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Landing Jelly Side Up


Kawika

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Well first of all I'm sorry that it's been over a month since I was able to get my thoughts together to post here... a lot has been going  on and it all needed my full attention... first on the list is that   we moved and coordinating 25 years of belongings and downsizing to a new location is one big nerve jangling job!

 

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No we did not move here but this has always been one of my favorite pieces of property in the world... Maybe someday.... meanwhile I love where we are now with an amazing view and are living in a beautiful never-been-lived in place with new everything... so we feel very lucky now that we are settled in... and as a dear friend said in the midst of the move... "You landed jelly side up!" But I'll get back to this later... if you don't know what this means it's another one of my favorite idioms... that means to be lucky and having things work out in your favor. 

 

 

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All you have to do is consider that landing jelly side down is much less desirable... particularly if you are hungry! I first heard this phrase somewhere in childhood and several times subsequently, but the time that it really hit home was when I was taking a workshop for stunt work and jumping off of a platform into an airbag when someone said it to me just before  I took the dive "Make sure you land jelly side up!". Understanding your own center of mass and how it relates to the speed and height you are falling or traveling is one of the best lessons I have ever been taught in the time I worked as a stuntman and stunt double... I'll tell you the best a little later. 

 

Let me tell you how it all started... I know how to ski quite well and once at Universal Studios when I was a tour guide and struggling to break into a very competitive industry... I was approached about being a  ski-body double work for the star of the film... It was great money and I met some really nice people and a few years later... I met Marcy Carcey and Tom Werner when they were at ABC and they mentioned what an uncanny resemblance  I had to someone who was about to begin filming  an action adventure series... I did not have any real training except I was physically fit and had a broad range of athletic skills and a lot of nerve so I just started out flying by the seat of my pants... so to speak ( I was tethered a lot during filming). I never really had to do anything very dangerous but eventually someone suggested I take some specialized courses and workshops to enhance my skills not only  to improve my odds at getting hired but for my own safety in understanding stunts and their hazards to avoid getting hurt... and it paid off because in the years that followed I worked as a stunt double at Universal and Paramount and Warner Brothers... and did some work in films and television commercials... not to mention being a double for dancing... but that may be  blog all by itself.

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What you should understand is that all of this is very carefully staged, choreographed and filmed and glass is specially made not to cut you to shreds and you wear special padding and protective gear... but things can still go wrong no matter how much care and planning go into a stunt... I once lost my balance and the rigging  gear failed when  filming at The Beverly Center and fell from an escalator railing almost two stories... luckily I was wearing protective gear... and I landed jelly side up on my feet. and not on my head. During my tenure in stunt work I drove cars, boats and motorcycles and had bicycle mishaps...did a variety of sports; mostly alpine skiing and gymnastics...rigging (meaning being tethered) and flying though space or getting smashed into things... visual effects using a green screen  are the icing on the cake for a lot of rigging work.
 
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...Equestrian work, I want to say something to all the people who protest the mistreatment of animals in movies... Were you there? Obviously not because animals used in stunt sequences are probably the most protected well loved animals on the planet. Some are trained to fall and roll with a specific physical command and are always given rest  food and water at regular intervals (especially during extreme heat) the people who own these animals put a lot of time, training and love into their careers... and many animals that play important roles in a script often have stunt doubles themselves! And one more thing about horses... it does not take much to spook a horse and get thrown (especially gun shots)... so in addition I've also done a great deal of aquatic work because of my swimming ability and I was and still am a certified diver and addition I've done surfing and high diving... I've done some arial work but frankly most of stunt work involves action sequences... if there is a lot of fast action sequences there can be multiple stunt doubles...
 
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The only thing I have never done are scenes involving explosions, bombs, fire and combat work... it was a personal choice.
 
As time goes by most stuntmen become stunt coordinators who hire the stuntmen and help coordinate the action to be filmed and perhaps eventually become the 2nd Unit Director who directs the shooting of supplemental footage usually involving stunt work that is edited to compliment the original film footage with the credited cast.
 
The reason stuntmen are used in film is that the insurance company for the production won't allow an actor to do his/her own stunts because if they are injured or killed the liability on the film project is too great. If you don't really have a trained eye it's really easy to spot the stunt sequences because they are typically filmed as a long shot so you don't recognize the fact that the star is not doing that part of the sequence and it shifts to a close up when you can recognize the star... to give you an example I have hung from a flying helicopter  several times and when they show the film footage with the star the helicopter is probably only three or four feet off the ground with a crash mat underneath... when I have been hanging from a helicopter  it was flying fifty to a hundred feet off the ground and dozens of times  plunged into the ocean but usually onto an airbag  and once it appeared that I fell through a skylight... but it was a fall from a platform
 
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 This is not me but John Paul Belmondo who was at the time known for doing many of his own stunts that did not pose a threat of injury or death.
 
I have been a stunt double for many, many famous actors (and actresses) I'm no going to go into the details but I want to say that Paul Newman will always be one of the finest people I have ever worked with... I also worked with Bruce Willis early in his career on "Moonlighting" and he was really, really nice (especially to me because I made him look good)... but I've heard horror stores about his behavior in the years that followed when his star was on the rise... I guess people change as time goes on or a lot of things in show business changed him. But now I'll share the best advice I had during my time in the entertainment world... Be on time, know your material, do your best work and be an inspiration or find another career... I've carried that with me in everything I've ever done. 
 
 
In film work there is a phrase "Back To One" that means go back to the starting location at the beginning of the scene being filmed and run the dialogue and action again until it's perfect... I've sometimes wished we could have this in real life but the best we can do is start where we are now and work on how everything will go from this point on...
 
So in addition to the move we are at a turning point in life of starting over... or really just picking up the pieces and putting together a new story or chapter in our lives. The last few years have been very difficult and painful in many ways and we have learned some  valuable  lessons about ourselves and others...Perhaps most importantly is that blood is not always thicker than water... but when you have real friends on your side it does not really matter... so as for the rest I made a commitment (I may write a blog about this...but I'm undecided) to my closest friend last year and this year has been a process making that promise a reality and hopefully soon all of us will land jelly side up.  
 
It's still winter in many places but spring is just around the corner with all the promise of new beginnings... Stay warm and find ways to have fun! 
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Continue to be safe... and get vaccinated as soon as you get the chance! Oh and one more thing... I noticed that a lot of people were reading the archives during my hiatus so maybe take a look back at some of the other things I've written if you have not already done so... I'll be mostly absent for a little while longer but I'll be checking in from time to time.

Edited by Kawika

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Kawika

Posted

Just poking my head in for a minute... I'll be off and on sporadically for the next month or so!

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stuck

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Nice to hear from you. I was wondering where you've been. I've noticed your absence and have missed your postings 🙂  

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macnice

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Welcome back!  This is a a wonderful post!

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