Actors who shoot bows and arrows on-screen look impressive and effortless at the same time. But how do they do that? Who teaches them archery skills so they can end up looking that cool? Often it’s a dedicated coach who teaches them all about the sport, practices with them on a range and teaches them the basics of form so the action looks as realistic as possible while still having a wow factor. That was the case for “The Hunger Games” and the CW’s “Arrow.” Patricia Gonsalves is the archery coach who trains the actors for the latter.
Gonsalves was born in Barbados and has spent a large portion of her life traveling and cultivating her love of archery. Through her travels, she’s learned about various cultures and styles of archery, and she’s brought that knowledge to “Arrow.” Cupid, a character in the Arrowverse, uses an Asiatic composite-style bow made from wood, horn and sinew. She also uses a Turkish-style thumb draw – Gonsalves thinks the character might be the only one currently using that style on North American TV. With this thumb draw, you shoot the arrow on the opposite side of the bow from where you place your hand. Your index finger keeps the arrow in place, which gives you more freedom to launch the arrow on the run or from difficult angles.
“Amy Gumenick, who plays Cupid, was very keen and intent on making sure that she got that thumb-drop…technique down properly,” Gonsalves said in an interview with MEA WorldWide. Gonsalves takes pride in promoting accurate portrayals of archery in film. She trains actors in the basics of archery and teaches them the entire shot process to make the shot look as realistic as possible.
Gonsalves is the founder of Lykopis Archery in Vancouver, and she uses the same coaching method with actors as she does with her regular students. After the actors understand the shot process, she teaches them how to move with the bow so they can take their shots while walking, running or fighting. According to Gonsalves, one of the actors on “Arrow” was a natural. “Of all the actors that trained with me, we had one actor in specific who really didn’t need much of a lesson,” Gonsalves told MEA WorldWide. “She was totally a natural, and that’s Katie Cassidy. She stepped in and she just —bull’s-eye, bull’s-eye, bull’s-eye.”
Though it is normally a massive no-no in archery, Gonsalves has to have the actors dry-fire their bow. Shooting real arrows during chaotic action sequences would be unsafe, but the actors have to go through the full shot process in order for the action to look real. “When we’re training for film archery, we start out by teaching the basic info method that we use with my school, and then we move on to dry fire,” Gonsalves said in another interview with MEA WorldWide. “So, they get to shoot some real arrows for a little while, and then we move on to sort of making it look like they’re shooting an arrow.”
Gonsalves said that it was difficult to get Madison McLaughlin, who plays Artemis and was already an experienced archer, to dry-fire the bow. “Trying to get her to dry fire, to actually let go of the string without an arrow, was a challenge because it had been drilled into her to never, ever, ever, ever do that,” Gonsalves told MEA WorldWide. She eventually decided to play “Let it Go” from “Frozen” for McLaughlin, bringing some humor to the situation and encouraging McLaughlin to literally “let it go.” Keep in mind that Gonsalves is a professional archer with over 30 years of training and experience, along with an extensive list of show credits. She inspects the bows for safety before filming and confirms that they are safe to dry-fire. Archers should definitely leave that to the professionals. Kids: Don’t try this at home.
It’s important that correct form and different styles of archery are represented accurately in the media. When movies and TV shows hire a professional archer to coach the actors, it shows their dedication to doing this. And it doesn’t hurt that they can make the shots look as cool as possible. The next time you see someone using a bow and arrow in a movie or TV show, give props to both the coach and the actors for making archery look so good.
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