Tag Archives: stuntman

A book about movies isn’t complete before it shows the action in video segments

2017-10-30

When professional stuntman H-P Virkki decided he is going to write a book about the work of stuntmen, he also decided that it would have to include video clips that show the action. He had to wait for the ebook technology to catch up with his vision, but once Apple had introduced the iBooks Author publishing tool, the long process of creating the book could begin. The exciting result is a available as an ebook Stunts, Scenes and Safety – Introduction to Movie Stunts.

Tung Bui, stuntman. From book Stunts, Scenes and Safety
For a publisher, H-P Virkki’s vision for a book that comes with video clips is an ambitious one, since plenty of work is required to get all the pieces fit together. The distribution of the book must be managed as well, because delivering an ebook with a large file size and video content is not a trivial thing. Ebooks created with iBooks Author could be delivered via Apple iBooks Store, so there was at least one global distribution channel for the book.

Later, the book was also converted to EPUB and Kindle formats in order to reach wider audiences.

H-P Virkki rehearsing stunts at a course
The second key theme of the book – in addition to the introduction to the work of stuntmen– is educating young movie lovers about the requirements movie business sets for aspiring stuntmen. The book has plenty of valuable tips for anyone who is thinking of squeezing into movies.

Writing a book is one thing, but filming segments that actually show some of the key concepts of a book is a completely different thing. How can a writer create video segments for a book? Since H-P Virkki is a professional in the movie industry, he knew what he had to do in order to capture the film material he wanted for his book.

Here is an article by H-P Virkki where he tells how he created the movie segments for the book Stunts, Scenes and Safety.

H-P Virkki at Stage 32.

More about the book. download ebook: Stunts, Scenes and Safety

Inspiring travel destinations of a professional stuntman

2016-03-20

Stuntmen are admired by all movie lovers, but they rarely step into the spotlight and talk about their work. Tung Bui is a Finnish stunt actor and coordinator who has performed in many movies, commercials and in one multimedia book. He is specialized in martial arts and loves to travel. Now, he talks about his film work and travels.
Tung Bui, stuntman
You are the lead character in the video segments produced for the book Stunts, Scenes and Safety. What other film work have you done lately?
I was the fight coordinator in a short film “Maartin”, and in a feature film “Look of a Killer” (original title “Tappajan Näköinen Mies”) starring Samuli Edelman. The films were directed by Joel Rahkonen, and Lauri Nurkse, respectively. Maartin was broadcast on nationwide television network, and the feature film premiered at cinemas.

Which cities have inspired you in your work as a stunt professional?
1. Taipei, Taiwan
2. Hong Kong, China
3. Paris, France
4. Tromsø, Norway
5. Lisbon, Portugal

Taipei, Taiwan

a temple in Taipei, Taiwan
What stuntwork related experiences you have had in the Taipei?
I trained in Taipei with a local Tai Chi master. His skills were superb, but even more impressive was his humility. When he wasn’t coaching us, he looked like any other near 70-year old Taiwanese man. Despite his age, he was fast and strong. Only a person with a long background in Oriental martial arts could sense the master’s skill level where most people could only see an old gentleman.

His humility reminded me of my work: as stuntmen our main purpose is to make the person who we stunt look as good as possible. We have succeeded when the audience believes the actor did his/her own stunts. We put tremendous amount of time, energy and effort to hone our physical and mental skills to perfection, but audience only sees a few seconds in a movie scene.

Which movies do you think of when you visit Taipei?
Ang Lee is a Taiwanese film director, hence his films come to my mind. Internationally he is known for the films “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Brokeback Mountain”, and “Life of Pi”, just to mention a few.

What is your favorite food in Taipei?
A street food called Da Ji Pai has become my definite favorite. It’s a piece of fried chicken breast that is cut in layers to make it giant size steak. Then they marinade and fry it and add a mix of spices. It is eaten with hands like a hamburger. Here is a video that shows how it is prepared.

What is your favorite place in Taipei?
Yangmingshan National Park became important to me because it was one of the few places I could be close to nature, and enjoy its peacefulness. Taipei metropolitan area has over 7 million inhabitants. At the end of 2014, the population density was 9,942 people per square kilometer, compared to my home town Helsinki where it is 2,927.

What would you recommend travelers to do in Taipei?
Taiwanese uphold the traditional Chinese culture. Descendants of various dynasties live there, so the cultural heritage is very rich. Visit the National Palace Museum to see the Chinese treasures. It’s free to visit the temples in Taiwan. Locals use their services frequently, often they ask guidance from the gods, saints and their ancestors. Taipei 101 building is an engineering miracle that portrays the Taiwanese mentality for superior quality and continuous development. It is one of the highest buildings in the world, yet it is built on an island that is hit by frequent earthquakes and typhoons. Night markets are open every evening, and the busiest time is after 11pm. Tourists might buy souvenirs and other things at night markets, but locals mainly spend their money on street food.

