Reel Time: ANESTI VEGA (2014)

Action fans may recall a conceptual featurette that was released pitching what is in the works for actor, martial artist and Floridian native Marrese Crump’s forthcoming production of Formless with actor, RZA. The project has since been in development for a number of years to date, now slightly prolonged further in part due to one of its earlier announced cast members, former Middleweight MMA champion Anderson Silva rebounding from a broken left leg during UFC 168 late last year, while Crump and the cast and crew focus on tentative obligations and potential future projects.

In the meantime, Crump’s electrifying pitch for Formless brings our attention to some of that very footage now seen in the latest cinematography reel from multifaceted action film professional, martial artist and fellow Floridian, Anesti Vega, whose works have landed him the attention of numerous amazing film professionals as of 2005, from the independent scene and getting his name circulated on Craigslist, to working in Thailand alongside action film headliner Panna Rittikrai.

From the age of twelve, Vega‘s history with martial arts becane rooted with a year of Tae Kwon Do classes at the age of twelve. That same passion never left Vega upon a chance meeting with Crump at the Florida high school they attended together as they were printing out fliers for a martial arts tournament. It was a friendship that would later materialize into something much more necessary and beneficial for Vega when it needed to be.

“I asked him about his martial arts training and he told me about ‘Warriors Dojo’, a training group that he just started with one of his teachers, Master Kim Jae…” Vega says. “…I showed up to the address he gave me and it was Master Kim Jae’s house and the training area was in his screened in garage, and I was only the second student in the group, and after one class, I was hooked.”.

Vega continued, “A month later, I became homeless and had no money and no place to live. I approached Marrese and told him about my situation, and he said I could continue training if I could design a website for the Warriors Dojo group and help promote. I continued to train with him until we graduated high school in 2000 and I left to join the Army. We had also trained privately in his backyard in Progress Village where we grew up, and even stayed up in the late hours of the night, having marathons of old Bruce Lee, kung fu and other martial arts movies. I came back to Florida often between deployments and trained with Marrese when I could until 2004 when I left the Army and came back home. By then, Warriors Dojo transitioned into a full academy business called 3R Self Defense Academy where I became an assistant instructor and continued my training with Marrese.”.

From then on, Vega began a pursuit in the field of film where he would ultimately find recognition in his home state of Florida as an up-and-coming, award-winning shortfilm and promo director, fight choreographer and cinematic photographer much to the chagrin of his naysayers at the time. “…It was something so different than what I originally saw myself doing and it was exciting.”, says Vega. “I was in a professional rut at the time; I was pretty fresh out of the U.S. Army and hadn’t really gained any footing with a professional career yet at that point. I had worked on a few projects and was analyzing the production the whole time from start to finish to see what was working and what wasn’t and I was hooked. By 2008, working on projects on and off, I became pretty popular and in demand around Florida and was asked to do a few talks on a number of topics including styles of action and fight choreography and tips on how indie filmmakers can incorporate action elements into their film and how to execute them safely and without needing a huge budget to do so. At one of the panels I was on, I was expressing my disappointment for how many of my previous projects did not come out so well because of poor casting, cinematography and editing of the fight scenes. I stated that just because a cinematographer has been working for ‘x’ amount of years doesn’t mean they know how to shoot action. It’s a different science all to itself. One cinematographer in the audience, who clearly had his feelings hurt, had jumped up and yelled ‘If you know so much about it, then why don’t you start shooting your own fights then?!’. And so I did…”.

Vega‘s current aspirations behind the camera have continued to allow him even more opportunities as time rolls on, with his new base of operations in San Francisco. In addition to organizing and producing the Action Film Challenge and Zombie Film Challenge this late Spring and Summer, Vega is meeting other filmmakers, producers and creators to delve more into feature-length territory, as well as promos and music videos, and even contests for other aspiring purveyors in the world of film. “I love being a director and cinematographer because it aligns with my philosophy of doing great things in this amazing world and capturing and documenting other people doing awesome things as well. When I’m behind the camera shooting a promo video or a film scene, it’s an exciting feeling knowing that I just shot a clip that is going to make the audience go ‘whoooaaaa!!!’.”. He also added, “I do my best to live life to the fullest, to challenge myself with bigger and better adventures and capture as much of it as I can to share and inspire others. So as a filmmaker, I task myself with inspiring the audience with what I capture and there is no better position to do that than as a cinematographer. Whether it’s martial artists or freerunners for a movie, or surfers and skydivers for a promo or commercial, shooting such exciting things is just as rewarding as seeing and hearing the audience reaction when they see the end result!”.

You can now observe some of that end result he mentions in the following embed for his YouTube channel where you may also subscribe.

With Crump’s ventures into film continuing onward, Vega also shared some important details as to the status Formless in its current stage. “There are a number of factors involved,” he says “…such as Marrese and RZA’s schedule being filled up with shooting The Man With The Iron Fists 2 in Thailand right now and Anderson Silva’s recuperation from the major injury he sustained in his last fight. The first draft of the story was written by me and the fights were written by Marrese and we combined it into a script in 2008. It is now in the hands of a well-known industry ‘script polisher’ who is way more talented at writing than I am. As martial artists, we understand the importance of timing so we are just waiting for the right time and all the right resources to come together for it to happen, but we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. Formless has been promoted as Marrese’s solo debut in the past, but there are a number of other projects in development that could happen first. We’ve planted a number of seeds in the industry for a number of projects and we are just looking to see which one produces fruit first.”.

Crump stars alongside international action sensation Tony Jaa in the forthcoming U.S. release of The Protector 2, heading to iTunes and VoD on March 27 before hitting theaters on May 2. Silva is also set to appear in Allan Ungar’s latest MMA action drama, Tapped, starring Cody Hackman with Martin Kove, Lyoto Machida and Michael Biehn, releasing in North America on May 27, 2014 courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment and Grindstone.

Feel free to visit Anesti Vega’s offcial website where you can sign up for his newsletter on Facebook, as well as updates on Tumblr and Instagram. And for more on Formless, Tapped, The Man With The Iron Fists 2 and all things Crump and Silva, stay tuned to Film Combat Syndicate.