One of the first lessons we teach in our Diploma course is also one of the most important. As we tell all our students "We are not in the Danger Business, we are in the Safety Business.
Stunt performing is, by nature, a high risk profession (when compared to most people's jobs), and despite the very best safety measures, accidents can and do happen on film and television sets. Sadly, still too often.
Unfortunately, some of these accidents have resulted in fatalities, and we teach that whenever an accident happens, even if it is a small one that only results in a very minor injury, there is always something we can learn about this and how we could prevent a repeat. It is ALWAYS important to examine what went wrong, how and why, and in each case to come out with plans or new measures that can prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
Below are a few of the more high profile examples of stunt performers who were killed on sets and what went wrong in each instance.
Vic Morrow - Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Vic Morrow was a veteran stunt coordinator and performer who had worked on numerous high-profile films. On the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie, he was performing a stunt involving a helicopter when the aircraft crashed, killing him and two other people. An investigation revealed that the helicopter was not properly maintained, and that the pilot was not adequately trained to handle the stunt.
Joi Harris - Deadpool 2 (2018)
Joi Harris was a professional road racer who was hired to perform a motorcycle stunt for the film Deadpool 2. During a practice run, she lost control of her motorcycle and crashed into a plate-glass window, killing her instantly. It was later determined that Harris was not wearing the proper safety gear and that the stunt was not adequately planned or rehearsed.
John Bernecker - The Walking Dead (2017)
John Bernecker was a highly experienced stunt performer who had worked on numerous films and television shows. On the set of The Walking Dead, he was performing a fall stunt when he missed his safety cushion and hit the concrete floor instead. Bernecker suffered severe head injuries and died from his injuries a few days later. An investigation revealed that the stunt was not properly planned and that the safety measures were not adequate.
Each of these examples serve as a reminder of the potential risks associated with stunt performing and the importance of proper planning, training, and safety measures. In each case there was more than could and should have been done to prevent the incident, and in each example a well trained professional was lost from our world.
While accidents can never be completely prevented, it is essential to ensure that all possible precautions are taken in order to reduce the risk of injury or death. By learning from these tragedies, we can work to make the film and television industry safer for stunt performers and everyone else involved.
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This blog os co-authored by The ISA Team
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