SHOOTING ON WHEELS: stunt and precision driving’s secrets revealed by Motor Option

 

What does it feel like to drive on two wheels? And what about shooting from a pick-up at high speed while following two trucks holding a man between them? We’ve asked these questions and many others to the guys working at Motor Option, an important car prep company based in Barcelona.

Motor Option is a well known company in the sector that offers a vast range of different services, with precision driving, stunt stunt driving, car care and camera car standing out at the top of the list. Basically they work using cars and cameras, with film producers, TV and advertising agencies.

Sounds an exciting job doesn’t it?

That’s what we thought! So we went at their offices to pay them a visit and ask them directly some questions on their work, their most interesting projects and how you become a precision driver, among others.

There’s something that immediately attracts your attention when arriving at Motor Option’s offices. At a stone’s throw from Barcelona, their headquarters are based in a small town in the Spanish region of Catalunya. Getting there is fairly easy, and as soon as you turn the last corner you can’t avoid noticing the black and pink walls standing out in the quiet and conventional neighborhood.

It’s once you get inside Motor Option’s offices though that you really start feeling the contrast between the surroundings and the atmosphere you can breathe inside. With an American style enormous pick up (a low loader, namely) and a quad parked at the garage’s entrance, the office wall made of glass except for the big blackboard wall, you definitively feel the difference from the outside.

On our arrival we were welcomed by Jaume Massagué, Olga Martínez and Gemma Palou who gave us some very interesting insights on their work as precision drivers and stunts. which we’ve edited in this entertaining video. Enjoy it!Olga_MOtorOptions from BMP on Vimeo.

Looking for some more? Below you can find the whole interview, with extra scenes we’ve cut out during editing.

CruHub: Jaume, could you tell us a bit more about Motor Option, what you do and how it all started?

Jaume: Motor Option is a car prep company we take care of the shooting here in Barcelona, of the precision drivers, car care and all the camera care drivers and all car preparation in general for shootings, especially advertisements.

The company was founded 10 years ago by Ferran Mas, he came from the motorcycling world (winning several championships in Spain, Ed.) and was working as a publicity driver. As he was getting more and more jobs he started driving any vehicle with wheels, until, bit by bit, he founded his company.

Now we have 18 cars, 18 people working for Motor Option and 5 people here in the office. We are work mostly in Spain but we do some stuff outside as well too, we’re really happy about how things are going.

C: Could you tell us which are the most interesting projects you have been working with in these years?

J: Ufff, in 10 years there have been many! But there were a couple that were pretty difficult. For instance, do you remember the Volvo spot with Van Damm doing a split between two moving trucks standing on their review mirrors? That was really hard! We took care of all the preparation: the trucks, the persecution systems, with camera cars and everything involved – as you know we have a scorpio arm here, low loader camera cars and many other toys.

We also had many other interesting projects. We had to put cars con two wheels, for example, and we do stunts as well. Repsol is a big client of ours and we shoot frequently with Marc Marquez and Pedrosa. It’s an interesting job, we enjoy it!

C: Did you face dangerous situations? Have you witnessed any big accident?

J: As precision drivers and stunts we don’t only depend on us as people but also on machines, that play an important role in the part. Sometimes accidents happen but – I knock on wood – for now nothing really bad occurred. Of course I can remember a few scratches, hits, etcetera, but we are used to it. Most of the people are coming from the racing world, and accidents are something that happen.

C: How did you become a precision driver?

J: By accident! I was working as a runner on a set, just driving the director to the locations and one day one precision driver was missing. Ferran knew me from the “circuit the Catalunya” (Catalonia racetrack), where I was an instructor and also a test driver for some brands, so he said that I could the job. And that’s how it happened. It was a spot for BMW in 2006 or 2007. After that Ferran just called me for other jobs and now I’m managing the company with my partners. Our job it’s just a matter of h communicating with the crew and doing what has to be done.

C: What would the recommended path to become a precision driver be?

J: The first thing is doing some driving courses – for example there is the “Real automovil club de Catalunya” – this is what I did and the reason why Ferran asked me that day to drive. He knew I was doing courses, driving motorcycles as well in the circuit.

So the first step is going to a driving school to learn how to drive, how to use your hands properly and where to look – normally we look just in front of the ca, we don’t look farther to see if there is any upcoming danger. From that you continue taking classes: performance and racing courses. It’s a long path but it’s very interesting if you like driving.

The biggest part of the job is nor driving, of course it’s important but it’s a 50% of the job, the rest it’s communication. Nowadays we want the people we hire people with good communication skills and that are able to speak languages. You need to understand what needs to be done and do it exactly how you are told to, that’s very important. Sometimes we are asked to do really unreal things, the fact is that in camera it looks completely different and what we do can actually drive the consumer to buy that car or motorcycle.

C: Hi Gemma, could you explain us how you became a precision driver?

Gemma: I started working for Motor Option as Ferran Mas’ office assistant, but I’ve always loved driving so he thought me how to and I took driving courses. When agencies started asking for girls for advertisements – not very often in the beginning – then I started working as a driver. I actually didn’t have any have any certification when I began working, even though on a personal level I’ve always had a passion for driving and speed. It was after I had started working that I took all kinds of driving courses such as on gravel, sliding, in circuits with small formula cars and many more.

C: The driving, and to a certain extent the audiovisual world, are both dominated by men: how did clients react when the saw a female driver coming to the set (if they hadn’t expressively asked for one?)

