Daredevil to the stars –begin a new career as a stuntman
Life as a stunt performer is an extremely exciting and varied career. Stunt performers predominately work in the film and television industry. They often work freelance and take the place of actors in hazardous or potentially dangerous scenes. A stunt man may be asked to do anything from jumping out of a speeding car to re-enacting a fight sequence to parachuting into the sea. It is an extremely demanding role and you will need to be fit and athletic. Most stunt performers are highly trained professionals with specialist skills such as advanced martial arts or free running. While health and safety is of paramount importance in the industry, a stunt man undoubtedly places himself in a greater exposure to danger and risk as a result of the work. Therefore you need to be a person who enjoys working in physically demanding and possibly dangerous environments.
The industry in the UK is overseen and accredited by the Joint Industry Stunt Committee (JISC) through a registration system. To register strict entry requirements have to be met. Applicants need to be proficient in a variety of skills such as martial arts, horse riding, gymnastics and diving. You will also need to have completed at least 60 days work in front of the camera in a role such as an actor or walk-on artist. JISC is operated by Equity, the actors union and more details can be found on their website.
Hours and working environment
Stunt performers working hours vary each week. Most work is on a short term contract basis during a film shoot. You may be asked to start very early and finish late as the filming does not stop until the scene has been shot. As with actors, you will have to arrive early to have make-up and costume fittings. You will also be required to travel to location and stay in a hotel locally during the shoot, this may also include jobs abroad.
In addition to the time on the set, stunt performers have to carry out meticulous research prior to each scene to ensure the stunts can be carried out safely and effectively. They will also need to study and mimic the body language of the actors they are preparing to replace.
Your salary is largely dependent on your experience and the complexity of the stunt. Freelance stunt men and women can expect to receive anything from £250 – £400 per day. However work is often on a short term basis and you may have to fund long periods without work in between jobs. With experience and regular work a stunt performer can expect to earn around £50,000 a year. Work is often found by word of mouth but you can find jobs advertised in specialist publications, such as The Stage magazine, and on Equity, the actors’ union website.
Experienced stunt men and women may progress to become stunt arrangers or choreographers of other stunt performers. There is also the possibility to move into other interesting jobs such as directing and acting.
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