Many of us probably dream of the day we can finally capture a big stunt on camera, whether it's setting someone on fire, choreographing an epic fight sequence, or rolling a car in a million-dollar moment that puts the cherry on your project. But we should all also know (hopefully) the level of care and safety that would need to go into a scene like that, especially if we hope to do it practically.

That's why we were so excited to get the chance to speak with one of the biggest stunt coordinators and directors working right now, Lauro Chartrand-Del Valle, whose recent credits include the period drama Shōgun and the new CBS action and drama Tracker.

We chatted about the big challenges of shooting samurai action, as well as the climax of Tracker's premiere episode. Dive in (safely) to his amazing advice below.

Shōgun | Season Finale Trailer – A Dream of a Dream |

Editor's note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Spoilers for Shōgun below.

No Film School: I know that you started in martial arts. How did you get into film and TV?

Lauro Chartrand-Del Valle: Martial arts was my main path. I decided when I was 8 years old I wanted to be a stuntman. I was a big Chuck Norris fan, so I watched all his movies. I emulated all his moves, and learned a lot of those on my own before I actually made it to a formal martial arts school. And then, I started my training formally in Dojo Shotokan Karate, Shito-Ryu Karate, Kobudō, which is Okinawan Weapons, Iaidō, and Kenjutsu, which is sword work. And Judo, Aikido was all trained in our dojo as well.

So many, many styles, which ultimately helped me immensely when I finally got my foot in the door in the film industry.

And how I did that was I had no connections. I had no family other than my martial arts instructor who was Fumio Demura, who was the stunt double for Pat Morita in the Karate Kid movies. So he pointed me in the right direction and said you had to start at the ground level. No matter how good you are in martial arts, you got to start in the beginning.

And I started out doing extra work, so I just got on set and then I started to meet stunt coordinators that way. And I told them about my background and what I could do, and eventually I got some breaks and got some chances and then good work begets good work.

And so I just started to climb the ladder from there and do the best that I could and perform as well as I could. And I was given the opportunity to perform some pretty big stunts early on and throughout my career, which garners attention and a lot of learning experiences there. Every stunt performer is a little bit different, some just focus on the stunts only. Some are, I guess, like me, a sponge, and you just want to learn every aspect of filmmaking.

So I paid attention to what the directors were saying, what they were doing, what they were looking for, how were they trying to set up the shots, how the ADs were scheduling things, how they were organizing things. How the special effects guys were collaborating with us to make the explosions and the fire and everything work in collaboration safely with their stunts.

I really paid attention all throughout my career to all the other departments so that I could become an overall filmmaker later on in my career. So that's really how I got started, extra work and then worked my way up and eventually became a stunt coordinator and then a second unit director and eventually a director. So it all just... I'd never thought of being more than a stunt performer, but I was just so hungry to learn and loved the business so much, I just kept going.

Lauro Chartrand-Del Valle behind the scenes of ShogunLauro Chartrand-Del Valle behind the scenes of Shōgun

NFS: Starting with Shōgun—such a stunning show. I would love to know what your favorite stunts are, and some of the challenges behind them.

Chartrand-Del Valle: We had so many great action pieces in almost every episode. So I mean, when I started on the show, it was just diving in head first because our first episode was a huge sequence with articulating full size ships and cliffs and water work. And it was just a... And the thing that I wanted to touch on is as a filmmaker, it's a lot of times difficult because you have to do all of these things in different places and it's all got to fit together.

So that whole sequence, the shipwreck, the storm sequence, and then man overboard, climbing down the cliff to save them, falling, falling into the water, Yabushige almost committing suicide. Sorry, spoiler alert, if you haven't seen it. That was in five different locations. I was the second unit director and stunt coordinator, so all your pieces have to match with what the director's shooting.

Of course, we shared sets, so that helps. But you've got to really rely heavily on the art department and special effects and all the other departments to bring their A-game so that everything, costumes, continuity... Bring their A-game so that when you're doing your pieces, it matches.

And sometimes, we shoot first. So some of the stuff I would do then the director, we have to really be on the same side and collaborate on what it's going to look like because I can't go shoot something. And then he goes, "No, that's not what I wanted." And now I've got to go re-shoot something and stuff like that.

