What Does a Stunt Driver Do?

A stunt driver is anyone who is paid to precisely drive any sort of vehicle in a movie or on a movie set. We are all familiar with stunt drivers from movies such as the Fast and Furious franchise, Drive, Gone in 60 seconds, or any other hundreds of Hollywood movies with fast car chases and dangerous stunts.

Let us take a look at the most common driving techniques stunt drivers are required to perfect to find employment in a Movie or TV production.

1. Driving on Two Wheels

This technique, also known as ‘Skiing’, is something we have all seen in movies many times. It requires the stunt driver to be driven on two wheels only. This is achieved in several ways. The most common method of performing this technique is by driving one side of the car up a ramp, lifting that side as the driver continues forward balancing the vehicle via the steering wheel. 

Cars with high center of gravity are often used as even just turning sharply can tip the car up on one side, achieving the desired effect. It is very common for drivers to let some air out of the tires of the side being lifted, to make that side lighter.

2. J Turn

A J turn is performed by having the car turn 180 degrees while moving forward and maintaining its forward direction. The most difficult part of the J Turn and something that requires experience is knowing the precise moment where the car should be switched from drive to reverse.

3. Over-steer/Drifting

After the popularity of the Fast and Furious franchise in the mid-2000s, I’m sure we are all familiar with the basic concept of drifting. The concept of over-steer is simple, it is when the car steers more than the amount commanded by the driver. The over-steer is different on each vehicle and is something the driver will have to work out before performing the stunt. 

Essentially, Drifting is performed when the driver intentionally over-steers while going into a corner, causing the rear wheels to lose traction but still maintaining control of the vehicle.

4. Flips and Barrel Rolls

Many flips are performed with a machine that throws the car and the footage is edited into the film to make it seem seamless. That being said, it is often necessary for the driver to perform a slip himself. The driver does this by performing the skiing technique but allowing the car to flip over, instead of maintaining balance on two wheels.

5. Handbrake Turns

A handbrake turn looks much like drifting, with a different technique. Like drifting, it can be used for negotiating tight corners. With a handbrake turn, the driver with transfer the car’s weight to the outside tires then engaging the handbrake to lock the rear tires. The driver can then release the brake at the appropriate moment and accelerate out of the turn.

There are, of course, many other techniques, but these are the most commonly performed techniques and the ones any casual movie viewer is likely to be most familiar with. It is important to take classes and learn from professionals as these techniques are very dangerous and can lead to injury or death. Injury among the pros is not uncommon.

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