Thursday, October 9, 2008

And I thought being a librarian was exciting...

Would you like a job where you get to travel to exotic destinations, hobnob with movie stars and drive really fast cars? Do you mind the possibility of being crushed, incinerated, impaled, dismembered or made really, really filthy? Then welcome to the exciting world of the Hollywood stunt performer.
The Full Burn: one the set, at the bar, behind the wheel and over the edge with Hollywood stuntmen, by Kevin Conley, takes you behind the scenes of an extremely dangerous profession. This is a very interesting book, because not only do you get to see the technical magic that occurs to make a stunt work - breakaway glass, fire retardant gel, airbags, spring boards and cables - but Conley also shows you why these people do this work. Most of the stuntmen he talks to didn't start out planning to work in Hollywood; they were originally race car drivers, athletes, police officers, soldiers and commandos. These are people who apparently have a high tolerance for pain, an uncanny ability to stay calm in stressful situations, and a good eye for detail. A 5-second stunt (or 'gag', as it's called in the profession) can take weeks of planning and rehearsal to make sure that everything is going to work correctly - not just because car chases and explosions are expensive to film, but because the cost of a mistake can literally be someone's life. For anyone interested in movies, this is a great look at how those adrenalin-pumped scenes actually get made and a brief glimpse into what makes stunt performers tick.

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