I really enjoyed chatting with Stunt Performer/Actor Hannah D. Scott about her profession. She was very open about everything and you can feel her passion for the industry and what she does in her answers. Enjoy!
Matthew Toffolo: What job has been your most valuable experience?
Hannah D. Scott: I think that part of the answer lies in not actually working, but watching people work. The set is such a massive machine and being able to take a step back to listen and learn is priceless. I was once asked, a long time ago, to step in as kind of intern of sorts. Understanding the camera, understanding how the director communicates with actors in order to get the right result, what cues to give to help them understand and so on was incredibly valuable. I could see how different lenses worked, how framing could make or break a shot, how timing is essential as are reactions. I watched how gags were set up and every detail that goes in to even the simplest of stunts. Even for a small trip to the ground, the area has to be checked for hazards like glass for example, but someone outside of stunts might not think of those things because they never have to be the ones hitting ground.
Perhaps the most valuable experience was making a mistake on a job an realizing that that sort of stunt is not something I want to do, and being honest with myself about it. Why try and do something and risk not only yourself but others. We all have things we thrive at and fail at.
PHOTOS of Hannah fighting. Swords & Training:
MT: Have you suffered a lot of injuries doing stunts? If so, what has been your worst injury?
HDS: Funnily enough everything has been outside of work. My Mirror fell off of my windowsill and went through my foot when I was at home…doing nothing. I always expect to get a little bruised even though I have pads for safety, but it comes with the territory. There have been some terrible accidents, perhaps some were avoidable and some were just simply tragic accidents, but we are all aware in going to work that we stand the chance of being hurt and maybe seriously. Everything in our power and the power of those working with us is done to keep things safe. I don’t think the general public realize how much danger there is involved and how much of the physical stuff we actually do without it being CGI or some such thing.
MT: Has there been a stunt that you love to perform that you haven’t performed yet?
HDS: I haven’t done burns yet, being set on fire. There are full and partial burns, each with their own skill set and risks. For some reason that’s high on my list of things I’d like to learn and have the opportunity to do.
MT: How did you get into the stunt performer game? Was there extensive training involved?
HDS: This is always a hard one to answer as there in no one ‘way’ in. Personally I was picked to work on a film as I had a background in martial arts, gymnastics and fighting. I very much had to learn as I went that day because the most I had was stage combat for a base in understanding reactions and so on, but it’s a whole different world with a camera, pretty much polar opposite. I was lucky enough to be hired, do a good job and keep connections in order to find out how to progress once I’d made a choice to commit to stunts.
There is no ‘training’ for stunts in a way, you can’t go to a school and then come out with a range of skills and find recruiters. There are workshops available and they’re certainly more frequent in NY now. It has been very hard in the past to attend workshops without already being ‘in’ the working community and without a resume. Most were private invites and with good reason. Things are becoming more open to those starting out now and giving people a chance to learn. It’s a catch 22. How do you get into stunts without training but how do you get training and invited without already being in stunts? Who should even be teaching it is another story and sometimes cause for friction, but at the end of the day it’s about keeping each other safe and using the best skills we have individually, working together to make the best picture possible.
We all train regularly at various sports complexes and in teams. You have to keep the muscles moving, work reactions and timing and watch yourself back all the time on video to make sure you’re not catching yourself for example, putting a hand down being shot in the head where in life you’d just collapse…if that makes sense. Conditioning is always important so you’re fit enough to do multiple takes and have the ability to take the impact, are prepared for it.
MT: Where do you see the future of green-screen stunt performing in the motion pictures?
HDS: I’m not sure I”m experienced enough to answer that, but I think that technology will obviously continue to grow in ways we can’t even imagine yet. Look at animation, it’s mind-blowing. But, I do think there will always be a need for physical bodies and work, so hopefully non of the advances will take jobs away.
MT: What’s the biggest high risk stunt you’ve performed to date?
HDS: I’ve done a dog stunt, which could easily go wrong should the animal decide he wants to do what he wants, but I’d say high-fall holds some of the highest risk. Falling off buildings, cliffs, over balconies and so on into boxes, airbags or porta-pits. There are so many factors that could go wrong either from the miscalculation of the person jumping or the people on the ground spotting or prepping the air-bag, it’s a very risky stunt and a speciality. It’s certainly not for everyone.
MT: Do you have a stunt performer mentor?
HDS: Yes, I am very lucky and honored by the people I’ve been surrounded and guided by. I think it’s somewhat essential in this part of the entertainment industry as it can be so hard to navigate. I was incredibly lucky on the first major job I did having the chance to work with some of the longest working members of stunt community, their generosity astounds me.
Whenever I’m confused about anything from a contract to what I might need to work on or where I can find who and what I need, they are all there. It’s never too much to check in and there’s never a question that’s too silly to ask. I feel like they all remember what it’s like to have had that first day and remember where they started. I would love to name them, should I name them? Manny Ayala, Elliot Santiago, Chazz Menendez and Joanne Lamstein are all those I consider it an absolute honor that I have them in my life.
MT: What movie, besides the ones you worked on, have you seen the most times in your life?
HDS: Oh boy…honestly? Probably ‘Pete’s Dragon’, no kidding. I know every part of that script and gutted they have made a new one. I’ve never wanted dragons to be so real in my life!
Her Website: http://www.hannahdstunts.com/
PHOTOS: More Hannah fight photos:
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.