Posted - 09/01/2013 : 3:26:51 PM
Samantha "Swords" Catto-Mott
Sword Fighter, Actress, European Martial Artist, Performer, Stunt Fighter, Artist, Writer
Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur/Jazma VP
Photo Credits From Top to Bottom: James Gilberd, Rey Alabastro Photography, Callum Forbes, James Gilberd
Rich: When was the first time you picked up a sword?
Samantha: My wonderful mum tells me that I’ve been interested in swords since I was two years old, but my first real memory is of going to Disneyland and fighting all the pirates with a plastic weapon. I was four.
Rich: How did you become involved in using a medieval long sword?
Samantha: I found out about Western Martial Arts through the internet, and tracked down any groups I could find that did medieval fighting- the SCA, re-enactment groups, and eventually Historical European/Western martial arts clubs. I had to keep trying until I found a group that suited me and taught what I wanted to learn.
Rich: You are the Champion of the Longsword for Harcourt Park 2013. How did it feel when you won?
Samantha: I was quite surprised and very pleased. My main instructors were present for all of my fights, and I felt deeply proud that I could take what they’d taught me and make it work under pressure.
Rich: How does it feel to be a role model for others?
Samantha: I feel a lot of responsibility. I’m grateful for the chance to connect with a lot of people, and hope that my perspective on life can help or improve theirs in some way. I am a very happy person, and being able to share that happiness with so many others is a real privilege.
Rich: Who made or provided your equipment and what equipment do you need?
Samantha: I have a mix of modern and historical fighting gear. I use MMA and impact-resistant snowboarding/motorcross body armour underneath my clothes to protect my joints, thighs, arms, chest and tailbone, but my upper armour is mostly medieval. My steel has come from several capable New Zealanders such as Tristan McCallum and Justin Stockbridge, and the beautiful green leather breastplate was designed and made by the amazing Shari Finn, of Weta Workshop. I have made or modified the other pieces I wear, such as the gorget and the gauntlets, and altered a steel medieval helmet to have better visibility and a fully adjustable interior suspension. I also wear a full-contact MMA mouthguard.
Rich: You like to draw, would you like to be or have you been published professionally?
Samantha: I would love to work as a professional illustrator. I have been drawing as long as I’ve loved swords. Most of my work is done privately for people I know or for my own projects. I’m constantly creating and doodling though, and I don’t go anywhere without my small black sketchbook. I believe in doing things well, and would want to commit to full-time illustrating when I am set up to commercially produce a consistently high-end product.
Rich: You worked on "Elysium", "The Hobbit" and "District 9" on props and armour how were those jobs?
Samantha: Fantastic! Being in the film industry is a bit like living in a desert- it can be very dry for a long time, but when it rains, it pours. The work comes fast and overwhelms you, and you have to be on top of your game- able to think on your feet and produce top quality work at short notice. Also, you run the risk of flooding a lot of energy into producing something amazing, only for it to never be used. I find it’s a good way to stay humble, to do your best but also let go of the need to control what you create. I especially love the collaborative process between different people, and seeing how a concept design evolves as it is built and constructed into reality.
Rich: Can you tell us about "Glance Forwards" and your part in it?
Samantha: Every year in New Zealand there is the ‘48 Hours of Furious Film making Competition’, open to anyone who wants to make a film. I was asked by a cinematographer friend that I’d worked with earlier in the year if I wanted to join their team. We had two days to write, shoot and edit our film, which we did, but devastatingly weren’t able to hand the final product on time due to a technical problem with the rendering software. We disqualified ourselves so that we could hand in the full version after the deadline, and although we weren’t able to compete we could still watch our film on the big screen at the 48 HR screenings.
My character Vic Meyer is an insomniac who has just moved into an apartment with her girlfriend, and is being driven mad by lack of sleep and distorted perceptions. There’s also a chink in space/time connecting her back to her grandparents living in the 1950's. ‘Glance Forwards’ is like a Twilight Zone/Hitchcock hybrid, where there is a lot left unexplained.
Rich: What is Weta?
Samantha: Weta Workshop is a special effects facility in Wellington New Zealand, which is best known for the design and effects on award-winning film projects including the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong, Avatar, District 9, The Adventures of Tintin and The Hobbit. Weta covers a huge range of disciplines including conceptual design, weapons, specialist props, armour, specialty costumes, vehicles, miniature models, special makeup and prosthetics, children’s television, and also public art sculptures and displays.
Rich: What has been your most rewarding acting part?
Samantha: I have loved many of my roles but the most rewarding was the lead character in a famous theatrical Spanish tragedy called “Blood Wedding”. I played the Mother; a strong, proud country woman who tries to hold the pieces together as everyone around her descends into this horrific and unstoppable blood feud. She is left at the end of the play as this hollowed out, grieving woman, haunted by violence and loss. She was an extraordinary character, and still lives with me in many ways.
Rich: As a Life Model what does the job entail?
Samantha: My job is to inspire visual artists with my body, and to hold positions that express a feeling or an action so that they can study and sketch/paint/draw or sculpt an interpretation of me. It’s partially intended for nude anatomical study, but I became known for modelling with props- nothing changes the mood like introducing a knife or a skull to a pose!
Rich: You wrote "Savage Tracks", how do you relax after a hard day of work?
Actually, I wrote ‘Savage Tracks’ *after* a full day of work! I was in the height of busyness during prop-making on the Hobbit and Superman: Man of Steel, but I was also very focused on creating the series. I think my brain loves to be active, and my paid work was very complimentary to my personal projects. I would do a 50+hour week at Weta, but each day I was coming home and writing for four hours. I relaxed by taking my German Shepherd out for walks, training in martial arts, and had the occasional weekend off spending time with loved ones or playing Mass Effect. I also enjoy motorbike riding, going on hikes and exploring new places.
Rich: "Stomp On!" is that a saying of yours?
Samantha: It is now!
Rich: How can someone contact you?
Samantha: I am on Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and Tumblr. I regularly check my messages when I’m not travelling or working furiously on a project.
Rich: Any words for all those who have supported you?
Samantha: I’m happy to have inspired so many people with what I do. I think that everyone has something that makes them amazing, and I’ve found that when you prioritize doing what you love, you learn a huge amount, meet other great people and are generally healthier and happy. The trick is to find the balance in meeting your responsibilities and following your passions, and to have the patience to take small steps to big dreams. I wish everyone the best and hope that they can become the kind of awesome person that they respect and admire.