Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dreams of being a stuntman

When I was a kid, we used to go to Saturday morning movies. These were specially run for kids, and used to show ancient serials, films made on the cheap. They were great fodder for kids who loved to see what would happen next, and who enoyed plenty of knockabout action.

The boy who lived a couple of houses away from me had a big back yard (he lived in a house built onto the corner shop). One of our kids' games was to make up stagecoaches from the boxes lying around the yard, and copy the cowboy stories, or the cops and robber serials. We’d pretend we were stunt men and would fall off these ‘stagecoaches’ and roll around the ground. In fact, one of my dreams in those days was to be a stuntman. Having seen what they have to put up with since, the dream has faded. Plus I don’t enjoy hurting myself!

I once watched a group of filmmakers shooting a scene for a short film. It was the bit where the main character was supposed to fall headlong down a manhole. The street had been built up, so that instead of sloping, it was flat. A pretend manhole had been built into this ‘street’ and the poor old stuntman spent the afternoon being dropped headfirst down this hole.

I was in a play last year, and actually had my own ‘stuntman’ for one short scene. I was supposed to be dropped into a hole, headfirst, and then had to stand on my head while the animals who’d put me there debated as to what I was. We managed to fool most of the audience most of the time. I’d rush off, chased by the animals, and my stuntman would reappear, still chased. He would be caught and dropped in the hole, and then, when they let him out again, he’d rush back off and I’d rush back on.

In spite of the fact that he’s a couple of inches shorter than me, and has a completely different body build, we got away with this trick night after night. People believe what they to believe.

In the short film, when I eventually saw it, the main character ran down some stairs, out the door and fell headlong into the hole. There was no doubt in the viewer’s mind that he’d fallen into the hole and not someone else.

Good old anonymous stuntmen.

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