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If falling off buildings, getting set on fire or fighting zombies sounds like fun, becoming a stunt person might be the career of your dreams. The job includes both stunt doubles who step in for actors in dangerous scenes and stunt performers who play separate roles, according to Backstage. There's no requirement for formal education at stunt double school, but you will need a lot of training. Backstage describes stunt performers as "movement professionals.
The exact mix of stunts depends on the film; you might get horse-riding stunt double jobs in westerns or swashbucklers, but not in a "Star Wars" movie. Although "stunt person" or "stunt performer" is often used to describe all kinds of stunt gigs, stunt double is actually separate. A stunt double looks enough like one of the actors that they can step in and perform stunts or fight scenes for them.
A regular stunt person plays their own character — a bystander, a cop, a henchman.
Either way, you may spend only a few brief scenes a day actually performing, while the rest is spent studying the script, talking with the stunt coordinator or twiddling your thumbs. Stunt work isn't just about being able to carry out the physical stuff.
Stunt performers are actors, portraying characters and advancing the plot through their actions. Some stunt people, such as Jackie Chan, go on to become well-known actors. Mastering the physical stuff and learning to do it safely is vital, though. The big difference between stunt work and regular acting is that botched stunts have killed people.
Stunt performer and stunt double deaths cast a shadow of risk over the profession. While there are schools that offer to train you in stunt work, being a stunt performer isn't like becoming a doctor. What employers care about is your skills, not any formal certification or degrees. Good skills include fighting technique, weapons training, shooting and learning how to fake a fall or a bullet injury.
You can try developing a well-rounded portfolio before you start, or specializing in a few areas, such as sword-fighting, and then broadening your skill set later. Backstage and Project Casting say networking and people skills are just as important as your job skills. Stunt coordinators don't go to talent agents to find performers. Instead they're more likely to find you because you took classes with them or train at the same dojo.
If you don't have the ability to network and conduct yourself well in a social setting, finding work will prove difficult. Stunt performers are unionized under the Screen Actors Guild. Not all stunt work is union, but once you have your union card, it's a breach of the rules to work a non-union production. If you're stunt double for a major star, you may make more. Like other types of acting, there's no guarantee you'll be working full-time, week after week, pulling down that kind of salary.
Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of working life: the importance of professional ethics, the challenges of business communication, workers' rights and how to cope with bullying bosses. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. You can find him online at frasersherman. By Fraser Sherman Updated November 13, Related Articles.Stunt double needed
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Pay Scale for a Stuntman