Four Weddings and a Shootout...

I’m sat in the poshest restaurant I’ve ever been in, dressed in a sharp suit which is unusual for me as I only ever dress smart for weddings and funerals.

For the last hour, we’ve been in character, lounging around in the background while the lead actors do their thing, setting up the scene with some establishing shots to the story. In the last few minutes, however, the atmosphere has changed tangibly, and there’s a sense that things are well and truly about to kick-off!

Sure enough, on a shout of “ACTION” the lead actor (who I recognise from “Peaky Blinders”) playing the leader of our London gangster crew runs frantically to the window, and with a shout of “They’re here! Get ready, BE READY!!” all hell breaks loose. A duffle bag of various weapons is thrown down in the middle of the floor, and we all dive in. We film a short take of us making the weapons ready and then in between the following takes, blank ammunition is carefully dished out by the expert on-set armourers, as well as inconspicuous skin-coloured ear defence.

On the next shout of “Action” things really do move into overdrive and an intricate action-packed tracking sequence is initiated. A team of fellow British Action Academy friends, colleagues and instructors playing members of a rival gang dressed in my more usual sportswear style attire rush through the doors into the lower floor, and the shootout begins. Mixed in with our team of BAA special action extras are a few British Stunt Register performers, and one of these gets hosed down by an Uzi-wielding gang member, performing an elaborate stair fall, and as the invaders push up the staircase I’m the next London gangster to get the good news.

But the timing must be perfect. The camera is tracking the main characters and their close team of protectors around the back of the restaurant’s first floor, through the kitchen and only on the exact instant it follows them into a narrow corridor, dramatically silhouetting me in the doorway at the top of the stairs can I perform my best backwards falling death technique with a headshot bullet reaction that I’ve learned and perfected through both the British Action Academy “Warrior Masterclass” and “Gun Rush” courses.

The only problem is that I can’t see the camera, so between myself and one of my previous BAA course instructors, who’s stationed across the staircase from me, we’ve arranged a subtle cue for me to react to, and the timing seems to work well. When “Cut!” is called, it all seems to have gone without a hitch, and the on-set stunt co-ordinator even says to me “Gus, the timing on that was perfect!” which is a great feeling.

It’s hard to believe that this is my first Skilled Supporting Role with the British Action Academy, at the end of what has been an absolute whirlwind of a week in which I’ve passed my Phase III “Titan” qualification, been invited onto the BAA screen action agency, and then on the Friday, had a call from the office saying “are you free this weekend...?”

As I glance over at another BAA instructor who’s on-set with us, it’s clear none of this is lost on him. He’s grinning from ear to ear and says to me “not bad for your first gig, ay?” - I couldn’t agree more!

It’s also made me very thankful for BAA’s ‘Gun Rush: Firearms For Film” course that I attended a few months prior to this amazing experience. I’ve had quite a bit of exposure to firearms through previous military experience that feels like a lifetime ago, but not a whole lot with pistols so the course acted as a much-needed refresher, and enabled me to walk onto the set with not only confidence around firearms, but also safe practices and “normal safety precautions” meaning that I can confidently receive and hand over weapons to and from the armorers as “unloaded and clear” not to mention basic practices such as keeping a weapon pointing in a safe direction at all times (particularly away from the crew and any S.A’s, who don’t necessarily know that a weapon is unloaded, or even just a non-functioning replica. Firearms can be a very scary, serious thing for the uninitiated)

Fast forward a few months, and I’m sat writing this on the set of a major film while hour-long resets for an incredible action sequence, featuring massive explosions and lots of carnage are being carried out. There’s a load of BAA people on set here including close friends. As ever they’re a pleasure to hang out with and their professionalism shines through above and beyond a lot of the other artists, so much so that some of them have been selected specifically to perform Skilled Supporting Artists(SSA) falls and deaths in the scene.

Since that first shootout, I’ve had quite a few more gigs through the British Action Academy, several involving firearms and again the value of the training I received is always in mind. I’ve seen quite a few sketchy goings-on during my time on various sets over the last few months, from loaded blank firing weapons being pointed at people close range, to weapons being handed over to random extras (a big no-no!!) and the training and confidence that I now have has enabled me to grip those individuals quickly but politely, after which they were actually really thankful, which just goes to show that it’s just lack of knowledge and training that creates these sometimes dangerous situations.

I’m also really impressed with the number of castings that the BAA action agency has put me forward for, and much of this is to do with having completed the “Gun Rush” course, as there really is a big demand for competent, safe performers within the industry, as I’ve now seen first hand. All in all since that first crazy week and my incredible first job, the whirlwind has continued and I’ve had some awesome days on set, from bobbing around in the sea to being in the middle of a riot and witnessing the impressive skills of stunt horse handlers and riders.

I can’t wait to see what the future brings, bring on the next job!! Maybe I’ll have to buy a special “shootout suit...”

If you want to get the right firearms experience for your next day on set, find out more about our Gun Rush: Firearms For Film course right HERE!

You can also find out more about the British Action Academy Action Agency HERE!

Our full course diary is HERE.

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