CGI in stunts and getting in shape! – Action with Don Shanks

Written by | B-Roll

Don shares some tips for getting ready to do stunts and when to say that you need a stunt adjustment as an actor or a stunt person.

How much CGI goes into stunts? Is it all practical, or are there elements that are added in later due to safety concerns on the set? – Bethany G., Tulsa, OK

Most of the safety is in the coordinator’s hands (for the crew, the actors, and the stunt people). There are things added later, but there is no way for me to tell what’s going on at that stage.

Hi Don, I’m an actor and I just recently got a pretty big role in an action film. I’m super excited! However, just thinking of some of the action sequences in the film keeps me up at night! I’m not in bad shape and I’ll be guided on how to perform, but I still feel like I need extra help preparing. I don’t want to get to set an have to stop because I can’t do the fight sequence. Is there anything I can do to get in better shape and prepare? Help! – Richard K., Honolulu, HI

You have to be in shape to do a good fight scene because you’re going to do it over and over again. You might be able to do it once, but if you’re a real good stunt performer, you can do it fifteen times if you have to. Be in shape and look at how things are shot. Find a fight scene in a movie that you like and look at it time and time again to see how they did it. Look at some of the old stuff too, it’s probably going to teach you more. When John Wayne threw a punch, you knew he was going to knock you down because he perfected that by people showing him how to throw a punch.

What’s the difference between acting and stunts, and when do I say that something is a stunt and not what I agreed to do? – Nyk F., Boston, MA

If it’s scripted and it says you go from X to Y to Z and you agree to do that with your agent, and you’re an actor, that’s what you have to go by. However, if they come in and say “Okay we’re going to do this now and you’re going to roll down the stairs,” and that wasn’t agreed upon, then it’s negotiable. Usually what happens is if you have an agent to represent you, they are the ones to negotiate the stunt adjustment. Myself as a stunt coordinator, I give adjustments to my stunt people. I might think that the actor deserves a bump (an increase in pay for doing a more dangerous stunt), but if he’s been negotiating with his agent, then I can’t do anything. However, if they hook a wire to you and pull you out, you deserve a bump, so I suggest to people that they have their agents talk with the Unit Production Manager(UPM) on the set.

– Don Shanks

Don Shanks has fans from incredibly diverse sources, but primarily from the horror genre, with roles as Michael Myers in Halloween V and the I Know What You Did Last Summer sequels, and from his role as Nakoma, Grizzly Adams’ sidekick. Don has appeared in several dozen films, and is a renown film stunt coordinator and stuntman. His credits in stunts in stunts include High School Musical 2 and 3(where he began a training routine for Zac Efron), The Crow and Indian Runner to name just a few.

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Last modified: October 5, 2017

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