How Hollywood stunt drivers are trained

  • Rick Seaman’s East Stunt Driving School is a three-day stunt driving course.
  • Students learn how to execute maneuvers such as skid turns, flying 90s, 180° slides, and more.
  • Participants range from professional stunt drivers looking for more practice to actors.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

[car engine revving] [tires screeching]

Rick Seaman: There’s always been the misconception that you have to be crazy to be a stunt driver. [tires screeching] Craziness and success are not synonymous. You have to be controlled. You have to understand set etiquette, protocol, preparation, planning.

Producer: Why do you like stunt driving?

Rick: ‘Cause I’m f—ing crazy! I’m Rick Seaman. I’ve been a stunt driver for 52 years in film and TV work. I’ve worked on “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Electric Horseman,” “Lethal Weapon.” [man screaming] [glass shattering] I’ve probably trained about 2,600, 2,700 students over the 25 years.

Becca GT: Turn, now look! Stop! Yeah! I’m Becca GT. I’m a professional stunt performer. Also an instructor here. So, the majority of the stunt-driving techniques that we cover here in the class are things that you would normally encounter on a set, so coming in hot to a specific mark, car control, being very precise. So if you’re on a set and you have to slide up to a camera or slide up to an actor in the crosswalk, you have the muscle memory and the skill set.

Rick: Yeah, ride that slide, all right!

Becca: So, day one, we get the students comfortable in the cars, get them familiar with weight transfer, how the brakes work. We do some slaloms, then we start throwing in 180s. The second day, the students are generally a lot more comfortable. We cover backwards driving. And the third day, things are starting to come together. More skid turns, and then jam car, which is a timing drill which puts all the stuff that you’ve learned into one big moving piece. The smoke’s screaming off the tires, and it makes for a really good end to the class.

Rick: Welcome to two and a half days of pure pleasure.

Becca: So, we start with getting the students comfortable being a little uncomfortable in the car.

Rick: You’ll notice that a good driver is just driving from the elbows to the hands. When I see these guys out there and I see this, I go, “Dear God!” You don’t want to be that guy. Smooth. You wanna be Joe Cool.

Becca: I’d say about 85% to 90% of folks that come here are established stunt performers, and they’re looking for that little bit of edge to add to their skill set.

Wesley Green: I’m Wesley Green. I’m actually an actor and stuntman located in Philadelphia. I’m a big car guy. I love drifting, time attack, everything like this, so to be able to control the car better, I felt, would be that much better in my job pursuit. Today started with checking the e-brake, making sure everything works properly, then we went into some driving drills.

Rick: So, we wanna slide these cars. We wanna do 180s and 90s. Here’s how we’re gonna do it. We’re gonna come in hot, ’cause we like energy. Energy is good. And as we go to apply the e-brake, we’re first going to apply the main brake, then we bring in the E on top of that and finish the job, we get that lockup. ‘Cause the emergency brake only operates the rear brakes on almost all cars. You get a weight shift. The nose of the car dips, which brings the rear of the car up, which takes weight off the rear tires. Easier to get them to lock up. So if we can get lockup, we can have fun. We don’t get lockup, we will not have fun. [tires scraping]

Becca: From the slide is where everything kind of builds, so your foundation is being able to lock up the wheels and understand how that car reacts. Sometimes they’re straight; sometimes the shifting of the of the weight of the car; sometimes you might have a tire that’s a little balder on one side than the other, and that kind of affects the straightness.

Rick: We’re getting there, we’re getting there.

Wesley: At first, it was getting to learn the car. I would hit the brake too early, so it was finding that right spot, and then once knowing where that spot is, to hit that mark all the time to make it stop where you want it to stop.

Rick: All right, riding that slide.

Wesley: And then after that, we jumped into some 180s.

Becca: The 180 is the first real dynamic move that we teach, and the 180 is initiated by a pretty snappy quarter turn, and as the car comes around, being able to look for your mark and then make sure you plant it right where that, basically the license plate would be dead center with where your mark is.

Rick: Line your rear license plate up with that chartreuse center cone. That’s the mission. More speed, come deeper. You’ll be good.

Becca: Common mistakes are sometimes just not coming in fast enough, so you don’t have enough momentum to snap the rear end of the car around. [tires screeching]

Rick: OK, good. Let’s get the eyeballs working now.

Becca: You know, a lot of people, they don’t realize they have to turn and turn their head over their shoulder and look out that rear window for where the rear end of that car is, ’cause when you’re in the middle of the spin, there’s a lot of stuff going on. You kind of don’t know which way’s up unless you are zeroed in on what that mark is.

Rick: That’s money! Good job. Thank you for a great day, No. 1. We’ll see you in the bullpen. I want to see one more. Show me one more.

Driver: Yes, sir.

Rick: Sometimes they got it, but you just wanna make sure they really got it. [tires screeching] Money! All right!

Jeff Marshall: You have to be comfortable with the slide. You have to be comfortable with feeling the physics on the car. I’m Jeff Marshall. I’m a computer engineer, and I’m also an actor and a stuntman. I spend most of my days going through and helping customers solve big IT problems. My other side is I like to fall off buildings, get set on fire, and drive cars real fast.

Rick: We’re gonna start sliding around corners. Woo! Call them skid turns, hanging the back end out.

