LAist Interview: Michele Morrow from the Foam Weapon League

I've been obsessed with the concept since I clicked on a Facebook link to the first round of photos; if you're not at least curious about the goings on of the recently instituted Foam Weapon League, perhaps a pulse-check is in order. Brought to life by Scream Queen and artist Michele Morrow and friends, FWL is Dungeons & Dragons on steroids with a side of Civil War Reenactment thrown in for good measure. Booze, bands, boobs, and (fake) blood abound, resulting in the most legal fun you've had in a while. Oh, and the fighting, as their website warns, is indeed REAL (even if the weapons and blood aren't) so leave the white t-shirt at home.

We offer a primer on all things FWL from COO Michele Morrow, plus a gallery of photos from their last fight.

For those that haven't heard of it before, explain how the Foam Weapon League came to be. How are you involved? Is it central to Los Angeles only?
We had our first secret event in October -- a foam weapon fight club on top of a rooftop in downtown Hollywood. Somehow LA Weekly was there, and after that, we started getting piles of emails from production companies, fans, press, and wannabe Warriors from all over the country.

Was this an area of interest for you, or is this a new love? Did you grow up on World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons, for instance?
Old love. I've always been attracted to epic movies like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.... I think there's something about escape and the heightened sense of reality that we're all drawn to. Horror movies provide the same weight - high stakes and the battle of Good vs. Evil. I'm admittedly known to be a big World of Warcraft fan and player. The FWL is probably best described as a video game 1v1 duel come to life - like Mortal Kombat or Tekken. We provide our Warriors the opportunity to live out their own fantasy super selves, and what's truly unique about us is that we encourage Warriors to be from ANY era, genre, or alignment. We have a one dude that dresses as The Big Bad Wolf - complete with mask and fur costume, and another guy named El Macho who dons a sombrero and fights with foam daggers. We definitely have the LARP-types in Prince Harming and Lady Ashes, but we also have 3Pac and The Butch Lesbian Avenger...so, it's a big tent.

How long did it take to get FWL off the ground, and how did you go about organizing the first fight?
Castings were posted via Craigslist, LA Casting, Actor's Access - shockingly, we got over 500 submissions. We picked twelve for the secret rooftop Battle in October. It was a ton of organization, but it allowed us to shoot a great sizzle reel, and test operations.

The fighters are the real show. Can anyone participate or is there a screening process?
Anyone can be a FWL Warrior if they have a unique Combat Character with a name and costume. They gotta have fun while keeping a competitive spirit. They also must be willing to actually fight and accept the fact that they may get hurt. These weapons are foam rubber and while they won't cut or kill, bruises or welts are possible. Major League FWL Warriors should be able to interact with the crowd and give a good show, while understanding this is a real fight - nothing is choreographed. We'll be traveling around the country and setting up leagues outside of LA - if people are interested they should send an email to fwlcasting@gmail.com.

If someone shows up to a fight, what can they expect? What are the rules?
If you show up to a Battle, there will be a Fight Card with bracket match-ups between two FWL teams. Each Fight has up to three one-minute rounds. There are two FWL Referees in the Ring that watch for fouls (no headshots, no bull-rushing, etc). If a Warrior fouls, their opponent is awarded 1 point. If a Warrior breaks one of their opponent's Blood Bags, they obtain 3 points. However, regardless of how many points a Warrior has accrued, the Warrior who bursts two of their opponent's Blood Bags first, wins. If two Blood Bags do not break within the three rounds, the Warrior who has the most points at the end wins. If there is a tie, there will be a Sudden Death round - first Blood Bag broken wins.

How did you get the bands involved?
Bands have been contacting us! It's totally surreal. Obviously our dream is to get GWAR. We'll be using their fake blood recipe at our next LA event on Valentines Day 2/14/11.

I went to the second fight and it was madness with the amount of press - photographers and cameramen - that were there. Why do you think this has taken off so rapidly?
It's undeniably visceral. A fight breaks out and it's our natural instinct to stop everything and watch. I think the big kid in all of us likes the idea of dressing up in costume and beating the crap out of each other with foam rubber swords. Add fake blood and beer, and it's pretty much a winning combination.

What's next for FWL?
Craigslist TV contacted us, wanting to shoot a docushort on the FWL for their popular YouTube channel, so they've been following us for a couple months. We just signed a production deal with Brownstone Entertainment, got agents, and are currently shopping a TV show concept to networks. We brought on professional tennis player, Jan-Michael Gambill, to head up our Sports Development Department and we plan on having a full FWL Major and Minor League with live Battles in at least twelve major cities in 2011.