Winnipegger literally takes a beating for a living
Performing risky stunts for actors Michael Fassbender, Keanu Reeves the norm for Sean Skene
They leap off buildings, crash cars and get lit on fire for a living, but for professional stunt people like Sean Skene, taking a beating is all in a day's work.
"It's kind of every boy's dream to do this, so it kind of was a no-brainer when I was growing up," said Skene.
His father, Rick Skene, has been a stunt co-ordinator in Winnipeg for more than 25 years, so naturally Sean got his start stunting early on.
First he and his brother tested out their dad's special harnesses and jumped off the garage. For his on-screen debut at 16, Skene hung upside down from a chair dangling in the air for the 2004 film Seven Times Lucky.
- COOL JOBS | Patient Puppets help sick kids understand their illnesses and enjoy time at the hospital
Skene has worked with the likes of Michael Fassbender, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Paul Walker and, more recently, Keanu Reeves. Reeves in fact does many of his own stunts.
"He acts just exactly like a stuntman," Skene said of Reeves. "He kind of works through it point by point and doesn't really mess around and gets it done right and efficient."
Skene had to take his fair share of lumps and falls for the 2010 television miniseries Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story.
One of the tricks to pulling off a good stunt is to find a way to make things look more painful than they really are, he said.
"Sometimes you'll say, 'This shot is worth it, I'm going to eat it.' But I'd say 95 per cent of the time I find a way to get my hands in there [to cushion the fall]. You just do it in a sneaky way where it doesn't look like your hands are sneaking up.… I rarely try to land on my face."
Skene has carved out a niche over the course of his career. He does high falls and body burns, as well as a lot of fight scenes.
Despite his hazardous profession, Skene said he has yet to sustain a serious injury.
"I snapped a finger kind of getting it caught in a grill once, but beside that, nothing big," he said.
There isn't necessarily a stunt he wouldn't do, although certain scenes need the occasional tinkering before he'll get on board, Skene said.
"You kind of question everything that comes through," he said. "You never just blindly take a job and go do it."
Winnipeg is abuzz with out-of-province film production crews right now, Skene said, adding if the trend continues, he may be a stunt man for the rest of his life.
Although some carry more risk than others, Skene said performing stunts isn't about seeking thrills.
"It's not being a daredevil," Skene said. "Daredevils do it for the thrills; we try to create the most dangerous illusion in the safest way possible. We don't want to do it once; we want to do it 20 times and walk away and wake up the next day and do it again."
With files from Sabrina Carnevale