What's it take to become a stunt driver?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have an interesting question. Every time I see a car advertisement on TV in which they are doing some serious driving, I always see a disclaimer on the bottom of the screen that says: "Professional driver on a closed course." Well, I was thinking, wouldn't "professional driver" be the best job in the world? You get to drive all kinds of cars to their limits and look good while doing it. The problem is, I don't have any idea how to land a killer job like that. -- Jonathan

RAY: It ain't easy, Jonathan.

TOM: First of all, the folks who drive in commercials are all stunt performers and members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), 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. So you have to do things like dress up as one of the "Fruit of the Loom" fruits a few times just to get your SAG card.

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. You can reach them at (818) 880-5678 or on the Web at www.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 a talent for it 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, hanging around Los Angeles (we told you the price was high, Jonathan).

RAY: Of course, you might luck out. Sometimes TV shows or movies will hire a stunt driver based solely on looks. So if you look like my brother, and Don King happens to need a stunt double, you might get hired. But otherwise, it's like trying to get any other great job. You have to be good, you have to be in the right place at the right time, and you have to be lucky.

TOM: So the bottom line is that, just like you, there are a lot of people who consider professional driving to be a great job. In fact, one industry insider speculated that there are 5,000 stunt people out there, and only 250 working at any given time. So you have to be absolutely committed to making it, absolutely undiscourageable and ... you'd better have a day job.

RAY: Of course, there IS another way to become a professional driver, Jonathan. Since the definition of "professional driver" means a driver who gets paid to drive, you can always go to work for Domino's Pizza.

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