Sky Fly—Inside Look at Creating a Skydiving Feature Film
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Sunday, June 16, 2024
Sky Fly—Inside Look at Creating a Skydiving Feature Film

Sky Fly—Inside Look at Creating a Skydiving Feature Film

Industry News
Sunday, April 14, 2024

Photos and Film Stills Courtesy of Get Some Film

Gary Smith, A-71256, has spent the last few years directing, writing, producing and starring in Sky Fly, a comedy-drama film centered around skydiving and drop zone life. Filmed at Skydive Elsinore in Lake Elsinore, California, the movie is a passion project of his and many others. Smith worked with stunt coordinator Chris Dare, camera flyer Corey Molina and jumpers Liam Gaughan, Alex Kurish, Elena Lamonova and Claire McCauley for the film’s skydiving scenes, as well as Jaycob Maya—an actor who completed the AFF process and earned his A license in order to jump in his own scenes.

Parachutist recently sat down with Smith to explore the process of creating a skydiving film.

First of all, tell us about your movie.

In general, Sky Fly is a comedy drama about a skydiver named Danny Jones, who drinks too much and parties too much. And he’s afraid to skydive after a really scary parachute malfunction, so his rivals at the drop zone like to give him a hard time. They challenge him to a roller hockey tournament, so Danny needs to assemble a team, his team of misfits that lives and works at the drop zone. They compete, and along the way we have Danny’s road to sobriety and overcoming fears.

 

Besides the film itself, what did you get out of this process?

Millions of things. The whole thing has been a learning experience, you know? From a filmmaking perspective, I went with the mentality of jumping and learning to fly as I go down. That’s a good analogy. And you want to do it right—you don’t want to make a terrible movie and disrespect the sport, right? So you make sure it’s a win-win by working with great people.

 

Stunt doubles Liam Gaughan, Alex Kurish and Claire McCauley exit the Caravan for a scene.

 

Can you tell us about your own jumping career?

I got my A license back in 2014. I had a malfunction on jump number 76, and I’m not going to lie, it spooked me a little bit—that’s in the storyline of the movie, as well. So I took a break, and 2020 is when I got back into it. I had originally done AFF up in Hollister, California, but I completed my A license in Elsinore. I’ve done 95% of my jumps there.

 

This wasn’t a movie that had a skydiving scene or two thrown in there. This was a film centered around the sport and drop zone life. What were some of the unique challenges there?

Where to start? One that we knew going in was the sound. Airplanes were going to be running every 20 minutes and longer when they’re gassing up, and that’s tough for momentum. When you’re working with actors, it’s all about energy and momentum and people being in character, so that was tough. Coordinating stunts was also difficult, trying to get the actors and jumpers to look alike. Thankfully we had some great threads donated to us from Manufactory, ChutingStar and Liquidsky.

 

Gaughan, Kurish and McCauley break off after a successful jump.

 

What were your influences in filming Sky Fly?

Ace Ventura, Gladiator and Dumb and Dumber. Those are the best three all-time. And we have a lot of overlap with Dodgeball.

 

So why center your film around a drop zone?

We really wanted to capture the essence of these characters. And anyone that skydives has met people like them before. That’s one thing I love about skydiving and drop zones is the variety of characters—you have kind of vanilla people and very vibrant people and so we really wanted to catch that vibe.

 

Actors (from left) Bia Borinn, Andy Dick and Gary Smith shoot a scene inside the jump plane.

 

What did you learn over the process of making a skydiving movie?

Well, you work with a lot of actors and crew that really aren’t engulfed in the sport like we are, and you realize how insane it seems to a lot of people—and how little they know about the sport. People are scared of what they don’t know, and it was cool to put skydiving in front of more eyes and get people more exposed to it. As far as filmmaking goes, we found it was easier to film the skydiving sequences first so that you can match the rigs to the stunt. You can get an actor to wear any rig, right? The jumper doing the stunt is going to want to wear a rig that they feel safe in. And if you’re filming airplane scenes on the ground, get a big fan.

 

What do the skydiving and filmmaking communities have in common?

First, surrounding yourself with the right people. But I think what draws me to both skydiving and filmmaking is how challenging they both are; they’re rabbit holes. It’s so frustrating and exciting at the same time, and you never get to the top. In skydiving and filmmaking, I’m always learning.

 

Sky Fly is available for rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV and Google Play beginning April 18. More information is available at skyflythemovie.com.

 

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