Philip Silvera On Designing Stunts For ‘Daredevil,’ ‘Deadpool,’ And ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’

03.17.16 9 months ago
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Netflix/20th Century Fox/FX

You might not know Philip Silvera by name, but you’ve seen the stunt performances and action sequences he’s designed dozens of times in the last decade. From Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World, to the more recent Deadpool film and both seasons of the highly successful Netflix series Daredevil, the former professional martial arts competitor-turned-stunt coordinator’s mark is everywhere these days.

So despite having one of the busiest schedules in the business, Silvera took the time to chat with us about his work on Daredevil‘s second season, which will be available to stream on Friday at 3:01 a.m. ET. The new season represents a significant body of work for the stunt man, who also served as the second unit director on the project. So as soon as our phone call began, he was quick to ask us what our favorite fight sequences were.

I assume you had a hand in everything.

Yeah, I designed the entire series. I was the stunt and fight coordinator, as well as the second unit director.

This was your first official second unit directing gig. How’d it go?

Oh it was great! It felt good to work with some of the guys from last year, like James McMillan, who was our second unit director of photography both this year and last year. I had fun collaborating with him again. Plus it was great to talk shop with Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez, our showrunners this season. It was a really great feeling, and it came together very well. We were able to highlight the action a little differently this year, and in a different way. I hope the fans like it.

Is second unit directing something you’ve always wanted to do?

It’s definitely something I’ve always wanted to do. Part of our process, when you design the action on the show, and it’s grueling for the stunt team… We do what we call a “previz,” and that previz is almost like shooting an entire scene before going into production with the entire crew. We’ll go to the location, we’ll test all the gags and then we’ll shoot it from beginning to end like we would on the day of. That then becomes the template for our conversations with producers, directors, Marvel and Netflix, and then we’ll make any changes to shots. That’s how we’re able to get such feature film-like action done on this TV time frame. It’s all the prep we’re doing for every episode and every sequence we do, as opposed to just coming in on the day of and winging the shots and trying to figure it out then. We did that the first season and that template worked great.

I’ve been doing that template for a while. It was a big factor for how we did things on Deadpool, and for this season of Daredevil is was helpful to previz what I would later direct with the second unit. You know, there have been coordinators over the years for whom this has become their model. Coordinators who started the trend like Chad Stahelski, for whose work the previz was literally what was shot on the day. It’s just a constantly evolving way for us to do things.

How early on in the process do you get involved?

TV and film are very different. In film, we’ll do that for months ahead of time before we even get into pre-production, and we’ll keep working all the way up to production. There will always be two or three big action sequences that we’ll work on nonstop. With Daredevil, it’s like doing a 13-hour movie where we’re constantly doing that every week. I’ll get a script and then I’ll go over things with my assistant stunt coordinator, Eric Linden and my assistant fight coordinator, Roberto Gutierrez, and we’ll conceptualize everything. Then we’ll train the doubles and other stunt performers, block it, and maybe even that same day we’ll start previzing it immediately. But we’re constantly doing that rotation, sometimes seven days a week. Daredevil is a very stunt-heavy show, and we’re constantly working. Every department works hard on this show because they want to do their best for a show that’s very special to everyone. But it’s definitely a taxing show, especially for the doubles who worked nonstop around the clock — Chris Brewster, Lauren Kim, Linden since he was also the Punisher’s stunt double. They were always being worked, and God bless them. They made it through a season, and it was tough at times, but they did a great job.

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