The Skill Collector

They say it takes 10,000 hours to truly master a skill. There is something very noble and beneficial in that pursuit. Then there are the 10-mins every day to learn a new skill people. I call these the skill collectors. They typically do not ever master a skill but they can perform a variety of skills without much difficulty. The “Jack of all trades, Master of none”.

The existence of these two groups have become most evident as I journey deeper into the mysterious and wonderful world of stunts. Many performers break into the industry with a mastery of a certain discipline such as karate, kung fu, sword, motocross, horseback riding, gymnastics, you get the idea. Many others are more generalists who can perform at minimum, a basic level of falling, fighting, driving, acrobatics, etc. Almost all stunt performers are skill collectors who constantly pursue mastery. They’re a very inspirational bunch.

I am personally addicted to collecting skills. Not so much attaining the skills themselves, although they make incredible party tricks and icebreakers. I yearn more for that wave of euphoria you get when you nail that new trick for the first, third and tenth time. Especially after thinking, only weeks before, that there was no way you would ever be able to to learn it in the first place. That feeling over getting over the “can’t” and turning it into the “can too” is super powerful.

Have you ever had that moment? The one where you surprise yourself? Well I am not a master of many, if anything but I believe I come close with one skill. The cartwheel. It is my favourite skill in the whole wide world. I can do it fast, slow, over things, across things, with one arm, with no arms, I can even do them in circles until I fall over dizzy. It is the first skill that I want to share with everyone.

Here is the link to my first series of videos where I breakdown the cartwheel into super basics, provide progressions and then I will follow up with 2 workouts inspired by my favourite move that aims to strengthen the muscles required to perform a beautiful cartwheel.

Athlete Inspired – Cartwheel Tutorial

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As I try and teach the world the art of the cartwheel, I have chosen a new skill that I would like to add to my collection. Staff manipulation. Weaponry is a key part of any stunt performer’s arsenal. I have sought out the expertise of a mastery manipulator (her name is Michelle and she’s so frickin cool) and have been trying to practice the basics 10mins a day, most days of the week. I’ll track my progress and post something at the end of the month. I encourage you to brave that 12-megapixel lens of judgement and track your progress. I bet you’ll surprise yourself.

Athlete Inspired

michelle-smith

Michelle Smith is a badass staff manipulator. Check out her skills on YouTube.                  Learn from her at www.michellecsmith.com

 

 

An athlete truly inspired: a year in review and an exciting future

First stunt gag on Supernatural, doubling Emily Swallow (aka Amara)

Sitting in a coffee shop on my day off between filming and I can honestly say that I feel the pieces finally coming together. Between filming days. I giggle to myself every time I get to say that. As recently as I year ago, I was pining for the opportunity to be making my living as a stunt performer. Thanks to a brilliantly low Canadian dollar, thousands of hours of training, networking and manifesting my hopes and dreams IMDB has a page with my name on it!

The training, networking and hard work continues but, step-by-step I was able to go through the initial paces of getting paid for athletic, physical feats on film. I became a full ACTRA member, a member of StuntList (a vetted, online database for stunt performers), and now am able to make a living doing something I would happy pay to do. I am now liberated from working odd jobs, donating blood and organs for cash, couch surfing, eating out of restaurant dumpsters,etc (to my family reading this, please know it was never actually this bad. I still have all of my organs). A true testament to following your heart, taking calculated risks and being prepared for when the opportunity for success arises.

*Above photos from my experience with the Supernatural family in seasons 11 & 12

I continue to have a marvelous support network who help me live my dream. Even more who have helped me get to this point. Hopefully you know who you are because I’ve remembered to shower you with thanks, dramatic appreciation and a behind-the-scene glimpse of my set adventures.

The man in my life deserves a special shout out. He met me as I was starting this journey, fumbled with me through this maze of ups and downs, highs and lows, late nights, early mornings, rescheduled dates and rain-checked plans. I think we’ve had a blast these past couple of years and it’s about to get that much more adventurous. We will be embarking on a 4-month adventure based out of Calgary. Without hesitation he led the charge to pack up our old apartment, find accommodations in Calgary and will work out of Alberta while I try and rise to the challenge of my first lead stunt doubling job.

This leads me to the whole point of this post. To share my plan for 2017. My plan to give back and hopefully inspire others the way I have been inspired to pursue my passion for sport, performance and personal growth. I have a started a company and enlisted the help of my former boss, the woman who initially set me down this path, to help me inspire others to reach their goals, embrace their passions, and in the very least, learn the joys and benefits of training like a superhero.

I will continue to share my journey, discuss various topics that will hopefully get your minds and bodies in a frenzy and I will also be posting some videos on my YouTube channel to inspire you to test your limits and learn something new. So please like and share!

Stay tuned…

AthleteInspired

Another St Paddy’s Day with the Birthday Princess

Some birthdays are more memorable than others. Sweet sixteen on the beaches of Florida, I can finally use valid identification to go to the bar with my wrestling team 19th (if you are in Ontario), the 25th “break your nose on the side of a van” pirate themed party, and the 30th in Boston on St Paddy’s Day with my favourite people (need I say more). I can confidently add the 32nd to the list.

