Turning the heat up on Eastenders and the backfall
Was Shane Richie guilty?
In the need for good entertainment to lift our spirits last year, many people turned to the 2020 'I'm A Celebrity' TV program just before Christmas. Ant and Dec did another great job presenting the British survival show which took place within the walls of Gwrych Castle, North Wales. Jordan North made us laugh with his ‘happy place’ and we never found out if it was Shane Richie who was weeing on the toilet floor.
Being Shane Richie’s stunt double
I worked with Shane Richie on Eastenders and recently came across this article on the BBC,
I was Shane’s stunt double in the house explosion on Albert Square where he raced to save Kat from the blazing property. The Stunt Coordinator I worked with was Nrinder Dhudwar and Director Steve Finn and thankfully they were very pleased with the stunt, it was down to great teamwork. I have a good understanding of working with fire in a stunt because I am an ex-firefighter and I’ve lost count of how many backfalls I’ve done in the last 20 years.
Backfalls in a stunt performance
I think my most memorable backfall would have to be the one in the film Trainspotting 2 when I choreographed the fight scene with Director Danny Boyle. I was involved in a stunt where I was thrown back onto a glass table.
Different facts and considerations when falling backward in a stunt
There are a variety of names for falling backward whilst performing a stunt such as - a flat back, backfall or fall back. There are different styles each fall has a slightly different approach, shaping, and landing.
Jumping high into the air then falling back
Using less height, which is what performers do if the director wants to see more of the face
Arching the back and throwing the arms back as if to perform a back flip
Backfalls can be done with back or forward momentum
They can also start from a single or double leg
Most landings are onto the middle to upper back with the neck tucked in
The aim of a Stunt Performer when doing a backfall is to achieve the desired effect with the least amount of pain possible (obviously). It is likely that the stunt would be performed multiple times especially if the director wants the stunt from different camera angles. Performers normally wear a back pad and elbow pads that can be easily hidden under a costume. Crash mats can be used but some backfalls have to be performed without much cushioning at all, this is where it becomes particularly dangerous.
So, what can you do to reduce the risk of injury and enhance performance?
Be well prepared! Training specific muscle groups is essential, for example, to help with the jumping up action, - deadlifts, squats, and calf raises should be in your training program. Equally as important are the core muscle groups, and, flexibility is a key factor. Much like with all forms of exercise warming up, stretching, and cool down is essential. I like to include arm swings, trunk twists and hamstring stretches in my warm-up
Practice and practice again! Discuss the fall with the Stunt Coordinator in detail so you both achieve the required goal. Practice doesn’t need to be vigorous, performing jumps, seated rolls, or backward rolls are ideal before you throw yourself from a height down onto a crash mat. Getting someone to video your practices can really help so you can see what you may need to change before the cameras start rolling
Be aware of your surroundings. Will there be any props and other people around you when you perform the stunt? Will you be holding a weapon or have the body weight of someone on you when you land?
Stay warm. There can be a lot of standing around during filming and you don’t want your muscles unprepared for the stunt. When you know your part is coming up start moving around and stretching
Cool down. Stretching after a stunt like a backfall is really important, you may have pushed your body further than you thought you would have to and you can reduce the risk of next-day soreness or bad backs with a really good cool down and stretch.
I'm going to round this up with my most embarrassing backfall. I was about 10 minutes into a hike in the beautiful hills of The Peak District when the muddy wet ground went from underneath me. There I was flat on my back and all I could say was, "I normally get paid for this s...!".
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