Never too old to be a stuntman: An interview with Brian Robinson

It’s not every day that you realise your life-long ambition is to become a stunt performer. Not everyone is lucky enough to know what they want to do as a career, you may find yourself bouncing from job to job, just hoping to find something to re-ignite your passion.

When that moment comes, and you just know deep down that you want, no, need to become a stunt performer, it’s a euphoric moment.

Only one question remains though, how? How do I go about achieving this dream? You’ll do your research, you will find out about The British Action Academy and our courses, you’ll look into becoming a member of the stunt register. It’s all pretty daunting stuff.

Now imagine that this realisation comes when you are 53 years old. I spoke to Brian Robinson, a British Academy student, who at the age of 60 is waiting to hear if he has gotten onto the British Stunt Register.

Hi Brian, aside from going for the British Stunt Register, what do you currently do as your day job?

I have a couple of day jobs, my main one is as a martial arts instructor. I also drive heavy goods vehicles a couple of times a week.

Awesome, so apart from your obvious interest in Martial Arts what career path is it that you are looking to pursue?

Well, I also have a background as a commercial diver. I actually used to do it full time. I’m qualified as a martial artist, and I’m qualified as a diver. So I thought I would just try to get onto the register and see what happened from there. I have these areas of expertise, I suppose, so thought I would give it a go and see what comes along?

What made you want to use your expertise to pursue movies and screen action?

I always liked the idea of being a stuntman. Just the concept of being a stuntman, I thought was such a cool idea, but it used to have a cut off date, and you couldn’t apply to be a stuntman if you were over the age of 40.**

I was busy doing other things up to the age of 40, so the time for me came and went, and I thought well that’s that then. Then, legislation came in to say you can’t have age-related cutoffs, and I heard about that, and thought, why not?

**To clarify, the stunt register has never had an upper age limit, however, this doesn't detract from people feeling that the industry can be agest and the rumour mill can also peddle untruths! 

How long ago was that?

That was about 6-7 years ago. I thought why not give it a go, and here we are now, I’m hopefully just about to join the register.

That’s incredible, so 60 years old, and just about to join the stunt register?

Yeah, I suspect it might be a first.

What made you choose to do the British Action Academy Courses?

I figured out very early on, when I was looking at it, that the six skills that you had to get (for the stunt register) aren’t necessarily what a stuntman does, they’re kind of background to being a stuntman, and they feed into it, but it’s not what you do as a stuntman. What you do is fall, and fly, and die.

So I looked around, and the only place that was teaching those techniques was The British Action Academy. Getting the qualifications was one thing, but getting the skills to do the stuntman job is a completely different thing. The fact is the British Action Academy is run people who have got years and years of experience in the stunt industry and are successful working stunt coordinators, it was a bit of a no-brainer really.

You’ve done up to Phase III, how have you found the Warrior Masterclass?

Taxing! All of them! Ha, they’re great. They push you, they are very physical, they are very focused, they’re also very friendly. In fact, I started my training with Matt Robinson, who’s raced ahead and now instructs at the BAA. I found them great, I found them really useful.

Everyone on the course is really friendly and supportive. It was also nice to join the agency after my Phase II which is great because besides from the income, you get an opportunity in front of the camera to use the skills. So it all fits in very well together.

When you started the Warrior Masterclass, what were you hoping to get out of it?

Well, when I started, I didn’t think I would do all the phases, but as it happens that’s exactly what I am intending to do. I just thought, let's get on this course, which is clearly about showing fighting rather than actually being able to fight. As I said, my background is as a martial artist, so I know how to fight, but there is a difference between knowing how to fight, and looking like you’re actually fighting in front of a camera.

I produced videos for my martial arts and found that it was all too quick, so we had to slow it down significantly and exaggerate things. So I knew I had to learn how to fight in a way that looks good on camera, and Andreas’ experience proved invaluable there.

What did you find the hardest thing about the Warrior Masterclass?

It’s a mixture of two different things. It’s extraordinarily physical. Each of the phases are incredibly physical, so for those three days there is the physical aspect, and nothing quite prepares you for it. It’s incredibly full on. The other thing is the different styles of the different characters.

Trying to get five different characters, all with such different, distinctive ways of moving. The pirate is so different from the knight and trying to turn them on so quickly. The switching between them. So that’s what I find difficult: the physical mixed with getting the character right. The pirate is the most fun character, but it is fast and you have to maintain it.

If you could change the way you approached the Phases?

Yeah, and I’ve done it. It’s making sure that you have enough time to focus and prepare yourself for it. It’s such a full-on thing, you have to do a lot of pre-course preparation. I’ve put on hold a lot of stuff because I wanted to focus on the British Action Academy once I’d sorted out my application to the stunt register.

It needs your full attention. You can’t take it too lightly, especially with Andreas, and his military background, he expects you to turn up not just physically and mentally prepared, but with all the homework done. So there’s no point turning up if you haven’t really focused on it.

You’ve also taken part on BLAST, how was that?

