Stunt Performer

The most dangerous job you can have on any film production is doing stunts. A stunt is any physical activity that might injure the actor, whether or not the actor performs it. There are many different types of stunts requiring different types of skills and training. All of them require that the stunt performer be in good, if not great, physical condition. All stunt people must be members of the Screen Actors Guild.

Generally, a film uses a different stunt performer for each kind of stunt. Some of the stunts you'll find on an average action-adventure film include:

Aerial acrobatics Fights High falls Precision driving Vehicle crashes

Of these stunts, the ones that require the most training and skill are the ones involving vehicles. In any of the others, you're dealing with a choreographed event and just the stunt performers, which isn't to say these are not dangerous—they are. Do not jump off your roof in an attempt to train for a career in stunts. Everyone you see performing a stunt in front of the camera has had years of training, and the entire event has been worked out with maximum safety in mind. The thing that makes vehicle crashes, and especially precision driving, particularly dangerous is that the driver is dealing with a machine that, if things go horribly wrong, may not react the way it's supposed to.

Because of this, Georgia Durante won't let any of her drivers out without coming to her private monthly safety classes. Georgia is a stunt driver with, and owner/teacher/choreographer of, Performance Two, one of Hollywood's top-three precision driving teams. For her and her team, safety is the most important thing about driving.

Precision driving, as you may guess, is involved in any car or motorcycle chases you see on screen. Weaving in and out of traffic, power skids, bootlegger reverses, ramp jumps—that's all precision stuff. But so is all the driving you see on television car commercials, such as the ones where there is a line of twelve or fifteen cars, and they're all within two inches of each other's bumpers. "You've got to train your mind to think of the driver in front of you and the driver behind you," Georgia says. "And get rid of any ego you may have. Ego gets in the way of driving."

Don't expect to come out to Los Angeles and join a driving team right away. Precision driving is probably the toughest part of the industry to break into. Even if you're the best driver in the world, you're still going to work hard for five or more years before you can start making a living at it. All directors want to work with drivers they trust, and that doesn't come easily. In fact, if you're never driven professionally before, Georgia insists you get some training before coming out and trying to make it a career.

Before training, you should ask yourself it it's something you really want to do. Georgia says she can tell right away if someone has what it takes to be a driver. The first thing you need is a good feel for the car, and you'll know if you have it. The second thing you need is respect for the car. You also need to have confidence in yourself. If you're over- or underconfident, you could get yourself or someone else seriously hurt or killed. If you have what it takes, take classes. There are several tracks throughout the country that offer high-performance driving instruction, the best being Bob Bondurant's schools in Arizona. Once you've graduated from a school, find someone in the profession to take you under a wing, teach you, help you.

Once you do get onto a team, however, the places you can go are limitless. You can stick with commercial precision driving or move up to film and television, doing high-visibility stunts like ramp jumps. Georgia (who has been doing this for more than twelve years) and her team can design a jump anywhere, using their own ramp or one built on location, and land a car within six inches of where they said they would. That is definitely precise.

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