Thursday, October 28

Want to be set on fire or jump off tall buildings? New Zealand Needs More Stunt Specialists | New Zealand

BUrrowed on a beige building block in Auckland’s industrial east, a neat line of would-be stunts wait their turn to take their first step into an air ram. With enough power to flip a full-size car, the menacing-looking metal pedal is designed to jump “tricks” into the air, as if thrown from an exploding building.

Standing and watching, Dayna Grant points to the rafters of the converted warehouse at least 10 meters above, fondly recalling once she was thrown high enough to touch the ceiling. But today’s NZ Stunt School class of former circus performers, action stunts, and retirees won’t come close to that.

Dayna Grant, who runs NZ Stunt School and has worked on productions such as Zena Warrior Princess and Mad Max.
Dayna Grant, who runs NZ Stunt School and has worked on productions such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Mad Max. Photograph: Oliver Crawford / The Guardian

In New Zealand’s stunt industry, Grant is their matriarch. She has defended herself from warlords like Xena: Warrior Princess stunt double, hung under moving trucks on the Mad Max set, and more recently has been trying to fill the talent gap through her organization, NZ Stunt School.

“A year ago we were doing an admission of new students every three months and it was just filling up, now we have an admission every month and it is booked two full months in advance,” Grant said.

In the course of the global pandemic, New Zealand has become a production safe haven for international film studios, hosting the likes of Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, the sequel to James Cameron’s Avatar, and the big-budget series The Lord. of the Amazon Rings. With limited border waivers available to meet increased demand (24 stunt professionals have been approved by New Zealand Immigration since the border closure), this has meant a lot of work for the local stunt industry.

New Zealand Stunt School in St Johns, Auckland.
New Zealand Stunt School in St Johns, Auckland. Many of the local film and television productions are desperate to find specialists. Photograph: Oliver Crawford / The Guardian

Mark Trotter, who is responsible for hiring stuntmen on the live-action television show Power Rangers, says that trying to source talent becomes increasingly difficult as time goes on.

“It has been extremely difficult. There were times when we needed 15 players, but we could only find seven or eight because there just isn’t anybody, “Trotter said.

To address this growing need, NZ Stunt School, which offers classes on how to be engulfed in flames safely, jump off tall buildings, and fight with swords 101, has opened its books to include anyone who might desire a career in stunts. .

New Zealand Stunt School
A wide variety of ages and abilities walk through the doors of New Zealand Stunt School. Photograph: Oliver Crawford / The Guardian

“When we started in 2010, we were catering to a specific group of young actors and stuntmen who wanted to improve their skills. Today, especially with the loss of jobs from Covid, we are seeing a wide variety of ages and abilities coming through school, ”Grant said.

66-year-old Mike Delamore joined NZ Stunt School in June after an extended stint as an extra on a “no-name Amazon project,” the current term for the worst-kept local secret, Lord of the Rings, where he could try the trick for the first time. world.

The former professional sailor had spent his life doing “Captain Cook stuff,” leading researchers and scientists on expeditions through unexplored areas of the subantarctic and Antarctic islands, so when his son blatantly challenged him to seek a job in the “no name production”, it was game.

“I mean, some people are going to play golf, bowling, bridge at my age, I guess. What should I do? I do heroic things on set, ”Delamore said. “Sometimes they bring in stuntmen to do some of the action scenes, but of course, being a pretty capable person, I thought, you know, I could probably do some of that too.”

Armed combat tricks
Fight scenes and gun combat are in the curriculum. Photograph: Oliver Crawford / The Guardian

He joined NZ Stunt School’s Fight for Camera workshop, where he was taught the basics of hand-to-hand combat, learned how to choreograph a fight scene, and got a chance to be on the books of Grant’s agency, NZ Action Talent.

Delamore fits into what Grant calls the bonus action category, a bonus movie with enough fundamentals to be in the background for action scenes, a role that typically sells for between $ 350 and $ 450 a day.

Stunts people in the air
The sky is the limit for some, depending on skills and how quickly they can learn, Grant says. Photograph: Oliver Crawford / The Guardian

Graduating to become a stunt performer capable of high-risk, high-skill stunts and earning more than $ 700 a day is a much more arduous task.

“Some people join the school and in six months we have them working as full-time stunt specialists, but it largely depends on their skills and how quickly they can learn,” Grant said.

“People who come from a gymnastics or high performance sports background are often naturally capable of learning many of the necessary skills, but I need to be absolutely sure that they will be capable and safe on set before I present them. as a stunt actor. “

The fine line between safety and deadly danger is always present in the world of stunts, where performers must perform highly accurate athletic maneuvers, often in multiple takes.

Grant herself was recently injured. He is now in recovery as he focuses on his health and his NZ Stunt School and NZ Action Talent businesses.

Stunt man lying on the ground
Performers must perform high precision athletic maneuvers. Photograph: Oliver Crawford / The Guardian

Extra action Delamore has no interest in chasing the high-flying stunts of the higher ups.

He has finished filming for his Amazon production, and he is on the island fixing his boat, patiently waiting for the call for his next little role.

“I will grudgingly admit that I am 66 years old and jumping off tall buildings or down stairs is probably not the best idea,” Delamore said.

But would you consider setting it on fire?

“Yeah, that wouldn’t matter to me at all.”

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