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The Life of a Professional Stuntwoman: I’m a Professional Athlete, not an Adrenaline Junkie

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As I briefly touched upon last month, I consider myself and my colleagues professional athletes.  We train our craft, hone our skills and when given the opportunity use those skills to achieve great feats for your cinematic or small screen entertainment.  That being said, there is still a fairly common misconception of what my job actually is, and the type of people who become successful working stunt performers.  That misconception is made very prevalent in the common questions I am often asked whenever someone new I meet discovers what my profession is.

There’s always that one question that is typically asked of anyone in any field that is specific to your field, it will vary depending on your chosen profession.  A common question asked of most film and tv workers is: Have you met anyone famous? Simple answer, yes, it’s part of the job.

As a stunt performer, the one burning question I always get asked, and never really know how to answer is: What’s the craziest stunt you’ve ever done? You must have done lots of crazy things, right?  Honestly, I don’t think I’ve done very many “crazy” things, at least not at work anyways.  You see, I am a professional athlete, my job includes risk of injury like any athlete.  I go to work knowing and assuming those risks, and I love it.

Most people don’t like that answer, but it’s the truth.  I have and continue to train hard to have a well-rounded skill set.  As a performer I have a stunt coordinator to design the stunt and pre-asses any dangers or risks. We rehearse stunts before filming them on set so that they are calculated and we the performers know exactly what we are doing.  We pre-plan the game, we practice, rehearse and cross train just like any professional athlete would.

I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to perform most different types of stunts: vehicle work (cars and motorcycles), fights (armed and unarmed) wires, air rams, high-falls, equestrian, fire burns, underwater, car hits, and many other specialty stunts.  Not every stunt I have performed has gone off perfectly, but then you get back up, dust yourself off and train harder like any athlete would to do better the next time.  We also have a great advantage in that our stunts are filmed, so if something does go wrong, or not work out, we can review the footage and fix it in the future.  We are also a tight community, and we share this sort of information with each other, especially when a stunt gone wrong results in an injury, so that hopefully we can prevent the same sort of thing happening again on another set.

I guess when I really think about it, I have done a lot of things that most people would consider crazy, but I have done them in a controlled environment, with lots of people looking out for my wellbeing. I also wear protective padding as often as I can, sometimes there are outside variances that prevent you from being able to entirely protect yourself (especially as a female performer – I will touch more on that in a future article)  I have trained diligently so that my body knows how to react and protect itself during a stunt (while still making the stunt look gnarly).  I have trained hard to play my “sport” and feel very privileged to still be playing.

And no, I don’t really mind being asked about my job.  However, depending on how and when you ask me depends on the level of sarcasm attached to my answer.  I just hope that by sharing some of my stories you will be able to have a better understanding of what myself and my fellow stunt performers actually do.

 

Maja Aro

About Maja Aro

Writer/Director/Stunt Coordinator/Stunt Performer - Maja Aro hails from Britannia Beach, BC and has worked in the film and television industry for the past 14 years. Maja was a competitive athlete and went to school for fashion design. She started a career in fashion, and soon discovered the stunt industry and decided to switch paths. Maja’s stunt career has taken her all over the world, and garnered her many awards and nominations. In 2014 Maja started working behind the camera a bit more (although she still gets out and hits the pavement as a performer) as a stunt coordinator, and the following year as a writer/director/producer. Maja’s debut solo short film “Hoods” won the 2015 MPPIA short film award funding, screened around the world and won numerous awards. In her spare time Maja enjoys going on adventures with her husband Jeff. They have travelled with charities to Uganda and Nepal. Maja has recently been the stunt coordinator for: ABC’s Once Upon A Time, A&E’s Project Blue Book, FacebookWatch’s Sacred Lies, and Amazon’s Man In The High Castle.