It is my pleasure to share bits and pieces of my life with you guys.
I'm very lucky to have been born in Russia at the beginning of 70s. It was a very organized, safe, and disciplined country, and I believe in order to achieve above average results in anything, you need these elements and of course a little luck.
If we fast forward to now, and look back at that time of my life, I had the best training facilities and best coaches Russia had to offer at that time, to help me develop my skills and explore the limits of my abilities, with no distractions from outside life. My training didn't allow much time with my friends, outside of sports and school, but I eventually managed to balance it all out.
In many ways, the training for my stunt career started back then, and with all honesty, that was the best foundation laid for my life.
l focused on learning, how to do one thing, build on it, perfect it, and to set no limits. After gymnastics, it was easy. The same formula worked for everything else. I started sports acrobatics, and all I needed to know was my final destination, and I knew how to get there. The same formula worked for me at school and university. I knew what it took and how to get it, and I was unstoppable. With tons of energy and knowing exactly where to put it, I felt like anything could be done if I really wanted it.
Now, do I think gymnastics helped me in my stunt coordinator career? It did more than that, it helped me in my life.
As a kid, I was too busy to just let loose and have fun, but as I said, eventually I cut up.
My life in Moscow Circus on Ice, was a "pair of leather pants away from a rock star"! I was learning new stuff every day, but it was so easy... just combine two or three things I already knew, and voila! Everyone loved it. I quickly became a solo artist and participated in group routines. We traveled with a very nice pace, every 2-3 months, a new city, state or country. And everywhere we went, we became mini celebrities, with VIP passes for everything. Do I need to say more?! Circus life was all about having fun, and knowing me, with the same intensity as my training, there were no limits and nothing was too much trouble.
Every moment was the best, even in my darkest days of those times, something good always came out of it.
When I came to America in 1993, working for "Disney on Ice- Aladdin", it was the lowest point of my circus performing career. I have nothing good to say about it, except for one of the most important things of my life, it brought me to America! After Moscow "Circus On Ice ", everything else was a big step down. All I was thinking of, was how to get a green card to untie myself from Disney, so I could get a better job with professionals who love doing their job, and not the slimy live show managers and corporate approach to the art of performers.
Going back to my education, University was not the easiest or most pleasant time of my life, but taught me many things, especially in business, how to properly approach anything you need to do, in real life and business.
Many things I got from my degree in Kinesiology, I use in my everyday life. Kinesiology is all about the body in motion, and the job of a stuntman is all about that; a body in motion. I would never be able to quickly figure out some of the complicated ideas directors throw at me when I work. How to make things work safely and spectacularly, yet humanly possible.
Funny thing is, I knew, when I finished with my rock star lifestyle as a performer, I had my degree in my pocket. I could always get back to it. And these were the times of exploring all the possibilities in the real world of business. I got a job working for a physical therapist with the purpose of becoming one. I got my massage license, built up an excellent business, and made very good money. But, I realized after giving it a real try for two years, this was not for me. Money does not make me happy, I liked it, but it is not worthy of my happiness.
I decided to go back to my principals; to build one thing on top of another that works. I knew how much I enjoyed performing, and contracts were coming, but I knew if I didn't get out now, I would regret it for not leaving this "soon to be old" career, and start a new chapter of my life. And my answer was the stunt business.
And boy did I get lucky! I always say, better be lucky than good. I met Charles M. Shultz having breakfast at the ice arena cafe in Santa Rosa CA. He came up to me and said, "Do you mind if I sit with you at you table?". And this was the beginning of an amazing relationship with the entire Shultz family. Christmas and Thanksgiving at Sparky's House, I met Jill Shultz, his daughter. Jill gave me a real chance to open up as a creative mind, to help her choreograph extreme sports athletes in live show events, with lights and music. This was Jill's business, and she ran a company called All Wheels Sports.
During that time, I got to create, and was able to bring my ideas into the live show events. Thanks to Jill, I met my first agent , started going on auditions for commercials, got a few jobs, and fell in LOVE working with production!
This was the time when I decided to start focusing my energy on stunt work.
I got lucky once again, when one of the commercials I worked on, got me in to the Screen Actors Guild. This was the big door opener. But it's like that blue pill in Matrix, YOU have to walk through that door and the pill will show you how deep the rabbit hole is.
I realized this is by far the hardest business I ever entered, entirely structured on relationships, not just talent. You have to build your reputation from scratch... need to show everybody what you can do and who you are, show how you can perform stunts in the oddest places, and out of the most uncomfortable positions. I realized, this would take years and I was all about it!
But... I knew I would not be able to afford this career if I didn't get some kind of income, so I started a vending business selling toys, stickers, and gum balls. This business was making me enough to pay all my bills and I only had to refill it once a month.
The rest of the time, I was out there knocking on every door, and meeting as many people as I could in the business... and about 3 years later I started to get jobs! That was an amazing feeling, it was like graduating, losing your virginity, and getting your first car, all at the same time!
As things progressed, I realized everyone who made it in this business, had a story similar to mine. It takes a combination of skills, besides being amazing at what you do. You must have excellent social and business skills, and of course be very lucky.
It's very complicated and confusing to explain; it's like a Dali painting, some people like it, some don't.
This business does it for me, even knowing how many things people don't like about the business... like you never know when your next paycheck is coming, or you don't know where, what or when, your next job will be. But it does have big pluses, like working with a group of friends you haven't seen in some time, which is always a very pleasant reunion. Also, when you finally receive your check and it has more digits in it then most, that is good.
But the most important thing is emotional satisfaction from every day I work.
I always pay attention to the easiest stunts, because it is those stunts that may have the most dangers... because not enough attention is paid to them, because of the simplicity of their simplicity. .
The career of a stuntman has an experation day. As did the live shows that I worked on. So before I got there, I realized I loved this business enough to stay for the second round, which would be as a stunt coordinator. The coordinator is very different than a stuntman. There is much more preparation work, paper work, phone calls, and emails. However, there is nothing like being part of creative team, and calling all your buddies and hiring them to work with you on a project, where everyone feels the same way about the work we are doing.
I think a stuntman is one of the most under recognized positions of the entertainment business. Talented human beings, real life heroes work in the stunt business. The problem is, that no one is recognized worldwide like the movie stars are. Yet, we get used to it, because we are all doing it for a different reason.
Life is passing by way too fast, and if you don't do as much as you can, in every day of your life you will not likely achieve extraordinary things in life. But what do I know, everything in life is measured by averages... maybe being average is a good thing too, I just know for sure, it's not for me!