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Becoming a professional stunt double is not an easy task, and there is no clear-cut path to success. However, there are steps you can take to increase your odds of landing stunt work and beginning a career. These include developing special skills, like stage combat or stunt driving, and forming relationships with established industry professionals.
Develop Mad Skills
The first step towards a career as a stunt double is to develop the skills to do the job. While most of the work in film and television is based in Hollywood, there are no comprehensive stunt training programs in the Los Angeles area. This means that aspiring stunt professionals need to piece together their own education in the field. Stunt man Robert Chapin recommends covering the basics with classes in stage combat, gymnastics and martial arts.
Specialize or Broaden Your Skills
According to Hollywood stuntman Greg Tracy, beginner stunt doubles should focus their training on one area of expertise. However, Chapin recommends training in as many areas as possible because you never know which skill will land you the job. Whether you specialize or generalize, the list of potential skills to develop is long. Stunt work may involve high falls, horse tricks, stunt driving, fire burns and all forms of martial arts, weaponry and hand-to-hand combat.
Land the Job
According to Tracy, stunt work in Hollywood is family business. Many working stuntmen and women have parents and even grandparents who worked in the industry. Because the profession is so insular, networking is essential to breaking in. Performing as an extra, or background actor, is often the best way to get on a film set and make the necessary contacts that will lead to stunt work. To get started as an extra, submit a photograph and resume to Central Casting, or another agency that specializes in background actors.
Join the Union
Stunt performers are members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union. To join the union, you must find a producer willing to offer you a union job. When seeing work as an extra, make sure to list your special skills on your resume as it could lead to performing stunts as a background actor. This would put you in touch with the onset stunt coordinator who could be in a position to get you your first union job somewhere down the line. Three full days of working as a background actor will also qualify you for entry into the union.
Tina Richey Swanson earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications and began her career as an advertising copywriter. She has worked as a journalist, screenwriter and public relations writer. Her current writing focuses on careers, education, the entertainment industry and health and wellness topics.