We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Grove and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I have always heard the term “No Risk No Reward” many times in my life and I really feel it has an enormous amount of truth to it. However, some people take this to the extreme and the idea is twisted to become risk for the sake of risk with no regard for what I believe is a crucial part of the equation. Vision and planning. There must be a guiding force and a method for moving forward. In this fashion the risk is still there, but it has been minimized as much as possible. That said, there have been many times I have thrown caution to the wind and just followed a gut instinct. Sometimes this is necessary based on circumstances in which a snap decision is required. I started my martial arts business in 1983 and my film career in 1989. Martial arts is much easier to navigate because it has structure, but working in the entertainment industry has been one risk after another. Even with good planning there is so many things that can go wrong when making a movie.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art is my passion. I began training in classical martial arts early in life and it became the driving force in all I do. The Ninja and Samurai arts are not competitive so I decided to use my skills to break into the film industry as an actor and stuntman. At the time everyone said that the odds were against me, but I believe in the power of intention. Within a short time I met a stunt coordinator, became an apprentice, and three months later I was on my first set. During this process I met dozens of like-minded people who wanted to be stunt performers and one by one I watched them falter. I think the only reason I was able to endure was because of my discipline. I was on a mission. My career as an actor took a back seat as I evolved from stuntman to fight choreographer. I think this was because the techniques and movements of my real fighting style adapted well to film and I had an eye for movement. It was extremely difficult working on set with veteran stunt performers who looked at me as a young upstart trying to give them choreography notes, but in most cases I was able to navigate the situations. I look at those stuntmen who gave me a hard time and I have to thank them, they made me step up and prove myself and that is important. I also became involved in practical effects, learning pyrotechnics, prosthetic makeup, firearms handling, prop making, and many other skills that enhanced my value on-set. Although I was very content doing action and special effects, there was still something missing. It was in 1994 that I wrote and sold my first screenplay. That was a huge turning point in my career. As I look back, this is perhaps the most influential moment because I realized that I had the ability to truly turn thought into action. The words I wrote on paper could be brought to life. My career as a filmmaker was born. As I was pursuing this course I still worked as a performer and choreographer and I was doing well with nothing but what appeared to be huge opportunities ahead. Then tragedy struck. My son Hunter was born in January 1998 and had brain injuries and health issues that were unclear. Life immediately changed. My transition to live and work in Hollywood came to a close as it became apparent that Hunter would need a larger family unit to accommodate his care. With my momentum altered, I felt as though my career would start to dwindle. But again, I believe the power of intention took hold. In 1999 I was asked to direct my film million dollar film in my hometown of Denver. How does this type of thing happen? To go from no options to the best possible scenario. Since that time I have written and directed many films while still providing stunt and special effects services to others and I have over a decade as a sales agent at international film markets. But through it all, I have maintained my training and teaching of martial arts, the foundation from which all has blossomed. Now, Fusion Factory Films, Rocky Mountain Stunts, and the Shadow Master Dojo work in total harmony.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Colorado has some amazing things to see. I myself love the many outdoor locations that show off the diverse beauty of the state. I think a day trip to visit the amazing rock formations found in the Garden of the Gods, a look at the cliff dwellings of the Mesa Verde National Park, and a tour inside the majestic Cave of the Winds to see million year old caves that delve deep underground. After that a trip to downtown to see Denver Union Station and have a great dinner.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
For me there are many people who have had an influence on my path. From martial arts masters Frank Goody and Dennis Palumbo to stunt/fight coordinator James Lew, but honestly this list could just go on and on. We are touched by so many people in our lives as we grow and change, so I think it best to give a shoutout to all those I have trained with, worked with, and shared important experiences with.