down step-by-step, and then shown from multiple angles. Then the whole technique is put back together again, before you see real-life examples from international competitions. This is judo tuition like never before. Your judo will not be the same again after viewing these lessons!

JC: Having daily content means having to regularly produce new content. You've probably already got quite a lot of content already in the back burner. But won’t it be very challenging going forward, having to continually churn out new material?
DH: Yes, this is the big challenge, especially as its daily content we are releasing. However, we already have enough content in the bank until the autumn. We have already packed in a load of shoots since August last year, featuring both retired and current judokas and we are now in the process of editing all of that.

In the future we hope to have about a year’s worth of content in advance, with perhaps about three months’ worth fully-edited already, at all times. For sure, this is a big challenge but we know it’s achievable as the world of judo is rich with ideas and concepts. It’s just a case of getting it all up on the site.

JC: If a former international champion, or current champion for that matter, sees Superstar Judo and wants to be involved, should he/she contact you?
DH: Yes, absolutely. In fact, some have already approached us! Exciting times and exciting content ahead!

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