Anyone enthralled by an intense action sequence and awestruck by the characters’ death-defying stunts on television must offer gratitude to Stunt Doubles, the unsung heroes who execute risky and exhilarating moments in films and TV shows while keeping the actors safe.
Similar Job Titles
- Stunt Person
- Stunt Performer
Typical Job Responsibilities
What do Stunt Doubles do?
A Stunt Double would typically need to:
- Perform high-risk stunts on actors’ behalf to help create realistic situations in films and television shows.
- Carry out numerous physical activities in time with the scene and in strict accordance with safety requirements.
- Deliver punches in a fight, drive chase automobiles, take falls, jump over obstacles, participate in staged accidents, and hang from structures
- Pay close attention to and carefully follow the director’s, stunt coordinator’s, and other members of the production team’s directions.
- Participate in conversations and make suggestions on other approaches to accomplish a safe and realistic stunt.
- Plan the stunt’s progression; ensure the availability of necessary equipment; and ensure the effective implementation of a risk assessment signed by the stunt coordinator.
- Memorise and practise fight sequences; perform the stunt in front of the cameras at least once under the guidance of a skilled stunt coordinator.
- Be prepared to execute retakes while adhering to rigorous choreography until the shot is approved.
- Study and imitate the mannerisms of the actor one is doubling for; adjust motions and posture to match the actor’s age, fitness, and demeanour.
- Maintain their physical fitness, abilities, and agility through frequent exercise, practice, and a nutritious diet.
Standard Work Environment
Stunt Doubles, like everyone else in the entertainment industry, spend the majority of their time on set, whether in interior studios or outdoor locales. The workplace is often noisy and stressful.
Some stunts may necessitate your presence in unpleasant and perhaps hazardous situations and terrains. Travel is common and may be domestic or worldwide in nature, depending on the nature of the project.
Depending on the filming schedule, a Stunt Double generally works long and irregular hours, including late nights and early mornings. Days on set can last up to 20 hours, with much of that time spent on hair, makeup, wardrobe, warming up, waiting around, rehearsals, and discussing the stunt with fellow stunt performers, the stunt coordinator, and the director.
According to research, the younger generation values flexible hours and favourable telework regulations more than money. Employers are more prepared to give talented employees the opportunity to adapt their schedules to meet employment needs.
Finding a new job might be difficult. Stunt Doubles can improve their job hunt by asking for referrals from their network, contacting firms directly, using job search portals, attending job fairs, leveraging social media, inquiring at staffing agencies, and checking in with their union. Most freelance and work on a contract basis on productions.
Stunt Doubles are generally employed by:
- Stunt Coordinators
- Film Producers
- Television Producers
- Casting Studios
- Amusement & Theme Parks
Unions / Professional Organizations
Professional groups and associations, such as The International Stunt Association (ISA), are essential for Stunt Doubles who want to further their professional growth or network with other professionals in their business or career.
Professional associations offer members chances for ongoing education, networking, and mentorship. Membership in one or more of these organisations adds value to your CV while strengthening your credentials and qualifications.
Furthermore, Stunt Doubles with significant experience find it worthwhile to join a certified union that will look after their professional and personal interests.
- High occupational risk of painful bruises, broken bones, critical injuries, or even death
- Lack of a tried-n-tested system of checks and balances to ensure maximum safety on set
- The need to take personal responsibility for one’s safety and those of others
- Failure to speak up and notify the stunt coordinator, director, or relevant professional association when something does not seem right
- Gruelling work schedules that may play havoc with one’s life-work balance and well-being
- Frustration and stress due to long wait times on set
- Regular travel translates into frequently long times away from home
- Relatively lower remuneration, if not part of a union
- Adverse weather conditions make outdoor shooting a hardship; indoor sets are rendered uncomfortable by bright lights and huge crowds
- Difficulty in recovering from the big hits as one age and a high probability of change in the type of job offers
Suggested Work Experience
Specialised training and experience are key to earning the necessary abilities and knowledge to enter into the mainstream stunt profession.
Sports, gymnastics, dancing, and martial arts all promote the necessary athletic prowess and physical stamina. Enrollment in a specialised training school that teaches high falls fight choreography, and wire work could be the next step.
Stunt schools and workshops can also help you acquire and practise important skills like using wire rigs, falling to the ground, completing fight scenes and understanding how a movie set works. However, aspiring Stunt Doubles should keep in mind that this type of study is costly and does not guarantee a successful profession after graduation.
It is better to start constructing a thorough resume and a strong demo reel as soon as possible to act as a well-designed calling card for their skills, abilities, and expertise.
Create possible job opportunities if none exist. Try making short videos with action sequences and incorporating thrilling work footage into your reel. You can even create your own fight sequences and stunts for the occasion.
Meeting experienced Stunt Doubles by chance or on purpose at a training programme or gym may allow you to seek expert advice on diet, workout regimes, and speciality selection. Building on these relationships may lead to a coveted mentorship, apprenticeship, or job suggestion for a future project.
Most Stunt Doubles began their careers as background performers or extras in films and television shows. They may grab the attention of stunt coordinators looking for new talent in addition to getting vital experience on-site.
