Hollywood Stunt Drivers and Action Directors have been putting emotion into America’s hot-rods for years.
One of our all time faves illustrates this perfectly – Duel. Often overlooked, Stephen Spielberg’s directorial debut film was an intense ride, start to finish. All with just one lead actor, Richard Weaver.
(If you haven’t seen Duel – it’s about a terrified motorist that is stalked on a remote desert road by a menacing tanker truck.)
Spielberg chose the hero car, a red 1971 Plymouth Valiant, to stand out in the wide shots of the desert highway. The vehicle also personified the polite-until-pushed, middle class American.
The antagonist vehicle steals the show. Spielberg selected a 1955 Peterbilt 281 because of the elongated hood, the split windshield and round headlights. These features gave it more of a “face”, adding to the menacing personality. It worked for Spielberg and also for John Lasseter in Disney / Pixar’s Cars. The character Mater, voice by Larry the Cable Guy, bears a striking resemblance to Duel’s Peterbilt.
The majority of the film takes place on a remote desert highway as the truck swerves, brakes, and speeds in attempt to crash the Plymouth and Richard Weaver. It’s friggin awesome. Spielberg and stunt drivers Cary Loftin, Carol Daniels and Dale Van Sickel’s make the viewing experience more intense than what the NASCAR Track Pack can deliver today. Their moves, angles, and close-ups make you feel like you are hanging on to the bumper for dear life!
This 1971 film stands the test of time because the vehicles capture basic, raw human emotion. The film was masterfully executed. OK, so we’re biased 😉
If you have not seen this old-school film, do yourself a favor and rent it this weekend. And don’t take the back roads next time you drive to Vegas!
These two films, Fast and Furious, and Drive have two different variables that make up their own unique story but both have one constant. One is a franchise based on amazing driving, the other is a story about a driver. Both have accomplished stunt drivers, but who was really behind the wheel? And who gets to choreograph all those scenes? Training actors to look natural while being pulled behind a truck, go-mobile, mic rig, process-trailer or on a green screen is one thing, but to get those intense, hart stopping, and precise stunts takes professionals.
Hours upon hours and sometimes even days go into the set up and filming to just get one shot or a series of shots to make up a 2 minute chase sequence. Stunt Coordinators, 2nd Unit Directors Action Directors and stunt drivers alike pride ourselves in that safety is first, and second would be to get the shot without mistakes. Using a wide variety of vehicles adds complexity to any driving scene. The Stunt Coordinator works closely with the producers and directors to design a high octane chase scene while pushing the envelope on there stunt sequences. On the last Fast and Furious film Dodge got involved early on to help design the look for some of the cars and rig them for the performance needed for the stunt drivers.
The Fast and Furious franchise started out with Veteran Stunt Coordinator Mic Rogers best know for stunt doubling and stunt coordinating for Mel Gibson for years. The last couple Fast films have been Stunt Coordinated by Mike Gunther and 2nd Unit Director Spiro Razatos “Expendables,Total Recall, Death Race“. On the film Drive, Stunt coordinator Darrin Prescott “Indiana Jones, Dukes of Hazzard” also served as 2nd Unit director giving this very stylized film a new way of filming car scenes.
These experts in the industry of filming car chases allows a production to capture the intensity needed for the audiences.
We know what looks good on screen and what excites the viewer. Whether its for a NASCAR commercial, Music video, or action film, we can produce the intensity needed for the project.
Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders coined the phrase, “Way to go Ohio.” It seems appropriate today as Disney / Marvel’s The Avengers is getting rave early reviews and is prepped to take box offices by storm next week.
Many of the action sequences and battle scenes were filmed in beautiful Downtown Cleveland. Public Square, the Courthouse Building on Lakeside, Superior Avenue and many other locations around town gave director Joss Whedon the look and flexibility he needed.
With the support of the Cleveland Film Commission’s Ivan Schwartz and Jason Drake, The Avengers had a wonderful experience filming on the shores of Lake Erie. Great work, guys!
