I Want Your Job: Stunt performer

'It's demanding, and painful'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Juliette Cheveley, 32, is a stunt performer who has worked on films such as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Phantom of the Opera and Basic Instinct 2, television and commercials

What do you love about your job?

I love the thrill, the adrenaline rush. When you've done a stunt that looks difficult and scary, and it looks great and everyone's happy with you, it's wonderful. It's never mundane. The locations are great - I never know where I'm going to work next, whether it's in a muddy field or I'm flying across the world. And I get to work with lovely people. It's just a fantastic and rewarding job.

What's a typical day like?

There is no typical day. You might get asked to do a stair fall, or a car knock-down, but no job will ever be the same because it'll be filmed from another angle, or you'll be using your body in a new way. Every job is different - last week I was strapped to the sails of a windmill, and the whole thing was on fire. Filming often starts early, so sometimes you have to travel to the studio the night before. Especially if you're doubling for someone, you have to spend a while in make-up. It's amazing how they can totally transform you so you look like the actor you are doubling.

What sort of skills do you need to be a stunt performer?

To be accepted on to the Equity Stunt Register, you need a lot of different skills so you're an all-round performer. You need to be highly skilled in at least six different areas - for example, fighting, which can be boxing, fencing or judo, riding, which can be horses and motorbikes, or aqua, which is scuba and swimming. They stipulate levels that you need to attain - for example, getting up to black belt level in a martial art. You may have a speciality area or core skills. Some people, for example, are top rock climbers or gymnasts. But you need to build on those skills so you have a range of things you can do, and keep your skills up by training in your free time.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do your job?

I'd say be prepared to work incredibly hard. You need to pay for your training yourself, and there's no guarantee of work once you're qualified. All of the work is freelance, so you'll be self-employed. You've got to be resilient and strong, and believe in yourself - there will be knockbacks and times when the phone doesn't ring.

What's tough about it?

Quite a lot of the work is very physically demanding and draining, and it can be painful. You're cold, you're tired, but you've got to make the stunt look good. And it is a tough profession to prove yourself in. It can be difficult to find a way in to the jobs, because stunt co-ordinators prefer to use stunt performers they know, where they know how they work and the level of professionalism.

What's the salary and career progression like?

The pay is incredibly variable. It can be really low, and there are no guarantees of work. The more hairy a stunt, the more you might earn for it - or if there are a lot of takes for a difficult or painful stunt because they need to film it again. There are tiers on the Equity Stunt Register - you start off as a probationary member, working under the supervision of a stunt co-ordinator, and try to work your way up to being an intermediate member, then a full member, where you can perform with anybody.

To be accepted on to the Stunt Register, you need to join the performers' and actors' union, Equity. You can get more details by sending a large stamped addressed manilla envelope to Stunt Register, c/o Equity, Guild House, Upper St Martin's Lane, London, WC2H 9EG

Comments