Guest post by Custom SLR Pro Team Photographer Chris Tedesco
I didn’t know what to expect when Metal Mulisha asked me to go to an airfield located a half-hour east of Palm Springs to shoot a stunt involving Jimmy Fitzpatrick. One thing is for sure: When Jimmy Fitzpatrick is involved, it is going to be crazy.
The stunt concept was to have Fitzpatrick backflip his dirt bike over an active runway next to Andy Lewis balancing on a slackline while a stunt plane flown by Melissa Andrzejewski flew underneath them both. It was one of the most complex and dangerous projects I have ever worked on.
The first day required a lot of setup and fine tuning. The dirt bike jump and slack line needed to be placed just right for the plane to have enough space on each side. Once set, Melissa showed everyone how she will be flying and what to expect. At one point, she was flying right above us, no more than 10 feet above our heads. From there, Fitzpatrick warmed up on the 75' jump, and Andy made sure his slack line was secure by walking across it naked the first time. While this was taking place, I was scouting angles to shoot and where to place two remote cameras for the next day. This all proved to be very challenging in the 122 degrees fahrenheit temperature.
It was one of the most complex and dangerous projects I have ever worked on.
After a full day of testing, it was decided that the stunt would have to take place in the morning to beat the heat and wind. The team was confident and excited to make their dream a reality. With everything set up and the sunset behind the mountains, everyone headed to the hotel for the evening. A 5:30 a.m. lobby call time was decided to ensure enough time to make it back to the airfield and get set up.
We had an 8-10 a.m. window set to beat the wind and the heat. However it was still 105 degrees out by 8 a.m. Fitzpatrick kicked over his dirt bike, Melissa fired up her plane, and Andy was perched 30ft above asphalt on a slackline. I had my two remote cameras set, and I got in position directly in line with the center of the jump. At this point I had to trust that my two remote cameras were composed, exposed, and firing off of my handheld camera remote signal. It was go time.
As Andy balanced patiently above the tarmac, Melissa dove her plane down towards the runway as Fitzpatrick clicked his bike into gear and made his approach to the ramp. With his hands held high in the sky, Andy let out an enthusiastic cheer as Melissa flew underneath him while Fitzpatrick backflipped with no hands over Melissa, at eye level next to Andy. Fitzpatrick landed triumphantly as Melissa spun off vertically into the sky releasing a celebratory cloud of smoke. The jump was a success, everyone was safe, and all cameras got amazing shots. It was controlled chaos at its finest.
Andy Lewis @SketchyAndy
Jimmy Fitzpatrick @jfitzo
Melissa Andrzejewski @melissasportsgal
Chris Tedesco @tedescophoto