Point Break interview: Director Ericson Core and wingsuiter Jon DeVore on death-defying stunts

Ericson Core and Jon DeVoreDirector Ericson Core led his team of actors and athletes around the world as they completed a bunch of extreme sports sequences for the upcoming film Point Break

From jaw-dropping wingsuit flying in the Swiss Alps to freestyle rock climbing in Venezuela, the film covers it all.

Tribute sat down with director Ericson Core and Jon DeVore, champion skydiver and wingsuiter, to discuss shooting extreme stunts and to find out if there was a stunt they would have like to have included in the film.

Ericson, how did the idea of remaking Point Break come about?
The studio had the idea of making a new version of Point Break and they came to me with it. I thought it could be a really great idea if certain things were added to it. If we made sure it was definitely a 25 year later version of it, relevant to the world today. Part of that was bringing it on to a world stage, taking it out of Venice Beach, California and just about bank-robbing surfers, which was a big part of the original one. Ultimately we wound up going to 11 countries in four continents to bring that global sensibility to it, along with international actors. Also, the extreme sports we filmed throughout the world, many of which were influenced by the original Point Break and inspired a lot of the athletes and myself. But ultimately it didn’t exist at the time. So it gave us a whole different leeway to make the film.

Why did you decide to do the movie without visual effects or CG?
The world is inundated with films of green screen and CG, characters that are very entertaining and commercially very successful and audiences are very aware of it but they always have to use their own suspension of disbelief to enjoy the film for what it is and know it is a fantasy and a story being told. But in this situation, just because of the world events we were dealing with, the intensity of our story and the narrative of the characters, it was really necessary to be as authentic as we possibly could and that was bringing people out of the green screen world and into the real world. The extreme sports we are touching upon are not stunts. These are things that people really do, risking their lives and pushing things to the absolute limit. And the way to respect that and also present it correctly on screen is to show the real peril and the real visceral energy of it. There is no better way to do it than on camera. We shot tremendous number of angles and covered the way you would an action scene but did it all authentically.

Jon, how did you get involved in the film?
It started when Jeb Corliss and Tim Rigby, two great friends of mine, gave me a call, as I have a lot of coordinating and wingsuit experience along with several world championships under my belt. It was basically a dream come true. I was a junior in high school when the original Point Break came out and it inspired me to get into the world of skydiving. When the call came, it was basically a full circle of my career coming around.

Jon, what was the first extreme sport stunt you did?
Well, if you ask my parents they would say I took a blue tarp, grabbed the four corners of it and ran off the roof of my house! (Laughs) Almost broke my legs. I grew up in Alaska, so from the age of five I started skiing and in a town like that if you don’t get outside and go out exploring, you can go crazy. So I owe a lot of who I am today to where my parents raised me as a kid. And then I found skydiving at a young age and knew I wanted to do that with my life.

Jon, what was the extent of your role in this film and can you tell us a bit about the wingsuit sequence, which was pretty awesome?
I was lucky enough to do something that is usually looked down on in a lot of filmmaking. I wore two hats for this. I got brought on to be the aerial stunt coordinator for the skydiving and base jumping sequences. I was also one of the stunt doubles for the wingsuit sequences.

How long did it take you to film each of these extreme sports sequences?
To challenge of doing it not on a green screen stage is that you do have the issues of weather, the politics of getting into a country, working with new crews and the dangers involved in each and every one of these sports requires lot of specific safety and weather condition awareness. Things like our big wave surfing, you can’t predict that. You can’t put it on a schedule and say three weeks into the shoot we are going to go to the big wave. It happens when it happens. Those took a year in terms of coordinating, watching charts that big wave surfers do in order to hit the biggest breaks that we could.

In terms of the other sequences, the snowboarding sequence we shot over a two month window over an entire year. We shot in March of 2014 and November of 2014 in the Italian Alps. When we went out in March, the avalanche danger was so heavy that for safety reasons there are some things you can’t do and we had four guys running down the mountain. We did as much as we could ultimately and then came back in November for more. One of the reasons the movie took so long is because we wanted to do it safely and we wanted to capture everything on camera. So the weather conditions we dealt with was the worst weather in European history. It poured almost every single day. We shot wet. We wore rain gear and it gave a beautiful look to the film. I was also the DP on the film and my lighting director was Mother Nature. She set the lighting for me everyday – that was something I had to really deal with. In terms of other elements, whether it was avalanche danger or wind or visibility issues, we waited.

