Stunt performers work in the film and television industry, standing in for actors in dangerous, specialised or physically difficult scenes. They need excellent stunt skills to make it look easy.
You could be:
- discussing with the director and other members of the production team how to create a stunt that is both safe and realistic
- planning how you will do the stunt, getting the equipment and carrying out a risk assessment signed by the stunt co-ordinator
- adapting your movements and posture to match the age, fitness and demeanour of the actor you replace
- performing the stunt at least once before the cameras under the supervision of a stunt action co-ordinator — you may have to do retakes
- following strict choreography, for example in fight scenes
- specialising in one or more particular skill including martial arts, boxing, fencing, trampolining, gymnastics, swimming, high diving, horse riding and driving
- keeping up your skills and fitness with regular practice between jobs.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
- where you work
- the size of the company or organisation you work for
- the demand for the job.
Stunt performers are usually freelance, working on a production on a contract basis. Fees depend on the type of production and are usually higher for feature films than for television. For example, the BBC agreement is £335 a day, and for cinema films the minimum daily rate is £564.00.
The Equity website lists the latest recommended minimum rates of pay.
- The work is highly dangerous, with stunt performers routinely facing the risk of serious injury or death.
- You work long and irregular hours, including late nights and early mornings — sometimes up to 18 hours a day.
- Like actors, you have to go to make-up, hairdressing and costume fittings before filming starts.
- You work in studios indoors or outdoors.
- Most of the work is on location on film or TV sets and you will spend time away from home, sometimes working abroad.
- You repeatedly face extreme physical challenges (for example, you may have to jump out of high buildings, be set on fire, stay in water or be underground for long periods).
- You have to wait around a lot while shots are set up.
- Stunt performers often have to wear protective gear, such as fire suits or harnesses.
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- You do not need formal qualifications, though it is usual to have some experience of working on a TV or film set as an extra or walk-on actor.
- To get work you must be on the Joint Industry Stunt Committee (JISC) Register of Stunt Co-ordinators and Performers, which is produced with the approval of the Joint Industry Grading Scheme (JIGS), the Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT), the BBC, ITV and Equity (the performers' union). This is the only approved list of UK based artists qualified to do dangerous stunt work in film and TV.
- To gain JISC accreditation you must have qualifications to the required standard in a minimum of six of the skill categories (eleven in total), within the five groups, as listed by JISC. These groups are: Fighting; Falling; Riding and Driving; Agility and Strength; and Water.
- One of the skill categories must be from the Fighting group (with only one Martial Art permitted). The other skill categories must be across at least four of the groups, but no more than two from each group. The full requirements are on the JISC website.
- Once you are accepted on to the JISC register you must work for at least 3 years as a Probationary Member, working only under the supervision of a full member of the Register.
- You need good acting skills to work as a stunt double as you have to copy an actor’s mannerisms and movements.
- You must be a member of Equity.
- You must be at least 18 years old.
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What Does it Take?
You should have:
- well above average athletic skill in a number of different sporting activities
- a responsible attitude to safety
- a good knowledge of health and safety legislation
- a high level of physical courage
- technical skill to plan stunt sequences in detail
- a good head for heights
- good co-ordination and quick reactions
- acting ability
- good team skills.
You should also be:
- physically fit and committed to staying very fit
- determined and resourceful
- self-motivated and confident.
- Entrants normally have high level qualifications from the recognised body for the specific sports or skills they offer to become probationary members of the JISC register.
- You have to pay for your own training, which can be very expensive.
- To progress through to intermediate and then full membership of the JISC register you must maintain and add to your skills as well as providing detailed evidence of the stunts you have performed.
- Employment is usually short term, with periods between contracts – most stunt performers have a second job.
- Stunt performers retire early, normally taking up a second career in mid-life.
- It takes at least three years as a probationary stunt performer before you can achieve the standards needed to upgrade to intermediate level which means you can perform solo stunts unsupervised.
- After two years' relevant experience as an intermediate member, you can apply for full membership, as a stunt action co-ordinator.
- Some stunt performers move into directing, as second unit directors specialising in action scenes in films or TV programmes.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
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