Stunts

Date: 13.06.2016     Last updated: 30.04.2018 at 13.35
This Safety Guideline provides guidance to those who wish to set-up and film stunt action sequences.

We define a ‘stunt’ as a very carefully controlled feat or act requiring specialist physical and mental skills, performed for artistic purposes in television, theatre or film to simulate action sequences. The action typically presents a significant risk of injury and back-up safety measures often can’t be used for continuity reasons. The range of action sequences you can hire a stunt artiste to perform is wide, including falls and tumbles, high-wire work, vehicle jumps / crashes, fight sequences, jerk-backs, etc. Although there might be some cross-over with other professional disciplines (e.g. sports or adventure activities), stunt action isn’t constrained by the rules or codes of conduct that govern the safety of these disciplines.

What Can Go Wrong?

  • The hazards are many and varied, dependent on the stunt action and other location risks, but could include traumatic impacts, cuts / piercings, burns, high g-force accelerations, drowning, etc.
  • Stunt performers may also be challenged psychologically, including having to overcome the fear of injury 
  • Should the stunt not go as planned, others close to the action may also be at risk of injury.

Legal/BBC Requirements

  • Duty of care - whilst most stunts appear dangerous, principle duties of care do still apply, so stunt work must be properly planned, risk assessed, set up and executed in accordance with established safety practices.
  • Management of risk / principles of prevention - if we can avoid placing people at risk of injury, for example by filming it another way, editing or creating it in post-production, then we should.
  • Using stunt professionals – if a stunt is required, productions must either engage a professional stunt artiste to arrange and perform it (‘simple’ single person stunts), or engage a professional Stunt Co-ordinator to arrange the performance of others (‘complex’ stunts i.e. involving two or more stunt artistes, or involving cast or presenters performing in stunts); both must be members of JIGS (see more below).

Control Measures

Scoping stunt action

Is it a stunt? This will be a simple decision where the action required is traditionally associated with stunt work and it is clearly dangerous e.g. fall from galloping horse, jerk-back during explosion, car roll over sequence, etc.

It becomes less clear cut as the level of risk reduces significantly (e.g. taking or throwing an acted punch, filming hand to hand battles scenes with a re-enactment society), or where the action is an activity which, although risky, is one performed and managed by those who aren’t stunt artistes (e.g. horse jumping, work at height, surfing). There are no rules to follow to help you decide, but one guiding principle is whether the safety of the actor / presenter can be adequately protected by means other than reliance on their own skills, judgement or physical prowess e.g. are alternative safety back-up measures available to protect them, are there National Governing Body rules on best practice to adhere to? If ‘yes’, then it may not need to be classed as a stunt and other risk management processes can be applied; but if the answer is ‘no’, a stunt artiste or Co-ordinator is likely to be required.

If in doubt, contact your Safety Adviser and/or a JIGS registered Stunt Co-ordinator.

Who can perform a stunt? A Stunt Artiste, or by exception, an actor. Stunt action will start as scripted and/or directed sequences, where either the actor will be asked to perform the stunt (typically for continuity reasons) or, where the risks necessitate it, a stunt artiste will be engaged to ‘double’ the action for them. Unless you are very experienced in directing / producing stunt action and understand the capabilities of your actor / presenter, you will likely need to speak with a professional Stunt Co-ordinator before deciding whether a stunt artiste is required to perform and/or co-ordinate a particular action sequence.

When scoping stunt action, you should be aware:

  • Children and young persons - cannot take part in a stunt where there is a significant risk of injury, even if they aren’t required to perform any specific actions (e.g. be a passenger in a stunt vehicle, stand next to an unprotected edge at height i.e. cliff).
  • Actors or presenters - may only take part in a stunt where a Stunt Co-ordinator has been engaged to plan and manage the action (see below).
  • Fitness to participate – where the stunt is physically demanding or there are concerns regarding the health of the participant, a medical assessment may be required (see “Contributor Fitness to Participate” in Related Topics as a guide to how this could be done). Where required to enable the stunt to be performed safely, this must be suitably verified prior to the actor or presenter taking part. The Stunt Co-ordinator may also require them to undergo specific training or familiarisation sessions, before deciding on their capability to achieve the stunt action safely.
  • Informed consent - must be given by actors and presenters prior to taking part in a stunt, and provided with a copy of the stunt risk assessment as soon as available
  • Two or more stunt performers – where the stunt requires simultaneous stunt performances, a Stunt Co-ordinator must be engaged to arrange and co-ordinate the action.

