JOB PROFILE: Stunt Performer
Qualifications and courses
There are no academic entry requirements for this work but you must be over the age of 18 in order to be employed. Equity (the trade union for the performing arts) recommends that film and TV producers only employ stunt performers who are on the British Stunt Register (BSR).
To join the BSR register you are required to prove that you have at least 1 year’s experience and qualifications in a minimum of 6 sports in the following groups, 1 of which must be in Group A: Group A Fighting (martial arts and boxing), Group B Falling (trampolining and high diving) Group C Riding/Driving (horses, cars and motorcycles), Group D Agility/Strength (gymnastics and rock climbing) and Group E Water (swimming and sub-aqua). You must have experience in at least 4 of these groups (one of which must be Group A) and you cannot have more than 2 sports in 1 group.
When registering these qualifications they must not be more than 5 years old. You will also need to give the BSR evidence that you have spent a minimum of 60 days in front of the camera either as an actor or walk-on artist, including at least 36 qualifying stunts. You must work for 3 years as a Probationary Member of the Register, a further minimum of 2 years as an Intermediate Member, or Stunt Performer, before you are eligible for Full Membership of the BSR. You must then work for a further period of five years to become a Stunt Action Co-ordinator.
Organisations such as the British Academy of Dramatic Combat (BADC) and the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat (BASSC) offer a range of courses, workshops and classes in stage combat for practising actors. You must maintain and improve your skills in order to remain employable.
What the work involves
Stunt performers plan, design, practise and perform stunts in areas such as motorbike riding, car driving, diving, flying, paragliding, bungee jumping, skiing and horse riding.
Standing in for actors in TV, film or video productions, you will enter flaming buildings, crash vehicles, drive at speed or do dangerous stunts at sea.
You could advise other performers on health and safety issues.
Type of person suited to this work
Stunt performers are dedicated to their art and committed to ensuring that their skills are highly developed. A high level of stamina and fitness is essential. You should be a risk taker with an adventurous spirit.
You must be a good communicator, as you will have to work closely with the production team and explain stunts and their possible ramifications. You must have good reflexes.
You need to be happy to practise every aspect of your stunts over and again until they are reproducible in all aspects, so you must be a perfectionist. You must always be aware of the dangers you face, practising long hours to make the performance appear easy! An awareness of health and safety procedures is essential.
Part of your working day could be spent within a studio, on location or on a film set.
You could be working indoors or out, in cramped spaces, at heights or sometimes in bad weather conditions.
The hours will be very long, often up to 16 hours per day depending on the production, with frequent weekend work and travel to distant places.
Opportunities for live stunt work are decreasing, as digital graphics and new media can simulate stunts, so competition for work is growing increasingly fierce.
Stunt artists work anywhere in the world, with the main employers being film, TV and video production companies.
You could progress into advisory work, helping film directors or advising and training other stunt artists. You could also direct action scenes.
You will have the opportunity to travel the world and no two days will be the same.
Seeing the finished product on screen is rewarding.
This is difficult, dangerous work involving many risks.
Entry to this sector is very competitive, as only a handful of people are admitted to the British Stunt Register each year, and it may be difficult to remain in the industry as you grow older owing to fitness levels.
There is no formal pay scale for stunt performers and income varies greatly.
Equity establishes minimum rates for stunt work with TV companies and independent producers.
Although the majority of stunt artists are freelance, you might enter full-time employment with a salary of about £12,000.
A very experienced performer may earn £25,000 and above per year.
Content generously provided by Indigo Trotman.