Stunt Payroll Services Tip of the Week – Contracts

This is the first of a series of weekly posts by Gregg and Shirley Smrz of Stunt Payroll Services. Stunt Payroll Services is a family owned business, with the Smrz family having been involved in the film industry for over 35 years. Gregg Smrz is a member of Stunts Unlimited, the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the Red Bull Blue Ribbon Committee, and is an alternate board member for the SAG-AFTRA Stunt and Safety Committee. He has experience working as a Stuntman, Stunt Rigger, Stunt Coordinator, and as a 2nd Unit Director. Gregg’s wife Shirley has extensive Bookkeeping and Payroll Experience she acquired while working at Teledyne Electronics.


In Honor of the Great Pioneers of Stunt Driving

The Great Pioneers of Stunt Driving: Hal Needham, Alan Gibbs, and Gary McLarty

Hal Needham, Alan Gibbs, and Gary McLarty

Rick Seaman, Conrad Palmisiano and Roydon Clark recently honored sixteen stunt driving legends at the 20th Anniversary of the Motion Picture Driving Clinic and fundraiser for The National Veterans Foundation and The National Veterans TV Network.

Rick Seaman presented a memorial plaque titled “The Great Pioneers of Stunt Driving” to Erik Stabenau, who accepted on behalf of Stunts Unlimited, and to Conrad Palmisano, who accepted on behalf of the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures.

Rick Seaman, Erik Stabenau, Roydon Clark, Conrad Palmisano

Rick Seaman, Erik Stabenau, Roydon Clark, Conrad Palmisano

Sixteen stunt driving legends were named on the memorial plaque:
Harvey Parry
Carey Loftin
Bill Hickman
Hal Needham
Gary McLarty
Alan Gibbs
Joie Chitwood, Sr.
Vic Rivers
Jerry Sommers
Al Wyatt, Jr.
Bud Ekins
Bennie Dobbins
Dale Van Sickle
Everett Creach
Yakima Canutt
“Bear” Hudkins

Eric Stabenau had this to say, “I can tell you that at our S.U. meetings we regularly talk about and honor the guys who came before us. It’s important that the stunt community, especially the generation coming up, know about and appreciate the men and women who got it all going for them. We wouldn’t have such a strong and popular industry if it wasn’t for guys like these wettin’ the appetite for high octane footage. Yeah, all these cats listed on this plaque who are no longer with us…back in their day they all took some chances. They truly were pioneers. A lot of time they were driving and wrecking into uncharted territory. They were also the kind of guys who could create that energy – come in hot, take after take, but still be on the money. So, to these stunt driving pioneers I would like to say thank you for riding the edge. Thank you for blazing new trails for us to follow, because we are all better for it.”

Stunts Unlimited is honored to add “The Great Pioneers of Stunt Driving” plaque to our collection of stunt awards and memorabilia at our headquarters in Chatsworth. All are invited to visit and view the collection.

Team Member Norman Howell honored with Emmy for Stunt Coordinator on Brooklyn Nine Nine


Norman Howell credits John Wayne as one of his teachers. The Emmy winning stunt coordinator began his career in the 80s as a stuntman. In fact, he continues to perform stunts; recently seen in Seth McFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” Since his earliest entry into the stunt word when John Wayne taught him to throw a punch, Howell’s been hit by and thrown off moving horses, vehicles and wagons.. He’s jumped from a horse onto an airplane and rode on top of an airplane. The lessons he’s learned throughout the years have informed every decision he makes when creating stunt sequences others will perform.

Norman Howell, center, learned how to trow a punch from the "Duke" himself when he was a child stunt performer.

Norman Howell, center, learned how to trow a punch from the “Duke” himself when he was a child stunt performer.

“I learned a very valuable lesson in Africa while doing a fire gag in the Kenyan desert. I didn’t have my own safety guy watching my back and I was medivaced out for 3rd degree burns,” said Howell. “Experience is the best teacher”.

Howell not only brings the experience he earned as a performer to every job he takes, he brings the valuable lessons he learned from watching the decision making processes of A-list directors he’s worked with, including Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner and James Cameron. Noting they “all had the same drive to make every frame cinematic,” his own attention to detail earned him an Emmy win for the stunts he crafted in season two of “Brooklyn Nine Nine.” Howell is quick to note the stunts he creates always emerge from the script.

