27th Feb2018

‘Death House’ Interview: Jae Greene

by Philip Rogers

With the eagerly-anticipated horror Death House being released in cinemas on 2nd March 2018, I got a chance to speak with stunt coordinator Jae Greene about what we can expect from the film, what it was like working on the set and his favourite moments during filming.


How did you first get into the film industry as stunt performer?

Me and some friends started out training and making short fight videos ourselves. We were picking up some experience as background on a Bollywood movie and I hustled my way onto the stunt team to play SWAT one day. After that the stunt coordinator, who was from NYC, hired me and a few more Philly [Philadelphia] guys on a couple more Bollywood movies he had here.

My first really big budget Hollywood experience was shortly after that, I got hired as a Special Ability Extra on The Last Airbender (2010). It was a lot of training and work with some of the best stunt people in the business at the time.

As the stunt coordinator for Death House, can you tell us what we can expect from the film?

Well, without giving anything away, this is a very different kind of horror movie. There is a lot of edge of your seat action involved. There are some really brutal fights, some great gunplay, a full-scale prison riot, and much more. I had a great team of 25+ stunt people who worked on this, along with our actors who did almost all of their own stunts.

How did you become involved in the film?

I am a horror fan from way back, so of course I knew about the script floating around and how production was stalled a few times. It popped up at one point on our stunt industry breakdown with an LA coordinator attached to the project. I was just hoping to get on it for a couple days doing stunts when I saw that. But then production stalled again I guess and nothing was heard for a few months,

One day I got a call from a producer friend I had worked with quite a bit in Philly, coordinated on a few of his projects. He said a director was looking for a local coordinator for a horror film, and I might get a call. He didn’t say what the name of the film was or anything. A day or so later I get a call from Harrison asking me for my reel and resume.  He later called back and said he loved my stuff and wanted me for the job. He was emailing me the script. I still had no idea what it was.

An hour later I open my email and see the script for Death House. I almost couldn’t believe I was looking at Gunnar Hanson’s baby. I admit I fanboyed out a little bit. Then I went to work breaking down the stunts and discussing options to pull off various gags with Harrison Smith.

Death House brings together some of the biggest names in horror. What was it like being involved on such a landmark project and working with Harrison Smith?

Well first off Harrison is a great, great director. He knows what he wants to see, and he doesn’t waste any time getting it. He is very passionate about filmmaking and it shows when you work with him on set. He was very open to ideas for the action and would give the stunt team time to rehearse some gags and fights while he was working on other scenes, then he would come and enthusiastically say “Show me what you got!” and we would run it for him. He would have a big smile watching our guys killing each other and when they would finish their bit he would say “That is fantastic! So brutal! Let’s shoot it!”

It’s a great working dynamic when a director trusts you enough to give you free reign to create the organized chaos that we do in stunts. The movie is HIS baby. It’s like he is tossing me the keys to his Lamborghini and saying, “Here you go Jae, hit the track and show me what you got!”

As for the amazing ensemble cast that I had the honour of working with, what can I say? We all know the names, we all grew up having them scare the crap out of us and give us nightmares! To be on a set with so many legends was surreal.

Kane Hodder made me afraid of swimming in lakes as a kid. I had to have a nightlight after watching the Friday the 13th movies, but I couldn’t NOT watch them! I was hooked. Kane also being a legendary stuntman made the experience a bit intimidating. Here I was a relative baby in this business by comparison, and I was coordinating his action. He was great though, and spent a lot of downtime hanging out with the stunt team and telling us stories about his exploits and giving our younger guys and girls tips and advice. When Kane Hodder speaks, you listen!

It was also very cool because my son Cody plays Kane’s son in the film. So again, just another really cool experience as a dad, a stuntman, and a horror fan getting to share the whole thing with my son.

Dee Wallace was so cool. I met her on the first day of shooting and I was working with our leads Cody Longo and Cortney Palm on handling firearms like a trained government agent. Dee came and asked me if I could show her as well saying “Make me look like a badass” to which my response was “Dee, you fought Cujo! You already ARE a badass!” She was so great to work with.

Speaking of Cortney and Cody, they were both very dedicated when it came to the action. They both wanted to know every nuance and practice a bunch to look the part. They both have some fighting in the film too, and each spent plenty of time training the choreography and working with me and some of the stunt team. Very dedicated and professional.

