Sooo you’re researching what it takes to be a stunt performer, the training that it entails and all of the skills you need to become a stunt performer. That can only mean one thing…you’ve been bitten! Your curiosity has gotten the better of you and you’re considering your possibilities. That’s a good thing! Being a stunt performer can be fun, exciting, fulfilling and so much more…when you know how.
Whether you are an actor thinking about expanding your skillset to make yourself more marketable to productions, a military veteran considering a career change, or an everyday person wanting to do something fun and different as a career, becoming a stunt performer may be just for you. In our previous post, we covered stuntman and stuntwoman training, some of the risks as well as the rewards. In this post, we’ll cover other cool things and stunt performer training that you need to know to launch and grow your career as a successful stunt performer.
What Does A Stunt Performer Do?
As my stunt coordinator teacher and mentor initially taught me, I will teach you. As stunt performers we do essentially 3 things:
1) Getting hit
2) Flying through the air
3) Falling on the ground
If you’re not comfortable getting hit, flying through the air or falling on the ground, stunt performing is not for you. If you are SERIOUS about how to become a stunt performer then realize that these are the skills you NEED to become a stunt performer! Not clear on what this means? We’ll elaborate.
‘Getting hit’ – This skill can consist of getting hit by a car, bus, crowd or even stunt fighting. Stunt Fighting (or fighting for camera) is the skill we need to use the MOST. Not all of the fights are elaborate. They can range from simple 1 punch knockdowns to detailed large scale battles. Yet getting punched, kicked, stabbed or shot is how we ‘get hit’.
Getting hit by a stunt performer also includes stunt reactions. For the most part, the punches and kicks thrown at stunt performers aren’t real. They usually don’t even make contact. Other times the strikes are landing on protective gear underneath their clothing and sometimes they actually do get hit. Regardless, a professional stunt performer is trained to ‘sell’ or act out the hit.
IMPORTANT! – The stunt performer is the one who makes the lead actor’s punch or kick look powerful (even though it isn’t). This will be a BIG factor in how often you get booked and if the actor’s like working with you.
‘Flying through the air’ – This skill can consist of the stunt performer falling off a building, getting kicked out of a window, sliding down a rope, getting yanked off of their feet by a ratchet or even using a mini-trampoline to simulate an explosion. Flying through the air can also include the use of descenders, hanging from a helicopter or plane, hanging onto the roof of a speeding car or truck, rappelling, cliff diving and more. When you invest in good quality stunt performer training, you’ll learn the tips and tricks on how to do each and every one safely and securely.
As with anything else, the more you practice your stunt performer training, the more comfortable you’ll be with this skill. Bottom line, this is part of the job if you want to know what skills do you need to be a stunt performer.
‘Falling on the ground’ – This can be the ‘ouchy’ part. Lol! Darn near ALL of the aforementioned skills end with you falling on the ground. This is the icing on the cake. In each action sequence, it’s what gives the sequence it’s oomph. A stunt performer gets shot and falls off a table and hits the ground hard. A stunt performer gets kicked off the back of a truck and hits the ground hard. A stunt performer steps on a landmine gets blown up high into the air then hits the ground…hard.
Notice a pattern developing here? If you wanted an idea about what does a stunt performer do, you just got it. To be clear, ‘hitting the ground hard’ means that you APPEAR to hit the ground hard. With proper stunt performer training as well as the strategic use of stunt mats and safety gear, you will usually hit the ground very safely and without injury. This is why if you’re planning to acquire the skills you need to be a stunt performer, realize the ongoing investment in stunt performer training that you’re going to have to make.
ITEMIZED – The Skills You Need To Become A Stunt Performer
So we’ll list the various stunt performer training and skills you should plan to acquire to build a successful career as a stunt performer.
1. Stunt Performer Training School / Workshops – this will serve as THE FOUNDATION of your stunt performer training. They usually teach ALL the basics you need like falls; how to stunt fight; stunt reactions; how to fly through the air, fall and land on the ground; trampoline training; car hits; sword fighting; tactical training for Film & TV, etc..
2. Martial Arts Training (Empty Hand) – This should be a system that does mainly striking. Grappling systems aren’t in demand very much. Styles like C.B.T., American kickboxing, Capoeira, MMA, Savate, Muay Thai, Karate, Wushu, etc. are best.
3. Martial Arts Training (Weapons) – This should be a system that trains you how to use various types of weapons. Different film and TV projects can call for the use of different weapon types (i.e. swords, knives, spears, axes, bow & arrows, etc.). Styles can include C.B.T., African Martial Arts, Native American Martial Arts, Filipino Martial Arts, European Martial Arts, etc.
4. Tactical Firearms Training – A LOT of projects require firearms handling. This includes knowing how to use pistols, revolvers, carbines, rifles, etc.
5. Free running – This will cover a lot of your acrobatic/gymnastic movements. Free running tends to be more applicable to stunt performing than traditional gymnastics.
6. Stunt Driving Training with a car
7. Stunt Driving Training with a motorcycle
8. Gymnastics (or circus training) for a short time to learn key skills
9. Scuba Diving training
10. Horse Back riding
So now you know the answer to your question – what skills do you need to be a stunt performer. While the above recommendations will cover most of what you’ll need in your career, there are hundreds of additional things you can do to develop your career also. Always remember, the more tools you have in your ‘stunt performer’s toolbox,’ the better.