February 19, 2009

Car Talk

It's a long and winding road to becoming a professional stunt driver

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

I want to know how to get a job, a very specific job. It seems like every car commercial now shows the vehicle soaring through sand dunes, yet they always show a disclaimer: "Professional Driver on Closed Course." Because we see so many of these commercials, it would seem that there is a huge demand for these "professional drivers," yet I have never seen a want ad anywhere for one. How do I find a job like that?
--Di

Ray: So you want to get paid to be a driver, Di? Have you considered Domino's Pizza?

Tom: Actually, those "professional drivers on closed courses" are all stunt performers, and members of the Screen Actors Guild, which is the actors' union. So, the first thing you have to do is join SAG. And even THAT'S not easy.

Ray: You have to have a certain number of film or commercial appearances before they'll even let you in.

Tom: Then you need to learn the art of stunt driving. The best-known training ground is Bobby Ore's Motion Picture Stunt Driving School in Los Angeles and Florida. You can reach them at 818-880-5678, or on the Web at bobbyoresports.com.

Ray: But you're not going to take a two-day Bobby Ore course and come out of there ready to drive in commercials. You'll need a lot of practice to get good at it, and you generally have to pay to practice on courses. And that assumes you have some talent for stunt driving in the first place.

Tom: If you get that far, then you'll need to beg, cajole and harass commercial coordinators to hire you. This involves, among other things, hiding in people's bushes and jumping out with fresh cappuccino.

Ray: Of course, you may also luck out. Sometimes TV shows or movies will hire a stunt driver based solely on looks. So, for instance, if you happen to look like Tom Cruise from behind, you might get a driving job for that reason alone.

Tom: Unfortunately, if, like my brother, you look like Tom Cruise's behind, that's not going to help you. Good luck, Di.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk Web site.)

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