When Should You Schedule Your Action / Stunts To Be Shot?
Want to incorporate action sequences in your project? If you are new to filming action choreography and stunts you want to pay close attention to this post.
Many filmmakers new to shooting action think that it’s a relatively simple task. “Hey just hire a stunt coordinator and then you’ll be fine”. This advice is PARTIALLY correct. You definitely want to have an experienced stunt coordinator on the project, and set, whenever you’re including action in your movie. Yet how do you schedule shooting the action to get the best results?
Believe it or not many filmmakers new to shooting action, do not schedule enough time to shoot action properly. Some think that they can easily schedule to get it done within a few short hours towards the end of an already tight shoot day.
WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! Why invest all of that money, time and resources and not be able to get the action and stunts that you want in your project?
Here’s a personal story to further illumine this point. We were providing Professional Stunt Coordination and Special Effects services for a production. We were providing actor training, falls training and tactical firearms training. We brought all of the gear, designed the choreography and everything. So far so good.
Just one problem, the director scheduled to shoot the action sequence after lunch! They figured since it was just 1 action scene consisting of a shoot out scene that it should be simple and quick to shoot. Despite what we advised them. Well we did manage to get the shoot done (while it may have been his 1st time shooting action it wasn’t our 1st time working with a director who had never shot action before) yet the director was somewhat stressed when he finally began to shoot the scene and realized this truth – shooting action sequences ALWAYS take longer than you estimate!
* Especially when you are using actors and not professional stunt performers. For this article, we’ll cover situations where you are using actors and not trained stunt professionals. Though the advice still generally applies even when using professional stunt performers.
Why? Think about it. Actors are NOT trained or experienced stunt performers. So when you task them with performing something as simple as delivering dialogue, performing an act out and finally a basic Pratt fall or something, they get overwhelmed. You’re taking them out of their wheelhouse. They are used to standing still and delivering lines. Not hitting marks on the ground, dropping props and weapons, reacting to squibs, collapsing to the ground and landing on stunt mats.
When we work with actors, we train them to do all of these things along with their dialogue so that they get trained EXACTLY how they’ll be performing on camera. This takes time. And even with all of that preparation, they still need rehearsal for camera so the director, other actors, camera, sound and everyone else know what they are doing and how to coordinate their actions accordingly. THIS TAKES TIME!
There’s no way around it. YOU CAN’T RUSH IT OR PEOPLE MAY GET HURT. Since you are using actors, they will get nervous, make mistakes, feel self-conscious, get the timing wrong, etc.. PLUS you want to get a lot of coverage of the action. This is adding tremendous production value after all. You don’t realize it until you start shooting it. You’ll notice new camera angles, unique moments and more that would be perfect for your project. The last thing you want to have happen is to have a hard out and to run out of time getting your coverage.
And DON’T try rushing the stunt coordinator if s/he is telling you that it can’t go any faster. This can result in injured parties, you getting sued and your production getting shutting down! So it’s best to plan accordingly.
So when should you schedule your action and stunts to be shot? The answer: ASK THE STUNT COORDINATOR!
They will tell you what’s involved, timetables, hazards, solutions, advice for the DP, the best camera angles to leverage to get the look and feel that you want and more. Then you’ll know exactly how to plan accordingly.
Some directors have asked if they only have a short action scene that doesn’t take multiple days, then what should they do? The answer, as a rule, is to set the whole day to shoot your action.
Or if it’s determined by you AND the stunt coordinator that the action can be shot in less than a day, start the day out by shooting the action. Don’t put it off for later (i.e. after lunch). It’s easier to get dialogue scenes later that day or on pickup days than to get your stunt action sequences on additional pickup days.
Like to know more? Contact us today, we enjoy answering questions!
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