AN OPEN LETTER FROM JIM DOWDALL TO BAFTA Recognition in Stunt Work
FEBRUARY 27, 2014 BEHIND THE STUNTS Antrim Northern Ireland
Nik Powell Esq. BAFTA 195 Piccadilly London W1V OLN
28th Jan 2014.
Dear Nik, On perusing copies of Academy from earlier years and reading of more ceremonies deservedly acknowledging various peoples skills, inventiveness and so forth, I was once again struck by the industry’s lack of acknowledgement regarding the Stunt department. During my early years in the business, I was privileged to work with Yakima Canutt on ‘Where Eagles Dare’. I marvelled at his command of the Second Unit Direction and the way he applied his skills as a long time rodeo rider (3 times World Champion) and as a stunt performer, to the sequences we shot in Austria. As I am sure you know, Yak was the only Stuntman to receive an Oscar (for his long time contribution to the Stunt business rather than a specific film) but ever since then, most of us in the stunt community (both here and in the States) have felt more than aggrieved that, to our knowledge, neither BAFTA nor the US Academy appears to have even mentioned Stunt Coordinators or performers in their recognition line-up (apart from the occasional obit). I fully appreciate that not every film requires Stunts, but then the same is also true of Special Effects and Optical Effects, both of which are acknowledged. As we all know, even on an almost ‘non action’ picture, if there is any action at all it will usually be shown on the trailer as a ‘hook’. (E.g. ‘Entrapment’, where parts of the car chase, [which we shot over 2 weeks but was subsequently cut from the film,] were still shown on the trailer!!)
‘Titanic’, all the ‘Bonds’, ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Harry Potter’ (the list goes on and on) as well as countless Award winning TV shows, all Co-ordinated and performed by Brits. I wonder if there is some hidden agenda for what I (and many other non stunt BAFTA members) are coming to regard as a deepening omission. People like Vic Armstrong and Simon Crane (both Brits) are being acknowledged as two of the finest Stunt Co-ordinators/Second Unit Directors in the world. Vic was indeed recognised by the Academy (for a technical award as opposed to a recognition of his skills as a stunt co-ordinator and second unit director) and not before time. However, it would appear that this token of appreciation was a one off as I have no knowledge of any other stunt Coordinator/performer being even mentioned in the Awards process. The Red Bull Taurus Stunt Awards in the US is a fantastic showpiece for the stunt industry and is attended by many of the leading lights in various aspects of the film and TV industry. However, this a privately funded commercial venture where stuntmen and stuntwomen vote for other stuntmen and stuntwomen. Could the time be ripe for BAFTA to steal another march on the Academy in the US and recognise the major contribution made by the stunt community in the production of both the largest and the smallest shows. Yours sincerely Jim Dowdall
Member of BAFTA 15369
Chair of the Equity Stunt Committee and member of the Equity Screen Committee JISC/Equity Stunt Co-ordinator/Performer. And on behalf of the British Actors Equity JISC Stunt Committee and the majority of the Stunt Register membership.