Stunt Co-ordinator

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Stunt Co-ordinator


Many Hollywood blockbusters are filled with daredevil and death defying stunts. From people hanging out of helicopters, leaping from tall buildings to being set afire, it is usually stunt doubles that perform these life-risking acts. Stunt co-ordinators rarely perform stunts but instead, arrange and plan stunts in movies or theater productions. Most stunt co-ordinators are former stunt people, who know the job inside out.

A stunt co-ordinator's main concern in any production is safety. Since some of the acts are truly death defying, they must make sure that their stunt persons or sometimes actors are in no overt life-risking danger. Most actors do not perform their own stunts, especially the dangerous ones, because if they get injured, they will not be able to perform in the film or play. The stunt co-ordinator plans out each stunt before the actual scene gets filmed or play gets performed. They often must consult with special effects technicians, make-up artists and props people to make sure that the stunt is performed accurately and consistently.

Stunt co-ordinators and special effects technicians design and co-ordinate special effects such as fires, explosions, and crashes. They often work closely with the special effects technician, especially in the pyrotechnics area. Pyrotechnic work is the most dangerous type of film effect and therefore is closely regulated by the government, requiring licences. A great deal of stunt work (which viewers think is unbelievable) is often filmed in studios and manipulated to look more daring and risky than it is. Even natural landscapes can be reproduced in studios, however audiences can often detect fake sets.

Usually the stunt co-ordinator will practice the stunt ahead of time with the stunt people, unless the scene involves something that crashes or burns. In that case, they often only get one chance to perfect the stunt. Once a car is crashed to bits or a set burned, one cannot bring it back to shape to film a second take.

Stunt co-ordinators must arrange the close-up scene where the actor's face is present and combine that with the stunt double's. For example, in a scene with an actor climbing under a moving truck, we see his or her face for a brief moment and the rest of the shot is of the stunt double, carefully co-ordinated and constructed by the stunt co-ordinator. It is important for stunt co-ordinators to find doubles that look like their acting counterparts. Sometimes, the stunt double will wear a wig or other disguise to help him or her look like the actor they are replacing.
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  Interests and Skills  
Stunt co-ordinators, usually former stunt people are daring and risk-taking by nature. They are troubleshooters and extremely safety conscious. They are creative, yet technical in their designs and co-ordinating plans. They have the ability to pay close attention to fine details and think quickly.

On feature films, they often work with a team of stunt persons and other crew members, they need to be able to bounce ideas off coworkers and formulate a common look. They should be flexible and willing to work extremely long hours. They should also be innovative thinkers and take new approaches to their work.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study the script to determine stunt requirements
  • Design the stunt sequences, so that they are safe and visually effective
  • Examine and advise on the safety aspects of stunts and stunt equipment
  • Work closely with actors and arrange action sequences that reflect their screen character
  • Meet with directors, producers and other film crew members to discuss how stunt sequences will be choreographed
  • Make appropriate adjustments to stunt sequences
  • Stunt co-ordinators work in a variety of sometimes dangerous settings, both on location and in film studios. Therefore, they get to work both indoors and outdoors. As with most film positions, the hours are often long (10- to 14-hour days).

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Stunt co-ordinators are generally employed by television stations, television networks, film production companies, cable companies, theater and dance companies, concert promoters and independent motion picture production and other freelance contracting companies. Some may also teach or coach stunts and other related sports. In motion picture and theater lighting, employment may be seasonal or short-term, and even experienced workers may have periods of unemployment between jobs.
  • Many workers are freelancers, particularly in theater; therefore stunt co-ordinators must be able to handle an inconsistent money flow. The flip side is obtaining more freedom in your work schedule.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Stunt co-ordinators are usually at the top of the stunt field, most being former stunt persons. Therefore, they may move around the technical sides of the film and theater industry or decide to go into directing or producing. Outside the entertainment industries, they can become coaches or personal trainers or give workshops and seminars on performing stunts.

  Educational Paths  
This is no standardized educational requirement for becoming a stunt co-ordinator. Most co-ordinators start their careers as stunt people and then move into the co-ordinating job with experience and age. Many have previous experience or training in sports, martial arts, gymnastics, rock climbing or any other type of extreme sport, such as race car driving, bungee jumping or skydiving.

Stunt co-ordinating is a competitive and tough business to enter, therefore most begin as a special skills extra and safety person. As in most film jobs, learning on the set is the best education one can get. Also, basic knowledge of machines and engineering can also be useful when it comes to designing and co-ordinating stunts.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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