The Production flew most of the Stunt crew out from Los Angles to perform the technical stunts. Stunt Coordinator RA Rondell “Matix, Superman, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” a Brand X Member over saw and designed the stunt sequences in the Cleveland area.
Here’s hoping more blockbuster films realize the value of filming in Cleveland. I know T Minus Productions can’t wait to film there!
HollywoodStuntCoordinator.com is one of the leading websites in the world helping marketing entities, public relations houses, car conglomerates, and production companies bring live action stunt shows to life. Curtis Koller, VP of Development, stated “Working as head of casting for Disney Animation for years has helped us at T-Minus Productions utilize our creative outlets here in Hollywood to produce dynamic live stunt shows. We use the same artist at Pixar and Disney to storyboard the show to give the clients an idea of the possibilities of how our show will run. With our resources of Directors, Stunt Coordinators and high-tech stunt equipment we are able to create an original stunt show or reenact stunts that has been played out before in a film or television show of your liking.”
CEO TJ White has over 20 years of experience in front of the camera as well as behind bringing his expertise to heighten the energy in a live stunt show arena. TJ’s experience of working with some of the biggest artist in the world like Britney Spears, JLo, 50 Cent, and the Foo Fighters gives your clients the professionalism and capability to pull off a show of the highest caliber in the business.
The capabilities are endless on what T-Minus Productions can achieve to make your live stunt show the jaw-dropping production to remember. Regardless of how modest or how massive your budget is, T-Minus can ensure that they provide you with the ultimate experience to fit your needs.
Live stunt shows are the opportune way to show of your product and make the audience remember who you are. With the talented and innovative minds of this team working with you there isn’t anything that you cannot achieve. Top companies all over the world consistently call upon T-Minus Productions to create a fantasy of stunts to indulge their spectators in a bevy of wonderment.
Sci-Fi action thriller The Hunger Games (directed by Gary Ross) proves that audiences want to see action, drama, and perhaps more importantly, great stunt work!
To date, the film has grossed nearly $500M worldwide. Critics have compared THG’s staying power to that of Avatar and Titanic. The film’s female centered cast and compelling action sequences have been credited as the key elements to the film’s success.
The Hunger Games’ stunt performers, as well as stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, and Liam Hemsworth, have called their THG stunt training the most intense of their careers. Stage Combat moves are abound in the film, with actors taking each other on with knives, bow and arrow, and seemingly anything they can get their hands on! The chaotic fight sequences keep the action moving and the audiences hearts pounding .
Action reigns supreme in this box office smash – as is the case with nearly all of the top grossing films in history.
Stunt Coordinator TJ White with Stuntwoman Boni Yanagisawa
Stunt training actors and actresses is something that elite stunt coordinators and stuntmen do quite often on set. The reason there is an industry in stunts is because in most cases it is impossible for an actor to be able to act and have the ability to perform all stunts. Although in many cases there are a few that insist on doing some of the labor and in more cases the directors are the ones that require the actor to enlist in stunt training so they can get their shot for their action sequence.
Using the Bourne film series as an example of why stunt training actors can increase profit in the box office. These films wouldn’t be as thrilling if you didn’t see Matt Damon speeding through the streets of Paris in a Mini Cooper. The fight sequences wouldn’t be as brutal if you didn’t see a glimpse of Damon’s face versus just the back of his stunt double’s head. Of course his double is there to do more of the extreme and technical aspects but directors know what audiences want and they want to believe their favorite action hero can actually do most if not some of the stunts.
As filmmaking advances with new technology there is an advancement that is happening within the actors as well. With new creative ideas of how stunts can be done and how far the line can be crossed the evolution of stunt training actors has to forge ahead.
Today, it is a fact that stunt training has elevated the action actor into another realm of fame and glory. Tom Cruise’s ability to train and do many of his stunts in the Mission: Impossible film series is due to the hard efforts of the stunt department training and perfecting his proficiency in stunts. Audiences flock to the theater to see Cruise be Ethan Hunt because they believe the action. Fans don’t like to be fooled so when they see their action actor performing alongside their doubles it gives them a sense of relief to know that their badass hero that they just spent $20 dollars to go see at the theater is delivering the goods.
