Editorial: Stunt School--How To Be An Action Hero - Publication: Esquire UK - Date: July 2010

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Stunt School--How To Be An Action Hero

Always wanted to enact your action hero fantasies?  You too can emulate their untamed bravado (or at least that of their stunt doubles) by attending Los Angeles’ elitist United Stuntmen’s Association stunt school.

For about 3000K, you can learn how to get a classic Mustang airborne, just like Steve McQueen did in the epic Bullet, master the pugilistic prowess of Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper or even the height defying athleticism of Daniel Craig in  Quantum Of Solace

Owner/ Director of the United Stuntmen’s Association, and a former Hollywood stuntman Ian Bouschey offered a few pointers. In the business for over thirty years, he worked on the likes of Drug Store Cowboy, Blue Velvet, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and TV shows Twin Peaks and Northern Exposure. 

Asked what makes a stunt man, Ian confides, “It’s all about playing to the camera. Stunt people must have discipline, and natural physical ability, they must have a real awareness of their body and physicality. The best stunt people are former gymnasts.”

How To Jump Off A Building

When it comes to hurling yourself off a towering object, “Its all about gradually working up to greater heights,” Bouschey says. “You start low, at about ten feet and work your way up, you just do it over and over until you master it.”

“Learning how to fall on inflatable safety bags is the most important part, “ he adds. “The basic premise is to learn how to fall flat on your back or on your stomach, not head or feet first. We teach four basic jumps, head over, feet over, straight on back then landing straight face down.”

Ok if you suffer vertigo or simply an aversion to heights? Ian says you shouldn’t be doing jump work anyway- try cars

Four Steps To Jumping Off A Building

  1. Position yourself above your point of contact with the air bag. Focus on the center of the bag,
  2. Focusing on the bag, breath deeply to ensure you are relaxed. Check there is no excessive  wind to blow you off target
  3. Before launching from your building – go over your contact with the air bag in your head ie stomach landing, back landing etc
  4. Launch from building – keep arms extended, legs close together – maintain relaxed composure as hit bag, do not clinch.

How To Crash A Car

Yes, you can always  down 14 pints, borrow your brother in law’s 93 escort and go for it, but the smart move is engage on the tutoring of a stunt driving expert.

Bouschey reveals , “Its all about precision driving, not hitting and jumping stuff at first. Precision driving is 85 per cent of stunt work . We start with various maneuvers and then  get more difficult, with about 25 hours devoted to precision driving before anything else.”
If that’s sounds a lengthy process, take comfort in the fact stunt driving promises a lengthy career. (If you don’t crash) “The good thing about driving is that stunt people can keep doing it till later in life. There are many in their 50s and 60s still doing it as it’s not as athletic as other forms of stunt work,” Bouschey says. 

Four Steps to Rolling A Car

  1. Accelerate to nominated speed ( this varies pending the number of times you wish to toll – usually 30-50 mph)
  2. After reaching pre determined speed on straight stretch, break slightly as you turn wheel to the extreme left ( or right for right hand drive cars). The passenger side should be the first to hit the ground
  3. Maintain arms and legs within roll cage, keep hands on steering wheel
  4. maintain composure till car comes to a standstill , keep neck, back, legs and arms  taught while in seat harness

How To Brawl

Far removed from everyday street thuggery, stunt fighting is more comparable to modern dance, says Bouschey “Its more choreography and athleticism, than anything else. Ideally you don’t get hit or do any hitting, you just make it look like that’s happening.”

“It’s about creating an illusion and a theatrical spectacle, physical fitness is the key.” He adds that the average two minute stunt sequence involving a fight in a feature film translates to about four days of shooting.

“It’s very demanding and intense. A director will often shoot a fight sequence in pieces, so it can be a painstaking process.”
Craig Stephens

Four Steps To Stunt Brawling

  1. Read and memorize the script or brief
  2. Clarify and  brainstorm  the sequence  of the brawl you are performing with the other party – most brawls involve swinging fists or kicks,  then grabbing, choking and maybe some "close in" strikes.
  3. As the attacked or attacker you  will break down the  fight into individual sequences or even blows.
  4. Practice and repeat points of contact and falls – this will ensure utmost safety before  commencing your first scene.


Written by Craig Stephens

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