Oh 2016, I Don't Hate You, But...

This was a terrible night for clubbing.
I sit here at work, writing this and recovering from a cold going three weeks strong while hoping to goodness that this doesn't last through my birthday which is in ANOTHER three weeks. I suppose it's an appropriate finish to an otherwise, and in many ways, awful and inauspicious year - I could probably write out a litany of things to illustrate these sentiments, though I'm not about to. I'm sure there are plenty of blogs and memes out there that can sum this year's misgivings right nicely into one big old #Fuck2016 send-off.

Still though, and like any year before this or will be after, it was a year generally none of us saw coming, and I sure didn't. Thus, looking back on a year which most others will see as one worth forgetting, for me, it hasn't been a complete let down and so I can't really jump on the "Fuck 2016" bandwagon with as much gusto as everyone else. That's not to say that my year has been perfect any, it hasn't. Trust me. Point in fact, there are definitely moments that could have led to much better results but simply did not. However, for all the times where it counted, I will say this: Sometimes it takes the initiative of more than one person for things to go a certain way. And, well... when those other people fail to deliver on their end, it is then and there you realize that it takes personal initiative: When relying on yourself is your only option, no matter how good or bad something flips.

From around the top of the year - I'd say about February - that was what I essentially realized about myself, and it kind of dates back to the moment I decided to start this site one evening back in late 2012. Sure, for the three years thereafter, my goal was to feature a platform for people who make a variety of action films and growing it as a viable news site. Similarly, I found myself at a precipice and essentially crossing over into a new era of my life where not only was I able to share and engage the work I talk about on my site, I have also benefitted in sharing the same virtual space as many of these people who work in the field I take interest in regularly, and incidentally finding myself among some of the best in company. Gladly, that pattern continued into this year for me, having laughed with, ate with and drunk with even more some of the best people I'm lucky to consider as acqauintances, or even friends if I'm so lucky.

This sort of thing hasn't been easy to accomplish, and it still isn't. Indeed, there are still some who don't know who I am (that issue never gets old), on top of the usual demographic of deplorables on social media who would go take a page right out of the Donald Trump playbook and post ad hominem attacks at others just to garner attention. I've also been either rejected beforehand or completely blown off midway during interviews, and after running around for a half hour in the cold, I ended up stranded outside an afterparty following this year's Urban Action Showcase here in NYC due to dress code issues (apparently flannel and cargos are a no-go). There are some other matters of character assesment that have come to light in recent weeks and, surely, I have heard my share of stories this year - plenty of good and a few really bad ones - and it has certainly benefitted me to have conversations with informative and wise people about these things, lest I be maligned with the wrong people during my growth. I'm actually making a mental list of those folks and thankfully it's not a long one, which speaks greatly to my aspirations as a writer and the optimism that lies ahead.

It helps to turn to examples like these as factors into how to generally shapen viewpoint and outlook on life. Every little thing counts for something. Every action. Every thought. Every breath and blink of an eye. Every chance is a chance for something possibly good no matter how much it teeters either way, and it all boils down to why I made the decision I made four years ago to do what I do now. It even encompasses the decision I made a few weekends ago when I was at a Christmas party being surrounded by people I didn't personally know. As outgoing as one can be, it's easily to feel withdrawn, and especially when you're suffering from a terrible cold. Thankfully, my moment was brief enough for me to sort of snap out of my funk and give myself a chance to look people in the eye and be known, and the results were nothing short of pleasant. Stuffy on the lungs and nostils, but amicable and wholly gratifying.

This particular Christmas party was a fundraiser held at NY Combat Sambo on 36th street between 6th and 7th Avenue in Manhattan. I'm guessing dozens of folks must have shown-up between the time it started and the time I arrived and I know some people even had to leave long before the party was over. The event was hosted by instructor Stephen Koepfer, an up-and-coming stuntman I friended back in May after Hit Listing an action comedy short he did called Sticks At Dawn along with actor, filmmaker and martial arts instructor Paul Varacchi who also attended and even catered for the event. Paul's a pretty damn good cook too and I'm judging mostly by the food porn he's posted on Facebook before, mainly because everyone murdered the man's lasagna long before I got there. Thankfully, Paul made some wicked gluten-free brownies and being the crackhead for chocolate that I am, I'm certain he's got a customer in me.

