“Action!” It’s a single word that activates the participants in a film scene. But for North Bay-based fight choreographer, stunt coordinator, armorer and educator Richard Squeri, it means about a million words—give or take.
“The information that can be gleaned from action is remarkable,” says Squeri in a rich basso profundo. “A picture is worth a thousand words, and if you replace it with a moving picture, it’s worth a million words.”
Squeri’s early forays into cinema were within a cohort that included such later luminaries as Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary of Pulp Fiction fame. His name appears frequently as a participant in the book My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film by Andrew J. Rausch, which recounts the director’s nascent attempts at feature filmmaking. It’s a fascinating moment of film history, and Squeri is grateful to have had a front row seat.
“I didn’t know what I didn’t know—and what I didn’t have to know,” laughs Squeri. “And those guys, especially Quentin, always knew—from the name of a director on a particular film to whomever did the music—almost the entire credit list, because of his photographic memory of all the films that they watched. Their film conversations were vastly really superior to film classes that I’d taken…but of course I had to, because of our position as friends, give a ration of shit back, you know?”
Squeri began his professional training in 1977 with lauded stunt professional Paul Stader in Santa Monica and later became an instructor himself, teaching everything from stage combat to pyrotechnics and high-fall work. Numerous and eclectic film and television credits soon followed, including Cagney & Lacey, Battlestar Galactica, James Michener’s Space, War Zone, Maximum Charge, Boogie Boy (produced by Avary) and The Mentor.
He eventually moved back east to help his father after the death of his mother and worked stunts in New York and New England. When grandchildren began to arrive back out west, Squeri and his wife, Yvonne (a music industry veteran), decided to leave New England for the North Bay.
“Our grand babies were growing here, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything,” recalls Squeri, who soon pivoted to stage work (he estimates he’s done approximately 400 shows over a 40-year career). For much of the past two decades, Squeri taught stunt and stage combat at College of Marin and East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. Throughout, he’s provided film and stage services via his own company, Flowing Dragon Swords/Stunt & Stage Combat Instruction.
“I have had a lot more stage work and stage success, than my first love, which is film,” he says wryly. “But it wasn’t here; it wasn’t what was going on. And my expertises were used in other ways, and I’m very proud of the way they were used. And I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done.”
As film production in the North Bay has begun to reemerge post-pandic, however, Squeri is eager to jump back into the fray. Most recently, he designed and directed the fight scenes for Wolf Story, an upcoming werewolf rom-com written and directed by a certain newspaper editor (wink, wink).
“We are starting to have more films being done in the North Bay of all kinds, not just indie films, but studio films like those by Ali Afshar’s ESX Productions, and other film companies are coming up to do things again like they did years ago,” Squeri says. ‘’I’m so thankful for it because I miss being able to do films regularly.”
Squeri is generous with his services and accommodating to all budgets—it’s the show that matters most to him.
“I have literally given away thousands of dollars worth of arms and of our time for a production because it completes a thought they didn’t think could happen. That’s a worthwhile piece of the puzzle for art and for storytelling,” says Squeri. “When I find out a director’s vision and what feelings they’re after from a piece of action for moving a story forward, I will go to the mat every time.”
For more information, visit flowingdragonswords.com.