In Ninja : The Immovable Heart, due on DVD and VOD in March, Aussie martial-artist Rob Baard plays a modern-day Ninja in an adventure that chronicles the filmmaker and actor’s own personal journey.
Your first taste of fame came when you played Spider-Man at a film premiere – is that right?
When I was in grade 4, I wrote my first play, produced it, direct it and stared in it. We then performed it in front of the school. It was a pirate play. That was the start, from there I wrote more plays through primary school and high school.
From there I worked my way up at the cinema from selling ice creams, to working all areas and then managing and training managers. I also had a flair for marketing, so I over saw marketing, and combined my passion for film and action into that by producing stunt shows in my spare time. Those included Spider –man, The Matrix, Batman, Troy, Star Wars and more.
I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember.
And was that when you decided you wanted to do The Ninja movies, or does this dream date back further?
As a boy I loved movies about heroes, Superman, Batman, the usual suspects, Ninja Turtles and those 80’s ninja films. I combined my love for super heroes and Ninjutsu into what is THE NINJA UNIVERSE, a franchise modelled similar to Marvel and DC.
This is the coming together of a life time of training in, martial arts, film and a passion for helping others. The company mission statement is to “Inspire & Empower people”
I began working on the character for the Ninja in 2008, the development never ends and it really began in those early years of being inspired by heroes, specifically my hero Christopher Reeve, who the title character, the Ninja (Reeve) is named after.
The Ninja : Immovable Heart is a throwback to those great ‘80s actioners. Was that the intention?
I actually look at the film more so as a link to the current super hero films. It is an action film, less so a martial arts film and more so a film that helps people uncover who they are.
Did you always intend to star in it?
Yes. The journey of the Ninja is my journey. Many of the tough times, and lessons are the lessons I learnt or share through teaching.
How far back does your knowledge and experience with martial arts go?
I began martial arts when I was 12 years old (I’m now 34 as at 2014), so around 22 years. Ninjutsu, Budo, taijutsu whatever you choose to currently call the art is my life path. The teachings carry over and expand into healing arts. For me the art is about “unlocking your full potential of who you are”. I believe the real knowledge and experience came in the DAN level training. While there’s 22 years of training I would suggest that more so than how far back my experience goes, I teach most nights now, I include it in the books and films for the Ninja. I get to explore these subjects daily and I actively do so. It really comes down to having a good teacher who can help you with the deeper elements of the art. Someone could train for 30 years and know nothing (and I’ve seen this) or they could train everyday with an amazing teacher for 10+ years and know much more. Experience and knowledge comes from regular training and exploitation. It waza (technique) is only the beginning, if you train in just that, you will miss other elements that are being show.
Did you build the story around a certain budget, and what you had available to you, or did you just write the film and worry about the finances later?
If you write to a specific budget on your first draft you’re in big trouble. Write the story to your audience. When I write I look at the market place first and look for “triggers” that will tap into the audience base. For example in action, it’s car chases, fights, explosions, shoot outs and so on that trigger the demographic.
With that in mind I can then write the story I want around that. It has to have a message and be worthwhile. I get bored in no brainers and would rather treat the audience with respect.
Once that’s done the next step is to see what type of budget these other films are being made for and what they return. It’s the entertainment business, which is one part entertainment and the other part business, both need to be kept in mind.
Along the way you tweak, re work and keep doing so until it lands where it is meant to land. It comes down to how resourceful you are and can be more so than budget. We achieved many things not in the scope of our budget range, simply because we knew how to do them. There’s a big advantage to having experience as a writer, director and producer.
One of the Ninja films was due to have John Wesley Shipp from The Flash in it. Is that a future instalment?
It could be ; ) We’ll see where the universe aligns. That was a very long time ago in some very early stages. I guess it all comes down to schedules, and where we are at with the franchise. From my experience things change all the time, I focus on what’s best for the films and company, so not a great deal of time goes to those type of thoughts.
You must be stoked to have snared Danny Glover. How many days did you have him for?
I’m excited by Danny being in the film because I loved the Lethal Weapon films, I grew up on them and it was surreal to be able to direct such a Hollywood movie star. He was a great bloke to shoot with. We’ve got his character in an upcoming project we’re shooting in Feb and his character is planned to return in the next films, so we’ll see where that falls when that time comes.
Danny’s character is a main character throughout the series, and he plays a similar type role to that which people love him for. I’m excited to grow that working relationship and to see where it all goes!