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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Review: CONCRETE AND CRASHPADS: STUNTS IN NEW YORK Welcomes You To The Urban Stunt Jungle


I've been covering stunt performers off and on for about eight years - three of them most prolifically here at Film Combat Syndicate. As a fan, been following stunt performers since about 2004 or 2005 when I became keen on the growing number of homemade kung fu movies being shared on forums and independent stunt team pages before YouTube was born and it's been a blast seeing how some of these folks have evolved since then.

That said, if there is one thing that I am proud to have observed in all these years, it is that once in a while, you will find more and more people who work in journalism, as well as stunts, covering the stunt industry in all its efforts in film, stage and TV. New York City has proven especially viable here with its own pockets of communities and people working together to create, build and improve their skill sets for the demands that come with being stunt performers, and here to lend us some insight is Sambo instructor and freshman stuntman Stephen Koepfer, and cinematographer Matthew Kaplowitz with their latest documentary, Concrete And Crashpads: Stunts In New York from Breakfall Studios and Burning Hammer Productions.

The documentary is broken up in different segments to highlight various subjects, stories and perspectives from up to fourteen stunt performers. Subjects range from staging choreography and looking at the necessary training and gear, the risks involved and the importance of safety, to the role of a stunt coordinator and on-set hierarchy between stunt performers and the director, and more. Interestingly, at the core of the documentary lies the in-house production of a for-practice shortfilm by Italian martial artist, stunt performer and filmmaker Federico Berte, which gives you ample insight on some of what it takes to assemble good action sequences from the choreography and stuntwork right down to the lensing; Stuntwoman Hannah D. Scott leads the charge opposite performers Frank Perrin, Anthony Hoang and Anthony Mecca, along with a surprise appearance by one of the documentary's directors if you can spot him, and I certainly look forward to sharing this particular project once either the documentary goes live or the shortfilm itself.

On top of the aforementioned, we meet stunt performers such as Mack Kuhr, Tina McKissick, Tim Lajcik, Alanna Blair, Benjamin Rezendes, Jeremy Sample, Joanne Lammstein and Wendy Gutierrez as they each lend their respective knowledge on working and operating in New York City along with highlighting the importance of knowing ones' own skillset as a means of easier work flow and affability with other stunt performers and coordinators. We also meet stunt coordinator and instructor Chazz Menendez who operates out of Westchester's Quiet Storm Traning Group, fondly named in memory of the film's tribute, stuntman Basillo "Quiet" Montilla who sadly passed away last year at the age of twenty-eight.

Some of the more buoyant stories also pertain to how challenging New York City can be for stunt performers newly migrating from out of state. McKissick and Kuhr weigh in on this aspect with Kuhr offering his own colorful depiction of what it's like trying to get around New York City when you're pressed for time and can't make head-and-tail right away of what's what, including our the subway maps; As a native New Yorker and as jocular as it sounds, I can't say he's wrong here and even I can't tell when something in our transit system will curtail my trip or force me into a delay, and I've seen some stuff; Take it from me, if you're working the next day, you don't want to be on the train at 1:00am, or you'll risk getting home just in time to have to get dressed and get back in the office with no sleep, at least half of yesterday bad breath and bodily funk. Not. Fun. At. All.

Concrete And Crashpads: Stunts In New York is a lot shorter than expected considering the city's number of resident stunt performers is much more grand. Even so, and as variably applicable as many of the testimonies may be from folks in other states and around the world,  Kaplowitz and Koepfer still manage to grace viewers with a documentary that is fun, entertaining and hugely informative to watch for anyone with an eye and a knack for stunt performance.

The film certainly does plenty of justice for anyone living in New York City who loves its vibrance and energy, and especially the people - something that stuntwoman Blair herself attests to midway throughout the documentary. She makes a genuine and valid point there and one that I can definitely vouch for on a larger scale; I post articles about some of my meet-and-greets and I've had several in the past three years with stunt and acting professionals from various walks of life - well in the realm of over twenty people, and each evening I've had with people in this field has been met with hours of great talk about film and stuntwork, great food and drink, genuine laughter and tons of levity all around. Sure, it's nice if they except your friend requests and all, but it's even more fun if you get to meet them in person. And a lot of these folks are absolute fun to spend time and coexist with.

New York City may not be an absolute Mecca for aspiring stunt performers and can be tough at times to live in, although as a major capital of the world where entertainment increasingly thrives and considering what I do on this site and the people I've met so far, I couldn't be happier to live here. Tangibly and with regard to Concrete And Crashpads: Stunts In New York, I truly hope that investors and producers take heed to this project when it finally makes its case at the Urban Action Showcase and Expo next week. It's a documentary that, if nothing else, will open the door for you to fill some of your curiousities about the field in virtually all its aspects, as well as the prospects that await you if you're faithful to the craft, make good and informed decisions, and learn from any mistakes made to further personal growth, knowledge and character.

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