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Buried Alive and Other Tales from the Trenches

Buried Alive and Other Tales from the Trenches

Articles - Education

Gregg Sargeant

Gregg Sargeant

Think your college midterms were hard? Try graduating
with honors from Stunt University! Sure, it’s not what generally
comes to mind when the words "film education" are uttered,
but stunt people are an essential ingredient in what makes the Hollywood
formula so successful.

Conceived by stuntman Gregg Sargeant, (see article
in MovieMaker #
27) an industry vet who has worked in such films
as Total Recall, Hook, Alien: Resurrection and Almost
Famous,
Stunt University was founded as a way to ensure that
individuals embarking on a stunt career could do so prepared for
both the physical and business sides of the game. In an interview
with MM, Sargeant talks about the misconceptions of his craft,
what students can learn in just one week and why "dangerous"
and "difficult" are not interchangeable words in the stunt
world. 

Jennifer Wood (MM): Why do you think Stunt
University is the only stunt school in the world?

Gregg Sargeant (GS): Stunts are now a bigger
part of movies than everbefore. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said at
this year’s World Stunt Awards, "without stunts and the people
that perform them, there wouldn’t be a lot to watch in an action
movie." With the advances in computer technology, virtually
any type of action imagined for films is now possible-combined with
the talents of the action performer.

Over my many years in the movie and television stunt
industry, I’ve been continually approached by young people all over
the world who painfully try to learn the physical end of the craft,
and yet they don’t really know anything about the business side
of the stunt industry. I identified a need and Stunt University
was born. Our goal is to build educated stuntmen and stuntwomen,
not just physically skilled ones.

MM: Who is your typical "student,"
as far as age, experience level, goals, etc.?

GS: We will not enroll anyone under 18 years
of age and we have had students from 18 to 35. The average student
is early 20s.

MM: The course takes place over one week.
Can you break down the training that your students go through during
this time?

GS: The course is an intensive week-physically
and mentally-which covers all the basic tools necessary at a beginner
level for stunt performers. Details can be seen at our Website,
www.StuntUniversity.com. Obviously no one will become an expert
in one week, but we definitely put them on the right path to continue
their training and a direction to follow or a road map of positive
action to continue their pursuit of a stunt career. All the basics
are covered.

MM: What do you think is one of the biggest
misconceptions people have about stunt professionals in the film
industry, as far as what they do on-set?

GS: People think it is a glamorous job. It’s
not. And they don’t realize that an average work day ranges from
12 to 14 hours.

MM: What do you expect of the individuals
who are enrolling into your classes, as far as previous experience,
attitude, etc.?

GS: Previous experience is not necessary. Everyone
must apply to be accepted. Applications are reviewed and accepted
students need to be physically capable-meaning generally healthy.
We also look for applicants who have a realistic, positive attitude
and who genuinely want to learn. We don’t accept everyone.

MM: Can you talk a bit about your own career?
Who are some of the people you’ve worked with? What are some of
the films you’ve worked on?

GS: My 22 years as a stuntman and stunt coordinator
have been an exciting and interesting journey. Every day is different
and I’ve met the most amazing people along the way-and I don’t mean
just stars. I mean stunt people, directors, producers, hard-working
crew people. I enjoyed working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on Total
Recall
, George Clooney on Batman & Robin and Matthew
Broderick on Godzilla, but there have really been too many
to mention.

MM: What do you consider your best experience
on a film set?

GS: I consider every film or TV show a great
experience. It’s a privilege to be working in this industry.

MM: What would you say is the most difficult
stunt you’ve ever had to perform?

GS: That’s a question people always like to
ask and it’s a very difficult one to answer. It’s different for
everyone. It doesn’t have to be a huge stunt to be difficult. I
remember that I had to be buried alive once for a TV show. That
was difficult!

MM: What are some of the projects your previous
students have worked on?

GS: Our students have gone on to work in theme
parks around the world as well as movies and TV. We presently have
some students who have worked in Japan at Universal Studios and
Knott’s Berry Farm here [in California]. One of our girls got a
part in an action series in Australia and we continually get e-mails
from students who are having their own successes.

Keep in mind that not everyone decides to go on and
pursue a stunt career. Some just enjoy the experience of the stunt
course training. We have had large corporate groups who just want
an exciting outing for their company employees.

MM: What is the best advice you can offer
someone interested in embarking on a stunt career in Hollywood today?

GS: Be honest with yourself. This is not for
everyone. Realize that this is a difficult and at times dangerous
profession. You will encounter many obstacles to overcome along
the way. If you have a true passion, desire and drive for the stunt
craft, anything is possible. Yet, like anything in life, there are
no guarantees.

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