How Video Segments Were Created for a Book about Movie Stunts

2015-04-28

During the long process of writing the manuscript and directing the video scenes for the book Stunts, Scenes and Safety – Introduction to Movie Stunts, author H-P Virkki continued working as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. Sometimes, his work in movie business and book writing project were a perfect match. Now, when the hard work of writing is behind him, H-P Virkki shares how two videos included in the book were created.
Graffiti in London Ontario Canada

A graffiti on a street in London, Ontario. This one was published in the book.

Your Move Program

An interesting project came up when I was traveling in Canada. In 2012, a campaign called Your Move intended to inspire Finnish teenagers and younger kids to find the joy of physical exercise. Tung, who plays the leading role in the videos of my book, was actively involved and visible in the project.

A few lucky coincident events happened. An aikido demonstration had been scheduled for the main event of the Your Move campaign, and my old friend Mari Wiklund asked me to consider writing and directing a short promo clip to represent aikido in the event. It was a perfect project for my purposes. I spent a month or so toying with ideas for the clip.

Later, at Aikido Bridge seminar in San Diego in the U.S., I got valuable advice from aikido master Christian Tissier on how to approach kids. His advice changed my mind on what should be shown on the promo video. We ended up leaving out all the knife scenes and baseball bats from the book as well (sorry, Mari).

We filmed the promo clip on a very tight schedule when I had returned to Helsinki.
We had fun during filming, and some of the material also ended up in the section “Whirling Around” in my book. I think the joy of movement can be felt in the short making-of video (watch it) and in the aikido promo clip (view the video). Being on a filming set really relieved my writing anxiety, and the experience was pure flow that I wanted my readers to feel in their own projects.

I also came across a very important contact: Pekka Sipilä He shot and edited the aikido promo clip, and I asked him to participate in my book project as well. Without his professional and always helpful attitude, the process of creating videos for the book would have got stuck in multiple occasions.

rehearsing stunts at a course

Camp Fire workshop was a real life opportunity to see if my ideas really worked – they did!

Whirling around the Camp Fire

The shooting of the video “Whirling Around” was my most profound test and also a point of contact to the main audience. My old aikido buddy Kustaa Ylitalo was one of the main organizers of a large kids’ summer camp called “Leiritulet” (Camp Fire). Kustaa asked me to join the camp for an afternoon session in order to teach stuntwork. I had only one condition: I wanted bring a camera crew with me and another stunt instructor, Tung.

I had already sketched the main ideas for my book, and was excited to see if participants found them interesting.

My teaching approach is pretty much the same – be it a professional actor, an aikido student or in this case, about 20-30 kids. First, I pick out an outcome which is realizable and whose success can be assessed as concretely as possible. Of course, everything we do has to be safe. Then, I have a variety of exercises which I can tweak as the situation evolves. I always want to take everyone’s learning style into account and teach as individually as possible. To be able to do so, I spend quite some time before the session to get to know the students. I also want them to know me.

The day before the camp started, I arrived at Vierumäki to acquaint myself with the group, and their way of dealing with new tasks. I decided to focus on the role of the camera in my teaching, and also I wanted to give everyone a real stunt experience. We were the very last session of a three day long course, and I knew the kids would be a little bit tired. Being last is challenging also because you really want to leave everyone with a good feeling.

So, I chose to be more of a stunt coordinator than a sports coach. I wanted to share my concentration and offer my knowledge and support in a way that would help them if they ever went to a professional filming set. Everything I did with them was “real”. They were immersed in the stuntwork and there was no need for patronizing talk. In my mind, we were on a set and they were just like real stunt performers. My responsibility was to ensure safety (physical and mental) and our common goal was to record good shots. How did it go? When you watch “Whirling Around” video included in my book, I think you get a glimpse of the atmosphere.

Written by H-P Virkki. View his profile on Stage 32.

Stunts, Scenes and Safety – Introduction to Movie Stunts


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One thought on “How Video Segments Were Created for a Book about Movie Stunts

  1. Pingback: A Book about Movie Stunts Wouldn’t Be Perfect without Video Scenes That Show the Action | Klaava

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