Parkour in the entertainment industry
This issue, we will be looking at parkour in the entertainment industry. As a self-proclaimed ‘actor’ with a degree in performance, I will be looking at opportunities parkour gives you in relation to performing and what you can do to get your name noticed. I will reference some resources in this post, I’m going to leave a list of links at the bottom of the post or if I’m feeling fancy I’ll hyperlink them for you. x
I’ve done a couple of parkour performances with Spiral now, but these types of performances are basically just showcasing your skills and choreographing them in a way that highlights what we, as parkour athletes, can do. When doing these, as I said, good choreography is required. For some performances, we got a professional dance choreographer to help us structure the performance. These require lots of rehearsals and adjustments to timings to fit with a song or a certain flavour or message. Working with a dance choreographer opened my eyes to how closely parkour and dance can actually be. With parkour, we try and keep our movement as clean as possible. By that I mean we try to connect tricks and skills in a way that doesn't look clumpy and aesthetically displeasing. The same principle applies to dance. For example, ‘stutter steps’ in parkour lines are something we don’t want to see. For those who don’t know, ‘stutter steps’ are when you add unnecessary steps in between tricks or just in a run-up to a trick or jump. This is something that directly applies to dance. Dancers spend hours cleaning up the routine so there isn't a step out of place. So performances like this take a bit of practice and consistency.
They are a great way to attract attention to you as an individual performer as well. In a public place where people can watch for free, there will be a few people watching. Hell maybe someone who wants to book you for your next performance might be in the front row. So who knows what kinds of opportunities one performance may give you.
Extra work is a great way to get a foot in the door. There are a few free agencies online who will submit jobs to you and sometimes they’re a pretty big deal. For example, I was shortlisted to be in the new Batman film which is awesome. This kind of stuff you don’t need to have any parkour or acting experience for. You basically just stand there whilst someone puts clothes on you and points a camera in your face. Although this isn’t linked to parkour, it may be useful to have some extra work under your belt so that when an opportunity is there, you can apply with experience on a professional film set under your belt. Also, the pay isn’t too bad either. When applying you are encouraged to note down any skills you have which may make you stand out over other applicants. With parkour being as niche as it is it may end up getting you into some big-shot blockbuster… Maybe.
The best agencies I can think of are:
Spotlight (Credits required)
This kind of work comes around every once in a while so isn’t great for consistently getting work. However, if you have good availability and means of transport, you are the ideal candidate for these cool experiences as a sort of side hustle. Even if this work doesn't suit you I'd recommend anyone to sign up because it's free and you never know what producers and casting directors are looking for.
As an actor I can confidently say, being able to do flips has impressed pretty much every one of my directors. As a matter of fact, I ended up teaching one of my directors how to backflip but that is another story. The fact of the matter is, People go bloody crazy after seeing a flip and they will do anything to see it again. Once the beans have spilt that you can flip and you are in a production that is looking a lot at ‘spectacle’, you best believe that director is going to rinse the hell out of you as an actor. This is great as you end up being incorporated with some fantastic movement sequences with amazing practitioners all the while you are up front and centre for the whole audience to see.
I studied scriptwriting and performance at the University of East Anglia for three years. For our final year, an industry-standard production module made up a major chunk of my final grade. Hours of rehearsal and stage management went into the show on my behalf and in all fairness, I did pretty well. But when the grades were released I read the feedback of the performance and every one of the markers who came to watch the show had something to say about the flips I did (which had absolutely bugger all to do with the show). I can’t recall the feedback on the acting but I remember it being pretty vague. The show, as a whole, was utter trash, so I didn't expect much. However trash the show was, the markers lapped the acrobatics up like thirsty dogs and gave me a grade I was happy with. I won't say I flipped my way through university, but if I couldn't do any of those flips, I’m not confident it would have ended the same way. The moral of the story, people love a backflip.
Another way acting can highlight your parkour abilities is scare acting. Scare acting for me has been my favourite job. You literally get paid to put on costumes and make-up and scare loads of people. The first year I did it, I found it useful to climb around the mazes as it makes it look so creature like and fortunately, my parkour abilities made this much easier.
Last year, I was a street performer. I was walking around on the street chasing people as a clown. And being able to hurdle a fence or vault a bench can help with that. No one can escape! They also love it when you chuck in a cheeky flip every now and again.
This is probably the most known route for parkour people getting into the performance industry. Stunt work is incredible. I have never done it myself but Luke and Omar both have experience with this kind of work. Stunt work is basically where you get paid shed loads of money to throw yourself at crash mats and stand around on set mucking about. It sounds perfect, right? Well, there is a catch. To be a registered stunt performer, you need to be on the British Stunt Register (BSR). If you are unfamiliar with the BSR, it is a qualification that allows you to be considered as a ‘professional stunt performer’. Okay so just get the qualification and your golden. Sounds easy. Well, to get this qualification you must be able to demonstrate a ‘high level of skill across six different disciplines’ When they say high level of skill, they mean it. You must be around regional level in each discipline. Basically, be skilled enough to represent your county or area of the country you live in. On top of this, one martial art is compulsory and the sports are categorised as; Riding and Driving – Falling – Water – Strength and Agility and Miscellaneous. A minimum of one year is required for this grade and 60 ‘stunt days’ on top. However, getting to an advanced level in Six different disciplines will take much longer than a year if you’re starting from scratch. And guess what? All of that is for the probationary stunt performer grade which is the minimum qualification. The good news is, once you have got your probationary stunt performer qualification, it’s easier to get the experience you need to work your way up the qualification scheme. Basically, once the foot is in the door, opportunities will find you, as long as you look for them.
If anyone is interested in stunt work it is important to note that you need to start asap. For an old twenty-two-year-old lad like myself, by the time I get any qualifications my body is going to be in a state where I can’t do this kind of stuff anymore. Which is a downside to the industry. It isn't a lifelong career option. Unless of course, you want to go into choreography/ co-ordinating. So start early!
And those four routes are the best ways to push yourself in the entertainment industry with parkour as a unique selling point.
As you were,