Actors Guild Focuses on Diversity With New Stunt Coordinator Standards

SAG-AFTRA’s new standards and practices for stunt crews are, among other things, meant to discourage the controversial practice of “wigging,” or dressing a male stunt actor as a woman, as well as the practice of “painting down.” The new guidelines come in the wake of recent news coverage related to stunts.

The world of entertainment is undergoing a sea change as issues of gender equality and diversity become front-and-center concerns.

And that extends to the trained professionals doing stunts, too. SAG-AFTRA, the guild that represents actors, radio personalities, and numerous other creatives throughout the entertainment industry, announced last week a new set of standards for stunt coordinators.

The new standards and practices, decided on by SAG-AFTRA’s national board, discourage two controversial practices in the industry: “wigging,” in which a male stunt actor dresses up as a female actor, and “painting down,” in which a white stunt performer doubles for an actor of color. While Deadline notes that the rules do not outright ban the practices, it does create an oversight process for ensuring that the code is followed.

Additionally, the rules emphasize the importance of stunt coordinators taking necessary actions to “ensure the safety of performers or others on the set.”

“SAG-AFTRA stunt coordinators are the frontline in promoting adherence to the stunt and safety-related terms and conditions contained in any SAG-AFTRA agreement,” the organization states in its guidelines.

While the guidelines move away from punishing rule-breakers under Article XIV of the organization’s constitution, it notes that leadership “will reach out to that stunt coordinator to educate him or her on the standards and practices, and will assist the stunt coordinator in determining how to proceed with respect to the particular issue in question.”

The guild will also keep records of guideline violations.

Stunt Issues in the News

The new standard and practices come about at a time when at least two prominent stunt-related stories have drawn attention in recent weeks.

Actress Uma Thurman, in a New York Times piece that also revealed her claims of sexual assault at the hands of disgraced former Miramax and Weinstein Company executive Harvey Weinstein, highlighted an incident on the set of Kill Bill in which she was seriously injured in a car crash after being pressured by director Quentin Tarrantino into doing her own stunt at a time when there was no stunt coordinator on set.

Thurman, who later shared that Tarantino has apologized for the incident and assisted in uncovering footage of the crash, said that her concern was related to the apparent coverup of the crash by Weinstein and his associates.

Meanwhile, “wigging” gained attention last month when a stuntwoman, Deven MacNair, filed formal complaints with both SAG-AFTRA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the practice, which she said led to discrimination on the set of a film.

“The practice is so common,” MacNair told The Guardian last month. “It’s historical sexism—this is how it’s been done since the beginning of time.”

Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill." Thurman recently revealed she was seriously injured in a stunt gone wrong when creating the film series. (Miramax)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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