Stunt Performer FAQs

Why is the Stunt Grading process important?

The Stunt Grading process is vital to maintaining and improving safety in our industry. At its core, working as a Stunt Performer, Stunt Coordinator or Safety Supervisor is about assessing risk, both for the individuals involved in a stunt and often for the rest of the cast and crew. The work you do requires trust from all involved.

Professional Stunt Performers in Australia must be graded through the Equity Grading Process to perform work safely in our screen industry.

An Equity Stunt Grading Certificate is proof that an individual has provided evidence based, peer reviewed documentation to their stunt industry peers, sitting on the Stunt Committee. Then, after considering an application, the committee can issue a Grading Certificate if the committee believes the applicant has demonstrated adequate experience, knowledge, qualifications and aptitude to perform this risky work.

An Equity Stunt Grading Certificate is considered in the industry as the clearest evidence that you can be trusted to work safely as a stunt professional on set.

The Equity Stunt Grading system was first established in Australia in the 1980s. Since then the grading process has been amended and updated with the last major re-drafting of the grading application procedure occurring in 2012. Further amendments can be made from time to time as needs arise and where procedures can be streamlined or better clarified in the wording of the document.

The Equity Stunt Grading Procedure is the only recognised professional grading process for stunt performers and screen industry safety consultants in Australia, and one of only 5 recognised systems in the world.

How is the Stunt Grading procedure legally enforceable?

The Workplace Health & Safety Act 2011, Div. 2 (f) is clear that an employers’ “Primary Duty of Care” in any workplace involves the “… provision of information, training, instruction and supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work…”

In the context of stunt performers this Primary Duty of Care includes an employers’ responsibility to engage people with adequate industry experience to perform the role of Stunt Performing, Coordinating and Safety Supervising. To do otherwise, in Equity’s view, is to knowingly increase the risk to employees on set by engaging individual employees that have not provided any documented peer reviewed evidence of their industry recognised skills and experience, training, instruction and supervision on Stunt or Safety related issues in the Film and TV industry.

An employer found to be knowingly increasing a health and safety risk in a workplace may well be breaching the relevant WHS Act in each state. In the worst case scenario, where something does goes wrong on set, an increased risk stemming from the engagement of a non-graded stunt performer may be found to have contributed to workplace injury or death.

Were such a worst case scenario occur, the employer and an ungraded stunt performer may be found liable under the WHS Act 2011 and need to pay fines up to $3,000,000 for a Body Corporate and or be gaoled for up to 5 years.

Performing work in a safe manner is also an employees’ responsibility and Stunt Professionals who knowingly seek and agree to employment above their graded level are potentially breaching their duty to work safely. This includes agreeing to perform dual roles, for example Coordinating Stunts as well as being the designated Safety Officer on set. Equity does not condone this practice by members or non-members in our industry as it has the real potential to increase the risk to our union members’ safety at work.
The Stunt Grading Procedure we have is vital and enforceable because;

  • It is one of the only a few peer reviewed, best practice Stunt Grading procedures in the world.
  • To be graded is to hold evidence that you have been judged by your industry colleagues as a trustworthy professional within a particular skill level, and you have provided demonstrated evidence of your industry experience.
  • A Grading Certificate is a badge of industry recognition with Producers, Directors, Crew and Cast. For an employer to ignore the grading process by employing individuals or by stunt performers accepting work outside their grading can be judged as increasing a risk in a workplace and therefore breaching the Primary Duty of Care as defined in the relevant WHS Act and Regulations.
  • Without our Grading Procedure there would be no recognised system to differentiate between a professional Stunt Performers – who deserves to be paid and treated with respect – and with someone who is doing the work as a hobby.
  • The Equity Stunt Grading process is the difference between building a safe, professional stunt industry, or having a dangerous, unregulated hobby for amateurs. So if you know a stunt performer who is working outside their grading, or a Producer that is knowingly hiring ungraded stunt performers, coordinators or safety officers you can:
    • Advise Equity you have or wish to raise this as a workplace health and safety risk at work. Equity can then advise what steps you can take next to address the issue.
    • Make a confidential complaint to the relevant Workcover authority in the state where you’re working.
    • Formally raise the matter as a WHS concern at work with your colleagues and go together to raise the matter with your employer. Under Australian law, an employee or a group of employees cannot be discriminated against because they’ve raised a genuine Health & Safety concern at work. Your union can assist with ensuring your rights in this area of industrial law are protected, but we can’t assist unless you let us know. Unless people raise this issue at work and with their union and their employer then the practice of some ungraded stunt performers working in Australia is likely to continue. That is a risk our union and our industry do not want to take, but we can’t fix it without information and support from Equity members.

How does the National Stunt Grading Committee (NSGC) operate?

When can the Committee make a grading decision or conducting other business?

