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Stunt Performer  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotStunt performers do all the dangerous stuff in movies and television shows. Some actors insist on doing their own stunts. But most stand aside when the scenes get tricky.

dotStunt performers act in scenes that require them to drive cars, stop quickly, fight and fall off horses. They also act in exciting scenes where they fall out of helicopters, catch on fire, jump off bridges or flip cars.

dotThese scenes look spontaneous. But don't be fooled. Stunt work is carefully planned and choreographed.

For instance, a whole fight scene is scripted, step by step. The stunt performer must remember exactly where to move, when to move and how to move. The same goes for the other stunt performer who is fighting. If someone takes a false step, they might get hit for real.

dotA stunt performer has to work closely with the movie director, stunt coordinator and special effects technicians. Filming stunts is a group effort, even though it's the stunt person who is taking the fall.

dotOften, stunt performers have an agent who lines them up with work in the film or television industry. Sometimes they work for stunt companies, which contract out their workers. Or they may operate their own stunt businesses, relying on their reputations to get work.

dotStunt performers have to work in whatever setting the scene demands. Many stunts are filmed in studios. But many more stunts happen "on location."

This means that there is no standard workplace for stunt people. It all depends on the stunt. It also means that work hours will be very different from job to job.

dotStunt performers have an obligation to stay fit at all times. Many train every day, even when they aren't working. Physical coordination and strength are key in this job.

dotSome of the most dangerous scenes are now done by computer animation. That makes the field as a whole a bit safer. Still, this is a career with a high degree of risk for injury. While safety is key, many stunt performers do spend time in hospitals with broken limbs.

Shawn Crowder is a stunt performer with an impressive resume. He keeps scrapes and bruises to a minimum.

"I don't consider myself a daredevil," he says. "I want to be around to spend my money!"

dotWomen are slowly making their way into this field. There is work for stuntwomen. But most action and adventure films revolve around male heroes or bad guys. The stunts have to be performed by stunt people who resemble the leads. As a result, a lot of the work goes to men.

dotGidget Churchill is a stuntwoman from Los Angeles. She says there are good opportunities for women.

"The top girls work all the time," says Churchill. She moved to California looking for acting work.

"A friend had encouraged me to go into stunt work because I was adventurous. He pointed out that there were fewer women trying to be stunt performers than there were trying to be actors, so I'd probably have a better chance at finding work doing stunts."

At a Glance

Take the place of actors in stunts like riding horses, swimming and falling out of airplanes

  • Computers have reduced the risk of doing some stunts
  • More and more stunt performers are leaving Hollywood for other countries, where production is cheaper
  • There is no one single educational pathway to this career