It's really in the prep, you really got to prep and you really got to know what you're going to do. And as far as the stunts go, safety is always our first concern. So that's where our prep really comes in. We rehearse everything meticulously to make sure that we can bring to the screen the danger aspect to it. But also keep it safe so we can repeat it, and nobody gets hurt, and all our guys can work another day.

Mariko ShōgunFX

NFS: The second-to-last episode features a battle between Mariko and a lot of other characters. I would love to know a little bit about how you coordinated that, with it being one person facing off against so many other combatants.

Chartrand-Del Valle: Well, that's what that big fight scene ultimately ended up being, was her fighting against so many. But obviously, as you saw it, it escalated. So that person was trying to escape the castle, and one of her samurai started out taking out a few guys. And then, as they moved forward, we had 40 guys fighting altogether.

That's the big battle that she was basically just standing there watching, hoping that her army could overcome and it didn't work out that way. And she's not one to give up, that character. So she took it upon herself to try to fight her own way out of the castle—which, we had probably a week and a half of rehearsal.

So in my process, obviously, I take the script, read it carefully, go through it line by line ... also I have to study the characters themselves and talk with the actors and see what ways they want to go, and talk to the director and see what way he or she wants to go, and then meld those together through my choreography, so that the character is being portrayed properly throughout the fight scene, because you're trying to tell a story, whether you're fighting, talking, doing dialogue, or just emitting emotion. It all has to connect and be together.

So that all came through our rehearsal process where I would pre-viz, where I would film it, edit it together, and then I would present it to the director and to the actors. And also especially Hiroyuki Sanada, who was one of our leading producers who kept an eye on everything.

Then we would make some tweaks and some changes according to what they wanted, story-wise or character-wise. Then I'd go back, re-shoot some stuff, just tighten it up, make it exactly what they were looking for.

And by the time we got to set and we had three days to shoot that sequence, it was just A, B, C, D, bang, bang, bang. And Anna Sawai brought so much to that emotionally and character-wise, it just took it over the top. And that was an amazing sequence.

And then I'm just going to jump back because you're talking about some of the more difficult stunt sequences. The big difficult one, other than the shipwreck and the cliff sequence, was our chain shot in 104.

We had nine men on ratchets. Ratchets are when we connect a cylinder powered by oxygen or air tanks, and then we run a line through a pulley and down to our stunt performer. And a lot of times you'll just pick on their back and just pull them backwards. But this was... It'll be a lot more creative because we wanted their arms flying off and their legs flying off and them flipping different ways because the chain shot came spinning in and hit them all differently.

So I would pick them from the shoulder, or I did the famous "crotch wrap," is what we call where the line comes over and goes under your legs and comes up to your back. So when you get pulled, you just go into a crazy flip right away. And this is something that, safety-wise, we really have to rehearse over and over and over again because we want to make sure they land properly, not on their necks, or we don't want to be breaking necks. So we have to get the pressure right, the rotation right, everything correct so that they can land hard and brutal, but not break things.

So we had nine guys doing that all at once, and at the same time, we had horses rearing up and falling over and guys rearing up and falling off horses and getting bucked off horses. So it had to all happen at the same time when that cannon went off. And so that was a tough one to get the timing right. So we had probably five days of rehearsal with that and one day to shoot it on my second unit. So it was a real push when it came time to shoot it.


NFS: One day, that's really amazing.

Chartrand-Del Valle: That's where all your prep comes in. Once you have it dialed and you know what you're going to shoot exactly, then it's like the camera's here, camera's there, okay, action. Okay, now bring it around over here, and let's do it again. Or let's do half of it or just a piece of it, you know the pieces you need, and you know what ... So you don't kill your guys, and you get it done.

NFS: Is there anything else you would say to filmmakers that they should know before planning or filming a stunt?

Chartrand-Del Valle: The biggest thing I'd want to share with either a new stunt coordinator or anybody on set is knowing when to say, "No." When something doesn't feel right, and your gut doesn't tell you that this is going to be okay, you've got to listen to your gut instinct. And then try and collaborate with the people that are setting up. And I know time is always a big thing, the pressure, the cost, but nobody's life are being injured is worth that.

So you have to really be smart about it and think about, okay, this doesn't feel like it's going to work or it didn't work last time, it's probably not going to work the second time. Somebody's going to get hurt really bad. Let's find another way to do this. And you got to take the time to do it safely. So a lot of people get intimidated because they get a lot of pressure from the producers, the directors, the studio, whoever, to do it on time and on budget. And that's a realistic thing, and we all understand that.

