During the pandemic New Zealand has become a safe haven for international film studios, creating a surge in demand for ‘stunties.’
Burrowed in a beige building block in Auckland’s industrial east, a neat line of stunt hopefuls wait their turn to take their first step on an “air ram”. With enough power to flip a full sized car, the menacing looking metal pedal is designed to vault the “stunties” high into the air, as if tossed from an exploding building.
Standing by and keeping a watchful eye, Dayna Grant points up to the rafters of the converted warehouse at least 10 metres above, fondly remembering a time she was tossed up high enough to touch the ceiling. But today’s NZ Stunt School class of ex-circus performers, working stunt people, and retirees, won’t come close to that.
In New Zealand’s stunt industry, Grant is its matriarch. She has fended off warlords as Xena: Warrior Princess’s stunt double, dangled beneath moving trucks on the set of Mad Max, and more recently has been trying to fill the talent gap through her organisation, NZ Stunt School.
“A year ago we were doing an intake of new students every three months and it was only just filling, now we have an intake every month and it’s booked a full two months in advance,” said Grant.
Over the course of the global pandemic, New Zealand has become a production safe haven for international film studios, playing host to the likes of Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, James Cameron’s Avatar sequel, and Amazon’s big budget The Lord of the Rings series. With limited border exemptions available to meet the surge in demand – 24 stunt professionals have been approved by Immigration New Zealand since the border closure – this has meant plenty of work for the local stunt industry.
Mark Trotter, who’s responsible for booking stunt people on live-action television show Power Rangers, says trying to source talent is getting harder and harder as time goes on.
“It’s been extremely difficult. There were times we needed 15 players, but we could only find seven or eight because there’s just no one,” said Trotter…
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