A stuntman or stuntwoman performs stunts such as driving at high speeds or falling off a building for a movie or television show. While becoming a stuntman does not require being an adrenalin-loving wild person, it does require multiple specialised skills that can be tough to master. The career can occasionally lead to injuries, but it is an exciting path for those interested in the entertainment industry.
A stuntman is a professional who is called into movies and television productions to perform a particular stunt like being set on fire or participating in a martial arts fight. Stuntmen are sometimes used as body doubles for actors and actresses who are not trained in these aspects of filmmaking. Some stuntmen are simply actors who are trained in fighting and may take the role of a thug or innocent bystander with a line or two. Most stuntmen tend to specialise in one particular skill. For example, experts in racing cars might be called in for a movie about NASCAR, while martial arts experts might be called in to a movie about rival karate gangs.
Some stuntmen are fortunate to have been born into an acting or stunt-performing family and are able to use their names to get a foot in the door. For those who do not have an immediate connection, the site Campus Men suggests that younger stuntmen who look between the ages of 18 to 24 concentrate on learning stage fighting. This can be accomplished in schools like the Los Angeles Fighting Academy. Some stuntmen learn their trade in live action shows like Universal Studios or Medieval Times Dinner Theatre. Once a stuntman has picked up certain skills, he may try to qualify for the Screen Actors Guild, which will allow him to get higher-paying roles. Acting in the background of at least three professional productions will qualify an actor or stuntman for membership.
One of the highest-paying cities in the United States for a stuntman is Los Angeles, California, according to Salary Expert, at £74,030 per year as of January 2011. This six-figure salary is earned by stuntmen who work frequently on high-budget productions. On the other side of the coin, many stuntmen in training or who are unemployed are not making anywhere near six figures. Other major cities featuring stuntman careers tend to be lower-paying such as New York at £36,589 per year, Chicago at £29,176 and Atlanta at £24,867.
Benefits and Drawbacks
According to professional stuntman Greg Tracy, a stunt-based career has multiple benefits and drawbacks. One benefit is that successful stuntmen get to do different things every day and are involved in exciting events throughout their job. They may also have the opportunity to travel throughout the world. A drawback is that due to the frequent travel of the job, it may be difficult to keep up with family and friends.