Becca: Skid turns are a classic example of the pinnacle of a chase. You see someone come blasting out of a alleyway and get all wild in the street and then bring it back under control to continue.

Rick: The key to this is what we call e-brake release timing. Now, you’re gonna stay on that e-brake long enough to get a nice slide. I wanna see at least 90 degrees of slide, at least, but then they have to get off the e-brake. If they stay on, they’re gonna spin out and do a 180. So you gotta get the feel for when to release the e-brake. Stay on that e-brake, get that slide. [car engine revving] [tires screeching] That’s a money, that’s a money.

Jeff: Patience is the biggest thing. You have to wait for that inertia to take the car around. You have to really feel when it’s your time to be able to add gas, add brake, all those different pieces.

Rick: All right! Yeah! It’s a different world going backwards. These guys are gonna find that out. You’re gonna go around the track backwards. It’s 10 times more sensitive. You just have to be smooth. It starts wiggling on you, just make little, subtle corrections to get it sorted out. If you panic and jerk it, you’re done. You’re gonna spin out.

Jeff: If people try to do this type of stuff on the roads, it’s dangerous, and it’s illegal. So you come to a school like this, and you really practice up and just get a lot of time behind that wheel.

Rick: Doesn’t take much wheel movement to get that car to try and spin, just even accidentally. So, now we’re gonna do it intentionally.

Becca: Basically, you’re going backwards as fast as you possibly can, and then at the last second, getting off the throttle so it creates a weight shift onto the rear wheels of the car. At the same time, you crank the wheel very, very, very hard, very quick, and that brings the weight of the nose up and around so it swings so that you’re facing, obviously, the opposite direction. [engine revving] [tires screeching]

Rick: OK, that’s good. Let’s try again centered.

Jeff: It’s just like any sport. You have to practice, and the more wheel time we get, the better we get. [tires screeching]

Rick: That’s a money! All right, right in the hole! OK, guys, we are into grid. We call this a grid-run exercise. That refers to a traffic pattern with chase car or chase cars going up through the traffic.

Becca: On “21 Bridges,” we had quite a big chase scene. We had the main actor on foot, and the car was pursuing behind him. It had to weave in and out of oncoming traffic. There was a lot of moving parts to that.

Rick: In other words, you guys are the ND drivers, nondescript stunt drivers, and your guys’ job is to hold those positions and not let it get bunched up or jammed up. Here’s your chase car. This is Becca. Be on your toes. Be ready to rock. Here we go. OK, let’s run one here. And thumbs up, ready. And three, two, one, action. Action, chase car. Action, chase.

Becca: So, I’m looking for the holes, and these guys are supposed to keep their position so I can get around them, which, they’re doing a nice job. We’ll kind of dive in here, give him a little chin music. There we go. Most important aspects of the grid driving is to follow the directions, to have a really good sense of spatial awareness so you don’t create any areas where things can get constricted or become unsafe.

Rick: Now, Jeff Marshall’s gonna be our second chase car, and he’s gonna chase her through the grid, so you got two cars coming through. And three, two, one, action! And action, chase. Action, chase.

Jeff: Being a chase car is amazing, ’cause you know where everybody is, and you just get to make it look very dynamic and add the action.

Becca: The third day, it’s like, game on. Everybody’s ready to go. They’re really hitting the throttle. [tires screeching]

Rick: Too deep! [Stephen chuckles]

Stephen Koepfer: All this stuff is very perishable. If you don’t do it for a while, you’re gonna lose it really quick.

Rick: That is money!

Stephen: My name is Stephen Koepfer, and I am a stunt performer in New York, and I also run a martial arts studio. I double Eddie Marsan on “Ray Donovan,” season six and seven. That’s the boxer brother. I’ve worked on “Punisher” and a bunch of stuff. [tires screeching] Stunt driving, I have very minimal on-set experience, but it’s been a few years, and I just wanted to brush up and make sure my skills were staying tight, especially after a long time off with COVID.

Rick: So, I got a good one for you. We call this the jam car drill, precision timing involved. And this is where you’re gonna work timing your skid turn with another moving vehicle. You’ll be coming to do your skid turn while the jam car’s coming around, and he’s gonna come down the straightaway and cross in front of you. You’re gonna slide your skid turn in behind him and chase him down to the turn, so this is about you working your timing. The jam car’s distance to the point of meetup is longer than yours, so you gotta give him a head start. So I will cue the jam car. You will take your own cue. You’ll go when you think it’s time. Black car ready. Action, cop jam car. [engine revving] [tires screeching] He was racing to catch up! If you’re going to be off, it’s always better to be late than early. If you’re early, you recognize that you have to start slowing down. You may even have to get on the brakes, and then you don’t have enough speed left for a decent skid turn. OK, pretty good, pretty good. Money round. Let’s go out on the money. All right, money, money! All right, money, money! Good job, good three days. Good class. Good bunch. Yeah.

Stephen: I mean, I’m not ready to be in “Baby Driver” yet, but I’m definitely at another level.

Jeff: I have about six more driving schools this year. Again, seat time is the key. A professional athlete never stops training. Stuntpeople don’t either. We get better the more that we do this.

Rick: Oh, hi, it’s not Ben Affleck! Yeah, another flat tire. We blow about 30 to 40 tires per class, and we love it.