What's behind being a stuntman/woman?
Updated: Sep 29, 2020
On the weekend of 11-13 September 2020, we had the great pleasure of co-hosting the LIVE EXPERIENCE TOUR – a stunt, photography and video workshop which took place in our AVbaby Mediastudios and the Taggerwerke in Graz.
Needless to say, it was impressive to watch people jump out of 15m high burning buildings and fight with swords while their entire body was on fire. For reasons of safety, such activities need to be well planned and perfectly managed both before and during the event, something performed perfectly by The Stunt Factory founder Joe Tödtling (@burning_joetoedtling) and Ivan Forlani (@stuntsf17_ivanforlani). The photo workshop was organized by Mathias Kniepeiss (@mathias_kniepeiss) and the video workshop was hosted by Stefan Schmid (@avbaby_mediastudios).
But who are these fearless men and women and why do they expose themselves to all these dangers? Lena was on site and had a chat with some of these great men and women …
The first thing you can usually see before talking to Flor Expeels (@flor_pyrogen) is a bright flame coming out of his mouth. He plays with fire so ingeniously that you can’t take your eyes off him. Breathing, eating and setting people on fire is his discipline par excellence and he is “always on the hunt for the perfect picture”.
When talking to him, you quickly realize that he is probably one of those people who came to earth on a particular mission – in his case, to play with fire. He dreamed of working with fire from early childhood, and after breathing fire for the first time, he knew that this was his destiny. Since then, he has participated in countless workshops to improve his skills. He performs on stage at live shows, festivals and for music bands. Today he can make a living from it and, in addition to fire stunts, is booked by event agencies and for films (Netflix etc.).
Oh … and yes, what he does is dangerous, or as he puts it: “I’m well aware that I’m working in a dangerous environment, but it’s controlled and as long as I follow the rules, I’m fine.”
More information can be found at www.pyrogen.be.
Professional stuntman Marco Lascari (@marco.lascari.stunt) can be seen fighting in films like John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), War (2019) or Saaho (2019). He specializes in martial arts, a discipline he has practiced since childhood. After fighting in front of the public, he participated in live shows and consequently switched to performing show stunts, with films and TV series coming later. Willpower, rigorous training and passion are the secrets behind his success.
One of the biggest challenges of being a stuntman is dealing with your own fear in a positive way. On the one hand, you have to consider the dangers of the challenge; on the other, it’s not good to overthink the upcoming stunt. Marco described it as follows: “It’s like asking your inner voice whether you can do the stunt or leave it. You listen to yourself and you just know what to do then.”
That sounds simple – but would you climb an 8m high ladder only to fall over without letting go for fear of being thrown off and not landing on the mat provided?
More of him can be found at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzRYdUvSpdRBhnBsD-x0R8w.
Luke Murphy (@thelukemurphy) can be described as a jack of all trades. In his ten years as a professional ballet dancer, he has danced in Mathew Bourne’s Swan Lake and Otello at the Royal Opera House. He organizes workshops and trains trainers to increase the range of movement for people with disabilities. Wondering how he became a stunt man with this background? Well, he faked it to make it happen: at an audition for one of Ran Arthur Braun’s performances, he was so persuasive as a martial artist that he got the job – even though he had no prior experience whatsoever.
To be constantly surprised and challenged is his way of life, in which money is not a motivating factor. The ability to adapt quickly to actual requirements is a characteristic that is very often expected on a film set, or to use Luke's words: "You are asked to use an axe even though you are trained to use the sword. If you can adapt and take on the challenge, you have a chance of success."
Lucile Perez & Frédéric Matona_Photo credits: Mathias Kniepeiss
The professional stuntwoman Lucile Perez (@Lucile_perezz) began her sporting career in Taekwondo at the age of six. As a teenager, like any girl of that age, she was a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. But unlike other girls, she didn't just want to see the show, she wanted to fight like Buffy. From the age of 18 she started to train hard and spent all the money she earned as a model and later as a body double on stunt training courses at the Campus Universe de Cascade. She has been a successful stunt woman for two years and will soon appear in Ridley Scott's "The Last Duel" as a body double and you can see her fighting in the video clip of GIMS “Immortel”.
She is also in the process of founding her own stunt team together with Frédéric. This brings her one step closer to her biggest dream of working as a female stunt coordinator.
Frédéric Matona (@matonafrederic) is a professional actor in TV series, films and theater. You can watch him as an actor in French films like Prents d’ Elèves (2019), Les Chamois (2018), Raid Dingue (2016) and Mission Impossible: Fallout (2017). In the theater he has already played in the Opéra Bastille as well as the Royal Opera House in London in plays such as Otello (2019 – Keith Warner), Caligula (2019 – Guillaume Dollinger) and Parzival (2018 – Richard Jones). Working together with Ran introduced him to the discipline of doing fights on stage. Since one thing always leads to another, he was hired as the first actor for the forthcoming fight scenes in that production. From that day on he began to do more and more stunts. The most important thing to him is “to work with somebody he is familiar with. Someone he trusts and values.” Lucile, Ran and Joe are those kinds of people for him.
To give this text a nice ending, I would like to introduce a man who basically brought all of these great stuntmen and stuntwomen together:
The remarkable Ran Arthur Braun (@operaction) is in a class of his own. With more than 250 work credits to his name, you might say that the stage is his second home, and he refurbishes with every new piece. He oversees live action design and stunts using the elements air, fire, water as well as dance and acrobatics. In addition, he does the choreography for large-scale productions in the fields of opera, theatre and large events.
It is fascinating how he builds fantasy worlds – first with his imagination and later with the use of a language – which are so vivid and lively that you can see the pictures he draws while listening to him. Finally, he makes everything real on stage with a suitable cast.
The trained musician (pianist and singer) is not only incredibly skilled at directing productions but he also has the ability to bring the right people together and enable them to make magic together. As he puts it: “It’s about finding the magic in a person, showing them their worth and showing them that it is real, that they should believe in themselves and set their dreams free.” This energy and love can be felt on set and is one of his driving motivators as he puts aside ego and tries to get the best result out of every production.
What he fears most, incidentally, is the possibility that he might fall out of love with what he does. If he ever reaches that point, he has sworn to stop working immediately.
See some of his works here: https://intertalentgroup.com/profiles/ran-arthur-braun
I have nothing to add to these insights but my highest appreciation to all the participants and the organization team of the Stunt Workshop 2020:
Stunts: Joe Tödtling, Ivan Forlani, Ran Arthur Braun
Photos: Mathias Kniepeiss (@mathias_kniepeiss)
Videos: Stefan Schmid (TBC) (@avbaby_mediastudios)
Some more impressions: