EXCLUSIVE: In a move to bolster safety and foster diversity and gender equality, SAG-AFTRA’s national board of directors has established a new set of “standards and practices” for film and TV stunt coordinators. The move comes in the wake of two-stunt related deaths last year, and a growing outcry from stuntwomen about stuntmen donning wigs and women’s clothes to double for actresses – an age-old practice known as “wigging.”
The union’s contract with employers has long required stunt coordinators to “endeavor” to find qualified women and minority stunt performers to double for women and minority actors.
The new standards and practices stop well short of outright banning “wigging” or “painting down” white stunt performers to double for actors of color – a practice the union discourages – but they do establish new procedures for dealing with stunt coordinators who don’t follow the rules, spelling out an oversight and follow-up procedure to make sure the new code is followed.
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At the same time, however, coordinators who violate the new rules will no longer be subject to Article XIV of the SAG-AFTRA constitution and bylaws, which governs the suspension or expulsion of members “engaging in actions antagonistic to the interests or integrity of the union.”
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One of the key new provisions states that “a stunt coordinator does not solicit or encourage any performer to violate any of the terms and conditions of any SAG-AFTRA agreement, including provisions relating to gender equity and diversity in casting.” It’s a rule, the guild says, “to which all stunt coordinators should adhere.”
The new code goes on to state that “In the event that a stunt coordinator is alleged not to have fulfilled the foregoing standards and practices, staff will conduct a preliminary inquiry into the circumstances of the alleged violation. If the violation is determined to be founded, in lieu of any recourse to proceedings under Article XIV of the Constitution, the staff, in consultation with committee leadership, as appropriate, will reach out to that stunt coordinator to educate him or her on the standards and practices, and will assist the stunt coordinator in determining how to proceed with respect to the particular issue in question. Staff in coordination with counsel will maintain a record of all reported violations of the standards and practices and the results of any inquiry or investigation thereof.”
The new code also states:
- A stunt coordinator reports all violations of SAG-AFTRA agreements committed by production to SAG-AFTRA
- A stunt coordinator takes any appropriate actions necessary to ensure the safety of performers or others on the set
- A stunt coordinator engages pro-actively with the appropriate personnel in other departments inclusive of but not limited to AD’s, Special Effects, Props etc. regarding the safety of performers
- A stunt coordinator strives to ensure that all performers, as appropriate to the scene, are present at all production safety meetings.
“SAG-AFTRA stunt coordinators are the industry professionals that exemplify the highest standards in safety and practicing of the stunt coordinating craft,” the union said in a notice about the new rules. “SAG-AFTRA stunt coordinators are the frontline in promoting adherence to the stunt and safety-related terms and conditions contained in any SAG-AFTRA agreement.”
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