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Old 03-08-2012, 09:24 AM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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Car commercials in the US: How do you BECOME a "Professional Driver" on a "Closed Course"?

See this thread:

Anyway, how does one become, in terms of career path, a "Professional Driver" that is filmed driving Detroit's newest on "Closed Courses" for TV commercial spots? I.e., suppose Joe has a valid driver's license, several years of practical experience actually driving on public streets as part of day-to-day life, and doesn't have a serious record for traffic offenses (he didn't just get his license back after a DUI and he only occasionally gets a speeding or red light ticket). He would like to change careers and drive for car commercials. What, practically, does he need to do? Is there an industry certification? Does he need a CDL/Commercial Driver's License? Does he just need to convince an advertising executive to take a risk with him?

Last edited by robert_columbia; 03-08-2012 at 09:25 AM. Reason: spelling
Old 03-08-2012, 10:34 AM
awldune awldune is offline
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For what it's worth (probably not much
Old 03-09-2012, 03:15 AM
Hail Ants Hail Ants is offline
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Obviously the whole "Professional driver / Closed course" disclaimer thing is just legalize for:

"Even though we're showing you how awesomely cool our car can perform don't try and sue us if you get killed driving it like the guy in this commercial is".

IANAL but 'closed course' just means 'no other traffic is present'. 'Professional driver'? Well generally the difference between an amateur and a professional is simply "Does someone pay you to do X thing? If yes then you are a professional X-er". So technically if you're a cab driver you're a 'professional driver'. The commercial's context implies some form of professional 'sport' driving and given the expense involved in making a car commercial I'm sure they only hire professional stunt or race drivers. And I'm sure both stunt & race drivers have specific certifications regarding being a 'professional' one.
Old 03-09-2012, 12:44 PM
Covered_In_Bees! Covered_In_Bees! is offline
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The people in commercials don't just drive them along a straight line. Sometimes the commercials involve doing quick 180 degree turns. Or doing a fancy spin into a parking space or something similar.

For this you'd likely need to be a "stunt driver" like for movies or something. Probably start as a stuntperson and express an interest in learning how to do stuntperson things in vehicles.
Old 03-09-2012, 12:47 PM
Leaffan Leaffan is offline
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There are some very cunning stunts in commercials.
Old 03-09-2012, 02:21 PM
Hairy Bob Hairy Bob is offline
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Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
There are some very cunning stunts in commercials.
And the others...
Old 03-09-2012, 02:31 PM
NorthernBiker NorthernBiker is offline
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I would imagine it like anything would be up to the courts to decide what a professional driver really is. We have as a society said people with Phd's are experts in their field, or after having so much experience and passing examinations (CPA, PE etc). For a professional driver the court would have to devise a litmus test. If they have achieved the highest echelon of their craft and are more knowledgeable/skilled then the general public, I would say they are a professional driver.
Old 03-09-2012, 03:01 PM
Covered_In_Bees! Covered_In_Bees! is offline
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The OP doesn't give a fuck about the legal definition of "professional". All he wants to know how to get into the career path that has him driving cars in commercials for fuck's sake.
Old 03-09-2012, 03:05 PM
Soylent Juicy Soylent Juicy is offline
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This topic made me remember the disclaimer I saw on a car commercial once - "Professional driver on a closed course - what a cool job, huh?"
Old 03-09-2012, 03:07 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is offline
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Old 03-09-2012, 03:08 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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Originally Posted by Covered_In_Bees! View Post
...All he wants to know how to get into the career path that has him driving cars in commercials...
Thank you.

Basically, the question is, what is a typical or reasonably possible (US) career path from a nobody with no experience driving professionally in any way to driving cars for car commercials? Does it involve first becoming a movie or TV stuntman, then moving into stunt driving for movies or TV shows, then you get spotted by advertising agencies working for car companies? Does it involve becoming a truck, taxi, or bus driver and then taking additional training? Does it involve becoming a pro race car driver first and then getting spotted?
Old 03-09-2012, 03:19 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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I'd guess that the people driving those cars are actually engineers for the car companies who are also test drivers. The reason you do a lot of test driving of a car is to get first hand feedback of how it's performing with various tweaks to the design. Who better than one of the engineers who did the tweaking. He/she knows exactly what they're looking for in handling, performance, breaking and can give the best feedback in engineering terms to the design team.
Similar to who makes the best race car drivers. Not the guy who can make the car go the fastest but the guy who gives the best feedback to his crew chief to make the necessary adjustments to make the car perform the best.
Old 03-09-2012, 05:05 PM
commasense commasense is offline
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Here are a few relevant links:

A 2005 article about stunt drivers.

An apparently defunct stunt driving school (not updated since 2006).

Another stunt driving school. Check out their video here.

So how to go about starting a career? I think a good, and not too expensive, place to start would be amateur motorsports, like autocross, high performance driver's ed, or amateur rallying or racing. I started a thread about HPDE here. Spend a year or two driving on track in your spare time, developing basic car handling skills. You don't need a very fancy car, and you can take it at your own pace, and at a level of expenditure that you can manage while holding onto your day job. And you'll have a lot of fun doing it, even if you never become a pro driver.

If you're considering a stunt school like in the links above, you'll get a lot more out of it if you come to it with some track experience. An HPDE school may cost you as little as $200 a day, compared to over $850/day for the stunt school.

When you have some skills, start looking for a way into the film industry. This is much trickier, and there's no simple or guaranteed way in. It's a matter of luck and who you know. The people you meet at the track might be able to help you network. Try to find local filmmakers or ad agencies who might need an on-camera driver, so that you can start building a reel. You might even just get a buddy to film you doing some (legal) stunts (in a safe location) to have a video that shows what you're capable of. Once you get a foot in the door with a real job, things may get easier.

But as far as actually making a living at it, that's going to be a hard road. Automobile advertising is one one of the most high-budget, high-pressure industries there is, and the competition is fierce. A film shoot can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day, so the producers make sure that everyone on the crew is the best they can possibly be, so as not to waste precious time. I'd wager there's a relatively small group (a few dozen, maybe) of top pros who get the lion's share of the major auto makers' work.

Of course, that's the top tier, and there's lots of other work to be had, but widely spread out geographically and chronologically. Is there enough to build a full-time career? That depends on how much you need to live on, but I doubt there are a whole lot of people making a full time living at just driving for movies/TV/commercials. IOW, you may have to do other things in addition to the driving, just like most actors wait tables.


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