20 Questions with Dale Girard

What’s your name?

Dale Anthony Girard

What do you do?

Stunt Coordinator / Fight Arranger / Stunt Performer

How would you describe the duties of your job?

Specific to Stunt Coordinator, my duties are to oversee safety in all action determined as “stunts” for a project. This includes, but is not limited to the safety of the cast, stunt performer(s), animal(s), crew, location and environment. This is achieved through the proper development, rigging and execution of each piece of action, which involves the development of a stunt team/department and cooperation with all the other production departments.

How did you get your start in the business?

With a background in theatre and martial arts I started as a stunt performer in B and C level martial art/action films that were able to take advantage of my size and skill set.

What is the best advice you ever received about the film business?

From the old school stunt coordinator, Bobby Miles, he told me that, “A good stuntman is one who can make it to work tomorrow. A stuntman needs to take care of himself and his team. You’re no good to me if you bust yourself up today and can’t work tomorrow.”

What are your thoughts on film school vs. on the set training?

Specific to my craft, there isn’t a “school” that really teaches how the world of stunts really works; it almost has to be on the job training. In respect to filmmaking in general, a good school or conservatory, with qualified, working professionals is an excellent bridge from academics to the actual profession. Nothing, however, replaces actual on set experience.

What three things are essential parts of your “kit”?

The “kit” of a Stunt Coordinator is developed to fit the specific needs of a project. Car/Racing films need a very different kit than a romantic comedy or fight film. The kit is developed to meet the specific needs (and possible needs) of any given project. The same is true of a stunt performer, the pad bag is often loaded with the gear needed for the type of action or stunts for which the performer has been hired – there is no reason to pack fire safety gear if there are no fire stunts in the project. However, most stunt performers generally carry hard body pads, soft body pads and fitted vest and harnesses in their personal pad bag/kit.

What are three tricks of your trade?

Anything and everything off camera can be padded/protected (no one will ever know); 2. Non-contact “hits” must cross both the eye of the lens and the plane of the object appearing to be struck; 3. Depth of field is your friend – unless shooting 3-D.

What’s the most misunderstood aspect of your job?

Stunt performers are trained professions and not daredevils! There is a great deal of science and math, preparation and training that goes into each stunt to make sure everyone walks away happy and healthy. Professional stunt professionals are not crazy yahoos – they are the physical effects of the film industry (wouldn’t it be great if these indispensable members of the industry, coordinators and performers alike, got an Oscar?).

In your position, what are a few of the key considerations when shooting on film vs. digital?

The primary difference for stunts is the ability to review the action in Video Village when shot digitally where with film there is seldom playback so it is more difficult to insure you got the shot before moving on. Digital often also often allows for more cameras/coverage for action at less of an overall cost.

What do you see as the biggest difference between an Indie set and a Hollywood set?

In my experience, the Indie film set has a smaller group of people who are generally all invested in the project. It is more of a team effort to make the best possible with what is available. The “Hollywood” set tends to have more people, many of whom are more interested in their careers than the project on which they are working. This is general, however, as I’ve worked projects where the opposite is true in both cases.

Paper or plastic?

Depends on the gag. Box rigs are good up to a point, but eventually you need an airbag!

Union or non-Union?

I’m a union boy – but it can be a problem in a state that is hot/cold for tax breaks but still has a good deal on non-union work rolling in. A number of NC stunties I know have gone fi-corps (financial corps) with SAG-AFTRA to allow for as much union/non-union work at home as possible. I’ve lost some work by not going fi-corps, but SAG-AFTRA has done a good job looking out for me so I think it is worth it.

What was your funniest moment on set?

After being wrapped as the character Sankur from the film “Eyeborgs,” where I had sported long black wavy hair and a “Duck Dynasty” beard and mustache for over a month, I returned to the set the following week clean shaven with a blond, conservative haircut – no one recognized me. I was still working as Stunt Coordinator so much comedy ensued as cast and crew searched about for the former me.

Set safety is a hot button these days. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Put safety first and make it last! As someone working in stunts – safety is an absolute and should never be compromised for any reason. Everyone needs to make it to work tomorrow!

What’s the most memorable location you’ve shot in?

High up on a cliff in the amazingly scenic Colorado Rockies. Breathtaking!

Is there location you’ve always wanted to work?

Ireland! My good friend and business partner, Richard Ryan, is there again for season IV of “Vikings”.

What are three things you want every film set newbie to know?

Do your job – whatever your job – to the absolute best of your ability. 2. Follow the chain of command. 3. Respect the actors, they are at work and not a autograph signing.

What’s the title of your most recent project?

“Shifting Gears” – http://shiftinggearsmovie.com/

What’s next?

The constant hustle for landing more local work!

Categories: Career Building

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