Training begins many weeks and even months before any director ever yells “Action!” In pre-production the stunt training can include motorcycle driving, stunt driving, and various forms of fighting to make sure that the actor is believable when it comes time to film. When the actors have gone as far as they can go then the stuntmen and stuntwomen come into play. Many stunt performers include: college athletes, cirque de soliel performers, high divers, Olympic athletes, MMA fighters, NASCAR drivers, and even sensi’s themselves. These experts will work alongside the actor to create a reality that then can be taken on screen and be creditable.
As always safety is rule number one and stunt coordinators and stuntmen will always be sure to use proper stunt equipment and pads to reduce the risk of injury. It is important to have well qualified coordinators on set and involved with the stunt training because if your lead actor gets injured because he or she thought she could do the stunt, well then your whole picture is postponed and all your momentum becomes deflated along with the studio’s pocket book.
The classic textbook tale to become a director is that you must first go to film school where there you will start to direct shorts, commercials, and music videos. After many of these trials you could possibly get the chance to direct a full length feature film where here you may have the chance to get your break. This ideology has worked for many but not for the masses. In reality many directors have started their career not in the power chair but in a position that has them closer to the action than any director can possibly get to and that is in the stunt department.
Directors Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh
When filming, a director calls upon the stunt coordinator or 2nd unit director to create and oversee the action scenes to ensure safety and to certify that the right sequences are caught on film so that they have what they need when it comes time for post production. With the given that these 2nd unit directors and coordinators are in the thick of events it only seems like a natural progression for them to be the ones that are directing the films of today. Many stunt men turned directors are not blatantly obvious to the general audience but when you look deeper at their body of work you can see the difference and realize why this happy marriage between these two fields workHal Nedham and Burt ReynoldsA couple of the most famous stunt men that became directors are Clint Eastwood Million Dollar Baby (2004), J.Edgar (2011) and Hal Needham The Cannon Ball Run (1981), Smokey and the Bandit (1977). These successful directors learned their craft while performing and supervising action sequences on film sets. In addition to those greats, there has been many more up and coming directors like TV and film director David Barrett The Mentalist, Blue Bloods. Along with Steve Boyum stuntman turned director for Hawaii 5-0, Supernatural.
Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds
More success stories include Dan Bradley who 2nd unit directed for such blockbuster films like The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Bradley just wrapped the remake of Red Dawn in which he directed. Brian Smrz directed Hero Wanted with Cuba Gooding Jr. and came from 2nd unit directing pictures like Iron Man 3, X-Men:First Class and Live Free or Die Hard.
Making a name for himself in the thriller genre is 2nd Unit director David Ellis who did the 2nd unit on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone along with The Matrix Reloaded. A few of his directing titles include Final Destination, Cellular, and Shark Night. The majority of action in these films were computer effects that Ellis designed to give the audience the thrill of their life. Being a seasoned stuntman gave Ellis the vision of what looks good on film and what the audience craves.
Studios, producers and directors alike have always relied on Stunt Coordinators to get the action footage needed to balance out the film. With the experience of directing stunts and camera angles it is more evident that a 2nd unit director would make the smooth transition into the director’s chair telling the entire story through their well trained eye.
Director David Ellis instructing Actress for next shot.
Most recently the box office hit Act of Valor was produced and directed by two stuntmen Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh. With the well choreographed dance of high fleeting action and explosions created by McCoy and Waugh the audience responded by spending millions of dollars in the theater proving that the formula of stuntmen turned directors works and is profitable. Who better to direct a film then the ones that are in the trenches?
With the success of the Act of Valor many may see this stuntman turned director a trend. To attest this we must say that it is not a trend but it is the way it has always been. Smart and sophisticated stuntmen can make this an effortless conversion. If you are already shadowing the director or in most coordinator’s or 2nd unit director’s case showing the director exactly what needs to be done then it makes sense as to why these men have been such a success. Act of Valor may have been the most recent of films to prove this point but it most definitely won’t be the last.