Although nonunion jobs have less popular projects and pay less, they might help you add important experience to your portfolio and demo reel.
The experience also allows for networking with directors and producers. Bring a headshot, CV, and demo reel with you. Introduce yourself to professionals through a connection or mentor.
Most universities do not offer stunt double majors. A well-planned post-secondary education in an entertainment-related discipline, such as theatrical arts, communication and rhetoric, dance, and film studies, might, on the other hand, assist aspiring Stunt Doubles in understanding scripts, technical jargon, and directing directions. Furthermore, experience with acting will teach you how to convincingly copy the mannerisms of others.
Freelancing professionals will benefit from business degree courses that teach them budgeting, negotiation, and marketing abilities.
Physics and biology are recommended high school courses to perform stunts safely and without risk of damage, psychology to represent characters accurately, physical education, dance, theatre, maths and business studies. English and speech lessons will assist you in improving your research, writing, and oral communication abilities.
It is important to remember that completion of a certain academic programme does not ensure admittance into the profession. Professional certifications and transferrable talents may allow you to walk through more than one door.
Before enrolling in a specific programme, do your homework and investigate all available possibilities for education and career. Associations and employers in your field are reliable sources that can help you make an informed selection.
Certifications, Licenses and Registration
Certification verifies a Stunt Double’s proficiency in a skill set, often by job experience, training, and passing an examination. By including a Code of Ethics, successful certification programmes defend the public welfare.
Although certification in gymnastics, martial arts, acting, or filmmaking from an objective and reputable organisation is not required, it can help you stand out in a competitive employment market and allow you to become an independent consultant.
Permits or licences may be required for stunt doubles to do specific stunts or work in specific locations. A pyrotechnic or weapons permit may be required for a stunt involving explosives or firearms.
Registration with a renowned professional association devoted to the growth and promotion of stunt performers in your area is frequently required in order to obtain lucrative job prospects.
Some professional organisations may provide a grading system with escalating levels of experience. Members can begin with probationary status and advance to full membership after working for at least three years under the supervision of a full member.
A person’s work history, schooling, credit history, motor vehicle records (MVRs), criminal record, medical history, use of social media, and drug screening may also be required for stunt doubles.
Projected Career Map
The constant physical demands tend to wear out a Stunt Double’s body and force them to “age out” of the profession. You can continue performing appropriate antics far into your middle and early senior years if you play your cards well.
Select acting abilities can help you land a speaking role or become an actor that executes their own stunts. Stellar performances can assist experienced Stunt Doubles advance their profession, transferring to acting, and graduating to performance-based rules in films, TV programmes, and theatres.
Assume you want to concentrate solely on stunts. In such a scenario, you can specialise in martial arts, boxing, fencing, trampolining, gymnastics, swimming, high diving, horseback riding, and stunt driving.
You can even obtain extra qualifications to advance to the position of Senior Stunt Performer, then Key Stunt Performer, and finally Stunt Coordinator.
Producing, stunt directing, rigging, acting as a consultant, and creating your own training school for the future generation of Stunt Doubles are all opportunities.
A growing number of millennials are opting to job hop and build a scattershot resume that demonstrates ambition, enthusiasm, and a willingness to master a wide range of skills in order to expedite their career progress and personal development.
Studies show that job hopping, which was formerly considered a “flaky” activity, might lead to increased work satisfaction. Employees looking for a healthy culture and exciting work are eager to try out different roles and settings while learning vital, transferrable skills.
Stunt Doubles who are physically fit and athletic and who demonstrate the necessary dedication, hard effort, and willingness to take calculated risks have the best job possibilities.
Beneficial Professional Development
Continuing professional development (CPD) will assist an active Stunt Double in developing personal skills and proficiency through work-based learning, professional activity, and formal education.
Whether traditional schooling or self-directed learning is used. CPD also allows for the ongoing renewal of desirable certifications.
Stunt Doubles with sufficient expertise should consider joining a reputable trade union to take advantage of improved career prospects and more severe safety standards.
Where possible, progress through the progressively challenging grades of a professional stunt registration until you get full accreditation. Completing a supervisory-level health and safety course will give you an edge when applying for dangerous stunt employment.
Stunt Doubles might earn exclusive projects by specialising in specific skills. They may be able to fill in for an actor in a wilderness film if they are skilled in rock climbing and swimming.
Boxing, martial arts, stunt driving, horseback riding, abseiling, high falls, parkour, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, burns and pyrotechnics, acrobatics, and gymnastics expertise will be useful in an industry where it is expected of most film and TV actors. Snorkelling and scuba diving are two more abilities that can be used in underwater stunts.
Keep up to date on industry developments and safety regulations to guarantee that you continue to contribute your best work in a safe and efficient manner.
Stunt Doubles are adrenaline-fueled daredevils who go where film actors fear to tread in order to create thrilling action sequences that leave big and small-screen viewers awestruck and wanting more.
Advice from the Wise
“Stunts, showbiz—you’re going to take a beating.” Can you rise up and take another hit, then another, then another? You’ll be successful if it doesn’t entirely knock you out. Return to your heart. You’ll be successful.”