ByJerome Maida, writer at Creators.co
Writer
Jerome Maida

When you take into account that Michael Baumgarten of the upcoming "The Martial Arts Kid" film, it is fair to ay it is "his baby" and his vision up there on the big screen.

So Baumgarten, who up until now is likely best known for his work on the movie "Smitty", was understandably ecstatic that "The Martial Arts Kid" took home the award for "Best Florida Film" earlier this month at the Sunscreen Film Festival in Florida.

But what is almost more invigorating to the filmmaker is that Matthew Ziff, who plays the bully Bo Whitlaw in the film, was recognized as Best Supporting Actor.

Baumgarten says Ziff threw himself into the role of Whitlaw to such a degree - Ziff normally looks like a clean-cut heartthrob instead of a bulky bully - that he is almost unrecognizable in the film to those who know him.

"Having Matthew Ziff win for Best Supporting Actor was very deserving", says Baumgarten. "When an actor has the bravery and commitment to change his appearance and become somebody he truly is not, that’s exciting to me as a filmmaker and a movie fan."

"Not enough actors take those kind of chances."

Baumgarten says he was impressed by Ziff's "transformation" for the role.

"He doesn't look like the same person!", exclaims Baumgarten. "Matthew Ziff’s character transformation was the result of us looking at the actual Matthew Ziff and thinking he looked like too much of a handsome lad to play the bully."

"Beyond that, we didn’t want him to look the same as he had in other films", Baumgarten continues. "We wanted a unique Matthew Ziff role that would forever be attached to this movie."

"So Don Wilson, James Wilson, and I brainstormed a bit and thought he’d make a good “Florida bully” if he had a Marine cut and the goatee of Edward Norton in ‘American History X.’", adds Baumgarten. "And thus, the basic physical character of ‘Bo Whitlaw’ was brought to life."

Baumgarten says Ziff went above what everyone involved in the film initially wanted from him as far as transforming himself.

"Matthew went beyond our expectations by packing on some ‘bully weight’ and playing ‘Bo’ as bit of a meathead… which is opposite the real Matthew Ziff who is a recent engineering grad", laughs Baumgarten. "Thanks to Matthew’s commitment, ‘Bo Whitlaw’ is a fuller character than written on the page."

"The Martial Arts Kid" is scheduled to hit theaters later in 2015.

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