Motocross has been around since the early 1900′s starting in the UK. Races were popping up all over the world with various countries pitting their team up for stardom. Finally making it to the US in the 1960′s the sport was vastly changing with new tweaks to the bikes suspension and frames. When the 90′s hit, sub categories for Motocross were being created such as supercross, arenacross, supermoto, and freestyle motocross. Many BMX riders turn Freestyle motocross or FMX riders. In 1993 Bob Kohl was the first FMX rider to perform successfully the “Holy Grail” of motocross stunts at that time, which was the infamous backflip. From there riders have been pushing the limits. But let’s step back a few decades, Freestyle Motocross arguably started back in
1963 when famed stuntman Bud Ekins doubled Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. At that time this type of stunt was mind blowing. Jumping a bike over a 6ft tall barbed wire fence hadn’t been done before. What made it even more challenging was Ekins had to do it on a Triumph TR6 Trophy 650cc motorcycle which is a hefty 400 pounds. This is quite the feat which makes it one of the most memorable motorcycle stunts in history and pushes Bud Ekins further into stunt fame. While men like Bob Kohl, Carey Hart, Travis Pastrana, Brian Deegan, Mike Metzger, Caleb Wyatt, and a flurry of others have all pushed the limits of their bikes and body, their inspiration may have very well been the work of Bud Ekins.
It is no wonder this sport has gained a worldwide mainstream audience. It is death defying, loud, extreme, and if the tricks are pulled off safely then the payoff is superbly glorious. Live stunt shows like the ones that Metal Mulisha puts on are packed with hundreds of thousands of people. The marketing and broadcasting of these events alone are entertaining for audiences and even more profitable for sponsors. Executives of corporate events, company grand openings, product launches, expos, and many more unlikely events are tracking down these motocross individuals to perform these shows for their clients. The increase of live stunt shows involving these talented motocross riders has exponentially jumped. Freestyle Stunt Companies come fully equipment with their dirt-bikes, ramps, and the personnel to run the show. This plug and play system allows for a fast set up and breakdown for a day event or even a week long event.
These highly skilled motocross riders sometimes start BMX riding, then move into supercross riding professionally for years before moving into their freestyle work. These riders are constantly evolving their tricks. The oohs and aahs of a crowd watching a stunt rider fly off a ramp doing their favorite tricks such a no footer, suicide can, hart attack, or even a Superman is enough that these motocross shows are one of the most requested events that Stunt Coordinators are asked to organize. FMX has been influencing entertainment from films like the Great Escape to the most recent Bourne Legacy, to TV shows like Nitro Circus, even music videos like P Diddy’s ‘Bad Boys For Life’ cameo’d motocross with many videos since then including the sport, to world wide events like the X games. This sport is enrapturing itself in entertainment like never before. These riders and machines are evolving like the industry making the stunts they perform unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
Directors have always been a progression for writers, cameramen, writers and producers. It has changed over the years from more stunt coordinators turning to direct second unit. This was a production unit that usually was the action unit but now most studios and production companies see that using another unit to shoot simultaneously with your primary talent helps the project not only be more efficient but enables the production to get more content.
One of today’s most legendary stuntmen and stunt coordinators Hal Needham best known for directing the Smokey and the Bandit franchise, The Cannon Ball Run franchise, Stroker Ace, and Rad is one of the first to break the barrrier. Since then many more stuntmen have made that jump such as 2nd Unit Director David Ellis best know for 2nd Unit directing Waterworld, Matrix Relaoded and The Perfect Storm. David has also has had success directing two Final Destination films, Snakes on the Plane starring Samuel L Jackson, and Shark Night 3D. He has used his years of experience performing and coordinating stunts to direct action sequences in a story telling way.
TV is also an avenue for Stunt Coordinators to enter into the directing route like Stunt coordinator David Barrett. David has directed hunreds of hours of TV like E-Ring, Cold Case, 90210, and NCIS-LA. Emmett/Furla Films just released David feature film directorial debut Fire with Fire staring Josh Duhamel, Bruce Willis and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
Another Stunt family turned directors has been the waugh family. There father Fred Waugh stunt coordinator for the Amazing Spider-man 1978, Swat 1978, and Hart to Hart. One son Ric Roman Waugh director of Felon starting Val Kilmer and coming to theaters soon Snitch starring Dwayne Johnson. The other son Scott Waugh co-directed with fellow stuntman Mike McCoy Act of Valor through there production company Bandito Brothers. Scott is currently in pre-production on his next film Need for Speed that Electronic Arts and Dreamworks SKG are producing.
Another Stunt Coordinator been know for directing 2nd unit for the Bourne Franchise is Dan Bradley. Dan Brandley has been a stunt coordinator for such films as Indepence Day, 3 Kings, Spider-man 2 and 3, and Jackass: The Movie. Moving into directing first unit was the only logical choice for Dan choicing Red Dawn in theaters now produced by MGM and Contrafilm.
When you add an element such as Fire to any stunt you need to be cautious, patient, and confident. TJ White has coordinated many fire stunts which is why DNA productions asked him to stunt coordinate David Guetta’s latest video “Just One Last Time” featuring Taped. In this video the stunt doubles were asked to crash through walls while fire was engulfed around them and then be wired to fall out of a window.
