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Stunt Work
| Monday, 07.09.2018, 10:00 AM |   (48397 views)

Stunt Work

with Grady Bishop



As mentioned previously, motorcycle scenes provide even more of a risk due to the lack of protection on motorcycles.  Even simple motorcycle scenes can be dangerous, as shown by the accident which resulted in the death of Dar Robinson in 1986 - a simple ride past the cameras in which his motorcycle went out of control.


In addition to the general precautions above, the following are specific recommendations for motorcycle stunts.


1. The motorcycle operator should have a current, valid motorcycle operator's license, and have experience with the type of terrain and driving conditions involved. If unusual conditions are involved, then experienced stunt performers should be used.


2. Only essential personnel should be on the set. 


3. Protective clothing and equipment such as crash helmets, gloves and surgical collars should be mandatory, except when the scene requires Close ups. In that case protective clothing should be worn under the costume.


4. Motorcycles, ramps and other equipment should be examined by the stunt coordinator before use.


5. All picture motorcycles shall be equipped with a grounded, cut-off switch (dead man switch). When a stunt is to be performed, this switch shall be attached to the handlebars in such a manner that the engine shuts off when the rider separates from the motorcycle.


7. Picture motorcycles are not to be used for transportation. Only designated operators and riders shall be permitted to operate or ride the motorcycle.




Precautions for fire and explosions were discussed in detail in the previous chapter in the sections on Pyrotechnics and Fire. In this section, I will discuss personal risk to the stunt performers involved and the combination of several types of stunts.


1. As discussed previously, all personnel (camera crew, actors, etc.) should be informed in advance of the intention to use fire and explosion stunts.  There should be a discussion of the type of fire or explosion
effect, the hazards and precautions being taken, a dry run-through with all personnel, including emergency escape routes. 


The intention to use these effects should also be listed on the call sheet. 


2. The special effects coordinator and stunt coordinator should be consulted on all aspects of necessary fire prevention, medical and safety precautions.


3. All costumes of actors in the vicinity of a flame should be adequately fireproofed, or of high wool or cotton content.  Synthetics are not advised due to the melting properties of many synthetics when burning.


4. For stunt performers who could be exposed to flames directly, for example escaping from a burning car, more protection is needed.  The water-soluble protective barrier gel  is a recent innovation for protecting the stunt performer's skin, clothing and hair.  . 


A "partial burn" is defined as one in which the amount of fire is limited to a restricted part of the body (e.g. an arm, leg or part of torso), and does not inhibit the sight or breathing of the stunt performer.


A "full burn" is one in which a substantial portion of the body is on fire or when the flames reach or interact with head area and could limit sight or breathing. Breathing apparatus or eye protection would be needed for these.


5. There should be at least two (three, according to some stunt coordinators) trained safety people on hand for "partial burns", and at least three (five, according to some stunt coordinators) trained safety
people for "full burns".  Each person should be equipped with carbon dioxide fire extinguishers.


6. Other types of protective clothing for fire stunts include fireproof "long johns" or complete fireproof suits under costumes, fireproof face masks, flame resistant gloves, boots, use of hidden oxygen tanks, etc.


7. Simulating being thrown through the air as a result of an explosion is another type of stunt.  This is often done with a trampoline, the size of the trampoline depending on the height to which the stunt performer would be thrown.  For small trampolines, sand pits are usually used for landing; for larger ones, crash pads.  Another common method involves use of ratchets, a type of catapult system.  These can be very hazardous due to the high initial acceleration which jerks the stunt performer who is attached to a harness, and the high velocity achieved.

One stunt performer was killed doing this, and others have been injured.  Careful rigging and targeting of the landing area is essential.


8. There have been several accidents involving body squibs, and they are now considered a stunt in Ontario.  Children are not permitted to be squibbed.





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 [email protected].



Grady Bishop

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