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Friday, 21 January 2011

Action Man

Written by Emma King
Originally written for
Nang! magazine & The Mash Up Mix

What makes Bond movies so great? The suits, the girls, the guns... And the stunts! This is a stunt portfolio video of my friend Gavin Gerlach who is training to be a stuntman. So far he has only broken his little toe and burnt his ear so I'm not too worried, although seeing him on fire did make me say 'Be Careful' about a dozen times. 

The name’s Bond… Wannabe Bond…

Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a 007? Then read on...

In a society filled with action movies, supernatural TV and violent computer games, the thrill of danger is bound to rub off on a few people. The media is often blamed for creating violent actions in society, even though it is often just reflecting the public’s own actions. But sometimes the media can inspire us, sometimes it’s not all doom and gloom.

Tattoo lover, leather wearer and bungee jumper Gavin Gerlach dreams to be a stunt man. After growing up watching one exciting, imaginative and adrenalin fuelled stunt after another, Gavin longs to do the impossible too. Move over Bond, you have competition…

Emma: Why do you want to be a stunt man?
Gavin: “I’ve always loved James Bond since I was really little. He got to do all this dangerous stuff and it inspired me. Also I’m a bungee jumping fan and would love a motorbike. I like adrenalin.”

Emma: Where did you start?
Gavin: “I did some research into Equity which is the performers union of Great Britain. There’s a long list of requirements to be a stunt performer. You have to have lots of skills: horse riding, tramp-o-lining, motor biking, martial arts, swimming, car racing and lots more.”

Emma: Tell me about your training.
Gavin: “It takes about five years of training. You have to allow time for injuries, which most likely will occur at some point because of the work involved.”

Emma: Have you had any injuries yet?
Gavin: “I broke my little toe doing Judo and I’ve collected a few other bumps and bruises too.”

Emma: So how much training have you done so far?
Gavin: ”To build my stunt CV I’ve joined clubs, taken lessons and courses and kept up a strong fitness regime.”

Emma: What affect does training have on your social life?
Gavin: “I can’t go out as much as I used to as I have to train. And sometimes I’m just too knackered from training. You spend a lot of time aching and feeling as if you’ve been hit by a baseball bat. Its hard work, but it’ll all be worth it in the end when I get to see my stunts on the big screen.”

Emma: What has surprised you so far?
Gavin: “On the equity register there are only a few female stunt performers in Great Britain at the moment. Also to train over the 5 year period can cost between £25,000 to £30,000. Stunt women make it back within the first 6 months to a year because there are so few of them so they each get more work. Men might take a couple of years to pay it back as there are more men sharing the work.”

Emma: What stunts are you longing to learn?
Gavin: “Car stunts. I did get to do my first high fall though and that was brilliant. It was tough but a lot of fun. It was great to see what the job really entails.”

Emma: Where did you learn this?
Gavin: “It was at the Hillingdon School of Gymnastics in South Ruislip, Middlesex. I did a thirty foot fall onto crash mats which is the equivalent of the very top of an average 2 storey house.”

Emma: What do your friends/family think about this career choice?
Gavin: “Everyone has been supportive but my mum doesn’t like some of the risks involved. I know it can be dangerous but it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. The money will be good and I’ll get to go all around the world and do amazing things that not many other people will get to do.”

Emma: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Gavin: “Hopefully I will have all my qualifications. Then I can submit an application to the Joint Industry Stunt Committee which is the part of Equity that deal with stunt performers. They then decide whether or not to put me on the Equity Register as a probationary stunt performer.”

Emma: What tips do you have for other wannabe stunt performers?
Gavin: “You have to learn to be an actor. The stunts aren’t just for your own entertainment; you have to make them believable too. Do your research and plan ahead to allow for injuries. And always train professionally. Undertaking this alone would be extremely dangerous.”

If you’re interested in becoming a stunt performer visit:

*Training to be a stunt performer is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted without professional guidance. If you’re interested in this line of career or simply in learning the stunts themselves, join professional clubs and societies where you can experience these thrills in a safe environment. A Film Student's Space takes no liability for any reader’s actions upon reading this article.

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