We had the good fortune of connecting with Bryan Sloyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bryan, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“I hope to not only entertain those that wish to escape reality for a bit, but offer ‘enlightenment’ to those that wish to further seek the depths of it.” I hope it isn’t too bold of me to provide my own quote, and I’m more than sure I am not the first to utter this words. But at its core, it holds the very fundamental reason why I’ve pursued this career/industry. I agree that achieving this duality has a considerable amount of obstacles and on most fronts poses ambitious. One of the arguments I hear the most that challenges the authenticity of this notion; isn’t it simply entertainment? Why burden movie-goers with philosophy and worldview and semantics if they are here to just have a good time? Maybe their personal/professional lives are full of these things already, and they have come to have a laugh and to lighten their spirits? Isn’t that the responsibility of the artist? To please, to comfort, to make jolly? Isn’t this our job? I say to you, no. I believe it is not. Isn’t entertainment found in the journey of discovery? Historically, we have always taught the young with stories. We have shown them values and right and wrongs, and lessons in life with stories. We hear them in nursery rhymes, fables, and fairytales. These stories are centuries old, specifically crafted to entertain audiences, whilst providing them with something substantial to walk away with. Seemingly then, the phrase “The moral to this story…” is rooted in us. In a sense then, it may be a duty (as story-tellers and artists) to continue this practice. Secondarily, and an argument that touches upon a more sensitive subject: what reality is this, and why does it matter? We are all constructs of our experiences. And with each individual experience, there is a slightly different perspective. Therefore, I may be looking at reality differently from you. How then can I present something relatable? Who am I to offer ‘enlightenment’ when I myself seek it? It is a strange feature, for me the storyteller, to set aside some ego for the sake of the explanation, while still being truthful to myself. I have no answer for this as of yet. For now, I write based on my right or wrongs in hopes that someone recognizes it as their own also. And in doing so, hopefully you and I have found camaraderie.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I am in pursuit of two passions in life. I am a martial arts practitioner that has now also assumed instructorship and I am a creative artist that has pursued filmmaking in the stunt/action category. I began my martial arts journey in a filipino fighting system known as Balintawak Cuentada at age 15. I quickly fell in love with the activity, further amplified by my love for action cinema. Particularly hong kong action films starring Jet Li, the Jason Bourne franchise, and the Matrix franchise. I earned “Completion of the Art” under my primary instructor Guro Jeff Soriano, and at the end of that same year I had relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry as a stunt performer. This is where I was able to truly cultivate my filmmaking under the guidance and mentorship of profound action designers such as Emmanuel Manzanares and Vlad Rimburg. Though their names may be unrecognizable to the mainstream, their influences and material have slowly made their way to the films you are watching present day. The following years involved self-induced study of camera, editing, choreography, and performance, all the while keeping current with my Balintawak duties as a representative of Grandmaster Bobby Taboada. I opted to work quietly and consistently, a game plan which proved to yield beneficial results in due time. The skills accumulated from my very humble practice fights in the woods and my specialty with filipino martial arts seemed to be an attractive combination that many coordinators eventually hired me for. I am very grateful to all of them for taking the chance on a rookie individual, and to which have still continued to lay their trust in me. With my work in the industry continuing to grow, so had my duties in Balintawak. In 2018 I was granted my Full Qualified Instructor title under Grandmaster Bobby Taboada, subsequently also being granted permission to establish my own school in 2019, representing my Grandmaster now in the Southern California region. The aforementioned journey brings to light two aspects that I remember being the reason I was able to endure and persist. Foremost, I would pursue that which had purpose beyond me. In the combative arts, I pursued knowledge. Not only to collect for my own self indulgence and enjoyment, but ultimately to share with others. Balintawak had changed my life in ways I cannot express or fully explain. So to share the art and offer it as a platform that could facilitate growth and change for any interested parties would be a most accomplished fulfillment. I am a self defense educator, as I often say now. I am here to offer you a chance for survival. We cannot foresee when violence might come to us unexpectedly. Therefore it is my service to you to assist you in preparing to deal with the nature of violence and knowing how to manage the unethical men that depend on it. In the arts, I seek to entertain those that need a brief reprieve of reality, but also offer enlightenment to those who wish to further seek the depths of it. Can this duality be achieved? I believe it to be so. As a child, my favorite narratives included stories that had a “moral to the story”, often categorized as “parables” or “fables”. Did these entertain? Of course. A good story must be relatable and have some ploy to not only draw you in, but also keep you captivated. That is the storyteller’s first responsibility. The second responsibility, and possibly the more important one, is the education or “enlightenment”. A memorable film lasts only as long as it holds relevance to the viewer. So what may be the key to a lasting impression? It must address the basic human instinct that seeks education on the “moral of the story”. We as creatives hold more influence than we often realize. Might I even advocate it as a “responsibility”? The platform that we pursue can be instrumental in serving a greater cause. Otherwise, why spend so long finding your “voice” as an artist if it remains dormant? Which leads to my second aspect; finding my voice. Having been adopted, I was raised by two wonderful American parents. If you were to ask me who my mother and