Bam Bam: Getting to know James Bamford


Over the years I’ve grown to appreciate the amazing (and sometimes nail-biting, heart-stopping) stunts each of the three shows have produced. And these can’t be done without the wonderful stunt performers that make them possible. Of course, none of these stunts are possible without one key person – the Stunt Coordinator.

I’d planned to profile each of the three coordinators (one every few months). That was, of course, before I researched the SGU coordinator. Turns out their coordinator is the same as Atlantis. And he’s my favourite too!

James ‘Bam Bam’ Bamford

James Bamford holding a plaque sent in by a Stargate fan, at the Bridge Studios, Vancouver BC Canada.

James Bamford holding a plaque sent in by a Stargate fan, at the Bridge Studios, Vancouver BC Canada. Photo taken by Lyn Thomas on 17 July 2007 at 5:57pm after shooting on set of Stargate Atlantis had wrapped for the day – Quarantine, S4 Ep13

Biography

He’s been working as a Stunt Double/Choreographer/Coordinator since 1993. During my search through his work, it dawned on me exactly how much I’ve seen of his work without realising it. For instance, Eragon – one of my favourite movies from my favourite novel series!

And then there’s A Dog’s Breakfast, a hilarious film by Atlantis alum David Hewlett. And of course, all three Stargate shows. I didn’t realise he’d been a stunt guy and fight coordinator on and off through SG-1’s Seasons 8 – 10. But I guess that’s what’s so good about doing this blog – there’s always something new to be found through research, even on a topic you think you know extremely well.

From SG-1 he was fight coordinator for their movies, while being stunt coordinator for Atlantis and later SGU. Another interesting fact I didn’t know was he was the stunt coordinator for the webisodes of Sanctuary (as it was an online series before it became a TV series). And now, he works as the fight coordinator for Arrow — “Although [J.J. Makaro and I] sub each other off and co-coordinate most of the time.”

Bam Bam’s Role on Stargate

Being a Stunt Coordinator isn’t just a behind-the-camera job. Bam Bam has been, over the years, either a nondescript stunt performer or a stunt performer in various Stargate episodes. Here’s just a few:

  • Replicator Eight, New Order Part 2
  • Teyla’s Athosian training partner, The Siege Part 2 (see the photo below)
  • A Hospital Orderly, The Real World
  • Stunt double for the Replicator in Outcast – during which he jumped into freezing
    water so the actor, Adrien Heine (who is also a stunt performer), wasn’t at risk of being injured for scenes being shot the next day
Teyla (Rachel Luttrell) and an Athosian (James Bamford) practicing their fight skills

Teyla (Rachel Luttrell) and an Athosian (James Bamford) practicing their fight skills, The Siege Part 2.

Interview

A fortnight ago, I tweeted Bam Bam asking for a quote for this blog and, several tweets later, we’d organised for me to email him through some questions.

One of my favourite parts of Atlantis is the Athosian fights with the bantos sticks. I found it really interesting and was disappointed the later seasons didn’t hold as many of these fights as the earlier seasons had. I’d like to know what happens to make these scenes. How long does it take to create the sequence, and to teach them to the actors (and, when needed, stunt performers) and are there any differences between how you teach them?

It takes a minimum of 4 hours to choreograph and rehearse a bantos rod sparring scene. I always start with an initial blocking rehearsal with the doubles, and approx. 2-3 hours later bring in the actors and teach them what I choreographed.

In the Atlantis episode Outcast, you doubled for the Replicator (Adrien Heine) when he jumped into the water after being chased by Sheppard (Joe Flanigan), Ronon (Jason Moama) and others. Were there any safety issues that you had to be aware of when doing it?

Safety issues when jumping 60 feet into water… make sure you hit the water.

[Note: 60 feet is approx. 18 meters]

James Bamford, mid-stunt 'Outcast'

Bam Bam, in the middle of his jump for Outcast (photo courtesy of MGM Studios, http://stargate.mgm.com)

For big fight sequences, like those in The Prodigal and Missing, do the writers give you an outline of what they want for the fights or do you get the freedom to do what you want? If they do give you notes, can you give examples of them?

For major fight sequences, the writers write the basic story guidelines expressing the info that they require to get across and then I take that as a skeleton to create the entire sequence. On the Stargate franchise, the choreography would always stick to the first incarnation that I would suggest generally. If I received notes, they would be only on placement of dialogue within the scene.

How many stunt performers were you in charge of over the years of doing Stargate?

Although I worked with a preferred handful of stunt performers on a regular basis, over the course of the entire series, literally a few hundred were hired in total.

What are the differences between doing stunts for a TV show like Stargate and stunts for movies like Eragon?

The difference(s) between a relatively small stunt budget TV show like Stargate, and a large stunt budget Feature film like Eragon is the budget, and the time allotted to prep each action sequence depending on the exactly that, the budget. Stargate‘s action sequences were very rushed in the planning and shooting, in comparison to a larger budget feature like Eragon which during prep seemed to go on forever.

James Bamford and other stunt performers on the Tronjheim set of 'Eragon'

Bam Bam (front row, 2nd from right) and other stunt performers on the Tronjheim set of Eragon

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule working on Arrow to answer my questions. I really appreciate it.

Another good interview is this one from the London Film and Comic Con 2011 – by Claire Bueno from premierescene.net. It’s a really interesting video – Claire’s chat is intercut with Bam Bam showing off his skills with some stunt performers in front of a crowd. Keep an eye out for the awesome Parkour performance to ‘Highway to Hell’, and a demonstration with a cute 12 year old.

Video: premierescene.net

Parkour info: parkourgenerations.com

And there’s another longer interview by my favourite fan-made website, gateworld.net. It’s 54 minutes long and you can listen to it, and also read the transcript, here:

http://gateworld.net/interviews/risky_business.shtml

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back again soon with another post.

Until then…

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One response to “Bam Bam: Getting to know James Bamford

  1. Pingback: “Showdown! Ronon vs. Tyre” Behind the Scenes of ‘Broken Ties’ | Beyond The Event Horizon

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