Stunt performers do all the dangerous stuff in movies and television shows.
Some actors insist on doing their own stunts. But most stand aside when the
scenes get tricky.
Stunt performers act in scenes that require them to drive cars, stop quickly,
fight and fall off horses. They also act in exciting scenes where they fall
out of helicopters, catch on fire, jump off bridges or flip cars.
These scenes look spontaneous. But don't be fooled. Stunt work is carefully
planned and choreographed.
For instance, a whole fight scene is scripted, step by step. The stunt
performer must remember exactly where to move, when to move and how to move.
The same goes for the other stunt performer who is fighting. If someone takes
a false step, they might get hit for real.
A stunt performer has to work closely with the movie director, stunt coordinator
and special effects technicians. Filming stunts is a group effort, even though
it's the stunt person who is taking the fall.
Often, stunt performers have an agent who lines them up with work in the
film or television industry. Sometimes they work for stunt companies, which
contract out their workers. Or they may operate their own stunt businesses,
relying on their reputations to get work.
Stunt performers have to work in whatever setting the scene demands. Many
stunts are filmed in studios. But many more stunts happen "on location."
This means that there is no standard workplace for stunt people. It all
depends on the stunt. It also means that work hours will be very different
from job to job.
Stunt performers have an obligation to stay fit at all times. Many train
every day, even when they aren't working. Physical coordination and strength
are key in this job.
Some of the most dangerous scenes are now done by computer animation. That
makes the field as a whole a bit safer. Still, this is a career with a high
degree of risk for injury. While safety is key, many stunt performers do spend
time in hospitals with broken limbs.
Shawn Crowder is a stunt performer with an impressive resume. He keeps
scrapes and bruises to a minimum.
"I don't consider myself a daredevil," he says. "I want to be around to
spend my money!"
Women are slowly making their way into this field. There is work for stuntwomen.
But most action and adventure films revolve around male heroes or bad guys.
The stunts have to be performed by stunt people who resemble the leads. As
a result, a lot of the work goes to men.
Gidget Churchill is a stuntwoman from Los Angeles. She says there are good
opportunities for women.
"The top girls work all the time," says Churchill. She moved to California
looking for acting work.
"A friend had encouraged me to go into stunt work because I was adventurous.
He pointed out that there were fewer women trying to be stunt performers than
there were trying to be actors, so I'd probably have a better chance at finding
work doing stunts."