Will New Stunt Coordinator Eligibility Rules Improve On-Set Safety?

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SAG-AFTRA's measure stops well short of a rigid qualification system, but many longtime stunt performers say it is a step in the right direction.

After weeks of back-and-forth, SAG-AFTRA’s board of directors on Sunday night approved a new measure it says will improve safety on set.

The Stunt Coordinator Minimum General Standards Eligibility Process Guideline, tentatively scheduled to take effect in January 2020, will be an online registry for stunt coordinators.

Any stunt coordinator (or performer with ambitions to coordinate) with at least 500 days working on set will be considered for inclusion on the registry, which SAG-AFTRA officials believe will serve as the de facto reference for producers, casting directors and insurance companies.

SAG-AFTRA aims to create an easily accessible app for the measure, which coordinators and producers can easily access to monitor hours and experience. 

The new measure is not mandatory, however, and SAG-AFTRA officials expect that productions around the country, especially smaller ones, will keep hiring people with much less experience as stunt coordinators.

“I think it’s a foundation and a good start," says National Stunt Committee Chair Cort Hessler, who was instrumental in developing the new protocol. “This will help with having experienced stunt coordinators rather than just anybody, because there’s nothing right now.”

Hessler believes insurance companies will welcome the eligibility guideline because it provides them with a SAG-AFTRA-approved reference point, which they can then use in the event of an on-set injury or death.

“If there’s an accident and someone is not on that list, I’d imagine insurance companies will ask why,” says Hessler, “That’s what I think is going to happen.”

Younger members of the stunt community apparently voiced concern that the measure might restrict their ability to get work.

“This is not a qualification process, and it’s not going to prevent anybody from getting work,” says Los Angeles Local SAG-AFTRA president Jane Austin. “If anything, it’s going to help smaller locals.”

Safety has become an increasingly fraught issue for stunt performers recently. Several high-profile accidents within the last year, including two gruesome on-set deaths, have led many to question SAG-AFTRA’s commitment to safety on set.

While the new measure stops well short of a rigid qualification system, many longtime stunt performers say it is a step in the right direction.

“Do I think it goes far enough? We’ll see,” says Pete Antico, former SAG-AFTRA board member and candidate for its presidency. “But it’s a great start.”