THE STUNT COORDINATOR

My first inkling that our indie movie was bit different, a bit unusual, maybe even a bit ground-breaking came when I started prepping for the first action sequence with our stunt coordinator Justin.  We were just starting out on our indie rugby feature Play On, and Justin was full of questions.

“Okay,” Justin asked, “how do you want me to fake the tackles?”

Fake the tackles?,” I asked.

“Well, they’re not really going to tackle each other are they?”  He lowered his voice to a whisper.  “I mean, they’re…well, let’s face it.   They’re actors.

I looked over at our cast.   Yes, today, most of the guys standing around me were actors.   But yesterday, and during all the days that somehow brought us all here to an overgrown park in Kansas City, Missouri, these guys were rugby players.   And as such, they’d been giving up their time, blood, and sweat to play an incredibly physical game that few people in America knew much about.   They’d been playing rugby on fields like this, in front of spectators that maybe included family and friends, for no money or glory.    The essence of the game for them had been to play hard, play fair, and to keep going--to play on no matter what the circumstance.  

To ask them to fake a tackle just seemed wrong to me.  Plus, in all my years of playing, I knew telling ruggers to go half-speed rarely worked out.    One would invariably go full-speed and you’d have an injury on your hands.  So I turned to Justin. 

“Naw, they’re ruggers first, and actors second.   If they go half-speed, one will get hurt.  Just have them clobber each other.  That’ll look great on camera.”

Justin’s eyes went wide.  It’s like a whole new world opened for him.  For once in his stunt co-ordinating career, when it came to choreographing some action, he could worry solely about the action itself.  He didn’t need to concern himself about padding, protective gear, subbing in a stunt double, or an actor moan about the physical toll of a scene.   He could simply make the action on camera unfold like it does in real life; in this case, a real-life rugby match.

So when the camera started rolling on Scene 85, our cast went all out, thumping each other with hits that made Justin smile.  At the end of the day, he came up to me, enraptured by the commitment everyone made to making a violent movie scene as true as it could be.  

“I’m so used to working with whiny actors, this is amazing.    These guys sell out their bodies, put themselves on the line in every single shot.”

He turned to go apply more bruises to our lead actor’s face (again, this is an indie movie we’re talking about—the stunt coordinator was also in charge of fight make-up).   But as he left, he turned to me:  “You got to do more movies like this!”

I can only hope we do. 

Back to About