But again, you got to stand up and say, "No," if it's not safe. And I think there's a lot of people that I work with that understand that. And when I have to go to that extreme, they understand why and they trust my judgment and my experience.

Here's the thing: you'll say no to something, and you'll never know if that accident was going to happen, right? But I'd rather have it be thought of that way than to have an accident happen and wish I had said, "No." You know what I mean? So just got to keep your thinking cap on and be smart about it and stay safe.

Tracker Series | SUPER BOWL SPOT | Official Trailer | February 11 | Justin Hartley |

NFS: I did want to touch on Tracker because you are also doing work on that, and in the big ad that everyone was seeing during the Super Bowl was that car fall. What was your prep process for that, and what was that like?

Chartrand-Del Valle: That was a huge sequence, and it took me the whole pilot to construct that and put it together and choreograph the chase scene and storyboard it and so on. There was really no other stunts in the pilot, but that was such a big sequence that it sufficed for the action and the storytelling of that piece. But we also shot that in five different locations, and I shot second unit and of course, Ken Olin, our director, shot the stuff on main unit. And so we had to collaborate very closely, story boarding it and putting the whole sequence together and finding the proper locations that were going to work. Because we started off in this park, in the woods where the truck took off and our Colter character starts chasing it. And Jordan Davis was his stunt double.

So I had him jump off a cliff and start to run down a hill while the truck was winding and going through all the switchbacks. So he was going straight down trying to catch up to the truck. And of course, fortunately they sent Justin Hartley over to my second unit so I could get some shots of him running through some of these trails and just missing the truck, just about getting the truck as it was going by. So we had a lot of timing to do there, and we had drones chasing the truck down the road, so you got to be careful with the drones. You can't get them too close to people as well.

And then finally, we got to the point where he did catch up and jumped into the back of the truck. Now, one of the big components of collaborating with Ken on this was we knew what the end sequence was going to be, where the truck would eventually go over the cliff and get caught up on the edge. And they're supposed to slide out of the back of the truck, but they had already shot some pieces of the truck taking off with the tailgate closed. So I said, "How are they going to slide out of the truck?" "Oh, we have to get that tailgate open somehow." And I said, "How about if we do this? How about when Colter jumps in the momentum, the inertia of the truck going forward is going to roll him to the back of the truck, and he's going to slam really hard into that tailgate."

So I had special effects rig it so that they could flick it on a switch, and as soon as he hit it, it popped open and we had him in a harness and cabled into the back so he could only fall out so far and hang on by one hand and drag around behind the truck. And then I had my stunt driver, Quinton Schneider, slide a corner super hard and bring Jordan way around the side. And then we shot him in the mirror, see him sliding around. We had a lot of fun with it. It was really great, and you could get really creative with it.

And eventually, he climbs back in, and then the truck gets down there, and we slide around some corners, and the cops cut him off and box him into that canyon where he slides it around and does a 180. And the character commits suicide and shoots himself, and then he takes his foot off the brake, and the truck rolls backward.

And so we had the truck connected to a huge crane, special effects were taking care of that part of it. And they had it cabled off probably six different cables on it to make sure that we couldn't lose that truck over the cliff. And then we could make it just go as far as we needed it to and then have it lurch a little bit, so you felt that, "Oh, oh, it's going to slip. It's going to slip."

Then I had my two guys on a descender rig off of another crane based 60 feet in the air and ran lines down to them in the back of the truck. ... So no matter what happened to the truck, we could pull them out at any moment. And then when it was time for them to go, we let them slide to the end and hang onto the tarp. And then we had to go to the studio and do a piece where the actors are there on the stage, and we put the truck up on a crane in the studio, had them hanging out and harnessed so they could do the dialogue there where they were talking. And then on our descender out on the cliff, we dropped them a hundred feet out of the truck, dropped our two stunt doubles, Jordan Davis and Matt Phillips, a hundred feet.

And then we had to go to another location and put them on a 50-foot cliff and have them jump off the cliff, free jump into the water so that we had the final landing in the water and put all those pieces together and post and edit it together. And it looks like all one complete sequence. So that was super challenging and a lot of fun. And we tested the drop in other areas with cranes and pads and boxes before we ever put them out over the cliff and made sure that everybody was dialed in, the weights were proper, and the links were proper, and the timing was good.