Stunt Driving got its start during the Prohibition Era when bootleggers would make illegal whiskey and moonshine deliveries throughout the US. These drivers were notorious for using modified high-speed cars to transport their goods and for using daring driving maneuvers to escape authorities. Drivers would modify their cars for speed, handling, and increased cargo capacity, and most came to love the fast-paced driving down twisty mountain roads. When Prohibition was repealed, the love of aggressive driving and modification spawned the first Stock Car and NASCAR races.
Shortly after, Film and television audiences became infatuated with America’s need for speed. In the 70’s and 80’s, Hollywood developed their version of stunt driving while filming shows like Dukes of Hazzard and films like Bullet with Steve McQueen. This type of driving has tested the limits of vehicles and the skills of drivers for years.
Stunt Drivers are like puppeteers who perform a choreographed dance with their vehicles. Modification and precision control make the vehicles perform in a way they are not designed, yet on camera it looks like a creative, smooth, skilled movement showing off the lines and performance of the car.
To capture the raw adrenaline of these stunts, Hollywood destroys thousands of cars each year. To safely and precisely execute these stunts, drivers train their entire lives. Even the smallest of mistakes by a driver can cost a production thousands of dollars. Car damage, cast/crew overtime and insurance expenses inflate if the driver is not able to get the shot the first or second take. T Minus Productions works with the industry’s best professional race car drivers, stunt drivers, stunt driving teams and precision driving teams. We mix and match to efficiently meet all vehicle sequence needs while saving production money. Our safety record is second to none.
Generation X Drivers
A Stunt Driving Team located in Los Angeles California
This film is a play along to give kids the chance to sing and dance along with the characters on screen. In the Los Angeles pre-screening of the film spectators said that it looked like a Jamboree event. The kids were getting out of their seats going to the front of the theater dancing, and singing along to the songs of the film. We have yet to see that in a big budget animation film but it looks like Oogieloves will pave the way in interactive filmmaking for children.
T-Minus Productions and Stunt Coordinator TJ White were brought in to stunt rig the flying aspect of the Oogieloves characters. According to TJ the actors that had to be in costumes were troopers. TJ explains, “Doing suit work myself, it can make you go a little crazy with the heat and claustrophobia. These multi-talented actors and dancers not only spoke, but sang, and danced while doing their own stunts flying in the air.” Doing blue screen work made it easier for the director to film his talent floating in the air then later super imposing them on a flower lifting them through the sky. Stunt wire work has been a big focus in the T-Minus Productions Stunt Department saftey rigging for the last 8 years. With this extensive experience it makes the process effortless for the stunt team to easily assemble any construct in the wire work realm. This is just one of the many expertise’s that T-Minus brings to the table on any project. Whether you are flying a musician, object, or an actor in a fuzzy suit, the end result with this stunt department will make your action pop.
Stuntman Tanoai Reed, Stunt Coordinator TJ White and MMA Fighter Tito Ortiz
A Fight Choreographer or a Fight Coordinator is a very technical job and usually assist a Stunt Coordinator with fight scenes. there background usually are expo fighters, trainers, black-belts in various disciplines. These highly train people have years of training spending thousands and hours and dollars on there given profession. They usually train the actors, stunt performers months before a shoot so that they can get the choreography down. During pre-production they film various choreography of the scene so that the director can get view it and get a feel of what the scene will look like.
Pictured in the photos in this blog are Stunt Coordinator TJ White and Fight Choreographer Kelly Carter putting together a MMA fight scene for Director Dean Karr and his music video “Truth” for the band Seether.
Kelly Carter also has a back ground in AIS and Strength and Conditioning training, and MMA. TJ felt he was the right choice to not only over see the choreography but to stretch the talent and athletes before, during and after the fight scene. Do the time constraints of filming a music video, TJ and Kelly spent most of the early part of the day rehearsing scenes. The had three different fights, one with two girls, one with a little person and guy playing Santa, and the 3rd being to 230+ pound MMA fighters.
Kelly Carter Fight Coordinating for Photo Shoot at Big John McCarthey’s Gym
TJ White and Kelly Carter Talking Choreography for the Scene