Earlier in November I got to live out a career-long dream:

Dylan vs John Soares

Fight with my professional hero, John Soares.

It required two 16 hour-long bus rides, and a lot of coffee, but it was definitely one of the most fulfilling experiences of said career so far. There’s a lot going into this story that I do want to share. But if you can’t get to the end, let me just say I am incredibly grateful to John for giving me this opportunity, to Cassie for being welcoming and fun to work with (and for her BAD ASS camera work!), and their friend John Wall who helped out on the set and kept us going with BTS videos and footage when it started to get cold.

Not to mention every other single person along the way these last ten years who helped make this possible. I hope I manage to mention you in this post. Because this marks something special: This is the final blog post for Strike a Pose!!! Films.com, and if you are so inclined, please feel free to read it.

In 2004, my friend Sam Anderson showed me a video that would change my life forever: Sockbaby. Starring John Soares (who was also the fight choreographer and action director), and written and directed by Doug TenNapel of Earthworm Jim legend, Sockbaby is possibly the most legendary production of one of THE original internet-film groups, Westhavenbrook.

Less than an hour after watching this ridiculous magnum opus, you could find us quoting the entire series back and forth. The endless entertainment value, and my new camera, provided the leverage to recruit my friends to start making short films in our back yard, and thus we began creating videos under the Strike A Pose!!! Films moniker.

Since then, I have looked up to John and his crew as a creative artist – watching every single video of theirs I could find on the internet, and priding myself on figuring out how they were made. Westhavenbrook’s early action work, like “Kill Battle Jitni”, and even some of their ridiculous humor shorts like “A Tale of Inverse Mechanicals“, hooked me into making zero-budget entertainment. My own group actually attempted to steal a lot of their style and humor in early projects, with varying degrees of success.

No matter what setbacks I encountered, John’s devotion to creating, including his push to complete The Danger Element webseries, has always helped to keep me going. Inspired by the teamwork I saw in the Westhavenbrook productions, I started my own organization in college dedicated to making short films for fun. When I graduated in 2009,  I set out to local film sets, gathered the contact information of every indie stunt man, martial arts performer, and stage combatant I could find, and started the DC Stunt Coalition.

Since 2011, our organization has gone on to help train and network dozens of wannabe film-fighters in the DC area, and gave me a chance to improve my own skillsets and learn from those who were much better than me. If it wasn’t for the last three years we’ve spent growing this organization, the opportunity to fight John probably wouldn’t have arose, and even if it had I might not had felt confident enough to duel with him on screen.

Always hoping to create something as good as the work I’ve seen from their crew, but never quite achieving it, it was this Summer that I wasn’t sure where to go next, and became unsure if I was cut out for it. I needed something that would make me shit or get off the pot, once and for all.

Then, as fate would have it, sometime in September or October of this year, I got a message from John: “I need someone to do a test fight with, featuring nunchuks and a bo staff.” John had only just recently moved out to the Midatlantic from California, where most of his team still resided. I was now one of the closest fighters, and (in my opinion) definitely one of his biggest fans within driving range.

Even when he lived in California, I had considered hopping a plane to get out there and train with other groups and coordinators (Darren, John K., Tommy, you guys all know who you are – or SHOULD!), and eventually maybe do lunch with him or stunt or PA on a movie of his. And while it was a dream of mine, I never expected I’d be in a one-on-one battle with him in this lifetime. So when the opportunity arose, I jumped on it, bought a Kung-Fu jacket, grabbed a bus ticket and zoomed on over to fight with the guy who through his own work had hands-down inspired me to embark on this career path.

So it’s ten years later. I am now a SAG-AFTRA stunt performer, having worked not just on indie films, but on both major television and feature film productions. Through the DC area I’ve managed to accrue a growing stage combat background within the SAFD, and trained with systems like Act Tactical for Film. I’ve practiced Keysi Fighting Method, Karate, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, learned a half dozen Western-world weapons, and taken a bunch of different work shops. Yet with this video it’s the first time I’ve truly used Kung Fu and Tai Chi – my root styles – in a fight scene. The two styles that I only have come back to training in over the past 6 months after a two year hiatus. It all came back to the beginning, so thank you Fundi John Weeks for your support, as well.

So as the circle comes around, I feel this video is my first true example of a Test Fight with another action movie performer.

Taking a note from the incredible short webseries, “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist“, I realize what this trip was to me: a “Musha shugyō” – “Warrior’s Pilgrimage”. You see, the DC area is growing with film fighters, but it’s still pretty sparse compared to NYC, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, ATL or even Florida. My goal in 2015 is to take my pilgrimage even further, and hopefully do this with other fighters I’ve encountered on the internet, and continue improving my practice through the journey. This is just the first step.

There’s a conclusion to this story. Or this story is a conclusion, rather. For the last eight years I’ve had this website called “Strike a Pose!!! Films”. It hosts a lot of my old college work, and lots of film reviews and stories and what have you about what I’ve done and the amazing people I’ve done things with. My fight with John Soares, I feel, is a proper close to that chapter of my life. The DC Stunt Coalition is now where my efforts are, full time. Most, if not all, of my entertainment productions now fall under that moniker and organization.

With that said, this will be the last blog post featured on Strike a Pose!!! Films, and will wrap it up in the only way I prefer: On a high note.

Strike a Pose!!! Films was created with a few goals in mind, but one of them had always been clear: Create enough content to get noticed by somebody I respected, and hopefully they’d invite me to play with them in their sandbox. And who better to fight than the maverick indie film maker who didn’t even know he was responsible for one crazy guy’s diabolical plans to create action in the DC film scene?

Goal Accomplished: Fight John Soares on film.

With John Soares

To Sam, Bob, Stu, Orion, Rob, Damien, Trevor, Thomas, James, Phil, Ryan and all of those who are a part of the Strike a Pose Films!!! legacy:

“We’re un-Hello now.”