The rise of the Female Warrior

"I own a company in the film industry. It's in the screen action industry and I am a woman"

I feel like I'm at some kind of AA meeting for inequality...

The film industry is male-dominated that is certain. Women in the industry have known this for years and years and it seems that the media is picking up on it. If women are rare on the production side of the film industry, they are even rarer in the screen action industry.

I wanted my company to set itself a challenge, a tough one none the less, but hey, you have to aim high, right? We wanted to encourage more women to get into the screen action industry, we wanted to get more women performing screen action. 

When I started the BAA in 2009 there were only approx 20 women on the stunt register in comparison to over 300 men and in the first 2 years of trading, we only had 35 women through our training doors in comparison to 200 men. 

Nearly a decade later 40% of our students are female and there are now about 60 women on the stunt register. That's a massive sword swipe in the right direction.  

We've worked hard to ensure more women have access to the screen action industry. In terms of the number of women training to enter the action industry, it's getting better but the industry still has a long way to go in providing performing roles. 

On Game Of Thrones, Brienne of Tarth sparred with Ser Loras Tyrell, before defeating him and proving her worth to King Renly Baratheon (First Of His Name, King of the Andals and the blah blah) and Queen Margaery as part of the Kingsguard. She also bravely defeated The Hound for goodness sake. Yes, this is a fictional character but you only have to do a little bit of research to know that history is littered with real-life female warriors.

It is well known that women fought alongside men on battlefields both openly and under a male disguise, they were also trained in their own right to fight and defend. When you realise that their incredible feats of heroism and bravery were somewhat sidelined by modern culture, it isn't a hard stretch imagine how many incredible female warriors stories have been lost to the history books. 

We're not here to debate history, neither are we here to take anything away from all the incredible male warriors whose stories have inspired both men and women throughout history. I am just as inspired by a male warrior character as I am female.  

Whilst there has been an increase in kick-ass female leads and supporting actresses over the last few years, we are still facing a shortage of performing roles for women in the action industry.  We cannot solely concentrate on the small number of leads in blockbuster features, they will always represent the select few. They are not a true representation of the workforce. 

The vast majority of employment in the action industry are people who are called upon to perform in battles and large-scale action scenes. 

Does it matter that there boobs under that chainmail?!

We run an action agency in order to provide work for all our students. As an agency, we have provided hundreds of male skilled supporting artists and featured action performers on battlefields for major productions such as King Arthur, Hollow Crown, Game of Thrones to name a few. But women?... well. 

During a conversation with an AD for a large feature, we were told that we needed to source for men (any height and size and any hair length) for a battle sequence. Apparently, It did not matter what they looked like, as they will be clad in armour and have helmets on. At this point, I jumped up suddenly from my chair and said  "Well, in that case, surely we can put women forward?!"

We all got excited. VERY excited at the prospect of calling upon our army of sword-wielding warrior women who have sweated blood and tears through our courses and waited patiently for work, whilst their male counterparts fought from one battle to another.

The idea was pitched. The case was indisputable. The excitement, however, was short-lived. 

We were told that the Director only wanted men as it was historically accurate. He wouldn't even entertain a costume test on our awesome women warriors. We knew that it would be impossible for anyone to know there was a woman under the chainmail and helmets. We wanted so desperately to prove this could work. 

We tried and failed. 


Do men really need to double women anymore?

With the increased popularity of female leads and supporting characters, there is certainly more of call for female stunt women and the industry has seen a change in the amount of work women stunt performers are getting. Not only does it prove that the gender gap is closing in the stunt world it also proves that women can be just as good at the physicality of the role as men. 

There has always been the argument that male stunt performers were doubling women because it was difficult to find females who were highly trained in certain stunts such as driving and motorbiking. This can still be an issue.

The stunt industry relies on high-level sporting qualifications and experience and as such can only pull on the successful stunt performers who have spent years of their lives training in a range of different sports. There lies the problem. There are still many sporting industries that attract more men than women.

As a screen action training company who trains the vast majority of people wanting to become stunt performers in the UK, we believe strongly that in order to affect the gender gap, we must ensure schools and colleges promote the career of a stunt performer. You cannot go to university to study stunts, which is why the educational establishments do not actively promote stunt performing as a career.

Why can't women double as men?!

Going back to the feature film where we wanted women to dress up as men on the battlefield, it poses the question, why can't women double men? I see hundreds of movies and TV shows with battle sequences and I know that most of the performers, if not all are men. 

There is obviously the issue of historical accuracy, which does have a place in this argument and in some cases it wins out. But there have been many situations where as an agent, we could have provided women to double as men on a battlefield, with no additional costume requirements and no one would have known. 

I hope that over the next few years, our database of trained female warriors get the chance to show what they are made of, fighting alongside their male colleagues and kicking ass in a big battle scene, as I know they can. 



If you're interested in a career as an action performer there are a few different career paths you can take. Check out our Careers Guide. 

If you would like to attend one of our industry recognised courses - check out our course diary. We offer a wide range of industry approved screen action training, from firearmsand screen combat to intensive stunt courses. 

You can check out our full list of course dates right HERE!

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