James Bamford, Director Part 2: Bold Choices, Awesome Action

There’s so much more going on than what the audience sees on screen and the choices Directors such as James make, enhance any given scene.

Bold Choices

There has been much discussion over James Bamford’s use of a handheld camera in shooting fight sequences. Handheld cameras helps to connect the viewer to the fight, highlight the complex choreography and convey a rush of adrenaline.

Myth 2. Only uses handheld cameras for fights

I chatted to James on his choice of cameras and he explained and busted Myth 2:

“I don’t just use handheld… it depends on the fight/action and the set. I use steady cam… easy rig… dolley… hand held…. techno crane… talon head. I use whatever tool I feel does the job actually. … I’m never restricted to one style as I like to keep an open mind.”


In addition to his choice of camera, James Bamford made important changes to lighting to help set the mood and in Season 5 he incorporated slo-mo effects that look pretty damn cool on screen. In fact it looked so cool that I’ve seen slo-mo effects replicated in other Director’s episodes this season.



GIF Source: jbuffyangel

James loves filming “oners” (one camera filming the scene with no cuts) and it has come to be a signature of his style. While it’s a challenge to shoot oners; keeping the audience engaged while navigating any set obstacles, if it is done successfully the results are brilliant. James has masterfully delivered some of the best oners to date on the show.

In the Behind the Scenes video of the stunts in Brotherhood, James and Fight Choreographer Curtis Braconnier break down what it took to bring the action to the screen.

Arrow Stunts – Bam Bam’s Ballet of Death from imwebgurl on Vimeo.

Bam Knows Action

With James’ experience in fight choreography he knows how to make a fight look incredible on screen, including the best angles. James has been filming pre-viz (pre-vizualization) videos during stunt rehearsal for many years. Pre-Viz is almost like a moving storyboard.

In an interview with Wayfaring Dreamer, Bamford says, “I like to demonstrate how a fight or sequence should be shot to an oncoming director by shooting a pre-visualization of each major sequence in that particular directors’ episode. I shoot our fight rehearsals, and in cooperation with my assistant Curtis, we edit the footage into a well-timed, organized sequence.”

James Bamford talks training Stephen Amell, directing Arrow, and more – Wayfaring Dreamer

For the episodes that James directs, he works closely with the other members of the Stunt Department and gives them a very clear understanding of what he wants in terms of action sequences.

As Curtis Braconnier, fight choreographer for the episode, describes in the BTS video for Brotherhood “BamBam’s Ballet of Death:

“With the guidance that he’s given us, it’s been no problem. The action that we have is bigger than ever, but it’s an easy path.”

James has directed 3 episodes in Season 5, working crossboard on the first two episodes of the season (shooting two episodes simultaneously) and also the 100th episode, each an enormous challenge.

arrow invasion cast
Arrow — “Invasion!”

In addition to the challenges of co-ordinating actor schedules for the epic 100th episode/crossover, James also dealt with weather issues as he told to CBR:

“The biggest challenge for the act-five sequence would have been the weather, the storm that we encountered. We weren’t alone. I believe one or two of the other shows – “Flash” and possibly “Legends” – also encountered the same challenges. A big rain storm came through Vancouver and really did a number on anybody who happened to be filming outdoors those days. Everybody came together, pushed through and toughed it out. I’m really proud of what we got out of that.”

Arrow Director Leads the Charge Against CW Crossover’s Alien Invaders – CBR

Stay tuned for Part 3: James Bamford, Director Part 3: It’s More Than Action.

If you missed Part 1, check it out – James Bamford, Director Part 1 – Mythbusting & Delivering a Fresh View

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