Vertical Horizonz NZ chatted with Craig Dunn, President of the NZ Stunt Guild.


Craig, your team has recently completed the Rope Access course with Vertical Horizonz, what value will this qualification add to your team ?
As stunt performers and contractors we want and need to be educated about the law and safety issues especially in the high risk environments we work in. We want to have a structured, high level of safety for our industry and Vertical Horizonz NZ offers industry standards and training that we can customise for our environment.
We have to make decisions about high risk activities and eliminate or minimise the risks. We have to be compliant with the law and promote safe work environments, training helps us do this.

We have also completed the Train the Trainer course with Vertical Horizonz. The Train the Trainer course helps to ensure the methodology we use is correct when presenting risk analysis and stunt plans to film teams and actors. It is essential we give the clearest instructions.


Members of your team have also completed the National Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety Level 3 with Vertical Horizonz, obviously health and safety is paramount in your line of work, can you tell us about the safety culture within the stunt world?
Safety is always paramount! We are now seeing requirements for paperwork to support what we have always done and have always taken seriously. These safety processes are now being supported at a higher level, which is a good thing and the right direction to be moving in.

Have you noticed more clients asking to see certain qualifications since the Health and Safety at Work Act changed?
Generally the industry is looking to have more standardised qualifications, SOPs (Safe Operating Procedures) and codes of practice around what we do. This is a good change for organisational structure. It is helpful for us to have this industry standard, particularly when working with international companies. Laws change and we adapt and go with what's needed.

What procedures do you and your team work through to keep yourself safe when completing stunts?
We always do a number of rehearsals; we start with a dry rehearsal, then a block out rehearsal, we then train the actors, and block a rehearsal with the actors, then do a full pace rehearsal to make sure it works at speed, then educate all involved departments; art, costumes, etc before we try the real take. 

A risk assessment is always completed to eliminate or minimise the risks as much as possible. We are not trying to be Dare Devils; we want to go home at the end of each working day so we take all the necessary steps to make sure that happens.

Can you tell us about some of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) stunt people use?

The PPE pack will always include body padding similar to motorcycle pads, and custom harnesses suitable for acting out flying and falls.


Stunt people are essentially hired to act out the most dangerous situations in a safe way but make it look realistic. What type of stunt proves most difficult in this respect?
Actually anything can be dangerous! The simplest stunts can go wrong if they're not prepped properly. We make sure to ALWAYS block and always rehearse each stunt, the moment you become slack is the moment something goes wrong.

When hiring new stunt people what safety qualifications do you look for or recommend people complete?
We have a strict grading structure which involves 5 key aspects:
Body control, e.g. martial arts experience
Height experience involving diving and parachuting
Water safety experience
Vehicle handling and driving experience
Animals experience.
We look to hire people who have 4 out of the 5 key skills.

The following NZQA standards are desirable: 
• Workplace Health & Safety Certificate– Units 497, 17593, 17602
• 1st Aid Certificate – Units 6400, 6401, 6402
• Working at Heights Certificate – Unit 17600
• NZQA Fall Arrest Systems – Unit 15757
• Fire Safety Certificate – Units 3271, 18408, 4647
• Elevated Work Platforms Certificate – Units 23964, 23966

What has been the most challenging job you've ever worked on?
Every stunt presents new challenges. One exciting stunt included being dragged behind a car at 40kms on a dusty road with Steve Irwin holding a king brown snake out in front of me, and at a precise moment I had to let go and roll into a hole in the ground.

Photos from the NZ Stunt Guild members on various projects: