Here we will conclude the interview by highlighting some of the exciting work that Tom is doing now on a TV show called CRIMINAL MINDS.
Tom sent us along still images and video footage from his Emmy-nominated stunt coordination for this show. So check out Tom’s stories, photos, and videos below!
TE: We did an arsonist episode called “Ashes and Dust” on CRIMINAL MINDS. The killer in our episode is burning people in their homes, locking them up so they can’t get out. He had just torched the house and he is driving away from the scene. I am just a business guy walking down the street and our bad guy is aggravated. So he gets out of his car and throws a Molotov cocktail at my feet. So we had to get a shot where you can see my clothes, my hair, my hands, everything. So he torches me up and I do a ten second song and dance engulfed in flames. My face and hands were fully exposed.
ET: How do you set up safety measures to protect yourself in a stunt like this?
TE: Stuntmen refer to burns as “full burns” or “partial burns”. That was definitely a full burn. In years past those used to consist of a guy wearing a big face mask, a [special] suit, and an air tank. We don’t really do that anymore. But the key to a stunt like this is I am in “NOMAX” underwear soaked in ice cold gel. The same stuff race car drivers wear. Then I put on a rain suit, coat and pants. That keeps the wardrobe from getting wet. Then my whole body, with the exception of my hands and face, is fully protected. You could take a blowtorch to my back and I’m not going to burn.
So the camera is rolling, I’m gelled up. I get my hands all juicy and rub it through my hair and my face. As I walk away they throw the Molotov cocktail and I light on fire. The key in doing something like this is that I have to take a big deep breath and continue holding my breath for the whole burn. The reason being you don’t want to breath in the flame. If you inhale the flame it’ll burn the hairs in your lungs and they’ll never grow back. So you have to keep moving and hold your breath. You have to constantly keep moving to your right and to your left so the fire is always behind you. You can’t stand still…that is when you get burnt.
That burn was probably 7-9 seconds. I have 3 safety guys behind me, so once I get lit, I do my little cha cha. If I feel hot I drop face down and they will put me out. People don’t understand that with most burns, the heat is what gets you. Once you start to feel the heat, it turns to steam. And the steam will burn you. So there is a lot of preparation and technique. Those who think they can wing it… that is when they get hurt.
It is cool to watch people watch you when you are on fire. All you see are a bunch of open mouths. But when it is all over you don’t have a scratch on you, so it is pretty cool.
ET: You also sent us a really wild still photo of a car in mid air. Tell us the story behind that.
TE: Yes, I actually got nominated for an “Outstanding Stunt Coordinator” Emmy for that CRIMINAL MINDS scene. The killer in that episode had just killed his family and is distraught, driving down the road. A woman pulls up on the phone, he is driving and pulls out a shotgun and shoots her. Originally they wanted her to get shot and roll down an embankment. I was all for that. That is called a “natural terrain” turn over. But I had this idea of her heading towards an off ramp. If we could fill those off ramp barrels with water and some charges, I could hide my ramp and shoot that in profile. The containers will hide the ramp and I’ll go flying through a wall of water. That added water element made the shot pretty spectacular.
I hit the barrels in a Mercedes at 60 MPH and traveled 120 feet in the air before I hit the ground. I went about 30 feet in the air. Then all the stunt drivers follow behind me. As soon as I landed they all jumped out and got me out of the car. It was a pretty spectacular shot!
Thanks for reading, everybody. If you want to share any thoughts or encouragements with Tom Elliott, comment here and we’ll pass them along to him. Thanks for reading ActionFest.com! Stay tuned for regular updates and posts, as well as detailed on ActionFest 2012!
Over and Out,