For the next instalment in my Eye on China series, I had a quick chat with Temur Mamisashvili, an 8th generation Jackie Chan Stunt Team member.
Temur is an actor, fight choreographer and stuntman from New York City, based in Beijing. With extensive experience and multiple credits listed on his IMDb page I was delighted that he took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his experience and specifically his work with Jackie Chan.
Vikki: Was stunt work always your main ambition?
Temur: Not really, acting too and stunt coordinating.
Vikki: As someone who has experienced both the US and China film industries, what are the key differences in terms of stunt work opportunities?
Temur: I think definitely China offers more opportunities for foreign actors and stuntman. I can’t really compare stunt work in the US with China because I haven’t done much stunt work in the US, mainly acting. I would say the US is better in terms of conditions and pay because of the Union. In China we have more opportunities to work with our idols like Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen etc. but mainly as stunt actors so you get more screen time, sometimes playing characters and have lines. Which in the US I believe if you are stuntman you are just a stuntman.
Vikki: What are the key attributes of being part of the Jackie Chan stunt team? (JCST)
Temur: I believe it’s every stuntman’s dream to be part of this elite team. I’m very honored to be a part of JCST. It feels like living a dream for me. I think coming from this background is helpful for JCST members in a future career, like some of our older generation members are doing very well in the industry in Hollywood as stunt coordinators.
Vikki: What is Jackie like to work with?
Temur: Jackie is an amazing human being. He inspires us. And whenever he’s with us, all the struggles and stress on set goes away, because he is always there with us during hard times. And if conditions on set are hard, too hot, too cold, very long hours etc. he is there too. Jackie also teaches us to be better our self, care about each other, about the environment etc. I can go on talk about this forever.
Vikki: What advice would you give someone wanting to enter the industry?
Temur: Best advice would be stay humble, have a great attitude and be hungry to learn. No egos.
Vikki: What are the major changes over the years in the stunt industry that’s worth highlighting?
Temur: Technology. For instance nowadays we are able to shoot pre-vis fight scenes, edit and even apply VFX. Will give an idea what would fight scenes in a movie would look like.
Vikki: How long does it take you to prep for a stunt?
Temur: Depends on a stunt. If it’s just a fight scene choreography it’s faster to prepare. If let’s say its wire work or a difficult stunt, than longer. Some stunts are easy some not so very hard to say how long will it take unless you’ll ask me about specific stunt.
Vikki: Do you have to psyche yourself up to perform or is it just natural?
Temur: Well if it’s a hard stunt, some times you know this will hurt, main concern and fear is getting injured, so before I do the hard stunt my heart is pumping but as soon as I hear 3,2,1 countdown all the fear goes away, all focused on action no hesitation. if you don’t overcome that fear and hesitate that’s when people get injured.
Vikki: Is there any stunt that’s been performed that you would personally refuse?
Temur: Only if I think physically won’t be able to perform
Vikki: Should there be a stunt category at the Oscar’s?
Temur: Absolutely! Every department gets the category and I don’t think stunts are any less than others. Stunts also require lot of skills and creativity like other departments if not more. also stunts are most dangerous and sometimes life threatening job. so of course the Oscars should have a stunt category!
Best advice would be stay humble, have a great attitude and be hungry to learn. No egos.
Temur Mamisashvili , The Mighty Dragon