Stunts and Coordination
Professional stunt performers are not daredevils. Motion picture stuntmen and stuntwomen are very much like professional athletes. They have trained and worked very hard just to get into the business. They make their living performing physical action in front of the camera.
What is a Stunt?
Physical action requiring an actor to fight, fall, jump, run and, in general, perform in an athletic manner and/or in hazardous situations may require the services of a stunt player to double the actor. Often, even professional filmmakers do not appreciate what is and what is not a stunt. If there is any question, check with a stunt coordinator. Have the coordinator read the script and discuss the action with them.
Many common activities, which may be simple tasks for someone familiar with the tool, toy, appliance or device, can be dangerous to someone unfamiliar with its proper and safe operation—for example, skateboards, manual transmissions, scooters and motorcycles.
And there is another thing—you want the physical action to look “real.” There is nothing that destroys the illusion faster than lame, awkward and clumsy physical action.
Professional stunt players are actors and members of the SAG. They are covered by the provisions of the Basic Agreement. Many stunt players are fully capable of delivering dialogue on-camera. Smart Directors and Producers cast stunt persons whenever possible and avoid the cost and hassle of doubling.
What is a Stunt Coordinator?
A Stunt Coordinator is a stunt player who assumes the responsibility for supervising all the stunt work and all stunt players in a film. In addition to hiring the stunt performers and arranging for any necessary equipment, the coordinator works with the cinematographer to plan the best possible camera angles for each stunt to achieve the most effective visual impact. They also have the responsibility for keeping all members of the crew, the camera operator, and the stunt people safe during the filming of stunt work.
The Stunt Coordinator is sometimes employed months before a film starts shooting to help the writers and director work on the action in the story. Then the Coordinator breaks down the script and develops a stunt budget. Once a budget is accepted by the Producer, the Coordinator is expected to stay within it.
On smaller shows, the Stunt Coordinator may perform many of the stunts him/her/their/hirs/zirs self.
Working with a Stunt Coordinator
The performance of all stunts or hazards is preceded by a meeting on the site of the event with all people concerned. This meeting includes a “walk-thru” or “dry-run” with the stunt coordinator and/or special effects crew and all of the persons involved in the event. An understanding of the intended action, possible deviations, and authority to abort should be made clear.
All stunts and special effects should be reviewed by all participants prior to execution to help ensure that they are performed in the safest manner possible.
Sources for Stunt Coordinator
Stuntmen’s Association of Pictures
Office: (818) 766 4334
Fax: (818) 766 5943
Office: (818) 841-3555
Fax: (818) 841-1655
Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures, Inc.
Office: (818) 762-0907