Stunt Performer Spotlight: Michelle Shock
Tell about life before stunts. I grew up in Central Florida, spending most of my time either in the water surfing and diving, playing with dirtbikes and go-carts, or riding horses. I was a competitive hunter-jumper for many years on the AA show circuits as well, plus an assistant trainer & student to a few very notable team USA riders. Additionally, I was very involved with theatrical & dramatic arts (musical theater, improv, Shakespeare) from a very young age, so it seemed like a natural progression & fit for me to find my way into the stunt performance world from acting & athletics. Funny enough though, rather than like many who start in the theme parks of Orlando, I actually didn't find that path until I moved to Northern California & was mentored by Tony Vella of Bay Area Stunts. Now, I currently live in the Los Angeles area with my two year old daughter, and focus my time on stunts, running our business "Equerry & Ace" for horse & combat instruction, & training for various martial arts, combat techniques, weaponry, & staying on top of my other skills (vehicle work, water work, horse work). What inspired you to become a stunt person? I had a lot of random stunt people I kept crossing paths with, pushing me in that direction as an actress with special skills. So, the more I learned about the amazing women who came before me, (Zoe Bell, the Moneymaker sisters, Jeannie Epper, Debbie Evans, Kitty O'Neil, Melissa Stubbs, Shauna Duggins... and so many more) the more I became inspired by their stories to make the leap of faith & pursue it as a career myself. Especially, since there are unique possibilities in the future to transition into second unit directing & coordinating as a woman in film, which sets me up for a really long and fulfilling future. What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it? Funny enough, it seems to be driving, though I would love to say water stunts or horse stunts, since those are also extremely strong skills of mine that I have done for decades. It just seems to be the skill that I have developed the fastest & with the most astounding amount of luck for booking work doing. I have an incredible support team of veteran drivers who continue motivating and encouraging me. I've been especially lucky with booking car commercial clients, and I really owe that to Bay Area Stunts. Tony Vella took me under his wing and prepped me for my first car job, that needed a woman last minute. It was SUPPOSED to be a very simple follow/chase vehicle job, and they were made entirely clear that I was new. They were informed exactly of what I did and didn't know how to do. They ended up busting out a full on Russian Arm vehicle with me. Thankfully, the camera car team coached me through it (to which I am eternally grateful to those men for). I ended up doing various things including winding, downhill, recently rained on roads with only a few inches between the vehicle and camera, various passes, and driving the vehicle while scrunched up into the corner of the seat & only using a few fingers to steer it from the bottom left corner of the wheel (so that it looked like an autonomous vehicle)! Now, arm car work has become some of my favorite & a specialty of mine. As one of my Kiwi friends used to tell me while paddling out at big surf breaks, "Nothing like gettin' thrown in the deep end!" What is the best part about being a stunt performer? I love that when I leave to go to work, I get to tell my kid that I am going to do something super cool, and bring home lots of awesome footage for her to see. That makes me so endlessly proud of what I do. Besides that though? The community. Some of the best people I have ever met, friends who become absolute FAMILY, I have met in this industry. I feel incredibly blessed for that. What advice would you give other stunt people? Do NOT over sell yourself & lie about skills. Be really up front about what you can and can't do. Besides the fact that it costs production a lot to fix the problems you cause by shorting them, the risk you create for yourself and everyone else involved because you showed up unprepared or improperly trained, can mean life or death. Also, when you're honest about what you can or can't do, you may get lucky and be chosen to learn on the job under some of the BEST in the business, depending on the nature of the project. Some of the best skills are picked up that way! You want to be the performer that coordinators and productions can trust. Anything else you would like to tell the community about? I just hope that everyone is taking care of themselves and being gentle with themselves (mentally & emotionally) during this difficult time. Try to be patient with the process, with each other, and be productive with the downtime. Reach out for support from others if you're struggling. We have a great community and when you are kind & receptive, everyone seems to band together. Once everything starts returning to normal, we will once again be starting up our combat & equestrian training program in LA, "Equerry & Ace", ran by myself & my "everything partner" ( & fellow stunt professional). Kendall Wells. We are planning on lowering the costs for everyone that's been affected by the pandemic, so we can help everyone get back on track again!