What inspired you to become a stunt person?
I grew up in North Georgia and have wanted to be three things for as long as I can remember; a pilot, a racing driver, and a stunt driver. The first time I realized I wanted to be a stunt driver was watching "The Dukes of Hazzard" then later "Knight Rider" and "Smokey and the Bandit". The actors would be driving along in their cars, the camera would cut and then the cars would do something amazing.
I knew right then that the actors were not the ones driving during the stunts and that I wanted to be that person. Well, I grew up in a home where hopes and dreams were not encouraged so I did what I was told by my school; put myself through college and got a good (desk) job. I treasure my education because I believe knowledge is power, but, for me, going to sit behind a desk every day was just a slow, tortured march towards death.
In 2011, I saw a casting call for background actors for a television show. I decided to go stick my head in the door so to speak, and see what it would take to become a stunt driver. From then on I would work one year in the film and television industry, slowly but surely building up my driving resume, then work a desk job for another year to catch up my finances.
In 2016 I walked away from my desk job for good and never looked back. In 2019, I finally had enough money to attend Bobby Ore's Three-Day Stunt Driving school and, because I had gotten lines on a film and was SAG-E, I was finally able to join the Union as a Stunt Performer. Now, boring staff meetings have been replaced by awesome safety meetings in the great outdoors and I couldn't be happier.
What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it?
It is probably expected that some crazy stunt is my greatest skill, but ever since I drove vintage cars for "First Man" I get called often to drive antique cars so that and my extreme dedication to safety are my strengths. More than once I have driven a car that maybe was not the most mechanically sound vehicle.
I am grateful that I was asked to be there with my training and experience so that I could pilot the car though the shot and keep myself, my co-workers, and the vehicle safe. Antique cars were made at a time when cars weren't just an efficient mode of transportation from Point A to B. Every one is a thoughtfully and beautifully made work of art.
I drove a 1955 Bel Air whose dash insert had teeny tiny bow ties cut out of the stainless steel. Each car starts differently and drives differently and should be driven with love. To be paid to safely drive someone's beautifully preserved or restored antique car is an honor.
What is the best part about being a stunt performer?
There are a few things I love about being a stunt driver. The first, of course, is the opportunity to safely drive cars for movies, television shows, and commercials. Every time my phone rings or I get that email to go drive my heart is filled such happiness at the thought of going to work.
I go to work with a smile on my face and love in my heart. Talk about a dream come true! The next thing I love about my job are the people I meet and with whom I work. Every time I go to work I get to do a job I love surrounded by people either already working in the job they love or towards it instead of just going to work to pay the bills. The energy is so much more positive and joyful.
A lot of the people are like me, started at a desk job and then took the leap towards achieving their dream job in the industry. I love hearing their backstory and learning what their goals are. A few of the people have become like family to me. Some of you were fortunate enough to be born into families that loved you and supported you throughout your life.
Some of us have made our families with pets and people that were placed in our lives along the journey. The film industry has provided me an amazing life with new family members.
Tell your all-time personal favorite stunt story!
Each time someone calls and says something like, "Production asked for our best driver so we called you" is special, but I guess my most recent job was a big step. This is going to sound extremely tame, but it is was a big moment for me.
Georgia is a Right-To-Work state which means you don't have be a Union stunt driver to drive a car through a scene so booking drivers with cars often falls to Casting Directors rather than Stunt Coordinators. Casting Directors get tasked with booking stereotypical-looking people to drive taxis, limousines, military vehicles, and so forth, which generally excludes nerdy girls with glasses.
Well, right before we went on hiatus I finally got to drive a taxi for a commercial on a Union production. They weren't going to see me and just needed a safe driver. It was a big moment for me and I felt very Girl Power-y.
What advice would you give other stunt people?
My career in the film industry has really just begun. It has been rewarding and literally a dream come true, but it has certainly been a long road getting here. Stunt Coordinators already have their own team of people on whom they rely, and joining that team has been challenging.
I had to build a reputation as a reliable, safe driver first and foremost, but market myself and makes contacts at the same time. That and starting over from Ground Zero mid-career is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of strength to leave behind polite society and join the circus.
Gaining your skills, building a resume, making contacts, and booking jobs is a lot of work and by cats you had better be sure it is what you want to do before you quit your desk job and have to rely on your hustle put food on the table. If you are an actor you might get pulled out of background to say some lines, but, trust me, no one says, "You there, with the glasses, come drive this 100-year-old car through this scene and don't hit the A-list actor walking across the street."
Eventually though, with equal dedication to job and self, it does start to come together. You will have safely driven enough for the right people that they will call you for future projects and you can breathe again, and believe me, there is nothing better than doing what you love.