How to Become a Stuntman
By Eric Hammer
So you want to become a stuntman (or a stuntwoman - actually
these days, it's usually stuntperson, though men still outnumber
women in this business by a significant number). Well, first
of all, if you have no experience and know nobody in the stunt
business, you have a much harder job ahead of you than the person
who has friends or family who are actively involved in being
That's because in order to become a stuntman, it pays to know
people who are already doing the job. Often, the work is handed
down from father to son, though there a number of stunt schools
that you can attend in order to learn the business.
Another thing to know about being a stuntman is that it's
a lot like being an actor. And no, we don't mean being Brad Pitt.
We mean being the nameless, faceless guy who struggles to make
a living until he gets his one big break (kind of like a Joey
Tribiani type of person, though hopefully without screwing up
an interview and getting fired from a soap opera). Except that
you will almost never go beyond being the nameless, faceless
guy. Unless you end up being someone like Steven Seagal, who
frequently does his own stunts (though some are still performed
by stunt doubles), the whole point is that nobody ever sees your
face clearly enough to identify you.
How Much Can You Make?
Depending on whom you ask, stunt work pays really badly or
incredibly well. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Thinkquest suggests that most stunt people earn between $5,000
- $70,000. That's a per year amount by the way, not per movie.
By comparison, several stunt schools claim that stunt people
regularly earn in the mid six figures per year and often get
paid for sitting around on a set and doing nothing at all.
So who is correct? Probably both are. Someone just starting
out who doesn't have the right connections may very well be happy
to earn $5,000 for the year (obviously, you'd need a second job
to make the rest of your salary, unless you live in Bangladesh,
in which case stunt work is likely hard to come by). On the other
hand, those who become a stuntman and are lucky and persistent
enough to get into lots of movie sets and do lots of work probably
do make lots of money, though certainly not the millions that
top actors and actresses make.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Remember those old TV shows where they would say something
like "don't try this at home boys and girls?" That's
actually very good advice. Stunts are often quite dangerous and
if done incorrectly, can lead to lifelong disability or even
death. Therefore, while that dirt bike jumping scene might look
cool, it's best not to build a ramp and try it yourself until
you've learned what it takes to do it safely. That means going
to stunt school (unless you've grown up around the stunt business,
in which case you likely don't need this article to find out
how to become a stuntman).
Beyond that, remember that, like professional sports, this
is a young person's game. Very few people over 40 are able to
continue working as stunt people because the demands of the job
are so grueling (18 hour days should be considered the norm,
rather than the exception).
On the other hand, if you love traveling, you'll love stunt work
since you always go where the movies go, which often means exotic
locations for shooting scenes. You'll also get to meet famous
actors and actresses, though you'll also quickly understand that
while they may be famous, they're still people like anyone else.
Qualifications / Requirements
If you didn't grow up around it, you'll want to go to stunt
school before you try to land a job as a stuntman. While it is
certainly possible to simply jump in headfirst (in many cases,
literally), stunt school will give you more than just knowledge
of the techniques you need in order to stay alive in this business.
It will also give you contacts with people who can get you into
movie sets where stunts actually take place and where you might
get hired to do the job.
Beyond that, you'll need to physically fit, preferably without
any particularly distinguishing features (though camera angles
and makeup often can cover up the fact that it's you and not
Tobey Maguire leaping around the tall buildings of New York City
- the mask in Spiderman happens to help too). You should be relatively
young and you need to have dogged determination. Breaking into
this business will take time and you will have many frustrations
along the way. However, once you do get into it, the job can
be very rewarding.
Start by talking to people at various stunt schools (One example
is listed below. You can find other examples by searching the
Internet.). Find out what they charge. Ask to speak to some alumni
and ask probing questions about what their experiences have been
with the school. Ideally, you want to got a school where you'll
not only learn how to stay safe while being set on fire but also
where you'll gain the valuable contacts you need for this job
(more than most, this is one of those "it's not what you
know, it's who you know" jobs).
Check out these helpful resources to find out more about becoming
a stuntman (or stuntwoman):
Stuntman Career - A bit lean on how to get into the business,
this article mentions more than once that quite a bit of luck
is involved, though it does offer a good introduction (and as
for luck, we're of the opinion that people who really want something
make their own luck. Those who don't simply blame lady luck for
their failures - a valuable lesson, especially if you plan to
work in stunts).
Stunts - This one is a bit gushing about how wonderful it
can be to become a stunt person (almost the diametrical opposite
of the link above), but again, it offers some useful information.
Stuntmen's Association - A school where you can learn to
become a stuntman.