Stunt driving - there's more to it than meets the eye
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
When I passed my driving test, never did I think years later I would be reversing down a narrow alley with a camera on my bonnet, a camera at my side point directly into my face, a famous actor in the back of the car and a cameraman on the floor.
Whilst I do get an adrenaline rush and great satisfaction from achieving what is required of me when stunt driving, it still takes a lot of concentration and precision planning.
When it comes to stunt driving, there definitely is more to it than meets the eye.
Stunt driving comes with a lot of responsibility - trying to please all those involved. It’s not just about surviving the maneuver, it’s so much more.
You are working as part of a team, it’s not just a matter of a driver, an actor and a director. There is the stunt coordinator, lighting crew, the cameraman or camera women, special effects, props, calculations, weather conditions, health and safety and the list goes on.
It’s essential to use a stunt coordinator, an expert in their field and I’ve worked with some great stunt coordinators in my time. Being a coordinator holds a lot of responsibility, you are answerable to so many people and there are a lot of risk factors.
As a fireman, I am very aware of danger risks - I know what can go wrong and I have had to deal with many an accident involving cars, some not so nice.
When I am doing a job that involves driving I like to be well prepared, I keep my skill sets up to date and most recently spent a day on a circuit in UK working on special manoeuvers, having to take into considerations the weather.
The wet or the heat both present a different set of challenges.
Two of the key things about stunt driving is awareness and focus. When driving at speed or with a width and height restriction, you can’t afford to lose concentration.
It’s not just your life at risk but those surrounding you too.
I’m lucky, I get to travel quite a bit with my job and most recently I was working abroad on a film set.
The scene I was working on was well coordinated, no one got hurt, no cameras were broken, there were no unintended fires or a need for me to throw anyone over my shoulder!
In some respects when I am part of a scene like that, it is a reminder of the value of life and the skills you have acquired over the years.
Sometimes we put ourselves in risky situations, situations that make you think, ‘I know what I’m doing, I know how to do it and I know what to do if it doesn’t go to plan’. It’s a big achievement and confirms to yourself that you are more than capable of so much.
You are part of something that will result in others achieving their goals and eventually satisfying the audience of the film - giving them great action scenes that are memorable and impressive.
Over the years there have been some fantastic movies with awesome stunt driving.
Films such as:
Every element about this movie is a classic. They managed to put this entire scene together without the use of CGI. Something you have to question whether it is possible nowadays.
Bullitt probably has the most famous driving scene of any movie, but if there's a close second, it's Ronin - the driving is really impressive.
Nothing ups the action in a movie quite like a semi-truck and in the movie, this one drives off a bridge. I should imagine that the semi they used was completely destroyed, but it still looked awesome!
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Man with the Golden Gun took a car jump scene one step further by having Roger Moore's car do a full 360-degree spin in the air!
Gone in 60 Seconds
This movie was packed with car stunts. The most memorable part has to be using one car as a ramp to jump another car over it!
The French Connection
You have to try and stop a man that has stolen a train! This scene is another iconic car chase and it was shot without CGI.
It’s insane, with the use of CGI, only the Fast and Furious franchise create something like that. Towing bank vaults with Dodge Chargers through a city!
The Bourne Identity
The scene where the driver decides to bounce a classic Mini down the steps has to be a classic!
The Blues Brothers and its stunts are about as absurd as it gets, but that's part of why we love it. And who hasn't ever wanted to drive a car through a mall, hitting every product possible?
Bad Boys 2
The freeway scene actually won a 2004 World Stunt Award for Best Work with a Vehicle!
I put my hand up, I wouldn’t be keen to drive a Mini down some steps or or tow a bank vault through a city.
However, I’m happy to try something new - take on the challenge but one with a risk factor of about 7/10.
Whilst I have trained in doing a 360, doing it near a cliff edge is a ‘no thank you’. Especially with passengers and a camera crew in the vehicle with me!