father were, I’d say to you, “These are my rightful parents”. The hardship here wasn’t discovering I was different, but carving my own path in which both honoring my family and re-acquainting with my heritage predicated personal growth, pride and satisfaction. I was highly encouraged by my parents to get to know my culture, and in fact, introduced me to my Balintawak instructor in hopes I would find some cultural immersion. And so it was that through an indigenous Philippine martial art, I found sanctuary and a balance of my being. This newfound identity served to be what spawned my ability to have pride for not either or, but both American and Filipino distinction. Within knowing myself and what I represented, I had a clear path with clear intentions. I wished to uphold proper representation of my art and its peoples, and I wished to carry on my father’s last name (the name I bear now). As filmmaking became a more and more tangible career option, I decided to take advantage of the platform to eventually speak. I had a voice and a story, and with plausible conviction I began studying how to say what my voice implored of me. For those of you that ask how to endure, I strongly propose seeking and retaining these things: a purpose beyond yourself, and a voice of clear intent. Within servitude there is an unexplained will to survive. Within a clear a intent, you will have a sturdier campaign more immune to falsehood that others will seek to rally behind. Thus, I share my martial arts and I share my voice through film as a form of servitude to a cause. A cause I know we all hope to contribute to in some way or another. The cause of changing the world one heart at a time through courage, some sacrifice and inspiration. The hardships are temporary inconveniences, and with some fortunate foresight, I have faith that they pose no threat to the progression of who I wish to become.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am very boring in this category. My day to day activities outside of work are simply training, teaching, and possibly shooting or filming the rest of the time. I rarely go out anymore, and if I do, quite often it is to run a mundane errand. Admittedly, a nature of my being wishes to constantly pursue that which I am so passionate. And quite often the individuals that I share more personal relations with have to remind me that a reprieve from my intense pursuits will provide me some healthy decompression. Here are my best attempts at providing a visitor an itinerary. My heart has always longed for the ocean and its shores. If you have similar enjoyment for the beaches, I suggest landscapes like Malibu and even further north where it’s more secluded. If you do not mind more crowded locations, Santa Monica offers a wide variety of cuisine. Secretly, I suggest eating at the smaller venues, depending on the style of food you find more palatable. I am a huge advocate for most asian spreads. Though the sushi location I often visited on the promenade is no more, there are substitute places that you will find. My favorite non-asiatic spot is Bruxie’s waffle sandwhich shop. Due to my childhood spent in the south, it brings me a taste of home in form of chicken and waffles wrapped messily in syrup and cole slaw. The pier itself offers a great view of the sea. If it is September you might have luck spotting dolphins or sea lions. There are small festival-style attractions there, such as rides, performances, games, arcades, etc. I enjoy the mindlessness of visiting handcraft shops, many of these line up all the way to Venice beach. If you decide to take the boardwalk along the beach itself, it is a pleasant way to experience the residential housing that adorns the pathway. I have always found the architecture unique, wondering how the interior layout of each small apartment has been constructed. For a more quiet walk, I suggest the Venice Canals. The small neighborly waterways served as great locations for old stunt headshots due to the garage doors of the villas and apartments providing professional looking backdrops. There are many, many hiking trails in Los Angeles. Both within the city limits and just outside. If you have the time to spare, expansive national parks such has Joshua Tree are extremely frequented and will incur some travel to visit. I have not visited many, but speak on behalf of the many friends and colleagues that have reported great experiences from a variety of trips. Most of my experiences at these types of locations transpire due to location scouting for film productions, or for my own personal projects and are often located locally. If Indie Film Action history piques your interest, there are unspoken locations that senior members of our community use quite often. There were never any poignant reasons originally made in the selection of these locations, aside from convenience and privacy. For me, as a young aspiring action filmmaking fan, I was excited and honored to be eventually invited to shoot at these locations. I had followed various Youtube Channels such as Zero Gravity, The Stunt People, EMC Monkeys, VJVlad, and LBP Chicago where the locations were cycled so repeatedly from video to video, that the spaces themselves became iconic “set pieces”. In time, I myself developed my favorite filming spots, leaving their addresses cryptic as to warrant a right of passage from whoever wished to shoot there. A silly tradition in retrospect, yet I understood it and why maybe my seniors had implemented this unspoken right of passage upon me in the beginning of my journey. There are more “secret” eating spots hidden in the Valley where a select few of us will go for some treats. A mentor of mine Vlad Rimburg will often reward a long day’s work of filming or training with a visit to the local cambodian donut cafe. Or his favorite korean BBQ restaurant in which we would all unashamedly over indulge. Unfortunately I will only disclose of these locations if /when you shoot a fight with me, or after our first Balintawak lesson. Again, an unspoken tradition I must pass down in the same manner in which it was passed on to me. So come train and shoot…so I can take you there!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would very much like to thank all my peers, mentors and teachers that have contributed to my upbringing in the martial arts, particularly Balintawak Cuentada. And I would like to thank all the coordinators, performers and colleagues in the creative arts of filmmaking and in the cinematic categories of stunts and action design for the trust they continue to place in me.
Tony Chu Photography