  • Under rule 70A clause (f) of the MEAA/Equity Registered Organisation Rules, as registered with the Fair Work Commission, the National Stunt Grading Committee has the power to;
  • ‘…devise and administer the National Stunt Grading Procedure and consider matters affecting safety and related issues in the Film and Television industries.’
  • Also stemming from rule 70A, the committee can conduct committee business and make decisions on grading applications and other related industry issues, when there is a quorum of at least 7 committee members.
  • Any decision made by the committee must receive majority support from within the quorum of 7 committee members, e.g. as a minimum 4 of the 7 committee members must support a decision before it is adopted. Where there is more than 7 committee members making a decision, then it must be a majority decision e.g. 5 from 8, 6 from 10 etc.
  • The current stunt committee consists of 8 active members. All these individuals were nominated and elected to the committee in late 2012.
  • The desired number of committee members is 12 with the following breakdown;
    • Graded Safety Supervisors from a minimum of 3 states.
    • Graded Stunt Coordinators from a minimum 3 states.
    • Graded Stunt Actors (performers) from a minimum 3 states.

Over the next 6 months Equity intends to re-open a nomination process with a view to addressing the current shortfall in committee members and the current committee members will be asked to endorse additional committee members.

How can an adverse grading decision be appealed?

Under the Stunt Grading Procedure there is an appeals mechanism via the National Stunt appeals Board (NSAB). This board, under the current procedure has a total of 12 members made up of 4 elected stunt actors with at least 5 years industry experience, 4 elected Safety Consultants/Supervisors and 4 elected Stunt Coordinators plus an Equity appointed representative. Each State must be represented on the appeals board.

Equity is in the process of seeking amendments to the composition of the NSAB, with a view to ensuring it is easier to trigger an appeals process when requested by an Equity member.

Where an appeals board is not available, or an appeal to the NSAB is rejected, an applicant who feels their grading application has been unreasonably refused or the Grading Procedure has not been properly applied can seek a decision from a presiding Fair Work Commissioner. The presiding Commissioner, under the appeals process, has the power to either reject the appeal or refer any appeals decision back to the National Stunt Grading Committee with a recommendation.

When is the next election for the NSGC due?

NSGC elections can occur every two years with the next election due to occur in the first half of this year, before June 30 2014. In the interim new committee members can be appointed by a majority decision of the current committee.

Equity will be encouraging 12 or more stunt members to nominate next year and where in excess of 12 nominations in the various categories are received, a ballot of all financial members graded as stunt actor or higher will be run. While voting in any union ballot is not compulsory, the more members who vote the better.

So all members graded as Stunt Actors or higher should participate in both the nomination and ballot process where requested by their union.

When and how often are NSGC meetings held?

The NSGC holds Grading Meetings four times per year and on a three month cycle. The dates of these meetings can be subject to change, dependent on the availability of committee members. The meetings are generally conducted by phone conference for committee members unable to attend a meeting in person at the Equity Federal Office in Redfern, NSW.

Interim decisions between meetings

Decisions about an applicants’ grading can be made between meetings if, for example, if an applicant simply has to provide additional information to the committee about their application. Where the committee, by majority decision, feels an applicant has addressed their request the applicant can be graded and have their certificate issued before the next scheduled NSGC meeting. Equity maintains records of NSGC decisions made during scheduled meetings and decisions made between meetings.

Equity Annual General Meetings or Stunt Industry Forum

Equity, on request of the NSGC, is working to facilitate an annual general meeting and or a national Equity Stunt Members Forum where all members will be invited to participate, face to face, by phone, Skype or video conferencing, in discussion about industry issues and to vote on union resolutions. Equity hopes to have this in place for 2014.

How do our rights at work as Stunt Performers get maintained and improved?

Equity has existed in Australia for over 75 years. Stunt performers formerly joined Equity in the 1980s.

Step 1. Building & Maintaining Collective Power: A union, at its core, is a group of people who come together to solve problems we can’t solve alone. Equity in Australia is respected in our industry because 90% of professional performers are members, and those members hold the skills, experience and reputation that underpin the economic value of any stage or screen production. Without performers the Performing Arts Industry would not exist. So when more than 90 per cent of performers stand united and demand respect at work, they get heard.

Step 2. Equity Collective Agreements: Some evidence of our unions’ collective power in our arts industry are the many collective agreements and standard working conditions won by Equity members since 1939.

Examples for Stunt Performers are the many minimum rates and conditions contained in union collective agreements for performers (stunt performers included) in the film and TV industry. These agreements are generally re-negotiated every three years and industry employers only agree to sit down with Equity and negotiate because they know 90 per cent of professional performers would not have it any other way.

Step 3. Organising At Work: Our union only has power when people stand together and are active about workplace issues. That process is called “organising” and it’s the never ending union campaign in any industry. Equity organisers and members have a responsibility to keep their colleagues informed and involved on Equity campaigns and industry issues. That includes attending and helping to organise Equity meetings on set, being involved in the various committees and union structures. It also includes the process of welcoming new acting graduates to their industry and union every year.

Being organised is about being educated about what power we have together as skilled professionals and deciding when and how we should use our power.