G: When I started working, ten, twelve years ago, men drivers were the one that were doing female’s characters body doubles – they wore wigs, etc… The problem was that they were stocky men, so the final result wasn’t so good. Since five or 6 years they started asking more for girls, still it’s a world dominated by men. Yet, there are directors that continue asking for men as female body doubles, even though it’s less and less day by day. The main reason is that a female driver shape fits more an actresses’ one.

C: Could you explain a bit more your role in advertisements?

G: We work as actresses body doubles. When you see their faces it’s them, they are driving on the low loader: they are not actually driving but they are on a trailer and it looks like they are driving. When the car is moving in a city, it’s parking, drifting or doing even some more complicated action, it’s us who’s  driving. That’s why the car glass are always tinted, you very rarely see us drivers. When the car stops we swap driver so the actress can get out of the car.

C: Who have you body doubled?

G: I once did Claudia Schiffer and other actresses that are more famous in the UK or Germany and which I don’t really know. The most famous one is Claudia Schiffer for sure. Ah, and Nina as well, a German singer

C: Which ad was it you drove as Claudia Schiffer?

G: It was an Opel ad, in a parking where I had to drive up and down, backwards, with pillars… it was a bit complicated.

C: Did it happen any time that you show up and they weren’t expecting a woman? And that you could see in their faces that they weren’t happy?

G: When you do a good job and you drive as a man would, there is no problem. It’s true that when they first see you they look at you as if they where asking “will you be able to do a drift? can you do a burnout? can you…” Yes, of course I know how! So yes, in the beginning they doubt.

C: Any other big project you have been working with that you’d like to tell us about?

G: We work with many different brands, we have worked with all the big vehicle makes out there. I remember last time I’ve worked in Madrid for Hyundai where there were real explosions – with special effects – we had to be very coordinated. There were fire and water explosions that were dropping on the vehicle, so you had to be ready and very careful when driving for everything to happen as planned.

C: Hi Olga, could you explain us how you became a precision driver?

Olga: By pure chance. I’ve always been in the motor world, I was racing in 4×4 rallies, Harley Davidson rallies as well. In a Harley Davidson even I happened to meet with former Motor Option owner and founder Ferran Mas. While racing I made the mistake of getting into a challenge with him in a few curves. He then saw how I drove and offered me to come and work here in Motor Option. The first thing he did was offer me to take some training courses, and that’s how I began.

My first advertisements where for motorbikes, as a precision driver … well as a advanced driver or precision driver on motorbikes. He (Ferran) then saw how I drove and I took more courses: drifting, on ice and other car courses. I’ve been here for eight years and I drive motorbikes, cars and whatever it comes, there’s no problem!

C: Could you tell us which are the most interesting projects you have been working with in these years?

Olga: Many, many. In eight years many. The ones that drew my attention the most… or the ones that are the funniest are when they dress you up, and I have been dressed up as a man, with beard. The truth is they are the funnies projects.

I did a film as well where I was a police woman and during a car chase I had to drive into some card boxes. It was a very spectacular scene and that was a lot of fun too. Another advertisement that left a mark was Rolls Royce, it was a surprise. There were two vehicles, two Rolls Royce, in one of them there was a precision driver and the actor, pretending to be a client. While in the I car I was driving, I was doing the body double of a female driver, she didn’t have a driver. So I thought it was peculiar, in a sexist industry like this one, Rolls Royce chose having a woman driving it’s own vehicle. And I liked it. Each project is a different experience. You never know what they are going to ask you to do.

C: You were telling us that you’ve been dressed up as a man…

O: Yes, in this ad, at the beginning a man was supposed to go… ah no, another precision driver that was me was supposed to go but there but the man was driving. In the last moment they changed the main character and I had to do both roles: the woman and the man. They ended up putting a beard on one half of my face, so I was half man half woman.

C: Did you have to body double any actress?

O: Yes, we are always body doubles! They rarely ask you to show on camera. Anyways, I took some interpreting courses as well and the reason I did them was because when I went to castings I didn’t know how to act, where to look and what I had to do. I did some with image rights but almost always is body doubles.

Here in Motor Option there are more than 20 specialists and we always ask if they want a woman or a man. When they ask for a woman it’s because they want a her to body double a woman. Although in the last moment they can always change their mind and say “I like the way you drive and I want you to body double the man too”.

Normally they always know who is going to go, they choose you taking a look at your picture – in our webpage there’s our work, our photos, and they know who is going to go. I have curly hair and if they haven’t told me beforehand I will go with my normal hair and they might want straight hair. Many times they have told me “why didn’t you come with straight hair/curly hair?”. Once I went there with straight hair and I had to body double an African girl and they told me to go and wash my hair because they wanted a curly look. Sometimes it happens because we don’t have enough information. Sometimes the company might have it but they tell us to hurry up and we have time to prepare us.

C: How does a young girl that wants to be a precision driver start?

O: Being young is an advantage, most of the girls we have to body double are young. On the other hand, what is important in this job is your experience. So if you’re young: 18 years old with a brand new drivers licence… I would advise her to take many courses and trainings: not only in driving but also learning languages, which is something they are asking more and more. Anyways, everything is possible!

C: What kind of courses?

O: Drifting, on snow, on gravel- rallies-. Learning and training constantly as that’s how you get the practical experience. And you also get it during shootings, because there are very good pilots that might not be so good on a set as here you don’t need speed, you need precision or a keeping a stable speed or knowing what the camera is looking for in this moment… and this is give by years of experience.

C: And how do you learn to do stunts?

O: There’s a schools called Ángel Planes, I’ve been with them doing an internship. They are fully dedicated to stunts: driving, falling, staircases, a bit of everything. Over there you need young people as you end up bruised!