Female stunt drivers take on obstacles to working in Hollywood

 


 (Reuters) - For stunt women, Hollywood does not have a good track record, particularly when it comes to driving.

That has prompted a group of women to form the Association of Women Drivers, the first-ever stunt group for professional female drivers.
Olivia Summers, who spearheaded the organization, has been doing stunts for 20 years, with credits, including films like "Bridesmaids" and "The Flight Attendant." But she was disappointed by male stunt drivers being cast to double for female actors and remembers a disastrous meeting with a commercial producer.
"That producer said 'Oh I didn't know there were female drivers. We just put a guy in a wig,' and I was super frustrated because I'm like, how does this person not know this?" Summers told Reuters while training on a track with other stunt women outside Los Angeles.
But it's not just women who face this issue. There is also a practice known as "paintdowns" in which they paint the stunt performer black or brown to double for an actor of color, she said.
"My business partner, Dee Bryant, who is a phenomenal top female stunt driver in the African American community is dealing with guys still doing paintdowns," Summers said.
Men comprise three-quarters of stunt performers and women one-quarter, according to The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA).
Although the guild rules state that productions must find female stunt performers for female roles and vice versa, stunt coordinators can get around this by stating they exhausted all avenues for finding female performers.
According to SAG-AFTRA guidelines, stunt coordinators must consult with the guild if they can't find a matching stuntperson, but this rarely happens, Summers said.
"It has to change," said Naoki Kobayashi, owner of Drift 101, the training track for stunt performers.
Founder of the Association of Women Drivers, Olivia Summers, trains Wakisha Malone
Founder of the Association of Women Drivers, Olivia Summers, trains Wakisha Malone on how to do a stunt in Rosemond, California, U.S. April 17, 2024, in this screengrab taken from a video. REUTERS/Reuters TV Purchase Licensing Rights, opens new tab
"I think we all need to sort of respect and sort of view everybody equally and it should be based on their talent, not because they've shown experience over the years. We need to open up," he added.
Training to work in stunts is also expensive, Summers said, as workers need to stay fit and keep the driving skills current.
"I think my first year of driving I spent $18,000, so I look at it as if I’m going to college. That’s my tuition," she said.
"It’s an expensive thing because our tires blow, I have engine problems that I’ve got to send out and get it fixed. But it’s just like an athlete. That’s all we are, athletes.”
The inequality can also hit their pay, said stunt performer Ashlei Tave.
"We get what's called an adjustment, which is based on the difficulty of the stunt, your skill, how many times you have to do it," Tave told Reuters.
"I have seen males get way more or bigger adjustment than women do for doing the same exact thing. But otherwise, our contract, they're all the same. It's just that adjustment where it all kicks in."
Tave uses her frustration to fuel her performances.
"It just motivates you to work harder, train more, and get your name out there, so people know your reputation, know that you're good at what you do and you're available," Tave said.

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