The party was great while it lasted! The lights were off for the hour and change I was in the room wherein we spent that time watching shortfilms and stunt reels, in addition to Koepfer's latest documentary, Concrete And Crashpads: Stunts In New York which I reviewed. When the lights came back on, I got to mingle a bit and meet a few more of the people I've written about in one form or another - I finally got to meet Federico Berte and Ben Rezendes after sharing some of their stunt reels in the past few years. I shook hands with Ben's girlfriend Elise and also met fellow stunt performers Benjamin Hinnant and Tonya Blair. I also reacquainted with stuntman Philippe Vonlanthen who followed up from our first meet this summer by bringing some Masala-flavored popcorn. It's an acquired taste but it's pretty delish.

Stuntwoman Hannah D. Scott on screen in "Concrete And Crashpads"
Everybody at the party was the coolest, all while my cold persisted and my voice was total shit. I sounded like I'd been smoking 50 packs of Newports a day... It was nasty. All of it. I hated it. But, I mustered up what I could and toughed it out and gladly it made it all the difference. Either that or for not staying home and under the covers, I was extremely lucky my head didn't explode. Ha!

We took pics, and I even took a few myself, including on the train ride home after the party started falling out and we all said our farewells. I had the great pleasure of Tonya joining me and we talked for almost the whole ride. She had the sniffles, so she sort of understood my struggle! We laughed and made funny faces, we spoke a bit about our respective occupations, about her career and training goals and things she would like to try soon in terms of stunts among other things... reflecting on it, it was probably the best train ride home I'd ever had in a long time. It's like coming home a big event and then having to go home alone by yourself. It sucks, and it so it was nice to really make another friend and to have the company that I had. Tonya has a really cool, laid back and drama-free aura about herself. I love her energy and I look forward to seeing her career grow even more beyond this point.

2016 has had its ups and downs - generally speaking, some of those downs were on some serious steroids...low points none of us needed. Losing guys like Prince, Bowie and Ali, reading about the atrocities occuring in Aleppo, Flint's water crisis in the state of Michigan, and the ever-mounting toxicity of American politics stemming from the normalization of white supremacy, hate and bigotry and fake news...all these and more just further accumulate into just the conclusive clusterfuck that this year has turned out to be. It sucks. It sucks big. Fuck 2016. I'm with you guys. We didn't need this sad joke of a year rolling out like it did.

That is how I feel, in general, in the background of things and how current events have played out for people around the world and for me as a citizen of this world in this era and this time. Going forward however, and in the course of my own pursuit of good prospects and happiness, I take to heart the purpose that I come with in this world. I've been an actor, a singer, a songwriter, and even a wannabe Power Ranger. Some of you know that I now work in retail in a small clothing store in Queens, New York City while many of you know me through the output you've seen here accumulating at Film Combat Syndicate for the last four years, a period that has not been without its share of challenges, some unforseen albeit typical in certain instances. In parallel, however, I wake up everyday, doing what I do here, looking up news to share and discuss and people to aspire toward and promote, and all in all thankful of the times where I went and took a chance, even if it meant getting screwed in the end or even left feeling bitter by it.

Yes, some things are still worth fighting for. What we do in life, what we think about, the morals and principles we adhere to for the growth and good of ourselves and others, the things and people we love and people in general, the habits and practices we hold near and dear and all we value in life... these are worth fighting for. Sure, even I acknowledge that I will still have my moments of self-doubt and then some. Although, in continuation of this hurdled process of trying to live life past its struggles, therein lies the little things we are all reminded of: A friendly message on Facebook or a delightful phone conversation, a handshake and shared beer, bite a chat or so much as a hug, or the profound affirmation of someone who says they value what you do, even in the face of unwarranted animosity from an unloyal few.

That said, it truly comforts me that there are people who genuinely like me as a person. That is what I want to achieve with the people that I write about and I know who some of them are, not all, and I won't name names so as to embarrass anyone by getting sappy. Still, in speaking for myself and the select number of contributors here at Film Combat Syndicate, know that I, in turn, thank each and everyone of you for continuing to support this endeavor, this journey of ours and mine at that. It's a path that has allowed me to enjoy so much more beyond mere fandom, to centralize my work around a community of people that make the films and shows we enjoy possible - The people who endure the extremes and get their hands dirty. These people are intergral in some of the best moments I've ever had in my life this year and the three years prior and it's why I almost always make a concerted effort to meet and greet as many people as possible whenever they are in town.