For the wingsuit sequence, there were 60 jumps. All on camera, no CG, no green screen. That took about three weeks in Switzerland. Beyond that Jon and his team trained for months before in open skydiving jumps to get the coordination necessary for four people to fly like the blue angels in this close formation through a crack in the earth at 125 miles/hour along with a fifth wingsuit athlete with a camera on his head.

Ericson, which was the most dangerous and difficult stunt to pull off?
Everything was dangerous for different reasons. Surfers being on 70 foot faces in a storm hitting Hawaii, it was incredibly dangerous and we had rescue crews all over the place. Venezuela was very dangerous because the guys were free climbing Angel Falls 3200 feet up in the air in a remote location and we needed helicopters to get to the top of it. But all the gear and crew travelled up river 4.5 hours and dug up canoes to even get near there. So the remoteness also added to the danger involved. But beyond any other scene, the wingsuit scene was by far the most dangerous. About 25 wingsuiters a year pass away attempting to do wingsuit flying and it’s a very, very dangerous undertaking. We had the utmost care to do that.

Jon, for the thrill seekers who might want to attempt this activity, what would you say is the biggest challenge of this sport?
Patience. My generation when I started was before YouTube and social media world blew up. You kind of had to earn where you’re at. Nowadays, I see younger people coming into the sport and they want to do what they have seen on these different chanels online. I had 10,00 skydives before I even did a basejump whereas now people are coming to a skydive center and they’re trying to get to a minimum of 250 jumps so they can buy a wingsuit and travel to Europe and jump off a cliff. To me, that’s absolutely insane compared to where I came from in the sport. So patience is the biggest challenge for the new people.

Was there an extreme sport that you considered shooting and opted not to?
No, everything we wanted to put in, we put in. There was no extreme sport left untouched that we wanted to put in the film that wasn’t possible. I approached the extreme athletes and asked them what was possible for the film. A lot of the scenes were written for those extreme sports including the rock climbing which wasn’t part of the original script. I come from that world of rock climbing so I wanted to make sure that was part of it. I think we pretty much covered everything from air to ice to rock to water to underwater. The one thing we did not include the film and we talked about it as one of the ordeals is extreme white water kayaking on some of the biggest rivers in the world. The Inga River is one of the most extraordinary and dangerous rivers in the world.

Apart from the stunts, there’s a strong message about being spiritually free and breaking out of the box. What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
I hope there’s a lot they take away from it. It really is about following your passion and having a dream and focusing on it. In the film, we talk a lot about following the line. What was fascinating is that every single sport has something called “the line” whether it’s surfing to get through a wave or wingsuiting. It’s finding the perfect and safest way to get from point A to point B through something that has never been done before. I think that’s very true for people’s lives too. No matter what it is that you do in your lives, something that you’re passionate about, something that you want to do, know what that line is and see it ahead of you and you go for it completely. It’s a very hard thing to do but it’s also very rewarding.

What’s next for you?
Jon: I’m back in the world of air sports. My next big project is to fly wingsuits down the Napali coast in Hawaii. My passion is to educate the world on my sport. It’s to teach people that it’s not just daredevils but a very calculated and passionate sport. I try to travel the world and show people awesome locations.
Ericson: I’m looking for another project that moves me as much as Point Break. I feel very spoiled by the film. To be in so many countries and work with so many actors and such extraordinary athletes. I hope to do something that touch on some of this and gets me around the world again.

Point Break hits theatres this Friday – December 25, 2015.

~Marriska Fernandes

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Comments & Discussion

  1. Snepts • December 23, 2015 @ 4:53 AM

    Between Point Break, Daddy’s Home, and The Road Chip, 2015 may be remembered as the best Holiday movie season in years.

  2. T.Everett Brashares • April 29, 2016 @ 3:23 AM

    Truly awesome photography and the look and feel of actual extreme sport sequences was an experience. But why, I have to ask, burden the story with all the hokey-sounding quasi-spiritual stuff. It would have been awkward even if the script writer (or writers) actually knew something about Eastern philosophy except for a few words; specifically the name Samsara (meaning the cycle of rebirth) from Sanatana Dharma of Hinduism and Bodhi, from the Buddhist ‘Bodhisattva’ or Bodhimanda or the Bodhi Tree or whatever. The allusions to Eastern spirituality were confusing, sketchy, phony-sounding and unnecessary. The look and the action totally outperformed the script. A potential classic became simply a good movie. Oh, and the music was excellent…

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