Film Stunt Helicopter Pilot Fred North talks about his memoir ‘Flying Sideways: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Stunt Pilot’ currently available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and various platforms
Born and raised in Senegal, St Louis – situated by the coastal West Africa, prolific film stunt helicopter pilot Fred North has contributed significantly to the world of film – his aerial visuals seen in many of our much loved Hollywood blockbusters including Fast and Furious, Bad Boys, Guardians of the Galaxy, Gladiator, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: The Last Stand amongst many others. Celebrating a 30 year career within this unique field of film, Fred has very recently released a memoir highlighting his journey – Flying Sideways: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Stunt Pilot currently available to purchase on various platforms. Talking to us about his memoir, Fred tells us more about his career change from a ‘pilot who films’ to a ‘Film Pilot’, choreographing aerial sequences and what he’s taken away from writing the memoir!
Hi Fred, you’ve recently released your memoir Flying Sideways: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Stunt Pilot now available to purchase on your site, as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Walmart amongst other platforms. How are you feeling?
I am so happy for everyone to finally receive it and I cannot believe we finally made it happen so I feel a lot of pride and gratitude. Of course I am waiting for the reader’s feedback, hopefully they will like it.
Flying Sideways: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Stunt Pilot tells the gripping story of how a misunderstood boy in Africa with nothing but a dream breaks the rules, beats the odds and learns to believe in himself. What inspired you to finally write a memoir?
Two things:First of all, it is to share with our kids where they are coming from as they don’t know how we started our professional lives and how hard we had to “battle” life obstacles to succeed, especially because they are at an age where they have a lot of questions wondering what they may become and how to achieve their goals, so this book is exactly that.
The second is to help and hopefully inspire all the young pilots out there and the young in general wondering how to become whatever they have in mind. I am getting daily messages on social media from pilots at the beginning of their careers or simply starting their aviation journey asking how to succeed so this book is to give them an idea on how I did it.
You’ve enjoyed a varied career within your field, starting off as a Camera Helicopter Pilot flying for desert rally car races in from 1985, which saw you fly in some of the world’s most perilous conditions before transitioning from a ‘pilot who films’ to ‘Film Pilot’ at the age of 32. Can you talk us through your career journey thus far?
It was a rollercoaster … from success to failure and again and again … not an easy path, but at the end of the day the journey is building your strength and the mistakes you make give you confidence even if sometimes it takes longer to stand back up … You simply need to have confidence in yourself and keep pushing!
Your Film Pilot Career spans over 30 years, an expert in aerial cinematography, your film credits include Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: The Last Stand amongst various other well known films. How do you approach planning the cinematography for these stunts?
I will say first it is the passion. I love movies and I love the action ones so I am pushing hard to come up with “crazy “ ideas to connect with movie audiences. It always starts with a call from a director asking questions like “What could we do to spice things up?” For example, in Extraction 2 where there is a train sequence where Sam Hartgrave wanted a helicopter scene – out of this world! I suggested to land on a moving train at 60 miles per hour to drop off 5 heavily armed gunmen.
After I give ideas, I usually have big doubts questioning the feasibility of such crazy ideas — but rapidly with my team we put a plan in place and we start working on the protocol to achieve the stunts. It takes an average of one month of prep work for two seconds on screen time.
What have you learned/taken away from writing your memoir?
Going through my life’s events as a whole made me realise how crazy it has been and what was in fact deep down the real motivation and what kept me focused to get where I am today. Before the book, I hadn’t analysed it, now it is in front of me.
The bottom line is many things, a lot of people will try to discourage you, they will use their own failures to be negative and so on. Do not let these people control your life and don’t listen, keep pushing forward and DO NOT hesitate to plan for amazing projects – whether that’s to become an astronaut or whatever you are dreaming about, as it is absolutely possible it will happen.
What can readers expect from the memoir?
Easy to read, fun, also – even if you succeed, be humble! Manage your ego, be kind and live your passion to the fullest.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the memoir?
- YOU only can decide what your life is going to be so rely on yourself!
- The main path to success and to personal achievements is to create opportunities for yourself, expose yourself to them and this will open big doors, it will make you stronger mentally.
- Get out of your comfort zone, do not get comfortable, be challenged to learn more. Do not become just another pilot or just another guy doing whatever but BE the GUY, be the best.
- AIM for it and this is what this book is about or at least we try 🙂
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
Flying Sideways: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Stunt Pilot is currently available to purchase online, visit Fred North’s website here to learn more…