Actor, stuntman and stunt coordinator Jae Greene has been on my radar for a little over a year now, having initially covered his work with indie filmmaker Jason Heffner for the 2013 short, Maximum Impact. Greene is based in Philidelphia, Pennsylvania where he currently trains and works with his own stunt team, Fearless Hyenas Stunts (clearly indicating he’s a fan of THIS GUY), and is now in the middle of working on numerous projects at the moment, including one with independent filmmaker Mark Cheng on the upcoming sci-fi action thriller, Ghost Source Zero, with fellow scribe Larry Hama (yes, THAT Larry Hama). Greene sat down for an e-mail chat over the course of the weekend, offering a number of details about what he’s up to:
Jae Greene: Hey Lee, Thanks for having me. I am an East Coast based stunt performer and coordinator and I have been training and performing stunts for about 8 years now. I founded Fearless Hyenas Stunts in 2008 with some other Philly locals.Thanks
Philadelphia doesn’t really have any big coordinators so we learned a lot on our own by studying Hong Kong films and behind the scenes stuff. Jackie Chan’s “My Stunts” was like our video bible in the beginning and obviously Jackie’s work was a huge influence, which is where our name came from. Since then a lot of our team, including myself, have been blessed and lucky enough to work with some really big names in the industry. John Eric Shuman (RIP) was the first one to give a couple of us a break. We worked with Philip Tan and his son Lewis here in Philly once and he really gave us plenty of good advice. After that Manny Siverio gave us a shot and really got us onto some big stuff.
Since then our guys have worked with great stunt coordinators like Jeff Wolfe, Jeffrey Gibson, Garret Warren, David Morizot, Roy Farfel, Kid Richmond, Rick Kain and many more. The knowledge and experience we gained from these guys has been HUGE. I learn every time I am onset somewhere. I watch and learn, and in turn, I implement alot of what I see into my now blossoming coordinating career.
JG: When I started the team I tried to add people with various skill sets. We really began as a martial arts-centered team so I tried to add members from various disciplines and styles, that way if we wanted, or a project called for, say “Shotokan vs Capoeira” I had experienced guys to provide input.
The Fearless Hyenas have always had a “Each One Teach One” motto. Everyone brought something to the table that they could teach everyone else. Whether it was a style of martial arts, parkour, acting, stage and screen combat, weapons, military tactics, gymnastics, whatever, if you had a skill and it was beneficial you would be “the guy” for that skill on our team. And that works two ways: First obviously everyone gets the benefit of your expertise in that field. But second, and maybe even more importantly, being “the guy” gives you that important role on our team. And who doesn’t like to feel like an important member of their team?
As I started getting coordinating gigs, I knew I still had plenty to learn about this business, and I have no problem asking and looking for help. I see my job as coordinator to first keep everyone safe, and second to give the director the best performance of what he wants. I can’t let my ego get in the way of those things. One of the reasons I am in this position now is because I have always surrounded myself with a good team and great people.
So what started out as a few guys from Philly, now includes guys from up and down the East Coast. Some of the guys may not realize they are “officially” part of the team, but if you have worked for me once and I bring you back for another job, that means I consider you a member of the Fearless Hyenas family.
JG: When I was growing up I always wanted to be a stuntman! The Fall Guy was one of my favorite shows as a kid. But as I got older I didn’t think it was a realistic possibility without moving to LA. Then I got sponsored at an early age as a semi pro skateboarder, way before the days of the X games. Also, my dad was a musician so I picked up a guitar and wound up bouncing around bands for about a decade before I got frustrated with the music business. So skateboarding and music were my life for a while. But after I left the music biz I just couldn’t shake my need to entertain people so I wound up in a comedy group writing and acting in sketch comedy. And that’s what led me back to stunts. A few of us had some martial arts in our background so we started doing kung fu and action comedy sketches and spoofs. After doing a couple of them it just clicked, I LOVED doing stunts. And NYC was right up the street so when I really thought about it there was a realistic possibility I could make it happen. Of course there were plenty of people who told me I couldn’t do it, and to those people I say “Thank You” because they just helped fuel my fire to succeed and prove them wrong.
JG: Well, alot of the stuff I worked on last year is coming out this year as far as film goes.
THE CHURCH is a horror film starring Bill Moseley (Devil’s Rejects) where I worked as assistant to coordinator Rick Kain and also did a couple stunts. We did 14 wire rigged stunts in 2 days on that one in a real church in South West Philly. Great learning experience for me and most of the Hyenas doing our first intensive rigging work.
My big coordinating debut will air on Oct 4 at 9:00pm on SyFy. It’s an action horror film called DARK HAUL by Synthetic Cinema, starring Tom Sizemore, Rick Ravanello (The Cave) and Evalena Marie (Remains). We did a TON of fights, falls, car crashes, wire work, blew up an SUV and flipped an 18 wheeler on its side. I brought in a bunch of great east coast stunt guys who put in some awesome performances. Also, I am not an ego guy, so I collaborated and had a blast working with other specialists like Sean Gallimore, rigger Drew Torres, stunt driver Shawn Doherty, and my friend Manny Ayala helped me as action consultant as well. It’s going to be quite the spectacle. The Synthetic crew are great to work with and I was given alot of creative freedom to design fights and action pieces.
