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Stunt Work
| Tuesday, 06.05.2018, 10:00 AM |   (35597 views)

Stunt Work

with Grady Bishop


Discussion of the general hazards of filming around and on water.  Many special effects and stunts discussed in this and the previous chapter are inherently more dangerous on or in water because of

the additional risk of drowning.  However, there are some unique types of water stunts that need separate discussion. 


General Recommendations


1. All personnel (camera crew, actors, etc.) should be informed in advance of the intention to do a water stunt.  This should also be listed on the call sheet.


2. All water stunts should be carried out by experienced stunt performers. If other performers are involved in the scene, they must be trained in the appropriate boat and water safety.


3. For speedboat stunts, or similar stunts involving several boats, see the section on Vehicle Action Sequences.  Many of the recommendations there are also applicable to this type of stunt.  Stunt performers should have experience with the type of boats involved in the stunt.


4. Sea battles and other stunts involving fire and explosion special effects must be coordinated with the special effects coordinator.


5. A qualified sailing master should coordinate sailing activities involving several vessels.  This individual should not participate in the film as a performer.


6. Emergency teams, including certified safety divers should be on hand for all water stunts.


Underwater Activities


All underwater activities should be classified as hazardous stunts. The following recommendations specifically refer to the use of SCUBA equipment using compressed air underwater. Certified Divers are divers holding current and valid certification cards issued by a nationally or internationally recognized certification organization.  SCUBA Instructors are certified annually, carry appropriate insurance, and must maintain continuing education. In addition to the general recommendations above, the following are specific recommendations for underwater activities:


1. Oxygen, and personnel trained in its use, shall be on any set where SCUBA or other underwater activities are planned.


2. Whether scuba divers and equipment are necessary for a particular scene shall be determined by the safety officer in consultation with the stunt coordinator, special effects coordinator or production manager (in case of underwater photography).


3. If SCUBA equipment will be used, a SCUBA diver coordinator shall be named. The SCUBA coordinator should be an instructor or Dive master, and have an endorsement or certificate greater than the diver(s).

4. Any person using SCUBA equipment while filming or being filmed shall be a Certified Diver. A SCUBA instructor can certify performers or camera operators with a few lessons.  For safety reasons, the performer or camera operator shall be under the supervision of a currently Certified SCUBA Instructor, and shall have sufficient instruction and training for the proposed activity.  The appropriate depth for safe filming shall be determined by the Certified Instructor supervising the safety of the performers.  Performers who are not certified divers shall not be required to work in depths greater than 10 feet.


5. The number of certified safety divers required should be based on the following:

* There should never be only one diver. 

* Two divers are required when the diver's duties are similar to those of a lifeguard, e.g. surface work, rescue boat, rescue close to shore.

* Three divers are required for most underwater work or rescue, where underwater usually means below six feet. One diver always remains on the surface as a dive coordinator, and records time-in and time-out of the water.

* Five divers are required for ice dives, larger work projects, or harbor surveys. These divers would be divided into two dive teams and one on-surface coordinator.

* Five or more divers are required for larger work or rescue projects.


6. All safety divers shall be equipped with an "octopus" type spare regulator, and an alternative air source.


7. Any person performing a stunt where he or she could be trapped underwater shall have standby breathing equipment immediately available.


8. For dives below 30 feet, emergency procedures for decompression must be established. Emergency transportation should be arranged in advance, in case of a diving accident. If a diving accident occurs, the Diver Alert Network (DAN) should be contacted to determine the nearest available re compression chamber. This call should not be made in advance because chamber availability is constantly changing. 


DAN's emergency number is (919) 684-8111, and their non-emergency number (919) 684-2948.  


This information shall be added to the call sheet and all involved persons notified. 


9. An emergency recall system shall be available and operational.


10. SCUBA tanks in transport should be properly secured to prevent them from rolling around or endangering the valve.  When not in use, SCUBA tanks are to be stored in the shade.


11. Occupied vehicles being submerged during a stunt must be driven by a certified diver and carry extra breathing apparatus.  In addition, an escape hatch must be built into the vehicle.  Once a vehicle is submerged, the air becomes compressed under water pressure.  The driver must exhale on the way up to avoid lung over expansion.

12. In any stunt where a manned vehicle is jumping more than 10 feet from the shore, a safety pickup boat must be in the water with at least three safety divers.


13. Do not use SCUBA tanks for resuscitation since they do not contain pure oxygen. 




Grady Bishop is a 2nd Unit Director / Stunt Coordinator and member of DGA / SAG / AFTRA / Teamsters 399 Hollywood. He is the President and Owner of Extreme Stunt & Driving Team, Inc.

He can be reached at



Grady Bishop

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