50's themed Brithday princess (self made, Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's custom)

50’s themed Brithday princess (self made, Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s custom)

Some of my fam in Boston at the parade in Southy for my 30th

Some of my fam in Boston at the parade in Southy for my 30th

First off, I think I need to talk about my dark side. My fatal flaw. I suffer from a self-imposed “condition” or what is self-diagnosed as birthday princess-itis. Loosely described as the neurotic implementation of high expectations on your social circle (and any other passers by who are game to participate) to stop and celebrate your day of birth.   It is the annual opportunity to justify my desire to be the centre of attention and hold the stage for 24 straight hours. And in exchange for your undivided attention I continue to promise and deliver 24 straight hours of entertainment at my expense. Gifts are not required but definitely enjoyed as all I want is your time and sense of humour / adventure. And, on top of all of that, if things end up getting out of hand, you have apologetic coffees, chocolate and repaired / dry-cleaned clothing to look forward to the following day. So in my mind, it is an equitable arrangement.

I can honestly say that I was not expecting anything this year. New to Vancouver, having left all my friends and loved ones who understand just how neurotic I am about my birthday, I had done a pretty good job of lowering expectations as low as a birthday princess could. I kept plans low key and flexible. Wowza, was my mind blown with how awesome my day went!

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I awoke to the long distances birthday wishes of my family and best friends in Ontario (who were 3 hours ahead and patiently waiting to be the first to call) and Calgary. I chatted up a storm all morning as I made my way to the top of Grouse mountain where, donning my green tiara, I spiked my coffee with Jameson’s and took in the breathtaking views of the city below and the ships cruising into the harbour.

I made it down into the city feeling extremely zen. I received my first birthday present from my friend and talented hairdresser at BangTown who couldn’t join the festivities that night so he, with his magic wand (aka. curling iron and 5 pounds of hair product), ensured I looked fabulous from the scalp up. I felt like a true diva. Then, with my fabulous new hair style, I was given one of the coolest birthday presents yet. I was invited to experience the process of choreographing a bad-ass fight scene for a film. Yes folks, for my birthday, I got to be a stand-in villain who gets killed by the anti-hero. The real present came when I was able to contribute one of my former wrestling moves to the fight which led to a “good job Andrea” pat on the back from the stunt choreographer. A moment which gave me a non-caffinated high for the rest of the day (and much into the following week).

Designated Birthday Buddy

Designated Birthday Buddy

Finally it was show time. Exposing my new friends to the gong-show, alter-ego that is the birthday princess. I was decked out in my birthday dress, tiara, green helium balloon attached to my wrist and carried a green purse stalked with green beads, leprechaun tattoos and a deck of cards (because a birthday princess is always prepared). My designated birthday buddy kicked off the event with TMNT (teenage mutant ninja turtles for those of you not raised by late 80’s cartoons) shots and escorted me down to Olympic Village where a group of new parkour and circus friends ate, drank and laughed at a pub. I even got the thrill of watching some of the reactions of those who were quite shocked and taken back by this loud, sailor-mouthed, enjoyer of awkward moments with the helium balloon reattached to her green tiara. My circus training buddy made me a beautiful necklace, others generously shared a variety of shots / beers and another friend managed to make an appearance after flying all day from Europe. How lucky am I!

Parkour friends represent

Parkour friends represent

Circus friends represent

Circus friends represent

I woke up the next morning with aching cheeks from smiling and a deep appreciation for the awesome friends I have made in Vancouver. They’re freaking keepers! Another incredible birthday for the books and further justification to leave the birthday princess-itis uncured.

AthleteInspired

Call backs and Christmas tours

Hey There,

I go my first call back! In the auditioning world it’s like making the finals at a track and field meet. With less than a days notice I had to research the part, make a small video of myself and get interviewed by 3 people at the same time. You get one shot to show them you have what they want. It’s a little bit of guess work, a little bit skill and a lot of luck.

Shortly after my second audition and before I began my whirlwind Christmas tour I finished up my latest parkour progression training video. I have already noticed an improvement in some of my movements and how much more comfortable I am with heights and connecting certain skills. January’s video will probably include much more conditioning as I embrace the origins of parkour in 2015.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_3aWgC7a0s 

Now for my logistical masterpiece which was my whirlwind Christmas tour. Let me premise this paragraph with the fact that I really enjoyed seeing all of my favourite people but man, I banked some serious miles. In a mere 14 days, I managed to fly, train and drive to Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, London, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Vancouver before I fly to Florida for a week. Yes, I covered that many cities in that amount of time and yes, my body completely crashed from the travel induced stress. I am typing this while swaddled in a quilt my aunt made for me, with a scarf wrapped around my neck, popping DayQuil, sipping specialty tea and running through a box of tissues a day. Good times.

