So you’re thinking about how to become a stuntman or stunt woman. That’s a big decision and an even BIGGER commitment. While having a full time or part time career as a stunt performer can certainly be fun and profitable, it is also NOT a cake walk. It requires A LOT OF WORK. So without further ado, let’s delve into what it takes to break into the wonderful world of being a professional stuntman and stunt woman.
The Incentives for Becoming A Stuntman Or Stunt Woman
There are many incentives to going to stuntman school and becoming a stuntman / stuntwoman or a stunt performer (which is the correct industry classification). We’ll start with the most obvious…IT’S FUN!!! There’s no sitting in a boring stuffy office everyday dealing with office politics and a lousy boss; you’re on set and usually surrounded by really cool, positive people who actually enjoy what they do; you suddenly become a rock star to ALL of your friends and family; hands down you become the M.I.P. (Most Interesting Person) in the room at every dinner party; and if you go out on a date, guaranteed your date will think you have a really cool job!
Plus, you get to bring the most thrilling parts of a movie to life. STUNTS!!!! As the stunt man or stunt woman, you’re the one who makes the audience go wide-eyed as you run from an explosion, fight off a bunch of bad guys and gals, stunt fall from a roof top or drive a car off a ramp.
Next, the pay. The pay can for a stuntman / stunt woman varies (in the U.S.) from around $100 per day to $1,500 per day (or more) for usually around a 10 or 12 hour day. Yes, in the film business while every other industry fights for an 8 hour day, the film industry operates on a 10 hour day standard, that can go to 12 hours. The amount of pay is determined by a variety of factors: Union or Non-Union, full day or half day work, type of stunt that you are performing (the more risky stunts usually pay you more), etc..
When you want to become a stuntman or stunt woman, you usually make the most per gig (project) when you are in the union because the union sets minimum pay scales that a production has to pay you. So for a theatrical CBA (collective bargaining agreement), as of this writing you’d be getting $1,083 per day minimum. So if that production needs you for 10 days, you’d get paid $10,830. Again you could get paid more if you’re doing riskier stunts such as high falls, car hits, fire burns, etc..
There are also weekly contract rates as well for when you’re being hired for a week(s) at a time yet you can contact the union (SAG) to find out the specifics as they change almost every year. Another plus of being in the union are residuals. A residual is when you get paid a portion of your paycheck every time the film you were in is shown on TV or cable. It is common to still receive residual paychecks 20 years after you initially did the job!
The RISKs of Becoming A Stuntman Or Stunt Woman
Besides the obvious risks of getting injured or possibly even killed while training at a stuntman school or on set there are other risks as well. Did that frighten you? Well it should, stunt work is very SERIOUS business and not for the faint at heart. Always remember that stunts is a contact sport and like any contact sport (i.e. football, rugby, soccer, etc.) it’s just a matter of time before you get injured.
The other risks include GOING BROKE! Though you can make some nice coin when you get hired, getting hired CONSISTENTLY is not easy. As a matter o fact, the union can give you numbers on how many stuntmen and stunt women actually are able to earn a living doing this. As of 2020, only 2 -3% of union members earned enough money to make a living.
What can you take from this? Well, that you could make it into that 2 -3% OR make sure you have another means of supporting yourself (i.e. self employed, professional driver, real estate agent, job with a flexible schedule, etc.) while growing your stuntman stunt woman career. Some people even come into the stunt performer business, treating it like a great hobby that they get paid to do. This approach works as well. Whatever your reason, just make sure you have realistic goals.
In our next several posts, we’ll cover more of what it takes about how to become a stuntman or stunt woman including – good stuntman schools, training, conditioning, how to get jobs, etc.
Have more questions about how to become a stuntman or stunt woman? Read our next article “Stunt Performer Training | The Skills You Need To Become A Stunt Performer” to learn some of the skills you’ll get at your typical Stuntman School.