When you see the action elements of parkour on the big screen, they nearly never satisfy you. Time and time again, we see otherwise incredible directors and filmmakers making the biggest mistake in capturing our movement—they typically don’t understand the complexity and beauty of action like those who live it.
Most directors don’t know what it feels like to sprint full-speed through an evolving urban terrain, following the ascension and descension of bodies through the concrete heavens; unable to capture the transportation of mind and body as its shapes flow through the crevices of concrete. Now, I’m not claiming that I’ve never seen a non-athlete photographer capture movement well, but it’s a rarity.
Many creators understand the theory necessary to capture a body in motion, but they’re missing the practical knowledge and application. They might imagine an angle that pleases the average viewer, but they can’t encapsulate the feeling of a jump without knowing it. The dynamic nature of our movement gets lost in translation—overshadowed by aesthetic choices or concurrent events. Even when movement becomes the primary driver in a scene, it often takes a back seat.
Directors and camera operators are used to retakes—but athletes have a physical threshold. At some point, our bodies fail due to the high repetition of arduous locomotive patterns or excessive impact. And yet, we’re expected to continue performing. Not only does this practice diminish the quality of the action visually, but it also wastes time and possibly misses the “moment.”
The “moment” for a creator is a mystical one. It’s a time where all the chaotic elements of the universe amalgamate. It’s the breathtaking moments of a film that, no matter the simplicity, are championed by all who’ve witnessed. In parkour, it’s recognized by the “that’s the one” on-camera proclamation. If a movement is simple and easily reproducible for an athlete, the moment has the potential to reoccur. Usually, this isn’t the case, as creators are craving movement complexity within elaborate environments. Typically, this takes the shape of chase sequences, where multiple athletes interact with each other and their surroundings. And while these sequences can be strenuous both for the talent and the production team, they don’t have to be.
Over the years, the parkour world has seen an explosion of incredibly skilled still and motion photographers. It makes sense—most practitioners own a camera to capture their training, and with photography being such an integral element of our practice, it’s only natural that some follow that path. And some of these creators have climbed to new heights and brought parkour in their toolkit.
Daniel Ilabaca and Will Sutton need no introduction within parkour. The duo of veteran practitioners are not only changing the way we watch parkour, but they’re making a splash in the film industry as well. Stunt Camera Crew was born from the idea that highly-skilled movers are necessary to capture movement authentically. With experience in front of and behind the lens—they know what it takes to get the shot. As high-level, multi-disciplinary athletes—they do this without the costly equipment used on big-budget film sets. The team utilizes their cultivated movement abilities to trade dollys for rollerblades and cranes for parkour while combining their skills to create something breathtaking.
In 2019, STORROR released their Bilbao collaboration video with Stunt Camera Crew. The video is different than many we’ve seen within the realm of parkour, as SCC used their skills to move tightly through space with them, capturing shots that would be otherwise unachievable without a massive budget. The video is jam-packed with immersive scenes that leave you feeling like you were with them in Bilbao. In the behind-the-scenes video, you see Will Sutton as he cascades down a series of ledges with a RED and gimbal in hand; and he takes a rollerblading camera hand-off from Daniel Ilabaca before running across a narrow ledge to capture the action below. Unlike dolly systems, inline skates alongside a gimbal provide a similar effect without the constraints. The fast-paced fancy footwork and ability to control the human body at height helps facilitate hard to capture angles that would otherwise require a crane.
The emergence of Stunt Camera Crew seems like the introduction to a new wave of movement-specialized creators. And with as many cameras in the hands of parkour practitioners, it’s not an if but when. As movers, it’s exciting to see more diverse action climb its way onto the big screen, and as parkour continues to grow, so will its involvement in major films. And when that time comes, we hope to be there to keep things moving.