Stunt Artists: Thrill Seekers of the Film World

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Stunt artists and agencies in South Africa offer some of the best services to both international and local productions. Kim Crowie takes a peek at their adrenalin-packed lives.

Imagine the latest Marvel Studios instalment with mediocre action. What if the iconic fight sequences in Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road were just ‘meh’? Where would the blockbusters of the world be without the unsung heroes of danger? Certainly not enjoying anything in 3D or 4D, methinks. Stunt companies in South Africa continue to push boundaries and break their backs – figuratively, of course – in the name incredible of entertainment. Here’s a look at what they do, how they do it, and how well the local industry is faring.

Pyranha 1

Current Trends and Movements

Although stunt companies have reported a very healthy season in terms of the productions they have serviced, some have also raised the issue of insufficient remuneration due to continual budget constraints and the economic climate the country – and the world – is currently in. According to Jenn Robinson, SFX and Stunt Manager at Stunts and Special FX (SAS), a company that’s been operating in the industry for the past 20 years, “Stunts in South Africa remains healthy and the performers remain dedicated. The challenges are always budget related and in trying to give the director what he wants with limited resources.” This, she says, has a knock-on effect on stunt performers in the industry as it can make it very difficult for them to focus on stunts as a standalone career.

Vernon Willemse and Grant Powell of The Stunt Team, a fight choreography and stunt training company established in 2010, agree that although the stunt industry is growing at a rapid rate in season, there are months where it gets quiet. “Sustainability is probably the biggest challenge,” Powell says, “How do we keep the masses employed when there aren’t any big shows running? Training costs money, so as a freelancer, I would say especially if you’re still establishing yourself as a stunt performer, be wise with your money.” He does believe, however, that the industry will become more sustainable and organised in the coming years.

Despite these issues, South African stunt agencies and performers continue to go from strength to strength, with talented stunt crew that can easily match their peers internationally, according to Grant Hulley of Pyranha Stunts. “We have seen an increase in the number of local stunt crew.

For more on local stunts and big-budget productions, read Issue 11:

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