That was fantastic. I loved BLAST. I thought, where else do you go to get access to so many different aspects of stunt work. Also, you were being instructed by highly respected stunt coordinators. What more could you ask for?

What I would say there, is that if you're newly onto the register, and whether or not you’ve done the Warrior Phases or not, I would recommend that you get on B.L.A.S.T. You’re constantly in the presence of experienced successful stunt coordinators who are throwing out this great advice in terms of your career.

What’s great as well is that a stunt co-ordinator was teaching on Phase II, and after our assessments, they told me that they would like to use me as a Skilled Supporting Artist on a show they were doing. They recommended me to the BAA agency and I got some SSA work. It’s not just words. 

You’re also on the British Action Academy Agency, how have you found that?

I like it. I like it a lot. It gives you an insight into the stunt world. I got to work with Andreas directly, and in amongst the stunt performers. What I love about it is when you get there, you don’t have to introduce or explain yourself to everyone, because everyone knows what you’re going to do. So when they call action there is a common understanding of what you should be doing.

You’ve worked on Bulletproof and Bounty Hunters.

Yeah, I worked on Bulletproof, which was great. I got to get shot. I also did three episodes of Bounty Hunters. All through the BAA Agency. 

How were the on-set experiences?

It was nice. To get onto the stunt register you need 60 days of on-set work, and most people get that as a supporting artist, but when you do it as a skilled supporting artist, you get so much more experience and get to see so much more going on. So to get a day on-set with the British Action Academy, you're much more involved in the production.

What was your role on Bounty Hunters?

I had a couple of roles. I did background work during a crash on an escalator. I was also driving pass during a car crash. I was also a guest at a wedding, where people got shot at. I should mention, I had a role as a train conductor for On Chesil Beach, which was great fun because I met people from the Warrior Masterclass on-set as well.

You had the pleasure of being shot on Bulletproof, was that a good day on set?

I loved that. It was terrific. It was as close as a background artist can get to the action, without encroaching on stunt performers. This was the difference between being a background artist, and a skilled supporting artist with the British Action Academy. I was actually able to contribute to the action. I had to be shot dead, and as a consequence, I was lying on the floor as the principal actors had to run through, but I was in the way. I was able to say to them, “Am I in the shot?” No. Once your dead your not.

So I said that I would just roll over the way. As an extra your not allowed to speak, and if you dare to speak to anyone on set you’ll probably be sacked. That’s the great thing about being there with the British Action Academy. That’s the sort of initiative you’d be expected to show as a stuntman, so the whole thing was a great learning experience.

If you weren’t there through the British Action Academy, you wouldn’t get that experience because you wouldn’t be treated in that way. I had the cameraman, the director, and the stunt coordinator listening to me, and no ones thinking why is he speaking? I’ve done nearly a hundred days on set as an extra and an SSA and you don’t get that unless you're there with the British Action Academy, because you don’t command that respect.

Have you found that your age has affected your career path?

I don’t think so. It has raised eyebrows on regular occasions, but it’s never worried me, as I don’t see myself as a sixty-year-old man, but it has caused surprise. From my point of view, I haven’t asked for any special treatment. I’ve had to do exactly the same as a 28-year-old. Everything should be equal though, shouldn’t it?

Being honest, people have been a bit stunned. The people on the register have all been like “Go on, go for it!” Some of the younger people I’ve met, who have been trying to get on to the register have asked things like, “Do you honestly think you’ll get any work at your age?”

The thing is, stunt work isn’t always James Bond. If they need a grey-haired guy falling over on Eastenders, I’m a grey haired guy, and if they wanted me on Eastenders, I’d fall over there.

No one's been really negative. It’s just that some of the younger ones think stunt work is just for young people. Look at Andreas though, he isn’t a boy, but when I’ve worked with him, he’s worked as a stuntman.

What advice would you give someone who was looking to get onto a British Action Academy Course?

Well, there’s a lot of people out there now who have been on these courses, so I would suggest that you talk to a lot of people who have been on the courses. It’s a substantial outlay of money, but something is only expensive if it’s overpriced, and this isn’t overpriced. It’s good value.

The alternatives, if you try to cheapskate around the edges, you just don’t get the quality of training. So I would suggest that you talk to people, and you’ll probably find that a lot of people you talk to are people you know and respect. So if they're telling you it’s good, it must be good.

And lastly, any advice for someone about to attend Warrior Masterclass Phase I?

Yeah. Get fit. A lot of the guys going into the stunt world are very muscular, and spend a lot of time in the gym. Which makes you look a certain way, and gives you a certain strength, but when you have to do more of an athletes job, you aren’t as fit. Look at Mo Farrah, he doesn’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he’d probably last longer on a Phase II course.

 

Brian is currently waiting to hear whether he has successfully joined the British Stunt Register. Once he finds out his results he is eager to get onto Phase IV of the Warrior Masterclass.

If you fancy kick-starting your screen action career, check out our Warrior Masterclass right HERE!

You can check out our full list of course dates right HERE!

 

Tagged: The Reel
Created by Sam on 29 Oct 2018

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