Hong Kong, China

hong kong back alley
What stuntwork related experiences you have in Hong Kong?
I visited the Bruce Lee’s statue. There’s also a little known Bruce Lee memorial place on top of a car park building. Hong Kong cinema is familiar to all stunt people because of the martial arts legends, such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen.
Which movies you think of when you visit Hong Kong?
Jackie Chan’s films are mainly produced in Hong Kong , thus his films such as Police Story, and Drunken Master come to my mind. The language in Hong Kong is Cantonese, whereas the rest of the China speaks Mandarin. Jackie Chan’s Mandarin isn’t that fluent, hence if he acts in a film that is in Mandarin, he may have someone else to speak his lines.

What is your favorite food in the city?
Hong Kong style made steamed dumplings served in bamboo boxes.

What is your favorite place in Hong Kong?
During my last visit, there was one restaurant with one Michelin star. It was difficult to get a table there for dinner, and the prices were steep. Fortunately, during the daytime they served lunch: no need to make a table reservation, and the food was the same, but priced reasonably. It was the only restaurant that I visited twice during my journey.

What would you recommend travelers to do in the city?
Eat the local Cantonese dishes. Go to the cinema to see Chinese-Hong Kong films. Most of them are not shown in the Western cinemas.
Paris, France, eiffel tower

Paris, France

What stuntwork related experiences you have in Paris?
I trained parkour with a local friend of mine. It was actually a sightseeing tour of the city that ended at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Which movies you think of when you visit the city?
Luc Besson’s Taxi is an awesome showcase of different stunts, while at the same time is a very entertaining action film. Banlieu 13 films are also great starring a French stuntman Cyril Raffaelli, and David Belle, one of the founding fathers of parkour.

What is your favorite food in Paris?
Fresh croissants in the morning at a café with a view to the street.

What is your favorite place in the city?
Walking alongside the river Seine.

What would you recommend travelers to do in Paris?
I bet everyone has their own opinions about Paris, and what they love about it. I enjoy a foreign city the best if I have a local friend who can accompany me. Thus, I recommend travelers to befriend a French person, especially one who has cultivated his or her cultural awareness. French have deep insight into their own culture, and at the same time they are very interested in learning about other cultures. It’s a win-win cultural exchange.

Tromsø, Norway

tromsö, cafes at the town center
What stuntwork related experiences you have in Tromsö?
I’ve been there twice attending a stunt workshop for wire stunts. Both times we had the privilege to follow Mr. Joe Perez’s instructions. He is an exceptional rigger (ie. the guy who makes all the engineering and technical things possible).

Which movies you think of when you visit the city?
During my last visit I found out that a Finnish film “Rare Exports Inc.”, directed by Jalmari Helander, was shot in the same Film Camp in Tromsø.

What is your favorite food in Tromsö?
Anything with Norwegian salmon. Even though Norwegian salmon is exported overseas, eating salmon in Norway makes it slightly more delicious.

What is your favorite place in the city?
The surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to climb on the summit of any mountain yet. But I am 99% certain that once I do it, the mountains are my favorite place.

What would you recommend travelers to do in Tromsö?
See a show of the local circus school, Kulta.

Lisbon, Portugal

lisbon, portugal by celine colin

Photo by Celine Colin.


What stuntwork related experiences you have in Lisbon?
I visited my friend who lives in Lisbon and happens to be a stuntman as well. Unfortunately, prior to my trip to Lisbon I had injured my both legs at a commercial shoot. My colleague was looking forward to practicing with me, but as he was jumping all I could do was to sit in a shade and watch him have fun.

Which movies you think of when you visit the city?
A Portuguese film titled “Filme da Treta”. My friend worked as the stunt-coordinator for that film. It is in Portuguese without English subtitles, so I am still not sure what the film’s message was.

What is your favorite food in Lisbon?
Portuguese dessert Crème Caramel.

What is your favorite place in the city?
Alfama district where houses were built quite close to one another, and the streets don’t follow a straight path. On a sunny, super hot summer day it was still possible to wander around the streets because they are in shade. It is a very picturesque district filled with bars and pubs.

What would you recommend travelers to do in Lisbon?
If you’re on a tight schedule, at least visit the Belèm district. There you have the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the other side is filled with cultural monuments.

Here you can find Tung Bui’s home page. He was recently featured at Finland’s largest nationwide newspaper.

