Perhaps one of the things that makes seeing a stunt show so enjoyable is the schadenfreude of seeing stunt performers in flames, falling off of a building into a dumpster filled with trash and saying to yourself, ‘Hey.. that’s not me. My life doesn’t suck as much as I thought it did. I can go back to my sucky job and know that I’m OK because at least I’m not being consumed in fire.’
Yet for others, seeing the exact same thing will think, ‘What am I doing in Medical School? THIS is what I should be doing with my life!’
From whatever angle you look at this melange of hand-to-hand combat, gun violence, impossible things you can do with motorized vehicles, and human carcass flambé, there is no denying that the audiences love it. With an audience size of more than 1600 seats, the Global Village stunt show is filled to capacity for three shows on weekdays and four shows on weekends. And that doesn’t even count the thousands of people that stand outside the stunt arena to catch a glimpse of the show from the side.
Stunting has been an occupation for over 1000 years. Think of the dangerous games that were performed for public entertainment at medieval festivals.
Today, stunts have evolved into a sophisticated performing art, where the performers are playing characters faced with serious danger. Stuntmen must be solid actors in addition to being world class athletes. They must take on the character, tell the story and keep everyone safe. The fact of the matter is stunts are not what people think they are. So why are so many people misinformed about stunt performers and what will it take to get action movie fans caught up with the times?
The job of being a stuntman is physically and mentally demanding. The performer must roll with the punches (sometimes literally) as they risk life and limb to tell the story and come out alive and intact. While a simple stunt like a person tripping and falling may look simple, it can be more dangerous than jumping off a 100′ building if the people setting up and performing the stunt are not qualified. That “simple” foot fall could injure not just the performer, but the other actors in the scene, the camera guy or anyone on the crew if done incorrectly.
Stuntmen are a type of professional athlete. The stunt coordinator is like their ‘team coach’. Some stunt coordinators bring back the same stunt team film after film.
To stay a valuable member of a stunt team, each performer is responsible for maintaining their own skills and physique. Stunt performers must maintain their physical form by working out, eating right and a fair amount of mental recharge time. It is important for stunt performers to take the necessary time to rest and heal from physical wear and tear, injury and exhaustion. Stunt people are responsible for more than their own safety, so showing up to set in an unfit condition creates a potential for harming others.
Stunt performers must be versatile and good at taking direction. Within a single project stunt performers may need to fill multiple roles. They need to be able to listen to the wants and needs of the director and stunt coordinator. Stunt doubles need to study how their actors move when playing the part and they need to be able to mimic the characters idiosyncrasies and movement. The more versatile a stuntman becomes the more work there is for him/her.
Stuntmen are also not immune to the egocentric pressures of Hollywood. If you are a stunt performer the first thing that matters in getting a job is your look. When a stunt coordinator has a job to fill, he only considers performers that look right for the part. He will then compare the skills of each performer that looks right, and pick his favorite for the part. Stunt doubles like stuntman are extremely concerned with the way they look. Working stunt performers constantly maintain the right look as a constant factor in the level of their success.
Like many other professional athletes, Stunt Performers have a narrow age window for their career. If they have not already started Stunt Coordinating by age 45, they may see their careers already winding down. Many stuntmen attempt to migrate to the stunt coordinator role as their careers progress, however Stunt Coordinating is even more competitive than performing and there are fewer jobs. Other stunt performers will work as much as they can as long as they can, and when its time,, they will buy a home far away from Los Angeles and retire.
Regardless, for the select few in the world of entertainment that have found a home in the community stunt performers, you can not help but feel joy for them. They have found and achieved their calling, and they get to spend their days with like-minded, and slightly insane people that quickly become their stunt family.
A special THANK YOU to Global Village and my very good friends on the Global Village stunt show team for putting up with me as I made this film.
Thanks again to Global Village Dubai