SAG-AFTRA leaders are being pressed to respond to stunt performers allegations of racism, nepotism, intimidation and slander.
The issue arose due to an open letter sent Wednesday on behalf of stunt performers who are BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities. Signees asserted that their talents are overlooked, denied and discredited, professional opportunities foreclosed and careers foreshortened.
“We have watched from the outside as white stunt performers are painted down, suited/helmeted or men wigged in a grotesque simulation of those of us denied employment,” they said. “Modern-day blackface is Hollywood’s shameful secret. We’ve been taunted, ostracized, harassed and threatened simply for showing up or speaking up. We have been shut down, shut up and shut out for far too long.
In response, the performers union said, “SAG-AFTRA stands in solidarity with performers whose opportunities to work in stunt roles have been denied or limited because of bias against women, minorities and performers with disabilities. SAG-AFTRA has long recognized the difficulties faced by diverse performers seeking to establish themselves as stunt professionals and has bargained into our main television and film contract language that requires Producers and stunt coordinators to consider and endeavor to cast women, minorities and performers with disabilities for stunt roles. Our contract also explicitly addresses the practice of ‘painting down’ and provides that this practice is ‘presumptively improper.’”
The union also said that it is investigating an allegation that an unnamed SAG-AFTRA national board member has been engaged for a stunt doubling role in violation of these provisions and principles, adding that the complaint has only recently been brought to its attention.
“We are reviewing and will take whatever action is necessary and appropriate to enforce our contract,” SAG-AFTRA said.
The group of stunt performers asked that this topic be addressed on the agenda at the next National Board meeting and that the board form a special investigative task force composed of members from both within and outside the stunt community, with appropriate racial, gender and geographic diversity, to report back on specific measures.
The letter was signed by Crystal Santos, Jwaundace Candece, LaFaye Baker, Geo Corvera, Melissa Tracy, John Kreng, Janeisha Adams-Ginyard, Michelle Elise Shock, Dino Dos Santos, Erik Betts, April Weeden, Anita Clay, Diana Lee Inosanto, Ron Balicki, Robert Samuels, Robert Redfeather, Laura Cordova, Edwin Garcia, Shawn Balentine, Manny Ayala, Keisha Tucker, Mikal Kartvedt, Wayne King Jr., Henry Priest, Demetrius Angelo, Jason Crow, Carrie Annie Bernans, Hymnson Chan, Evan Copage, C.C. Taylor, Arnold Chon and Kathy Jarvis.
Santos said there are about 1,480 SAG-AFTRA stunt performers in Los Angeles and 2,200 nationwide.