More information about the stunt book where Tung Bui has the lead role. The author of the book is H-P Virkki.

H-P Virkki, what people want to ask from a stuntman who has written a book?

2015-09-19

Stunt coordinator, stuntman H-P Virkki wrote his first book in 2001, but had to wait until books had developed into a new medium that allowed featuring other elements as still images and text in the product. The result of his vision Stunts, Scenes and Safety was published as a multimedia ebook in 2015.
BMX cyclist falls down

View the video where H-P Virkki reveals what is the most common question people ask him and other things that explain the choices he made for the book.

H-P Virkki’s profile on Stage 32 and his IMDB page feature plenty of information about movies where he has performed.

Stunts, Scenes and Safety – book cover image

Movies, Music and Cartoons Inspired H-P Virkki during the Long Process of Writing a Book about Stunts

2015-05-22

Finally, stuntman, stunt coordinator H-P Virkki can look back and reflect on those years when he was writing a book about his passion and work – movies. Stunts, Scenes and Safety – Introduction to Movie Stunts is one of the first books in the world that literally shows (it includes video segments) what is required to create action scenes for movies. Here is the author’s interview where he also lists his favorite movies and books.
stunts, scenes and safety - ipad screen shot
You have a convincing career in movies. How did you come up with the idea of writing a book about stunt work?
The primary reason was my passion for movies. It took years, but I brainstormed, wrote and rewrote the book in between my stunt work assignments. That’s why the book reflects practical situations that stunts face on movie sets. Many topics discussed in the book are responses to this question: “What should my young colleagues – who may be starting out their careers – know about the professional code on a filming location?”

How did you find inspiration for working with the book when you were not filming yourself?
I was staying in Cologne (Köln), Germany when our editing and translation team was working on the book. A renowned production company Action Concept happens to be based in Cologne. I was lucky because they shot movie stunts near my neighborhood, and allowed me to follow their work. It’s one of the best stunt groups I’ve ever seen.

Watching movies, primarily drama and documentaries, gave me distance from my own work and stunt scenes we had filmed for the book. Pekka Sipilä and I edited for months for the first cuts before we were happy with the result.

I also saw theatre plays that had stunt scenes. I saw some plays with fine stage combat work, but the most inspirational was the wirework in Spiderman – Turn off The Dark in New York.
catering-filmcrew-600
Film crew catering in Köln Friesenplatz, Germany in late autumn. Felt like home.

Do you give public stunt lessons to youngsters or other groups?
No, I don’t. If I teach stunt work, it’s either preparation for a movie scene or coaching actors. Yet, I encourage people to practice, create showreels, attend stage combat courses, and if they are really interested in stunt work, they can find a long list of stunt schools in my book.

What type of reader did you have in mind when you wrote the book?
My mission was to activate the computer generation. Stunts, Scenes and Safety is also a book for everyone who wants to understand how much work it really requires to get a couple seconds worth of useful action material for a movie.

cartoon characters sarah and kevyn
You have co-operated with artist Leena Jääskeläinen for a cartoon in the book. What’s the story behind it?
I feel the cartoon and the characters in the story are the backbone of the book. When I began discussing about the cartoon story and the characters with animation artist Leena Jääskeläinen, it was the very first step for lifting the project off the ground.

Before Leena joined the project, I only had ideas and mind maps jotted down in my notebook. After she had written the manuscript for the comic, I was certain that one day, the book would be real. The main characters of the cartoon, Sarah and Kevyn, kept me on the right course whenever I felt I had lost my way during the long writing process. They were writing, editing and shooting with me throughout the project.

Some readers [ed. note: the book was published in Finnish a year ago] have told me that the cartoons were their favorite part of the book because they didn’t particularly see themselves as athletes, but loved art. Through cartoon characters Sarah and Kevyn, they felt they became part of the stunt scene. That’s the best feedback ever.

Can you name five best movies you have ever seen?
You can find references to a number of movies with great stunt work in my book, although it doesn’t necessarily mean they are my personal favorites. Choosing only five favorites is impossible for me. As life goes on, new situations and new movies turn up, but films that have made an impact on me are, for instance, the following:

Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr.
An action-packed and funny movie with plenty of great stunts. The way Buster Keaton moves is simply amazing. This movie by the legend of an era is comedy at its best.

The Kid by Charles Chaplin
I saw this movie as a child, and it touched me already then. I can still remember the scene where the crying boy is taken away from the hobo. But then, the scene of dancing fork and bread is very funny. Chaplin is a one of the founding fathers of movies.

Point Break and Thelma & Louise
I have seen plenty of action movies, but I haven’t seen so many good action drama movies. These two movies give inspiration when life feels stagnant.

