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Working as a Stuntman: The Skills You Need to Have
If you’ve ever dreamt of becoming a TV or film stuntman or woman – hurling yourself off a building, driving at high speed into a concrete barrier, catching fire as you escape a burning house – you’ve come to the right place.
Performing stunt work is no easy task and, it’s safe to say, this specialised art form is not for the faint of heart. To work as a professional stuntman or woman, you will need to be highly-trained, dedicated, and open to performing tasks that would normally terrify most people.
You will also need to be acutely aware of your own personal safety and equip yourself with the skills required to perform live-action stunts in the correct manner.
But what exactly are these skills you should think about learning?
Join us as we take a look at some of the key skills you’ll need to have in order to turn your dream of becoming a stuntman – or woman – into a reality. Let’s get started.
What is a Stuntman?
First things first, it’s important to understand exactly what a stuntman is and what they do for a living. It’s also important to understand that, just because the word ‘man’ is in the title, anyone can be a stuntman – whether that be male or female.
Stuntmen and women are artists hired to perform live-action stunts for movies, TV, or the theatre. These stunts typically involve skills like being able to drive, use a gun, ride a horse, or fall from a height, but the exact skill set required will largely depend on the specific needs of the movie, theatre or TV show they have been hired for.
So… how can I stand out?
As with any job, becoming a stuntman requires a lot of determination, self-motivation and hard work.
While you won't necessarily need a formal degree or education, most successful stuntmen and women do undertake training at a local stunt school or under an industry expert.
Joining a stunt school can come with its various pros and cons though. For example, it can be incredibly expensive and won't necessarily guarantee you a job at the end of it. But it could help a lot in terms of learning how to perform a variety of stunts in a safe and professional manner, such as martial arts or how to use a variety of weapons.
However, besides stunt school, there are a number of other skills you should think about honing in your spare time.
Listed below are a few key ones to consider:
1. Health & Fitness
It may seem fairly obvious but, to be a successful stuntman or woman, you’re going to need to be at the peak of your physical fitness.
If you haven’t already, join a gym, keep active as regularly as you can, and make sure you eat healthily. When you eventually land a job as a stuntman and are faced with free-running on set or escaping from a potentially hazardous situation, your physical fitness will be imperative to keeping you safe.
While on the topic of keeping active, having an aptitude for certain sports will help you stand out above the rest.
Being able to rock climb, abseil, kayak, ski, snowboard, skydive, or perform martial arts could all help significantly when it comes to landing a job as a stuntman.
After all, performing stunts is all about channelling your adrenaline in a creative manner. Therefore, by having an understanding of adrenaline-inducing sports like these, you’ll be able to keep your cool a lot more easily under pressure.
Being a stuntman or woman can take you to some stunning locations all around the world. Depending on the film, TV or theatre show you are working on, you could be required to up your life and move thousands of miles away with little notice.
Therefore, if you want to make it as a stuntman or woman, you’re going to need to be prepared for this eventuality and enjoy the thrill of exploring new places.
Whether it be riding monster trucks in the Namib desert (as they did in Mad Max: Fury Road) or abseiling 17,000 feet up the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai (as they did in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), working as a stuntman can take you to some truly breath-taking places, both physically and in mind.
Since being a stuntman effectively involves acting as a double for someone else, you may think that being a stuntman involves a lot of independent work; but you’d be wrong.
To be successful working as a stunt artist, you’re going to need to be an excellent team player and work well with others.
After all, tons of people work on a film set and the work can go on for several hours. Therefore, being able to stay professional and utilise good people skills is vital. Plus, when people enjoy working with you, they’ll be more likely to recommend you for another job opportunity when it comes up.
Embarking on a career as a stuntman or woman is no easy task. You need to be 100% dedicated and motivated to stay at the peak of your physical fitness.
You also need to work well with others and have a deep-rooted passion for a wide range of adrenaline-fuelled sports and activities, being able to stay completely focused during a wide range of potentially life-threatening situations.
If this sounds like you all over, then working as a stuntman could be the ideal role for you. However, it’s important to bear in mind that it may take a while for you to get to the top, and you may need to start out as a runner on a movie set before you catch your big break.
But nonetheless, with the right levels of enthusiasm, self-motivation and perseverance, you’ll get there in the end. Just keep honing your skillset and practising your art – the more polished you can be, the more professional you’ll come across.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Develop the skills you need to get that job.
This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.
About the Author
Dakota Murphey is a writer based in Brighton, specialising in management training, HR and effective talent acquisition. Having authored pieces for numerous online and print magazines, Dakota has undertaken independent studies to discover how managerial styles and practices can positively impact business productivity.