In the Tampa area, there's been an influx of independent film productions, all with a common theme of building up one's physical and mental attributes.
In late summer, "Generation Iron" was about building your body and unlocking your potential. "Chu & Blossom," wrapping filming in early September, focused on building self-confidence.
The latest, "Standing Ground," is about building morals, all while being prepared to protect yourself and others.
The Tampa area, it seems, is an inspiring place to build self-esteem and make a movie about it.
"Standing Ground" is a kung fu action flick produced and directed by David Clevenger, via his Shepard King Productions banner out of Chicago. The reason he came to Tampa, specifically Oldsmar, for a two-week shoot was because of the martial art fighting style featured in his film: Wing Chun.
Oldsmar happens to be home to the world's largest Wing Chun training center, and it also has the world's foremost Wing Chun expert — Martial Arts Hall-of-Famer Grandmaster Steve Lee Swift.
Earlier this year, Clevenger, who has trained in an assortment of martial arts since age 6, worked with 54-year-old Swift, who learned from Wong Shun Leung, martial arts icon Bruce Lee's teacher.
"I was trying to find someone who was very diverse and could help me grow in my Wing Chun," said Clevenger.
"Coming from different martial arts, I had a lot of questions on how things work, and I wasn't really finding a lot of answers."
During that training stint, Clevenger bounced ideas off Swift about doing a film on the philosophy of Wing Chun teachings, with the goal of bringing back the distinction of honor, integrity and respect to the martial art realm that both believe is being overshadowed by the fighting styles of today.
"It's not going to be a typical '80s action movie," said Clevenger. "Wing Chun is a very effective kung fu fighting style that many North American audiences have never seen. It's totally different than what you see in karate or taekwondo or anything like that. It's not like military combat. It's showing kung fu, and how that works in real life, and I have never seen anyone use it in a domestic movie."
But according to Swift, we have seen glimpses of this self-defense art within the fight choreography in flicks that featured Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. Robert Downey Jr. used some elements of the martial art in the Sherlock Holmes films.
Swift became immersed in the fast and furious fighting style after realizing he wanted to ensure the safety of the people closest to him.
"I got into this to protect innocent people against bad guys," said Swift. "And it's my small part of the world that I could do in trying to help the innocent to protect themselves. I never did it to be cool or anything like that."
And in "Standing Ground," the audience will see what that means. Swift stars as a father who gets stuck doing deadly jobs for the mafia in order to raise money for his dying daughter.
"In the movie, I'm going straight for the kill," he says.
"When you see this movie, it shows how you can be the most wonderful person in the world, but you always have this (Wing Chun) in the bank, as insurance if you will."
Both Clevenger and Swift believe the film will ask: "Is it OK to do the wrong thing for the right reason?"
Filmgoers will find out next spring when the movie is released.
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