As most areas of life, stunt work also follows a specific hierarchy. Depending on the number of films shot, the time spent working on film, dangerous scenes and the quality of work – stuntmen hold different qualifications, ranging from stuntman beginner to stunt master. The hierarchy of stuntmen goes like this:
Any beginner is a stuntman student. He volunteers alongside stuntmen, helping them with effects, shooting less dangerous scenes, including fights, fulminates, pedestrian falls, horse riding and the like. To reach the next step, the stuntman student needs to be in at least 20 stunt scenes (on average, a movie contains at least 5-10 stunt scenes). He also has to listen to seniors in rank obediently and to assist them. Whether he advances to the next rank depends on him alone.
Stuntman assistant is the next in rank, and he takes a more active part in stunt work. He extensively shoots easier stunt scenes, done by stuntmen hired per day, as well as explosion, high falls up to 6 metres, driving fast, horse riding, safer falls, or burning. Often, in the absence of stuntman students, assistants replace them, and their role is to assist stuntmen in various manners when shooting dangerous scenes. To reach the next rank, the stuntman assistant needs to have at least 20 films to his name and needs to possess personal protective stunt equipment.
As suggested by the name of the rank, the stuntman toolmaker is responsible for stunt tools. He has an active role in protecting stuntmen during dangerous stunts, through a correct set-up of protective layers, selection, appropriate props, maintaining stunt equipment, drawing story board. When setting up props, he has at his disposal the assistance of all available stuntmen (apprentices and assistants) below him. In his spare time (outside shooting), he is tasked to project new protective equipment for stunts. His task is to compile the entire necessary equipment to be able to independently do stunt work.
Stuntman is responsible for all activities related to dangerous scenes, asked of him by the stuntman-in-chief or the stunt master. He possesses the entire stunt equipment required for the majority of stunt scenes. He can independently perform, set up and coordinate small projects that require a single stuntman.
Stuntman master is a stunt professional who has dedicated his whole life to films. To become a stunt master, a stuntman must have over 200 films to his name and at least 20 years of experience working as a stuntman on film. He also needs to be fully equipped to act as a director (special effects), to deliver successful and high-quality stunt development and scenarios. The stunt master usually carries out the function of the stuntman-in-chief or the stunt coordinator. If there are more than one stunt masters on shooting, the role of the coordinator, as the most important function regarding stunts on a film, is assigned to senior and better stuntman.
Stuntman-in-chief is a function, not a rank. Stuntman-in-chief is usually a stuntman who, with his qualities, stands out from other stuntmen, primarily due to his leadership qualities, such as honesty, rectitude, reliability, seriousness, calmness and humility. The stuntman master chooses the most reliable one of his men to serve this function. When shooting dangerous scenes, stuntman-in-chief takes care of the safety of the film crew so that they wouldn’t be hurt by a stuntman’s mistake, and also of the safety of the stuntmen themselves. He needs to be an expert in fire prevention to be able to prevent potential fires.
Stunt coordinator is the most vital function among stunt performers. The stuntman need not listen to neither the producer, nor the director, nor other crew, but solely to the stunt coordinator. Talking to director and producer, the coordinator has a task to envisage a dangerous scene and then execute it. He is the one who suggests to the director the suitable camera angle for shooting, the number of cameras and other issues. He gives requirements to the scenography team about the appearance of objects and details, props and requires additional equipment. The stunt coordinator works on a film from the moment its scenario is confirmed and the film preparations begin. Then he starts to write the stunt development of the scenario. While developing, he sets requirements for the organisations regarding a number of things, such as actor training (e.g. for fight scenes), vehicle testing and their technical examination. The stunt coordinator is a responsible function, which the stuntman or stunt master uses to give his personal touch to the film, and uses his creative expression to deliver special effects in the best possible way.