Whether it’s a high-speed car chase, jumping out of a burning building or soaring over a bridge on a motorcycle, stunt performers keep the audience on the edge of their seats by utilizing well-honed skills from years of training and experience.
How do these action athletes keep up with this exciting and physically demanding job? It takes much more than desire to create a successful career in the field.
Working in front of the camera as well as coordinating behind the scenes, Arizona native Rene Mousseux is an award-winning Hollywood stuntman who has collected blockbuster credits and performed death-defying acts in some of the most popular movies, TV shows and commercials.
Mousseux, a member of the International Stunt Association, founded RPM Stunts in 2009. Mousseux has collaborated on more than 50 feature films, hundreds of television episodes and commercials worldwide. RPM, located in California, is forefront in the world of film, television and commercial productions. Mousseux and his company are constantly evolving and looking for innovative methods to provide the best service for clients while maintaining superior safety and expertise.
Mousseux shares what it takes to be a jack-of-all-trades.
Never Stop Learning
It is important to be diverse and develop a wide range of skills to have in your bag of tricks. The more abilities one specializes in can set him or her apart from the pack. Most stunt performers come from at least a collegiate level or equivalent in sports like: gymnastics, various motor sports, football, martial arts, rodeo or track. If you have a strong athletic background the specific training for the stunt world becomes second nature. Many sports demand a high level of body awareness which is paramount when performing high falls, getting hit by a moving vehicle or by doing the most basic maneuvers.
But, simply being a good athlete isn’t the end all for being a great stunt performer. Once you have a foundation it’s time to add the tools that are missing. For example, fighting classes like boxing and martial arts is a must. It’s vital to take driving courses and practice drifting or off road driving. Also, you should learn how to be competent on a wire rig. Once those skills feel comfortable, learning how to do everything while holding a prop or using your non-dominate hand. Being versatile is a must.
Developed acting skills can open up more opportunities. Just mindlessly doing action translates on film. The performer, like the actor, needs to be in the moment in order for the action to sell. A lot of work in the stunt world comes from not only doubling actors, but stunt acting parts as well. Being able to convincingly say a few lines and then get shot goes a long way.
The best way to accomplish this is to find likeminded peers and train together. When someone first begins, try to meet a group of performers with various backgrounds who are getting started in the business too. When you aren’t training or working on set together, you can be developing other skills that can enhance each other’s resume.
Stay in Shape
Stunt performers are expected to be in top physical condition at all times so they can spring into action at any given moment. Many stuntmen undergo cardio conditioning, strength training, as well as yoga.
Along with being in immaculate physical condition, mastering a healthy mental well-being and intelligence is a major component to having a successful career. Being a stuntman takes a great deal of courage, instincts, timing, strength and dedication to make it in such a competitive industry. Being talented is a common trait, but it is about how and what you do with it that makes someone unique and desirable to producers.
Networking is crucial to becoming a stuntman. If you don’t know the right people in the business, try to work as an extra on set to meet the necessary contacts. Employability, for many stunt people, depends on developing new skills and perfecting old ones. The industry is very timely; one minute you might be sitting at home and the next minute you’re on a plane going to Spain to be set on fire.