Jesse Haus is an actor and stuntman who has spent the last five years bringing realistic, high energy combat simulations to Central Florida theme park goers. He currently stars as Indiana Jones in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and as a Durmstrang student in the Triwizard Spirit Rally at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure. Outside of his daytime gigs, Jesse heads up a team of other stunt actors under the company name Dual Headed Lion Productions.
During production, Jesse and his crew infused each action scene with high-octane choreography that took our visual storytelling over the edge. We sat down with him to talk shop and find out what it takes to become a professional stunt actor.
What tips would you give actors looking to break into stunt work?
Jesse Haus: Nobody tells you how to become a stunt person. There’s no college for it, and no real resources available online. Stunt actors don’t usually put their techniques out into the world, partially to avoid critique and partially to avoid other people emulating their style. It’s a proprietary business.
If you’re wanting to go into stunt work, do something that gives you a sense of your body. By that I mean gymnastics, martial arts, or learning a fighting style like fencing. It’s all going to help hone the instrument that is your body.
What are some common misconceptions about becoming a stunt person?
Jesse Haus: People never think about falling. Stunt guys have to have a hundred different types of falls at their disposal, and they have to practice them over and over. And everyone always thinks they’re going to go into stunts and be the one punching, but really, a lot of times you’re the person taking hits. It’s about getting beat up as much as it is about being a tough guy who beats up other people. You have to know how to sell it both ways.
How have you been able to care out a niche for yourself in a smaller market like Orlando?
Jesse Haus: Orlando is actually a killer springboard for a stunt person. To work in this industry, it helps to know other stunt people, but that’s difficult in a traditional film hub like L.A. because you need to be SAG-certified to work in those markets. You can’t be in a SAG film unless you’re part of the guild, but you can only earn SAG points on SAG films. It’s just very hard to break in.
Orlando is great because we have theme parks here, and a lot of their acting roles are tied to the Actor’s Equity Association, which is a sister union to SAG. After a year, you can jump from Equity to the SAG. That’s huge, and a good way to get started.
You also meet a lot of other stunt performers through the parks, and those connections will help get you onto sets. No one is going to pick you up because your demo reel is that great, but they will pick you up on a recommendation from someone else. They want to know that you’re competent and easy to work with.
What are some things you look for in a great action sequence?
Jesse Haus: A really good action sequence begins and ends with confident stunt choreography. It also helps to have a director of photography who understands stunt angles.Sometimes you have the best fight, but if you film it at the wrong angle it just falls apart. Camera placement plays just a big a part in this as the choreography.
Having an actor who can move, especially if you’re cutting back and forth between him and the double. You want them to be able to work together and imitate each other’s moves. In The Green Hornet, the actors and doubles were wearing masks. That’s one of the reasons why a show like Daredevil works so well. They don’t have to keep cutting between the actors and the doubles, because the characters are wearing masks.
Are you able to enjoy movies when you watch them, or are you constantly picking apart the stuntwork?
Jesse Haus: I can enjoy it if it’s good. If it’s not, then I am constantly critiquing. Hopefully people will be able to enjoy our movie, because we’re bringing our A-game.