Cinematographer Style
An excellent documentary where filmmakers tell about their work.

Concrete Circus
A documentary by BBC that shows street artists who are making films. The real beef of this film is to follow the long road the artists have to travel before their movies are ready.

Transcendence, Birdmen and 20 Seconds of Joy
These documentaries show us people who are into extreme sports. Base jump and wingsuit flying scenes are absolutely wonderful. The documentaries also show their attitudes towards fear and risks. I can easily relate to the feelings these guys have before and after their effort.

I could add 7 Samurais, Banlieue 13, Leon, L’argent (Bresson R), La Vie de Boheme, Dog Town and Z-boys, Matrix, The Place Beyond The Pines and many other movies to the list.

Five best nonfiction books?
A great book makes you think – it doesn’t have to be easy to read and light to digest. I can list a few such books because I tend to return to them time after time. Anyone interested in books about movies should check out the list at the end of my book.

John Fiske: Introduction to Communication Studies
An essential book for understanding communications. I can learn new things every time I open it. Checking out the reference list alone is worth your time.

Coaching books by Heikki Kantola and Antti Mero
Essential reading for those who want to understand professional coaching.

A Street-Smart Song: Capoeira Philosophy and Inner Life, Nestor Capoeira
A marvelous book about the history and philosophy of the Brazilian discipline. I haven’t exercised capoeira since the 1980s, but I still have warm memories about that time.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice by Shinryu Suzuki
This is a classic compiled from the select lectures of the zen master.

Joseph Campbell: The Hero with a Thousand Faces
I discovered this book when I was performing in a theater (Robin Hood) with Pekka Saaristo in the 1990s. Myths, symbols and hidden meanings of old stories made me curious. Campbell got me interested in Jung as well. If I were to continue this list, you might guess which book would be next.

 
ebook download
Stunts, Scenes and Safety by H-P Virkki

A Book about Movie Stunts Wouldn’t Be Perfect without Video Scenes That Show the Action

2015-05-08

Stunts, Scenes and Safety – Introduction to Movie Stunts is an ebook you can read on your smartphone, tablet or PC. It was written with young audiences in mind. The mission was to create a book which inspires readers to be active, stretch their limits and to create something new. The book is packed with tips, photos and videos for learning to shoot action scenes.

Ebook download: Stunts, Scenes and Safety

When I started writing, I set myself three key objectives: interaction with readers, contact with movie making process and real stunts (instead of computer animations).

Interaction with readers

I wanted to create the book in interaction with its main audience – younger generations where the stuntmen of the future are already growing. Social media is no substitute for live interaction.

All the projects and examples in the book are tested and proven in real life situations at a gym or on a filming location. I wanted the content of the book to be influenced by those people who I was writing to. I also wanted to get immediate, unfiltered feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

All kinds of things can go wrong in a project like this. I wanted to be sure that everything in the book is tested and also works in practice.

View the book trailer:

Close contact with movie making process

For me, it was very important to be as much as possible behind the camera or in front of a camera during the writing process. It is pretty easy to come up with fancy ideas, but there is no substitute for the first-hand experience. It was also the main reason why I didn’t explain the process using old stunt movie clips as examples.

To be able to work in film productions was a bit of a challenge because it’s not always easy to get on a pro movie set in Finland. In the end, it worked out pretty well and I got to work as a stuntman, coordinator and even had couple of lines to act.

Physical stunts are important

I wanted to emphasize basic physical stunts in the book. I chose stunts that I found relatively safe for the future stuntmen to start with.

The same basic principles also apply to tougher and sometimes more dangerous stunts. After all, adventure-style physical activities, like playing “cops and robbers”, climbing trees, running, chasing, and being creative with parkour or skating tricks come naturally to kids. Adding a camera to the experience can be fun, even artistic dimension.

Of course, in an adventure game or movie, you have to have some kind of a battle element. I chose the king of combat scenes: sword fight.

The emphasis was on attentional concentration and having a good time on each filming location. I wanted to minimize violence, accidents and injuries, even though they are often present in stunt scenes of big budget movies.

To find the right mood for writing, I watched Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin pretty often. The energy of those guys probably had an influence on me as well.

The book is not oriented towards grand spectacles, or filled with CGI (Computer Generated Images) – it’s pretty “old school”. I believe it offers a good balance to today’s fast-paced life.

Read how the video segments were created for the book.

Written by H-P Virkki. Check out his profile on Stage 32.
Ebook download: Stunts, Scenes and Safety

Sample pages:

stunts, scenes and safety book on ipad

stunts-ipad5-sshot

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