I was talking to a friend of mine, S.B., who is a good actress. She just wrapped filming on a project and had an experience that I've also had (and I'm sure many other actors have had as well.
While filming, you are asked to do something on camera and you're not sure whether it qualifies as a stunt. My friend was pushed aside as another actor shoved his way through a crowd. The actor who did the shoving did it really hard, knocking my friend into the side of a building. And this scene was shot several times, so she came home with a few bruises. On several films I've had to fall down sideways (out of frame) onto a pad.
We all know that if you take a dive off the top of a building, or drive a car really fast in a chase scene, that these are stunts which are almost always performed by a trained stunt person.
But the question is - are my falls, which are really only a few feet, and my friend getting shoved into the side of a building, stunts?
When I've had to take those short falls, I've never asked for a stunt double. I also didn't ask for stunt pay to do those things. I knew I wouldn't get hurt, and that they were safe and simple to do. Now, if the director decided that he wanted me to hang over the side of a tall bridge, I would say "No." I don't like heights and if I had been told ahead of time (like before I signed the contract to play the part), that I would have to hang off the bridge, I would have told my agent that they would need to get a stunt person to do that - or find another actor.
When we're on a set we often get caught up in the thrill of filming and are ready to do anything. However, not thinking carefully about what we are being asked to do is how actors get hurt on the set. Some directors get an idea on the set, and because they are inexperienced, or devious, will ask you to do something dangerous. (A really devious director may wait until your last shot to ask you to do the dangerous thing.)
I once had a director ask me to run barefoot through a dirt lot that had a bunch of broken bottles and rusty sharp metal pieces in it. I said no way. The director got really pushy. Again I said no, making it very clear that I was not going to do it barefoot. When he realized I meant it, he got the wardrobe people to bring me some old tennis shoes. And the shot worked great and he even thanked me afterward, admitting that he got a little carried away with the idea.
As much fun as making a film or video can be, we really do have to watch out for ourselves. Don't take foolish chances just because you don't want to seem like you're a wimp, or that you're being "difficult." Remember, if you get hurt, you might not be able to finish your part.
We should work with joy, not fear.