I approached Brent with my ideas for a film that included an artsy tracking shot of him in an environment and finding a location for smashing a car beyond all recognition. You might think that a guy like Brent would get nervous, excitable, or vocal about being filmed like this. He was as calm and placid as a totem pole. Beyond the faint wisp of a smile, the smoldering coals packed deeply behind his eyes burned with quiet anticipation. In the Hilltop Diner, with a photomural of Mt. Shuksan framing him from behind, as if laying down a royal flush, he said, “You came to the right guy.” Judging by Brent’s calm and intense demeanor, I believed him.
Brent just happened to have two cars ready and available just for the purpose of smashing. One of them was to be the designated “dummy” car. The other had water running through the oil line. I know more about origami than I do about engines. But even I realized we were going car shopping. Let the Craig’s List haggling begin.
$500 is the going price for a complete piece of junk that may or may not run. So when I found a willing seller for a car that would barely make it across town for $275 I knew I had scored big. I paid cash. Brent signed the registration, did a doughnut in the parking lot, loaded the car on his tow truck, and drove off. You know you trust someone when you buy him a car and walk away.
Brent’s wife, Michele was also extremely helpful. She put me in touch with her father, a retired police officer, who suggested that I let the cops know we were going to smash a car in an open area next to the freeway. Just in case a passerby took our stunt as for real and freaked out. I was scared to death we would get shut down. I called the day of the shoot and downplayed the crash as a fake crash. Also, Michele was studying to become a registered nurse, in part to be there for Brent after derbies and roll over contests for when he got hurt. I was feeling better all ready.
The cars arrived as mock-ups of real demolition derby vehicles. Brent worked hard to gut, prepare, and paint them. The dirt field was frozen solid from a dip of temperature into the teens. By noon we were swimming in mud. All the angles were considered. The cars had been expertly positioned. Brent, calm as a cucumber, suited up, strapped in, gave a thumbs up and put the hammer down. The wailing of the un-muffled engine broke the sky, cameras were rolling, lights were burning, and my hands were on my head.
Weeks and months of prep gone in one violent second. Perfect.