It’s the job you’d secretly love to do. But could you do it?
There’s more to getting into stunt work than meets the eye. Entry into this apparently glamorous and potentially hazardous career can be a long, expensive and intense experience. But you’ll have great fun learning; and if you succeed, you get to play the real hero.
Below you’ll find a summary of the basics you need to know about becoming a stunt performer in the UK.
Information source: All information is courtesy of Equity (the trade union body that represents performers and artists) and the Joint Industry Grading System (JIGS).The Joint Industry Stunt Committee, the only recognised professional body for stunt performers in the UK, is a sub-committee of JIGS and is the accrediting body for stunt performers.
To work in stunts, you must be aged 18 and over. It is also advisable, but not compulsory, to gain admission to the JISC’s register. The JISC’s register is subdivided into three levels of membership:
Aspiring stunt performers can expect to spend three years at this level. To gain Probationary status, no fewer than six skills must be selected from across six set categories which include a “Fighting” category and an “Agility and strength” category.
Each skill must be performed under supervision and to JISC standards. In addition, probationers need to have had two months of non-stunt experience on a professional production (this helps the aspiring stunt performer to gain acting skills).
To become and Intermediate member, probationers will need to have completed three years at the Probation membership level in addition to acquiring 60 days of actual stunt work and 36 specific JSIC-required stunts.
An Intermediate member can apply for Full membership after two years at Intermediate level. They are then able to work as stunt coordinators on film productions. At the top of the profession are stunt directors.
Aspiring stunt performers are required to have specific knowledge, skills and attributes. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Health and Safety legislation
- Risk assessment and accidental/incident reporting procedures
- Strong interpersonal skills – in particular, the ability to follow instructions
- Research and planning skills ( to research and plan stunts)
- Quick response skills
- Organisational, e.g. record keeping skills (documentation is a huge part of the job)
All stunt performers are required to maintain their relevant qualifications throughout their career.
The ’lowdown’ about stunt work
- Working in stunts is more demanding than you may have imagined. The training is also very expensive, and many trainee stunt performers have to hold down a second job to keep them afloat financially.
- You should also expect to find yourself in extremely uncomfortable environments, and for many stunts, pain is part of the job description. You will, of course, be given all manner of safety equipment such as fireproof suits and crash mats. There are also several ‘tricks of the trade’ that are employed to mimic reality.
- Stunt performers have to be prepared to work not just irregular hours, but also long hours depending on the needs of the production.
The upside to working in stunts
- If you love physical fitness, you’ll love working in stunts. Stunt work will ensure you are at peak physical fitness, and you’ll be trained to an astonishingly high level in many physical disciplines.
- Stunt work can be very well paid – some stunt performers earn up to £100,000 per year. However, it is worth remembering that stunt performers are self-employed, so they are paid for each job.
- There is no ‘typical day’. Variety is the spice of stunt life, and most stunt performers would do it for free if they could afford to do so.
If, after reading this article, you’re still interested in stunt work; and if the thought of meeting your nemesis with each new adventure doesn’t put you off, stunt work is probably for you. A good starting point is to visit the Joint Industry Grading Scheme website. Good luck!