Breaking glass with Stephanie Carey

Stephanie CareyJumping through windows and falling off buildings is just in a day’s work for stuntwoman Stephanie Carey. Throughout her career she has worked on an array of TV shows and films – such as Luther, Silent Witness, 28 Days Later and the upcoming Kick-Ass 2.

Talking to The Knowledge, Stephanie explains that driving a car off a cliff isn’t as easy as you might think, and warns that if you want to succeed as a stuntman or woman, you’re going to need a lot of Ibuprofen…

How did you become a stuntwoman?

Not surprisingly most stunt people come from a sporty background of one form or another, and I am no different. I originally came from a competitive swimming background - I worked and travelled out of the country for a few years in my early 20s in places such as Hong Kong, China, Australia and Thailand. It was while I was in Hong Kong playing ladies rugby that I heard of such a job and knew instantly that this was what I was going to train for back in the UK. Friends joked that a job falling off buildings was ideal for me!

How did you get your qualifications?

Equity provided me with the current list of qualifications, of which six are required of a high standard. Then the next stage is training for them at relevant clubs. I treated it like going to university - most evenings and weekends were taken up with training and holding down a full time job for funds.

What are the main challenges of your role?

Converting the director’s vision into a physical stunt which is safe and yet looks realistic and dramatic.

What’s the most challenging job you’ve ever worked on?

Obviously some jobs are more challenging than others. Driving a car off a cliff while jumping out of it is more challenging than tumbling down an embankment for example, although there is potential for injury in both.  Without sounding too cheesy, all our jobs are challenging in one way or another as there is generally always some risk of injury to ourselves or other performers.

What’s the most memorable job you’ve worked on?

I've had so many great and interesting jobs over the years. I especially like any driving work. I did a film [The Cold Light of Day] where the lead actress, Sigourney Weaver, is involved a car chase through the streets of Madrid with actor Henry Cavill Myself and Rob [fellow stuntman Rob Hunt] had lots of fun smashing and bashing up our cars. The chase culminated with a double cannon roll outside the Madrid Bullring.

How is your job changing?

Budgets play a big part in determining the scale of the stunt. What can start out as a huge sequence can sometimes be reduced substantially, which is always a shame. The co-ordiators I'm fortune to have worked with have a wealth of experience and creative vision - the skill is in providing the action sequence within budget constraints!

What key skills do you need to become a stuntwoman?

A good sense of timing is essential. If a car is coming at you during a car knock down it's imperative to get the timing right - too soon looks false and too late - you’re getting hurt. A lot of our job is physical acting, such as bringing a fight sequence to life.

Also keeping your head in usual situations e.g. being seat-belted in a car which is sinking in pitch black water. The camera is on you until complete submersion so it's a breath-holding job.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a stuntwoman?

Train hard to get all your qualifications and don't give up.

Also work with the co-ordinators who want to share their knowledge with you and learn from them - they are a wealth of information.

If you could meet a version of yourself right at the start of your career, what’s the one piece of advice you would give yourself?

Invest in Ibuprofen shares - you're going to use a lot of them…

To find out more about Stephanie and her work, please visit her profile on The Knowledge.