“The brilliant creators, Dan Goor and Michael Schur, and their writing team come up with the look they want. I take what they come up with and when schedules permit I will do a test,” said Howell. “For instance, (actor) Terry Crews had to lift a car. Dan wanted to make sure it looked authentic so we tested the day before the shoot and everything turned out great.”

The tight time constraints of television often don’t accommodate testing time. In these circumstances, Howell will craft a number of variations of the stunt so Goor and Schur have multiple choices in the edit suite. Howell works with every department, from hair and makeup to technical advisors to art and camera departments to ensure all aspects of the stunt play authentically for the viewer. Paramount to any stunt, either rehearsed or spontaneous, is safety.

The moment he arrives on set Howell ensures all safety equipment, such as padding for the ground and the actors, is in place. Frequently, the action shifts in the spontaneity of rehearsal. Lead actor Andy Samberg has a strong sense of comic timing and often makes adjustments to sharpen the scene, resulting in his and his fellow actors shifting positions. Howell has to think on his feet and adjust the stunt equipment accordingly. When there are larger and more dangerous stunts such as a car hit or fire gag, Howell holds a safety meeting for cast and crew beforehand. For a scene that called for actor Joe Lo Truglio to bend over a toaster resulting in his jacket fringe catching on fire, Howell staged a rehearsal with a stunt man that step by step illustrated the stunt. While the producers, director and star signed off on the stunt, the network ultimately requested a stunt man perform the fire gag. Howell had the fire safety and effects teams on hand as he “turned up the fire” on the stunt double.

Since season one of “Brooklyn Nine Nine” Howell has been working closely with the actors to provide training that both keeps them and everyone on set safe during any form of stunt. Their dedication to perfecting their performance has delighted the seasoned stunt coordinator.

“This season Andre Braugher worked very hard to do a ‘Bourne’ style fight. He did so well I didn’t even use his stunt double,” said Howell. “Stephanie Beatriz had to spin around, practically aim blind at Andy Samburg, who was placed behind her, without actually punching him. I taught her the punch John Wayne taught me on my first movie, ‘The Cowboys.’ Stephanie worked with me for a week every day during her lunch to perfect the Duke’s punch. I was very impressed with her dedication.”

While the time constraints on television are tighter than film, Howell finds he puts as much effort into the stunts used on “Brooklyn Nine Nine” as he would in a feature film. His efforts resulted in his first Emmy win last year, something he never would have expected to receive for his work on a comic series. Although he admits the action is unique for a half hour comedy series, he credits the actors for “selling it so well.” Extremely humbled to be recognized by his peers, his greatest moment came upon returning to the “Brooklyn Nine Nine” set.

“When I came in Monday after the Emmy weekend, I was called to set and met with cheers and demands for a speech. I don’t like to be in the spotlight so I quickly deferred to Andy,” said Howell. “That moment was one of the highlights of my career. I’m blessed to be asked back for Season 3 of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. Right now I’m focusing on that.”

To learn more about “Brooklyn Nine Nine” please visit:

Article By: Marjorie Galas Variety

Congratulations to our Members who won and were nominated for the 2015 Taurus Awards!


10 Nominations, 2 Wins

Best Fight Sequence:

– 300- Freddy Bouciegues
– Captain America – Freddy Bouciegues

Best Work With a Vehicle:

– Need For Speed – WON
-Brent Fletcher, Tim Gilbert, Troy
Gilbert, John Meier, Mike Smith
– Nightcrawler
– Lance Gilbert, Logan Holladay
– Captain America
– Jack Gill, Henry Kingi, Jay Lynch

Best Specialty Stunt:

– Need For Speed
– Craig Hosking, Henry Kingi

Best Coordinator/2nd Unit Dir:

– Captain America – WON
– Andy Gill
– John Wick
– Chris O’Hara
– Need For Speed
– Lance Gilbert

Best Action in a Foreign Film

– Jack Gill


Black and gold, baby!

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