BHS student screams frantically before being eaten by a mutant
By Shelley Widhalm
The first time 17-year-old Tori Dellwardt jumps 30 feet is the hardest, and then she goes back for more.
“It’s always taking that one step and jumping off that’s always really hard,” Dellwardt said.
Dellwardt, an 11th-grader at Berthoud High School, does movie stunt work with the Risk Factor Action Training Center in Aurora.
The Berthoud girl did stunt work in several minor parts in her first film, “Star Raiders: The Adventures of Sabre Raine,” an independent science-fiction film released in April, written and directed by Denver-based filmmaker Mark Grove. She also will be doing stunt work in another of Grove’s films about beating a battle-strategy game as human players.
“I was in the background a lot, playing creatures a lot,” Dellwardt said about “Star Raiders.”
Her parts included fight and death scenes and one particularly memorable one where she fell down and tried to crawl away, “screaming frantically,” before she was eaten by a mutant, she said.
“I had a blast, actually going through the process of getting my makeup done, putting the masks on, hearing the director call, “action,” Dellwardt said.
Dellwardt took up an interest in stunt work when she, her younger sister and her parents, Dave and Amy, both teachers, took a trip to Disney World during the spring break of her seventh-grade year. They visited the “Indiana Jones” Epic Stunt Spectacular, a live amusement show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, to get a behind-the-scenes experience of stunts and reenacted scenes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Dellwardt, along with her family, has been doing martial arts for 14 years and, like them, earned a black belt. She wanted to expand on that experience by learning about stunt work, she said.
“I was so amazed with everything they could do that I wanted to try it. I was amazed at how much control they had over their bodies and all the movements they could do,” Dellwardt said.
Dave discussed Tori’s desire with a family friend also involved in martial arts, who was able to get Tori connected with Grove. Grove provides training at Factor Action, giving top priority to his students in his films.
“You’re doing things outside of your comfort zone; you’re doing things professionals are doing on screen,” said Dave, a third-grade teacher at Ivy Stockwell Elementary School in Berthoud. “It looks dangerous, and it looks like they are getting hurt, but obviously they aren’t.”
Tori signed up with Grove to train in stunt work, and Dave trains in ninja work. Tori’s stunt work includes high falls and tumbles, fight choreography, and taking and delivering punches.
“Mark does a great job of pushing her, training her and getting her to believe in herself,” Dave said. “I’ve seen she’s grown in confidence in herself. She’s done things that absolutely terrified her, and she’s gone back for more.”
Tori takes lessons twice a week at the training center, each lesson lasting up to two hours, with one focused on choreography and fight scenes and the second on acrobatics and weapon use from sticks to firearms. She also takes specialty training sessions, such as for high jumps of 20- to 40-feet falls onto an airbag.
Dave has tried some of the jumps during the training sessions, he said.
“It’s scary being up that high,” Dave said. “You’re taller than the trees. … From that height, the airbag looks very small. Why would you jump? People do it because it’s actually fun.”
Grove’s other lessons are in giant jumps and flying, involving wire work to enable her to do summersaults and fly through the air, she said.
“Knowing all the stuff I can do, and knowing how truly amazing it is, is a real confidence booster,” Tori said. “It’s kind of special skills.”
To do the stunts, stunt actors need to be able to take risks and to have coordination, timing, discipline, trust in their partners and the ability to follow instructions, Tori said. “It’s a lot harder if you hesitate,” Tori said. “We’re not used to throwing ourselves off buildings or rolling around. … If you let go and have fun with it, it’s easier and more enjoyable.”
After she graduates, Tori plans to study animation.
“There’s something about making the movie instead of being in it or being responsible for the creativity that’s powerful,” Tori said.
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