My sister and I at the Ottawa train station

My sister and I at the Ottawa train station

Christmas came and went pretty quickly, with all of it’s usual joys, familial duties, social pressures, over eating, traditional fun and thoughtful gifts. My trip highlights include falling down the escalator at the Ottawa train station (I really want to get the security footage that captured my one suitcase sliding into me, knocking my feet and other bags down the moving escalator and my jumping for the hand rails an instant before almost rolling headfirst down the finals steps. The porters who carried my bags out to the train car were very compassionate and did not laugh at me too heartedly), running in a tank top and toque Christmas eve (it was 8 degree celcius) and setting off coloured smoke grenades in a wintery field before new years.

Christmas running attire...

Christmas running attire…

Never a dull moment and always an adventure. As I sit here and nurse my low immune system, I will set my goals for 2015. Stay tuned and happy new year!

AthleteInspired

“You got skills girl…now get more”

Hey There,

Training continues, progress is made and inch by inch, I feel a little closer to my dream. I have been thoroughly enjoying the variety of my activities. Circus in the morning and a myriad of gymnastics, parkour, stunt fighting, trampoline and tumbling in the evening and weekends. Maybe this is only true for myself but I felt like I would come to Vancouver to showcase my skills to the industry and they would either take-it or leave-it. Much to my pleasurable surprise, my skills were seen, acknowledged and then a new checklist of skills (much like a Costco shopping list) appeared. Gymnastics – check. Parkour – check. Circus aerials – check. Now throw in some sort of martial art, some weapon manipulation, facial and body reaction training, and falls (from height, from combat, tripping over your own two feet). So cool!

Flipping through the air, being arm thrown to the ground (a wrestling / judo technique) or dive konging (a parkour technique) over an obstacle are great but film is all about telling a story. How did you get hurled into the air to flip? What fight sequence led up to being arm-thrown and how much ‘pain’ will be acted out as you hit the ground? What band of alienesque ninjas were chasing you down the streets as you approach various obstacles to kong over? Being comfortable and competent with all of these elements is, I’m told, what makes a good stunt performer.

Teaching the body new things is truly what I live for. Our bodies are such amazing instruments and tied so closely to our minds. Evolve or die. There is absolutely nothing desirable to me about doing the exact same thing every day for the rest of my life. I may be on the other extreme right now where every day is a mini-adventure, but research suggests that both longevity and happiness is tied to this idea of constant learning.

http://www.thehappymovie.com 

As I see this mountain of work and skill acquisition ahead of me, I waiver for a moment. “I still have so far to go, so many hours of training. Do I still want to do this?” I say to myself. “F* ya!” is the almost immediate response that escapes my lips.

AthleteInspired

Special skills gig and amped up training

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LeifABiqWE

Hey There,

Such wonderful news. I got my first SAE (special skills) job on a movie set last week. Now before you go getting too excited. My “special skill” was holding a video camera (yup, holding a heavy piece of technology is considered a special skill) and I didn’t even end up having to hold one. The money was so much better than normal “background” work so I am not complaining in the least. Just another little step closer to my first stunt gig.

I celebrated this awesome week with a glorious 24 hours up in Whistler with a friend that I will call Cool Dude (cause that’s what he is). Fondue, smores, night strolls in the rain (glass of wine in hand) one day, a short hike through a lush, green trail around ancient cedar trees (around 1000 years old) and a solid session at the Scandinavian spa the next day. Seriously though, this spa was like nothing I had ever been to before. In addition to a eucalyptus steam room, cedar sauna, outdoor hot tubs and cold plunge pools, the entire compound is cell phone free and silent. After a few hours there, I came out a completely relaxed and refreshed person. I don’t know if it was the spa or the company but I was so calm by Sunday evening that I had great difficulty training at the gymnastics club.

This week was all about getting back into my training regime and connecting with industry people. I have been in Vancouver for just over 4 months and I feel like I’m on the right track but I could be doing more. The next few things on my to-do list are:

  • book a photographer for new headshots
  • organize a photo shoot for my action shots (stunt portfolio)
  • pick music for my next circus routine
  • find an apartment to move into January 1st (my current accomodations are wonderful but I am in need of a little more space than a Murphy bed and a 1m wide closet)
New move on the aerial straps -  solid combination of strength and flexibility

New move on the aerial straps – solid combination of strength and flexibility

This week, my training totaled:

Monday – 3.0 hours of circus (silks routine)

Tuesday – 2.5 hours of circus (straps / hand balancing)

Wednesday – 3.0 hours circus (aerial hoop / silks), 2.0 hours parkour (rails / dive rolls)

Thursday – 1.5 hours circus (bar conditioning / aerial silks), 2.5 hours of acro (mini-trampoline tricks)

Friday – 2.5 hours of parkour (height training, kongs, filming)

Saturday – 9.0 hours of coaching

Sunday – 2.0 hours of stunt fighting (samurai & kali sticks), 2.0 hours of gymnastics / tumbling

Above I attached my monthly parkour progress video. My Team Tryforce training partner had the idea to track our training during the winter months and I like the idea of holding myself accountable to regular training. Speaking of which…gotta go train.

Cheers,

AthleteInspired