With the advent of computer-generated special effects, you may think that the job market for stuntmen would be shrinking. Well, you’d think wrong – Hollywood still needs plenty of dudes who can put their bodies on the line to make the TV shows and movies you love more exciting. If you’ve ever wanted to explore the world of a stuntman, but didn’t know how to get started, this article is for you. I talked with several working stuntpeople about how they got their start, and what the most important skills to learn are. I’m going to share all that information with you.
First off, every stuntman I talked to agreed that getting into the industry is incredibly difficult. In addition to the CGI issue mentioned above, stunt jobs are incredibly localized. They are usually only available in Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver, Canada – the three main television production locations in the Western world. If you’re not near one of those cities, you’re not going to have much opportunity. In addition, most stunt coordinators are already well-established in the business, with a network of performers they use regularly. Stunt work isn’t like acting, where producers are constantly looking for new talent.
So with all that said, how can you overcome these obstacles to get a start in stunt performance? The first step is to develop your skills. The best way to train your body and mind for the skills required as a stuntman is to visit your local martial arts studio. Many martial arts disciplines teach skills that can be carried over to your dream job. Judo, for example, is excellent for training your body how to take falls as painlessly and efficiently as possible. Don’t think that being a stuntman is all landing on cardboard boxes full of foam. You will be putting yourself through serious trauma day in and day out, so make sure you can handle it. This training won’t be a speedy process, either, but if you want to compete on a professional level, there are no shortcuts.
In addition, the most castable skill for young stuntmen, especially males, is fighting. Fight sequences will be your bread and butter as an apprentice stuntman, because they require more close-in camera work, meaning that more resemblance to the actor is required. After you’ve learned real fighting, it’ll be time to learn what is called “stage fighting” – that is, making it look real when it’s not. Essentially, the magic of stage fighting is working with the camera to make it look like the blows you’re throwing are connecting. The best way to polish your skills here is to work with independent filmmakers and production companies. The pay may be low or nonexistent, but you’ll be building up a reel you can use to sell your skills to the bigger names. With that in hand, you can open the door to more challenging and profitable work.
One option for developing your skills at a more reasonable salary (with benefits) is to audition for a live stunt show. Many amusement parks such as Six Flags and Disneyland cast aspiring stuntmen to perform in these shows, which are played in front of a live audience multiple times a day. They cast on physical appearance as well as stunt ability, so it’s a great way to get on-the-job training while pulling down a paycheck.
I hope this guide has helped you follow your dream of stunt stardom. Good luck, and break a leg!