Being the wire work master is another reason why TJ was the stunt coordinator for the job. In this particular video he also felt confident for the actor to do a little of the work as well which made for a believable and exciting stunt sequence. However once the heat was turned on TJ, his stunt doubles, and stunt riggers prepared for safety with gel, hoses, retardant, and pads. When camera stopped rolling this stunt came out to be seamless and effortless. Take a look at the video and see how stunts can be weaved in with practical in a way that keeps you the viewer moved.
Stunt Coordinator TJ White and Stunt Driver Terry James on set of Justin Bieber “Boyfriend” Music Video.
What does it take to be a great Stunt Coordinator? Many think that you can just get handed the accolade and title of stunt coordinator. This happens on many projects where a director, producer, UPM or even someone’s assistant may know a stunt person and all of sudden they think they would be able to stunt coordinate a project for them. With more and more under qualified and/or inexperienced stunt coordinators supervising jobs where people are getting hurt or even killed, insurance companies are getting more involved with risk management. Not only are people getting injured but the stunt is not performed the way the producer or director envisioned making production costs increase.
An experienced stunt coordinator must at least be a stuntman or stunt woman themselves for at least 10 years learning the craft of designing stunt sequences, setting up stunts, performing stunts, and working closely with productions. Sharpening their craft by learning from experienced stunt coordinators, special effects supervisors, stunt performers, directors, and producers. Many stunt people make the jump into stunt coordinating because they are not able to work as much as a stunt performer and feel they would work more as a coordinator. The transition must be made based on experience, trust, and more importantly a pristine safety record.
Many Stunt Coordinators specialize in certain stunts such as car work, horse work, fights, flying planes or helicopters, armory, wire work, fire, underwater, ect. It is rare to find a stunt coordinator that is an expert in all of these skills. That is why some coordinators are better for some jobs over others. A coordinators capacity is always challenged and advanced as they are constantly studying new techniques and other specialties in order to make them more knowledgeable on what they’re doing and what others in the industry are doing.
Music videos have recently made a comeback with reveune streams from YouTube and Sony and Universal’s Vimeo. Not only are people able to search the web for there favorite videos but record labels and artist are able to track their success. There was once a time that people could only have their video on MTV, VH1, Much Music, Fuse or CMT. Then they would hope it would be on the top 10 count down. Now the world is able to watch their video and share it across their social media network making the video’s exposure that more expansive. With fans around the world sharing the video on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and many more websites. This opens up their fan base allowing people to listen and watch the music video anytime and everywhere they go.
Record labels, management companies and artist are seeing that the music video is a great way to cross market other products the artist may be endorsing. The artists of today is sponsored by energy drinks, watch companies, their own clothing line, and even fragrances. This cross promotion allows companies to get their product out to millions of people and are able to quantify that by seeing how many views it was played through the online analytics.
Stunt Coordinator TJ White with Justin Timberlake on the set of N’Sync Music Video
Stunt Flying rig for a NEYO Music Video, Directed by Wayne Isham
Stunt wire work has advanced tremendously in the last 10 years. Stunt Coordinators and Stunt Rigging companies have invested millions of dollars and man hours to design some of the most technically savvy systems. Using these wire systems and visual effects gives the production the opportunity to tell their story in a far more realistic way.
Using computerized high speed winch systems allows the stunt coordinator to re-set the action in a timely manner and make it repeatable. This gives your production more chances to get the shot they really want.
Stunt Wire work for David Guetta Music Video shot at Red Studios in Hollywood California.
Stunt Wire rigging is very dangerous and should not be done by anyone that is not experienced. The design of the wire rig comes right at conception when the story boards are shown to the Stunt Coordinator. At that time the Stunt Coordinator will design the wire rig to get the exact shot the production is looking for. A select few very talented and experienced Stunt Coordinators specialize in wire rigs because it is a very complicated, timely and expensive process.
On an even simple wire rig a Stunt Rigging team may use more than $100,000 worth of stunt rigging equipment. Stunt Rigging equipment should be maintained and serviced on a regular basis to ensure safety for the stunt team and more importantly for the actors that dare to do as much of the stunt as they can.
Wire work is not a frugal concept but with it, your entire production and concept can be exponentially elevated to look far better than the projects that do not have it.
Stunt Rigging has come along way in the last 20 years in the film industry. Many years ago Special Effects and the Grip departments would do most of the safety rigging of actors in dangerous situations. Due to the complexity of some of the rigging, highly skills stunt riggers have emerged to take over those tasks. Most of the stunt rigging is designed by the Stunt Coordinator and then a stunt rigger supervisor or a stunt rigger will implement it.
Danger is constantly increasing and insurance companies are getting more involved in the production of scenes involving stunts. The insurance companies risk assessment experts work exclusively with specific stunt coordinators that have clean safety records. Stunt Equipment companies like T Minus Productions are always designing new equipment to advance stunt scenes and help directors and production companies get spectacular shots.