I also just did a couple days on season 4 of PERSON OF INTEREST so you will probably see me in episode 3 which airs very soon.
I am currently coordinating a Christian faith based film called VOICELESS here in Philly. There’s not much stunt stuff on it, but it was fun working with actor Rusty Joiner (Dodgeball, Resident Evil) and stunt actor Reno Laquintano (Law Abiding Citizen) on a fight scene.
I am also currently involved as coordinator, actor and stunt performer on a fantastic project called GHOST SOURCE ZERO and I highly recommend liking and following the Facebook page. I love this project and have a LOT personally invested here. Director Mark Cheng (Nickelodeon, MTV) is a good friend and we worked together a few years ago on the G.I. JOE fan film OPERATION: RED RETRIEVAL. It is a sci-fi action film that is very much in the vein of Blade Runner-meets-G.I. Joe. It was written by Mark and Marvel Comics legend Larry Hama. Larry wrote alot of the comic books I grew up reading so it was very cool to meet him and discuss action design. Mark is great to work with and trusts me and gives me alot of freedom to run with the action. I am using alot of the same guys from Dark Haul on this one. Guys from up and down the East Coast who are all part of the Fearless Hyenas stunt team.
JG: My character is named Yablonski and I am part of a cyber terrorist type response team in the future. I play the role as a Russian, complete with a Boyka-esque Russian accent. My role has been expanded a bit from how it was originally written, in part i think because everyone onset thinks I am really Russian sometimes! I guess Yablonski is shaping up to be one of the more prominent supporting characters, which is fun because as a stuntman, usually if I get any lines it’s just one or two and then I get my ass kicked. GSZ is giving me the chance to really explore a character. Mark has given me the opportunity to help define this guy and so far it’s been really a great challenge. I guess there is more room for growth so we will see how big a part Yablonski plays as we move forward. I can say that in the opening he is established as a kickass soldier who Captain Warnock (lead actor Joe Barbagallo) trusts and knows can get a job done.
FCSyndicate: I understand Ghost Source Zero is still in production, but the official Facebook page recently shared some teaser footage from the film. How do you like the direction of the production is going so far?
JG: It’s been great! The teaser footage is from the first 7 days of filming and its looking really good. We didn’t share too much of the action but I think you get a sense of the direction we are going. That teaser footage is just for the action scene that takes place during the opening credits, by the way, so we still have plenty more left to do. But we are off to a really strong start.
Again, Mark Cheng is great to work with and we collaborate very well together. There are scripted action pieces, but there is also room to expand and created according to the talent we have on set. As long as the action serves the narrative there is room for some creativity. Mark also came down to Philly and auditioned alot of our stunt men and women and saw the talent that was there and made it a point to express his interest in utilizing that talent. Mark is also open to using stunt actors for alot of the supporting roles in the film. Many of our stunt people who are also skilled actors are getting an opportunity to show their value as double threats, including myself.
JG: I believe that is the plan to release it as episodes on Machinima and then compiled to DVD after.
JG: I get asked this question A LOT! And it’s funny because I am really still getting my foot in the door in this business.
Obviously train hard, do your homework, study film, watch behind the scenes featurettes for action films. All the stuff you would think goes into it does.
But here is some advice that people might not know: Talent isn’t everything. You can have the greatest skills in the world, but if you have an EGO and are difficult to work with, and you can neither take direction well, nor do you know your way around a professional movie set, or if you don’t even have some basic acting ability, YOU WON’T WORK. Stunt coordinators don’t have time to deal with all that stuff and they won’t. Sure, you may be a great talent, but there are plenty of other talented guys out there who know their role.
Also, learn “set etiquette”; There is a chain of command on set that you must adhere by and you need to act like a professional at all times.
Speaking of sets, if you haven’t been on many REAL movie sets (backyard films for your friends don’t count) get on them. Work as background, watch what goes on, get to know who is who on the crew and what they do. Network and befriend everyone. Film communities are pretty small and everyone knows everyone. So, be nice, because you never know who may give you an introduction to a stunt coordinator.
Moreover, take an acting class. You don’t need to do Shakespeare, but stunt work is 90% selling hits, reactions and emotions through your body language. You can be a great martial artist, or traceur (parkour), or driver, or whatever. But, if you can’t be convincing on screen as a character while doing it, you won’t get many calls.
And last but not least, if you want to get into fight choreography PLEASE, for the love of all things holy, read Fight Choreography: The Art of Non Verbal Dialog by John Kreng! (Shameless plug for you there John, I expect the check is in the mail!!! [laughs])