She Who Dares: An Interview With Frances Katz

She Who Dares takes a look at female Warriors who we think are incredibly inspiring. There has been an undeniable trend in the screen action world recently, and this is the rise of the female warrior. We’ve written a past blog about the growth of women in the action industry, and the presence of female skilled supporting artists, featured action stars, stunt performers and stunt coordinators only continues to rise.

We’ve recently hosted a Warrior Masterclass Phase I course where over half the participants were female, and we thought it would be an excellent idea to talk to our female students, to discover what they think of this growth, and what has inspired them to pursue a career in screen action.

In our first She Who Dares interview, we will be talking with Frances Katz, who has rapidly moved through the first three stages in as little as 4 months. A student whose journey, we have found incredibly inspiring.

Hi Frances, you’ve recently just completed the Phase III titan course, how did you find it?

Yeah, I did prepare a lot for it. Lots of training with other British Action Academy Students, and even with people who had already completed Phase IV. You know, just trying to get well prepared. I just think, that on the day my performance wasn’t that great, and I actually didn’t do that well.

I understand though, the level was really high. I had a great time and it was a really good experience. I was disappointed about my result, but I think that’s all part of the game, that’s part of the industry, you’re going to get knocked down, and if you really want it you’ve just got to keep on working hard!

What ignited the interest in screen combat to start with?

I trained as a professional dancer and actress, mainly musical theatre. For years though, I always felt a bit lost, and even though I loved the performing, I always thought it was never my thing. People kept on saying “Oh, you’ve got so much power, you’re a bit too strong” and that really got me down. This is how I am, and this is the way I move!

It was about two years ago that I started to notice more attention on actresses who were taking leads in strong roles, I got really hooked into the whole Wonder Woman thing and I knew they were making the film. I had a few friends who did the film, who were dancers, and they had to train really hard to become these warriors. One of them actually had a really big role, she was one of the queens, and I was very inspired them.

I wished I had that opportunity but obviously, things happen for a reason and I just thought that the best way to get into this was to find out if could take any stunt skills or combat fighting courses, so I could work more in that industry. I had always wanted to work in film, but I just never knew where to start.

Had you done much screen work beforehand?

I had done a few TV programmes, and commercials, but never film. I had never had that opportunity, but I was just like “lets do this!” Then I met a casting director for Warner Bros. and we just had a chat. He didn’t offer me a job, but he just said he could give me guidance as an actress.

He told me I should go and find the best place to get screen combat training. So, I went away and asked a few friends, and everybody just kept saying The British Action Academy. So without a doubt I just booked everything. I didn’t even doublethink. I thought that if four people have said it, I did some research and it looked the best. I did my research on others who had done training, and on Andreas, and I didn’t even have to doublethink. It wasn’t just spending money, it was an investment.

What was it that you were hoping to get out of the courses?

More than anything, each time I go I feel like I’m closer to a job that I never thought I would be able to get. My ultimate goal is to make it into the film industry. I’m originally from Chile and I came all this way six years ago to become a dancer, and dancing was everything to me.

I just realised that I’m more attracted to the film industry and action, and there’s something about this whole powerful woman thing, that I find incredibly attractive, that I think not many are doing, and there's a huge opportunity there.

So in terms of getting into the industry, do you see that as an actress, or as a stunt woman?

I would love to say both. I don’t know if I have everything it takes to be a registered stunt performer. I know I can do a few of the skills. I can do the water skills, but it’s more the fighting I’m drawn to, it relates to the dance, and I think that’s why I like it so much.

I don’t know whether I will end up an actress or stunt performer, I’m just keeping my options open, and seeing how it goes!

I know you mentioned the Wonder Woman actresses earlier, but is there anyone you would single out as your biggest inspiration?

There are a few girls. There’s a girl called Zara Phythian or Lady Dragon on Instagram. She’s not a stunt performer, she’s a martial artist and an action fighter. There’s also Heidi Moneymaker, and Caitlin Dechelle who is the stunt double for Wonder Woman.

Whenever I watch a film, and there’s any woman taking part in a big fight scene, I think they’re great, and I always tend to research who they are and keep my eyes open. Sometimes they don’t get mentioned, but you can find out if you put the research in!

Do you think it’s harder or easier these days to be a female in the screen action world?

That’s a hard question. From what I’ve seen, I think being an action fighter as a woman is easier than being what I was before as a dancer or an actress. There’s too many and I think that there probably is more of an opportunity for girls this side of the industry, the side that is more aggressive and needs more power.

I don’t think it’s easier, just that there is more opportunity and I think that girls are realising, whether through social media or watching more movies, is that there is a gap.

Why is it important to have female warriors and action heroes?

I do believe that we are built the same way as men and that we shouldn’t be looking down at women because we have been for decades, but girls have the same potential as men. In a different way, but we can be as strong, as fierce, and maybe more graceful than men.

I think we need to give a voice to a lot of girls that think they can only be a princess. Especially for younger girls. You can be strong and fight for yourself. For me, it’s giving me so much more confidence, even when walking the streets in the dark. I have the confidence, and the power, and the strength.

Since you’ve started the Warrior Masterclass, have you been involved in any productions?

I’ve done a few pilots for the BBC. Which ironically, I did the Warrior Phase I and posted a photo from the course on my Instagram, and two days later I received an email! I thought it was a joke, but they said they had seen this incredible photo of me, and thought I had a really cool look! I responded and then had a meeting with the BBC.

I did a few pilots with them, and now I’m just waiting to hear if it’s going forward. It’s crazy that one image could make a huge company take notice!

I also did a major job for EA Games, I was the lead actress in a game which is coming out later this year. It was a bit of everything, lots of movement and action. 

Would you say that the Warrior Masterclass helped with your performances?

Definitely! I mean there were a few things that I had been asked to do and I think that had it not been for Phase I and II, with the EA game I don’t think I would have been able to do what they asked of me!

I’m hoping that maybe they’ll ring me back for another job.

What would you say is the hardest thing about the Warrior Masterclass?

When you are doing the three days, the most important thing is to keep positive and keep yourself active. It’s a lot to get thrown into and you’re not going to be great at everything all at once. You have to keep reminding yourself that you’re only just starting out and that everyone is there to help you.

Outside of the three days, you need to keep the training up. The most important thing to do is the work outside the Masterclass. That’s sometimes where you see the biggest improvement. You need to keep practising, keep researching, and keep meeting up with students from the British Action Academy. You have to keep it alive!

There’s a real companionship within the students on the phases, how has that helped you out?

Yeah, what’s been really nice is that since Phase I, we’ve managed to get a big group and support each other. We’re all from different backgrounds and that really helps to learn from each other. We all work with what we have, and we’ve managed to build a nice little family and friendship. It’s been really nice.

Even though most of us didn’t pass Phase III, we were all there for each other and we will find a way to make sure we all pass. We all support each other.

If you could change anything about how you prepared yourself before the courses, what would that be?

I would have met up with more people, not just people on the same Phase as me, so you don’t get too used to working with the same people. So I would have made sure I can get on with people of all different abilities.

If you could give some advice to an aspiring female warrior, what would it be?

I would say belief in yourself. Don’t ever doubt. Doubt can shine through your eyes, so never doubt yourself. If you want to do it, do it, and make it happen.

Don’t just leave it halfway because things get tough or you get knocked back. You never know how close you are to your dream job.

Frances is currently working incredibly hard with her training, as she prepares to be re-assessed for Phase III. 

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