In Conor Maynard’s newest music video “Turn Around” Ft. Ne-Yo, Director Colin Tilley came up with an idea to float a telephone booth 70 plus feet over the downtown Los Angeles water basin. This was done by calling in Stunt Coordinator TJ White from T Minus Productions. TJ and his famed father, Stunt Coordinator Terry James, designed a Telephone booth that could hold two people in the air while being stable enough to get the camera shots that the director desired. This was done by attaching 1/2 industrial cable and 1/2 inch sheet of aircraft aluminum to the booth. For the two different locations there were two different cranes used by Monster Crane and Champion Crane.
Click Below to see the video “Turn Around” by Conor Maynard ft. Ne-Yo.
Greased Lightning era stunt driving was brought back in the Taio Cruz “Fast Cars” music video produced by Riveting Entertainment’s Andrew Listerman and Directed by Colin Tilley. T Minus Productions was brought on to create the stunt driving sequence with TJ White Stunt Coordinating.
The cars were provided by Picture Car Warehouse who also stunt prepped them in order to make the vehicles operate correctly under the duress of the stunt driving. TJ stated, “Colin has a vision of these car racing down the Los Angeles river wash at high rate speeds going up and down the wash basin. This was very ambitious for a music video shoot”.
TJ brought in stunt drivers Jenifer Caputo, Mark Hicks, and Chris Carnel to do the blind driving much like the driving on the TV show “Knight Rider”.
To add to the action of the 1970′s muscle cars was also two street bikes that were driven by experienced stunt riders. On the edge of the river with Downtown LA as the backdrop Colin set up a shot with both cars doing donuts in a dirt lot along with the two bikes dancing on their tires doing wheelies, and burn outs while circling around Taio Cruz. With TJ’s eye for safety he was confident to do this stunt which surrounded the talent with fast moving vehicles, bikes, and a dust cloud that rivaled those of the desert. To achieve the action shots, the director brought in the ultimate arm camera car to make the shot real and high action.
Riveting Entertainment working with Chris Brown on another music video “Don’t wake me up”. Produced by Riveting’s CEO Andrew Listerman and diretced by Collin Tilly.
T Minus Productions specializing in Stunt Coordinating and Stunt Rigging was called in to over see the action on Chris Brown’s video. Stunt Coordinator TJ White brought in stunt women/stunt driver Shauna Duggins best know for Stunt Doubling Jenifer Garner on “Alias and Daredevil”. This was in interesting stunt for our stunt driver. She was driving a hand built car that Justin Timberlake drove in the film “In Time”.
Chris was used for most of the driving in this particualar video. Driving a 427 Cobra through the dry lake beds out side Los Angles. TJ states, “He was very comfortable in the car and handled it well.” It was alot of power in the car and Chris respected it”.
Working on the dry lake bed could not only be beautiful, but also dangerous. The hard dry ground kicks up a fine sand that makes it slippery at high speeds. This is the same place here car enthusiast bring there cars for world record speeds. The sun shinning bright and the dry look makes it an amaizng place to film, that is why some many car commefcials are films at this location.
Stunt Coordinator /Stunt Driver TJ White and Stunt Driver Chris Nielsen getting ready to speed through the canyons for Calvin Harris Video.
English DJ Calvin Harris featuring artist Example team up on new single “We will be coming back”. Picking a beautiful location in the Malibu canyons of los angels was just one of the decisions Calvin and his team decided on. Going with a young edgy director Saman Kesnazarz known for “The Penelopes – Sally in the Galaxy music video. Saman developed this concept of a Steve McQueen style car chase with a 1970′s feel through the canyons of Los Angeles..
This was achieved by bringing in stunt coordinator TJ White from T Minus Productions and the Z Crane camera car. T Minus Productions is a full serviced production company that designs stunt sequences from inception and gives productions the tools and the talent to achieve in a manageable time.
Action Director TJ White also known for directing 2nd unit for such action sequences for N’Sync, Velvet Revolver, The Hard Easy and soon to be released “Feed the Dog” helped design the driving sequences. TJ being a stunt driver himself knows the limitations you can have with specific cars. In this particular video they choose very old classic cars that have not been driven this extreme in years.
Stunt Driver Mike Owen talking with DJ Calvin Harris about safety.
Car chases are very technical and take time to plan out. It takes an experience stunt coordinator and 1st Assistant Director to plan out the scene. Stunt Coordinators usually pull out hot wheel cars that little kids play with to show the crew how the driving scene will go. This is done many times so that every crew member is able to see where the cars will be going and where the real danger will be. Once that is done the Stunt Coordinator will have the stunt drivers get in there selected cars with the camera car and drive the route at 1/4 or 1/2 speed this is so the camera can practice there shot and everyone could see the action.
Z Crane getting ready to shoot chase scene with stunt drivers.
On this particular music video the Stunt Coordinator TJ White was also the Stunt Driver / Doubling for Example driving a 1974 Porsche 911. These cars not having the same technology as the newer ones relies on the experience of the driver to perform the stunt safety.
Driving though the blocked of canyon roads in the access of 70 + MPH gave the speed needed to make this particular video the same feel as a Steve McQueen or a Fast and the Furious film.
Feel free to watch the Calvin Harris ft Example music video below.