And so it's a process. It's a real process. And again, safety is always our first concern, so that's why we take the time to do it that way.

Tracker episode 1TrackerMichael Courtney/CBS

NFS: I'm always curious about what a sequence like that costs.

Chartrand-Del Valle: It was definitely over a million. Just because of the equipment that you use. I mean, we had two huge cranes. We used Technocranes to film it. We used drones. We had a helicopter in that sequence. We had to buy a truck to cut it up and to take the motor out and everything like that. So we had to buy two of the exact same trucks. One was our stunt truck. We had to put a stunt break in that, that's another expense I had to hire all my stunt people.

They get paid for rehearsal days, they get paid for shoot days, and then you have all the hair and makeup people that got to make them look like the actors. And so it just compounds.

There's just so many pieces to the puzzle that you have to pay for that if you try and encapsulate the cost of the whole sequence, yes, it gets pretty expensive.

NFS: What can you tell us about Protectors of the Land, which you wrote and directed?

Chartrand-Del Valle: Protectors of the Land came to me in a dream, and I was doing some different research online about the drug trafficking that's been going on in Alaska. And I used to work on the oil rigs before I ever got into the movie business. So I knew about the drug situation in those areas and stuff like that. And I found that the Mexican cartel had taken over the drug trade in Alaska and was muling their drugs, specifically cocaine and fentanyl, by sending women to Alaska and taping the drugs to them.

So they'd send them from Texas and Arizona and southern states that are close to the Mexican border. And because you don't have to cross an international border, you're just going within the same country, basically. They could easily fly them up there without being noticed too much. But eventually, a dog caught one, and then the DEA were onto it, and they caught a lot of women. So the story read that now the cartel has to find a new way to get their drugs into Alaska.

So I kind of took the idea from there, and I thought, "Well, I would probably drop my drugs into a lake in the Yukon and then have skydivers, mules, go in and land in the lake, ferry the drugs to the shore, put it in backpacks and take it across the border through that vast wilderness." Because they cannot keep that border patrolled through all that vast wilderness between the Yukon and Alaska.

So that was the start of my story, and then I took off with it, and the main part that I wanted to focus on was crossing the indigenous land. And so they started to decimate some of their communities, indigenous communities, as they were crossing land and selling their drugs in those communities. So in the story, one of the indigenous women that takes part in the story is murdered, and then her brother and her husband worked together, and he can become a shapeshifter. So they lure the drug cartel into the wilderness and summon the spirits of their elders, and then they become shapeshifters and take out the cartel.

So it's a really different twist on them being the good guys and taking out the bad guys. So we just recently wrapped shooting about a week and a half ago, and it was a quick shoot with 14 days. I had to cram everything into 14 days. And it was... When you work on a film set, you'll find that you kind of start out your day, kind of a little lackadaisy, and they're putting pieces together and getting the first shot going. And then by the end of the day you're going, "Go, go, go. We're running out of light." Well, I had to put the pedal to the metal at the beginning of the day and be, "Go, go, go," right from the start of the day to the end of the day. 'Cause we had 75 setups a day to do.

And I was just so fortunate. I had a great crew with a lot of energy, and they were happy to be going a hundred miles an hour and had a good time. Camera guys never took the camera off the shoulder. They were just ready to shoot all the time. My DP was lighting and making it look beautiful, and my actors were on point. They all knew their dialogue. They all came prepared, brought their A-game, had Graham Greene there, and he just blew me away with his performance. Tim Rozon, Tanaya Beatty, Nathaniel Arcand, they were all amazing, just brought it, brought their A-game, and it's going to show.

So we're just going through it with the editor now and starting to piece it all together. So the next few months will keep me busy in post getting that all ready. And I got Stevie Salas as my composer, so he's going to bring a real native beat to the music, and it's going to be beautiful. It's going to be amazing.

NFS: Is there anything you wanted to add?

Chartrand-Del Valle: I hope everybody's enjoying Shōgun and Tracker, and I feel so blessed to be a part of both of those top TV shows right now. And that Tracker was great with me, the producers letting me take a little time off to go do my film. Because that was when my lead actor Tim Rozon was available. So yeah, I'm just super blessed and real appreciative.