Appointing a Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator

Once you know you have a stunt to do:

  • Stunt Artiste competence - for ‘simple’ stunts (where the Stunt Artiste arranges and performs the stunt themselves), select a ‘Full’ or ‘Intermediate’ member from the vetted contractor list (see Recommended Links (Gateway)). Membership relates to registration with the Joint Industry Stunt Committee (see Recommended Links (www)).
  • Stunt Co-ordinator competence - for more complex stunts (where there are at least two Stunt Artistes or actors / presenters are involved), select a Stunt Co-ordinator from the ‘Full Member’ list.
  • Stunt specialisms - Stunt Artistes and Co-ordinators specialise in certain types of stunts e.g. horse-work, fight scenes, falls from height, driving, etc. Selection should be based on their experience, competence and suitability for the sequence.
  • Registration with JISC - Verify that the Stunt Artiste or Co-ordinator is registered with JISC.
  • Insurance – check that they hold appropriate professional and public liability insurance. Check any requirements with BBC Insurance.

Preparing for the Stunt

Once you’ve engaged your Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator:

  • Responsibilities – make sure that the Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator is completely clear as to what is required of them and what they are responsible for providing to the production. Scripted sequences, approved by the Director, should be provided on their appointment.
  • Location recce – will likely be required by the Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator to determine if it is suitable to enable the stunt to be performed safely. Where the stunt relies on builds, equipment or special effects provided by other contractors, make sure adequate co-operation and co-ordination can occur between them and the Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator.
  • Location builds / alterations – may be required to enable the stunt to go ahead safely e.g. provision of suitable anchor points, removal of barriers or obstacles, etc. Specialist stunt riggers may be required (see 'Riggers: Selection of' in Related Topics). Enough resource should be allowed for in the prep to achieve this and, once complete, the Stunt Co-ordinator should confirm their acceptability.
  • Public areas - if the stunt is to be performed in a public space, road closures and access control measures may be required to prevent any unauthorised persons entering the area during the stunt. Road closures or ‘stop/go’ control need to be approved by the local Authority and the Police.
  • Nuisance / observable violence - if the stunt involves any action which could shock, annoy or disturb members of the public or local residents (e.g. fight scenes, weaponry, loud noises, etc.) and it cannot easily be hidden from plain view, try to do them on days of the week and at times of the day when they would have least impact. If necessary, inform local residents of what’s going to happen, by letter drops or liaising with local community groups.
  • Stunt Risk assessment - the Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator must provide a location- and stunt-specific risk assessment, which must be checked for suitability and sufficiency by the production. It should cover all safety aspects of the stunt, including competence required of those taking part, any personal protective equipment worn, cueing / timings, specific conditions or equipment required, interaction with other disciplines (e.g. SFX, costume, action vehicle providers), first aid requirements, etc. A template stunt risk assessment is provided by JISC (see Useful Documents).
  • Production risk assessment (PRA) – whilst the Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator will be responsible for planning and managing the stunt, the production will be responsible for appointing a competent Stunt Artiste, co-ordinating their activities with other contractors / Heads of Dept., and providing adequate resources / scheduling to allow the stunt to be properly planned and executed. These must be reflected in the PRA.

Managing the action on the day

  • Safety control / monitoring – as the person responsible for all safety aspects of the stunt, the Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator must check that everything is in place to enable it to go ahead as planned. They must confirm this to the Producer / Assistant Director. Any ‘last minute’ changes must be properly reviewed and the stunt only permitted to go ahead where they confirm the risks remain ‘acceptable’.
  • Fitness to participate – the Stunt Co-ordinator must confirm that actors / presenters are physically and psychologically ready to take part, able to perform the required action in accordance with instructions given.
  • Pressure to perform – neither the Stunt Co-ordinator nor the production should put undue pressure on an actor / presenter to perform the stunt if they are unwilling to do so, no matter how much time, trouble and effort has been spent to get them there.
  • Safety briefing – prior to the stunt going ahead, the Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator must give a safety briefing to all of those potentially at risk.
  • Cueing the action – once they are sure all are ready to go, the Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator must cue the stunt action. All cueing signals must be unambiguous and agreed by all concerned ahead of the action. The Stunt Artiste / Co-ordinator remains in control of the scene until the action has completed and they have declared the area to be safe.

Division Specific Issues

  • Accidents / Incidents – all must be reported onto myRisks; photos taken at the scene and witness testimonies should be included.

FAQs/Did You Know?

  • No FAQs

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