For all these and then some, I hope this continues going into 2017. Granted, even if they are a hop, skip and a train ride away, I realize that meet and greets will not always be conducive to some folks who are working or on some kind of leave, and that will largely depend on scheduling or even preference, which I respect. Nevertheless, the new year looms with some pretty great content out there on the big and small screen and with New York City being such a Mecca, it is my hope that I will get to have and share more opportunities to make acquaintance and soldify myself as more than a writer.

Funny enough, I've grown a bit of a reputation as "The Hit List" guy - a reference to my Monday night column filled with the latest in stunt reels and shortfilms. It brings a smile to my face because it is a huge step forward for me in gaining some acknowledgement in what I do. I love film, mainly action films, and it just so happens that I have found a niche that obliges what I have been doing off and on in some form or another for about twelve years, and what I now continue to do at Film Combat Syndicate since 2012 when I was nothing more than a fanpage on Facebook at the time - a time when I didn't have much else to do except sit at work and continue feeling like I was wasting my soul.

It's been hard and it still is, but at this point in my life, it's nothing I can't handle. Above all else however, I couldn't have lasted this long without the support of readers, and especially the stunt and film community at large. Going into year five, I certainly hope to have more adventures and stories to share and first hand accounts with the very people whose smiles and gestures of kindness have brought me all sorts of positive energy and fortitude. Those are the people that matter to me the most, and I look forward to building some more friendships and relationships, and helping others in the long haul where and when I can.

I also hope to interview some more females this year. I interviewed Jennifer Linch who is well on the way with evolving the development of her latest action project now called Violet (you can follow that page here) while I spent most of 2016 interviewing guys when my original plan was to include an even balance of the sexes. I would personally like to rectify that in the new year with the help of my contributors where and when they can, in addition to hopefully establishing a bigger collective who can help familiarize me with certain IPs given all the adaptations we're bound to see in the next decade or more.

Going forward, I will definitely be taking in more anime as well - I'm still bingeing on Gintama which helped greatly in the months leading up to its first teaser so I could write about it. As for what's in theaters, John Wick: Chapter 2, The Fate Of The Furious, Logan, Headshot, xXx 3, Wonder Woman and Power Rangers are the first that come to mind for moviegoing in 2017, and I certainly hope to get people together to check some of these flicks out by then. I love being with good company, especially at the movies. And if I'm fortunate enough, I might even be able take up some lessons at NY Combat Sambo under Paul's and Stephen's instruction - marking my first time back in a self-defense arena since 1998.

I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of other things I would like to enjoy and endulge in this year, and preferably within a year not offset by a repeat of what this year has brought us in turmoil. I personally want to see people happy and I think most of us deserve the happiness we seek this year. Rest assured, I know my own happiness certainly comes from the warm welcome of being face to face with members of the stunt and film industry as I continue to find my place in or around it, and in most instances, it's not a one-sided thing. It takes one's own initiative and that of others for these chances to arise, and so to those of you who have met me halfway and for all your efforts to give a guy like me a chance share space, to talk about things you care about and to ask about me and what I do, and to build a rapport and engage you and actually feel like a journalist to some degree, know this: You have made me truly happy this year, and I hope to be able to meet many more of you and finally bridge the gaps that social media leaves between our messages and comments.

I miss quite a number of you who I have already met, and I hope all of you are having a safe, warm and lively Holiday season. And to my readers, thank you for sticking around this year, for investing your time and interest, and for still doing so to this day. No matter what denomination you share this Holiday, I hope it is a pleasant and peaceful one.

Thank you all very much!

Lee B. Golden III,
Writer, founder and editor


  1. That was a nice read. Thank you for that. I too had a roller coaster of a year. Here's to 2017 being the best year ever!

  2. Thanks for giving this old man a chance to exercise his writing muscles, your valued input, and constructive words. I do hope to see you in the future.

    Merry Christmas and have a better/healthier New Year!

    1. Likewise Cameron! And hey, don't stop writing for us if you can help it. Your input is always welcome.


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