What Does a Stunt Coordinator Do?
Guest blog post by Maja Aro | Sea To Sky Stunts
Source: Royalty-free stock vector ID: 1421148581, Shutterstock
We have all heard about the high profile stunt-related accidents that have occurred recently (Joi Harris on Deadpool 2, John Bernecker on The Walking Dead) but what about the more common and often overlooked incidences? What about all the close calls? And most importantly, how do we reduce the potential of these accidents happening again?
As a stunt performer, I have personally witnessed and have been involved in a number of on-set accidents. Until recently, it has been our industry culture to just “tough it out” and many of the details are often “swept under the rug”.
The long-term effects of this methodology have left a number of ex-stunt performers with chronic injuries, long-term cognitive dysfunction and in financial hardship with insufficient support as the causes of the injuries were not documented thoroughly.
As a Stunt Coordinator, I have worked to change this culture by increasing transparency in the planning process and making it a priority to share information between departments and amongst my peers.
A written Safe-Work Plan and Risk Assessment (contact Sea To Sky Stunts to request these documents) help make this process open and collaborative. Incidences and close calls are documented, and corrective actions are implemented to prevent similar incidences from occurring in the future.
By their very nature, of course, stunt sequences have elevated risks.
The question is, how should production properly engage in elevated risk activities?
The simple answer: you hire a qualified Stunt Coordinator who is experienced and well versed in the relevant region’s safe-work protocol and occupational health and safety regulations.
This person will provide a clear written work plan that is easily understood by all departments, outlining cast involvement, level of risk and the equipment and procedures involved in executing the sequence safely.
Important Stunt Safety Risk Tolerance Guidelines:
Acceptable Risk Level re: Stunts
Minor lacerations, sprains and other non-long term injuries to a stunt performer fall within the Acceptable risk level when planning a stunt, e.g., minor lacerations of non-vital epidermis to a stunt performer when going through a tempered glass window is an acceptable risk.
Acceptable risk tolerance for cast should never exceed minor athletic injuries (minor bruising, minor abrasions, minor sprains, etc.)
Acceptable risk tolerance for stunt performers should never exceed moderate athletic injuries (moderate bruising, superficial lacerations, 2nd degree burns, non-long-term tendon and bone damage, etc.)
Unacceptable Risk Level re: Stunts
A stunt performer getting large, deep, permanently damaging lacerations or a laceration to a vital sensory organ or any organ is an Unacceptable risk. Other Examples:
- Severe or cumulative concussions
- Long-term or debilitating bone, ligament or tendon damage
Common Stunt Safety Questions & Answers:
How do I find a qualified Stunt Coordinator for my project?
A Stunt Coordinator should have a provincially recognized:
- supervisor safety certificate
- fall protection certificate
- occupational first aid certificate
These certificates ensure that the Stunt Coordinator has the tools necessary to determine a safe workflow that complies with insurance and liability requirements for their specific region.
Coordinators should also be familiar with the provincial (and/or state) occupational health and safety regulations.
What are some of the questions production should ask when planning a stunt?
- Has the Stunt Coordinator completed a Safe Work Plan and Risk Assessment? (contact Sea To Sky Stunts to request these documents)
- Who is involved in the stunt? What is the necessity of cast participation?
- Will the stunt require rehearsals? Early access to a location?
- What level of First Aid or Emergency Service will be required?
- What other departments need to be involved in safely planning the stunt?
What are the best practices by which a Stunt Coordinator should be governed?
Most importantly: All performers have the right to say “No” to unsafe work.
It is the Stunt Coordinator’s responsibility to:
- create an environment where open dialogue can occur (concerns and problems can be resolved without fear of retaliation, bullying or belittlement)
- ensure that adequate rehearsals and planning occur prior to filming on set
- ensure that performer credentials are vetted (applicable licences, certifications and accolades)
- ensure that no agenda takes priority over a performer’s health and safety (artistic decisions by creatives, ethnic sensitivities, etc.)
- present solutions that are within the acceptable risk tolerance of production
All stunt sequences are unique and present their own individual set of risks and challenges. Again, a qualified Stunt Coordinator will help guide production to produce exciting action sequences while intelligently managing their exposure.
Daily Safety Sign-in Sheet – FREE Download
You may download a copy of Sea To Sky’s Daily Safety Sign-in Sheet. [PDF]
This sheet can be used to keep track of any hazards, the safety precautions being taken to address them, and personnel on set. Ideally, the sheet would be completed in conjunction with a qualified Stunt Coordinator giving a safety orientation of the location at the start of the day.
The goal is to orient new workers, as well as make all workers aware of the workplace hazards on new locations, and clearly explain to all performers what the plan is for the stunts to be performed that day.
Maja Aro is a stunt coordinator, stunt performer and filmmaker from Vancouver, BC. Maja’s decade and a half long career has taken her around the world working on well-known Hollywood blockbusters (Good Boys, Twilight Saga, The Cabin In The Woods, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) and hit TV shows (Once Upon A Time, The Man In The High Castle, Supernatural, Smallville, Lost In Space) alike.
Maja has been nominated for three Leo Awards for “Best Stunt Coordination”, three UBCP awards for “Best Stunt”, and a Taurus World Stunt Award for “Best stunt by a stuntwoman”. In 2015 Maja was honored with the Stunt Warrior Award from the Artemis film festival celebrating her work as a stuntwoman. Maja was awarded the Artistic Innovation Spotlight award from WIFTV for designing, testing and using a stunt bra harness on Once Upon A Time.
Sea To Sky Stunts is a Vancouver based stunt company, operating since 2013. The three owners (Jeff Aro, Scott Nicholson and Maja Aro) have over 60 years of combined experience, multiple awards and nominations, and hundreds of film, TV and commercial credits. They are a trusted service provider for studios such as Netflix, Amazon, ABC, A&E, and NBC/Universal to name a few.
They specialize in providing stunt related services and consultation, stunt equipment rentals and pride themselves on being on the forefront of safety.
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