Several people have asked me to write a blog about how I got into stunts and how best to get into the industry. I have been hesitant to write this blog because am relatively new to professional stunts. I wouldn”t call myself an authority on the business in any way, I can only tell you about my journey so far.
Most stunt performers I meet have a different story of how they got into the business. Stunts require all sorts of skills – hand to hand skills, horse skills, acrobatics, bo staff skills, nunchuck skills… ;) – you name it. Some stunt people are extremely well rounded and have a wide variety of skills to offer, and some are more specialized.
My path to stunt performance was through stage combat. Through Fight Directors Canada I gained a wide knowledge and skill base in European weapon systems as well as unarmed combat and some Eastern martial arts. I am not a martial artist (though I have studied a few, including fencing – yes, it is a martial art), but what I have spent 15 years doing is acting and choreography.
Having devoted half my life (sometimes part time sometimes much more frequently) to stage combat, and what I have acquired is more than specific techniques: I have gained a solid ability to absorb choreography quickly and perform it with emotional intensity, and I have good partnering skills – adapting to each persons style, moving with them and keeping them safe. I believe many martial artists also acquire these skills over years of training – which is why so many stunt performers have martial arts backgrounds (that, and they know how to fall!). Beyond fight technique, Stunt Performers need to have a good sense of timing, awareness of the camera, and good partnering.
I am not really a thrill seeker, but I love to do fast, intricate fight choreography. I best pokies online also have a good eye for story, and have spent years learning to articulate technique and performance notes to actors. This is also helpful, because much of a stunt double”s job is helping the actor be confidant and safe in their performance.
How stunt performers get their first job is probably as unique as their skill sets. My first stunt job was on Season 1 of Lost Girl – and I got it because I happened to fit into Anna Silk”s regular double, Jenn Vey“s, stilettos. I had given the stunt coordinator my action demo, and he was nice enough to invite me to set to meet him and watch them shoot a fight scene. Months later, they called me up. I got lucky again later in the season when they needed a sword fighter, and that”s when I really got to prove myself.
Having the right skills can get you the job. Then, as with any job, having a good work ethic, and being reliable, helpful and professional will help you get the second job.
I”m not really in a position to teach anyone how to be a stunt performer, but here are some things that I believe in:
- Train Always: Get to know people, keep acquiring skills – especially how to fall and pick up choreography if that”s the kind of stunt performance you want to do.
- Put Yourself Out There: Send out your Demo, Meet People, Listen.
- Be Professional – getting hired is one thing, getting hired consistently is another: that happens when you do a good job, and are good to work with: enthusiastic, focused, helpful, etc. This is true for any job, I first learned it as a theatre technician, and it is especially true in film and television. Say Please and Thank You.
- Be Honest about your Skills – I know how to fight with a sword, and I can say this with confidence. I would not claim to have skills that I don”t just to get the job. Some might find their way into the industry that way, but if it doesn”t work out, best case you look stupid and worst case you get seriously hurt. There”s always risk involved, that”s why stunt performers exist, but as I tell my stage combat students “Stage Combat is Not Built on Hope” – and neither are stunts. And that brings us back to: Train Always. You want the skills? Get them.
So that”s me and stunts, in a nutshell. I”m sure there”s more to tell, and this is certainly not meant to be a “how to” blog. Got Questions? Tweet me @CaseyHudecki – also I will try to figure out how to enable comments. :)