Name: Riley Phillips-Harris
What’s your job? I’m a film and television stunt performer.
How did you get into this line of work? I grew up very rural in Kawakawa, Northland, and I have a background in martial arts (Taekwon-Do and kickboxing), dance (ballet), sailing, diving and horse-riding. There was a TV series being filmed in Auckland that required young-looking stunt performers. I was 18 at the time and a friend who worked in the industry put my name forward. That is what started my journey and I haven’t looked back.
The stunt industry is just as much about your skills as a performer as it is about your interpersonal skills and ability to carry yourself in a professional and safe manner on set. It is a small industry and your reputation matters a lot.
What does a typical working day look like for you? A typical day involves working closely with the rest of the stunt team – doubling an actor, choreographing a scene, rigging (creating the actual mechanisms which are required to do the stunt), providing safety on set or acting yourself.
What qualifications or training did you need? The Stunt Guild of New Zealand has certain minimum criteria – you should have a high level of competency in some of the following: body control (martial arts, dance and gymnastics etc), working at heights (climbing, high fall and parachuting etc), vehicles (driver’s licence and a stunt driving course), animal handling and water (swimming, surfing and diving etc).
What are the best bits about your job? The best part of the job is getting to work alongside an incredibly skilled and diverse group of performers, riggers, choreographers and coordinators. Kiwi stunties are highly respected, and get to work worldwide. Working with these men and women inspires me to constantly keep honing my craft in order to be a better performer.
What are the worst bits? The inevitable injuries that occur in training or during a performance.