Did you face any challenges during filming?

The biggest challenge was budgetary constraints. When you don’t have Hollywood blockbuster money you often have to scale back, or imply a lot more rather than show it on screen the way you would really like to. Even on Hollywood blockbusters when there are budgetary issues stunts are the first thing that gets cut. Happens all the time. There were a few things that we had to imply more than show, and do some greenscreen and camera tricks for. But it doesn’t detract from the story, or experience of the film. But as a stunt guy you always want to make every possible action in the script a stunt gag.

Another challenge was a lot of the action takes place in the dark with only handheld flashlights illuminating the scenes. This makes for a really creepy atmosphere in the final product, but while shooting it does present a challenge when you have 25+ stunt people rioting and killing each other. My team were some of the best in the business and did a great job of selling the ultra-violence. And best of all no one was injured on set while doing it.

What is your favourite moment whilst filming Death House?

The prison riot was the biggest scene and was so full of brutal violent chaos. Looking at it, and remembering the two days we shot it and how everything went so smooth is really gratifying to me as a professional stunt coordinator. In the moment you are caught up in the work. But once it’s done I can step back and see this beautiful, chaotic, symphony of brutality that I created/orchestrated. It is really one of the highlights of my career so far.

And of course, seeing my son playing Kane’s son, and him getting to do a bit of stunt work was amazing,

Also, anytime I can give people work is a wonderful thing. I was able to hire 25+ stunt people on Death House, many veteran guys I came up with, but also a few younger guys and girls who were still newer to the stunt world. And just like me, many of these guys grew up on horror and were thrilled to be a part of this monumental film.

As well as working on Death House you have worked on some big TV and film projects including the DC TV series Gotham, and the Marvel’s blockbuster film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. What was it like working on these productions?

It is always great to work on really high-profile gigs. Yes, the money is good hahahah. But also, you get to be seen by your peers doing some cool stuff and really cement your reputation as a stunt professional. And again, along with horror I grew up on comic books, so working on shows like Gotham, Guardians, The Punisher, The Tick…. it’s just such a blast.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

I just did a couple of episodes of Blindspot as a stunt performer and stunt double. That was a lot of fun because it’s a great show and I got to work with some amazing actors.

I have another horror film I’m coordinating this summer called Spike Smiley: Halloween Night. It has some really cool stunt work involved so it will be a fun shoot. Stunt rigging and wire work, fights, gunplay, and some gruesome kills of course.

I also am co-developer, as well as stunt coordinator and a supporting actor for a series called OMEGA UNIT. My good friend Mark Cheng is directing, and it’s based on a concept I came up with that blends tactical military ops with classic movie monsters. It’s kind of like Seal Team Six meets Supernatural. We shot an action packed short concept film in Atlanta in January. It is in post-production now and should be released in the next couple months. We already have one potential offer to make it a feature, but ideally, we would like to do a series.

Aside from that I am just hoping Harrison calls me back to create some more organised chaos for the Death House sequel (or prequel)!

If someone is looking to get into becoming industry as a stunt performer, what advice would you give them?

That’s something I get asked all the time. Honestly, it’s all about hard work, and some luck. Being in the right place at the right time, with the right set of skills. Train in martial arts, train in boxing, take stage combat courses, do some tumbling and gymnastics, find stunt gyms and go to open workouts, work on reactions for camera.

Also, take an acting class or three! Stunt people ARE actors! Don’t let anyone tell you they are not. We are physical actors that need to be able to convey emotion through our movement, and body language. It’s more difficult than it seems. Anyone can learn a sequence of punches and kicks for a fight scene, anyone can learn how to fall, or slide a car, or shoot a gun loaded with blanks…. but can you look convincing doing it? Can you sell, REALLY SELL, to an audience that you are in a fight to the death in a fight scene? If you can’t, you won’t be any good to a stunt coordinator to do anything on camera. So, learn how to act, to bring intensity to the moves, to bring emotion to the moves. That is the most important thing. You don’t have to be the most skilled martial artist, or gymnast, or driver… but if you can “sell” you will find guys will want to hire you. Good luck!

Stunt coordinator reel:

Stunt performer reel:

Omega Unit Teaser:

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