You won’t like him quite as much when he’s angry. But you’ll still like him... David Goodall – fight arranger and musician – wrestles words with Isaiah Bird
David Goodall is a violent man. But he hides it well. Too well.
On the surface, his smile is benign, his face open and expansive, his eyes kind. He’s a good guy really, right?
And yet, knowing what you know, you can’t help but smile nervously and fidget somewhat, as he tells you about one of his most recent projects: composing music for a piece of modern dance choreography.
“The piece is called ‘Four Go Wild In Wellies’ and it’s by InD4, an inclusive Scottish dance company,” says Goodall. “InD4 are four professional dancers, two of whom have Down’s Syndrome. I was commissioned as composer, along with director Anna Newell and choreographer Stevie Prickett. The music is all live: acoustic instruments from recorders to harps, ukulele to rubbing sheets of paper.”
Goodall is a man of many talents and with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. Actor, producer, award-winning director, composer, photographer, not to mention doing a fine turn in sound design and foreign language overdubbing in French, German, Spanish and Italian: fingerwise, that’s polydactylic. And then, of course, there’s the skillset we’ll get to later when we have the – gulp! – gumption: violence.
The dance composition used an Avid S3 desk with Pro Tools, acquired from digital audio specialist Mediaspec. Eric Joseph, MD of Mediaspec, explains what it’s like being Goodall’s ‘go to’ guy for audio support.
“David is the modern day equivalent of a one-man band or a jack-of-all-trades,” says Joseph. “He does everything. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep up! One day he’s producer, then he’s director, then he’s doing post or composition, or sound design. You name it, David does it. For a company providing technical support and digital solutions, it’s always a fascinating challenge to see what hat David is wearing and what new kind of support he requires.”
Whatever the hat, the S3 has been able to adapt to his needs.
“I recently completed the sound design and score for a sci-fi short called Perfect Worlds by AJ Sykes, about a woman who confronts her past and is dragged into a parallel world,” Goodall says. “There were issues with the location sound and so I was really left with stripping out everything, bar the dialogue, and going back to scratch with Foley, spot FX and ambience. The S3 was a dream on account of the scene memory – with over 100 tracks, it was great being able to work just on Foley or ambiance by recalling a scene.”
We’re lucky it was a dream. Otherwise, you know… David Goodall conceals his violent proclivities well. This is a man who knows full well just how to karate-chop you in the neck, knee you in the man bits or insert a finger sharply into one of your eyes. Perhaps he’s skilled in garrotting with a cheese wire. Let’s not even mention his in-depth knowledge of the head-butt.
Time to take a deep breath, step back a couple of feet, and ask a question that thus far has dared not thrust its way forward. The dead head in the bed, so to speak: How did mild-mannered, affable David Goodall add ‘fight scene director for TV and film’ as another string to his crossbow?
“Well, I’d been doing various martial arts from an early age,” David offers, leaning on his kendo stick. “When I was acting in one of my first professional productions, it was suggested I might use that experience to set a comedy fight. It was a rapier fight, so not really too connected with martial arts, but it all went well, and things built up from there.
“The fights and stunts that I’ve done range from full-on martial arts fights – for example with the lovely Miltos Yerolemou (Syria Forel in Game of Thrones) – to helping Celia Imrie torture some poor soul. I’ve also been fight director on Rebus and Taggart.
“I know what you’re thinking: the violence.”
Yes, that is what we’re thinking.
“…But what becomes apparent in this line of work is that doing fights is neither macho, nor – oddly enough – violent. Violence might be a necessary thought process for the actors in the final rendition, but my job is to make it fun, make it safe and make it look convincing. Physical action is, like singing, an area where many actors feel vulnerable, and where they put great trust in the fight director to ensure they don’t look daft at the end of it. I respect that trust and try to honour it.”
Oh, the joy of violence? In a sense, yes. As with many aspects of TV and film, everything is not always as it appears.
“Oddly enough, this philosophy of making work fun and respecting a client’s trust pervades through everything I do: getting clients in the studio for voiceovers, or recording their own demos. The important thing is that they relax and enjoy themselves. Writing music and doing sound design means you will always come up against opposing views and differing opinions, and not always presented tactfully! So, doing the fights – and martial arts in general – has taught me to be patient, and to remove my ego from the equation.”
His answer is reassuring. Fight scenes, it would appear, are just another form of artistic struggle, and one where diligence, selflessness and equanimity can win the day.
And, it seems, we got it right the first time: this multi-talented gentleman, David Goodall, really is a good, all-round guy.