Did you know that if you are driving in a commercial and not breaking traction or doing anything else that would cause you to be on a Stunt Driver contract, you are not a Background Driver?
This is a series of weekly posts by Gregg and Shirley Smrz of Stunt Payroll Services discussing areas of the rulebook and stunt contracts that stunt performers deal with, along with tips on how to keep your records so you get paid properly. Gregg Smrz is a member of Stunts Unlimited, the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the Red Bull Blue Ribbon Committee, and is an alternate board member for the SAG-AFTRA Stunt and Safety Committee. He has experience working as a Stuntman, Stunt Rigger, Stunt Coordinator, and as a 2nd Unit Director. Gregg’s wife Shirley has extensive Bookkeeping and Payroll Experience she acquired while working at Teledyne Electronics.
Categories of Stunt Contracts
The SAG-AFTRA contract allows for the following categories for your contract.
Utility Stunt, Stunt Double, Stunt Driver, and Stunt Coordinator. There are no other categories.
Precision Driver and Stunt Rigger are not categories recognized by the SAG-AFTRA contract.
If working on a Utility Stunt contract, you can be a stunt driver, a police officer, a pedestrian, a stunt rigger, etc.
If working as a stunt double for one of the leads and are asked to ND drive, you should be given another contract as a utility stuntman.
If working as a Stunt Rigger, you should either be working on a Utility Stunt contract, or on a Stunt Coordinator Schedule K contract.
If working on a commercial, you are on one of the following: a stunt double, a stunt performer, a vehicle driver, or a stunt driver. Again, there is no precision driver category. If precision driver is on your contract, line through precision and write vehicle or stunt.
If driving on a commercial as a background driver and you are not doing anything that the rulebook designated as converting you to a stunt driver contract, it is ok to have vehicle driver on the contract,but not background driver or precision driver.
The following situations would require you be put on a stunt driver contract.
Refer to the 2005 SAG Rulebook, General Rules, Page 88, Section 28 H.
When any of the following conditions is planned as part of a driving sequence and special expertise is necessary in order to perform such driving sequence in a safe manner, the on-camera driver shall qualify as a stunt performer under Schedule H of this agreement:
Section 28. H – On Camera Vehicle Driving
1. When any or all wheels will leave the driving surface.
2. When tire traction will be broken, e.g., skids, slides, etc.
3. Impaired vision – when the driver’s vision will be substantially impaired by:
• Spray (when driving through water, mud, etc.)
• Blinding lights.
• Restrictive covering over the windshield.
• Any other conditions which will substantially restrict the driver’s normal vision.
4. The Speed of the vehicle will be greater than normally safe for the conditions of
the driving surface, or when other conditions such as obstacles or difficulty of
terrain will exist or off-road driving, other than normal low-speed driving for which
the vehicle was designed, will occur.
5. When any aircraft, fixed-wing or helicopter is flown in close proximity to the vehicle
creating a hazardous driving condition.
6. Whenever high speed or close proximity of two (2) or more vehicles create conditions dangerous to the drivers, passengers, film crew or vehicles.
Nothing herein shall require the performer to be doubled when the performer has the special expertise to perform the sequence in a safe manner.
Section 28. I – Stunt Doubling
1. When, for safety reasons, a performer is doubled on-camera as the driver of a vehicle, the double shall qualify as a stunt performer under Schedule H of this agreement. This would also apply to passengers in a vehicle who must be doubled for their safety.
If you are registered with Stunt Payroll Services, you will have access to the full rulebook where you can go to the pages mentioned in this article.
You will also have access to the Commonly Used Rulebook Excerpts section, where you will find the following.
• The bulletin put out by SAG-AFTRA defining Precision Driver or Stunt Driver. In this bulletin, SAGAFTRA states that you can either work as a Vehicle Driver, or as a Stunt Driver.
• The 2011 – 2014 Stunt and Safety Digest, where you will find on page 22 Section 28, Vehicle Driving. In this digest, it states that you can only be called a Background Driver, or a Stunt Driver.
The 2014 Stunt and Safety Digest is incorrect. If you are driving in a commercial and not breaking traction or doing anything else that would cause you to be on a Stunt Driver contract, you are not a Background Driver. SAG-AFTRA put out a bulletin which you can find on our website that clearly discusses Stunt Driver or Vehicle Driver. It does not mention Background Driver. The Stunt and Safety Digest was written to make a concise rulebook for you to find areas of the rulebook that pertain to stunts, but it is not a rulebook. It states on page 2 that for exact wording, refer to the 2005 Rulebook, as well as the 2009 Rulebook Memorandum, and the 2011 Rulebook Memorandum.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Stunt Payroll Services at 805-917-6600, firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Stunt Payroll Services Faceboook Group for discussions and news.