Stunt Performer Spotlight: Rachel Gelfeld
Tell about your story and stunts, Rachel!
I was born and raised in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. A homeschooler throughout my childhood, I was able to focus on a range of diverse interests, including training as a competitive hunter-jumper, soccer player, and fastpitch pitcher, pursuing technical acting training for stage and film, playing solo, chamber, and orchestral music, and training in WTF taekwondo, alongside my scholastic pursuits. I went on to the Savannah College of Art and Design, and then moved to Atlanta to pursue stunts as a member of SAG-AFTRA with a B.F.A. in Performance. After a year and a half of resume and skill-building cutting my teeth and gaining experience in the Atlanta stunt industry, I made the move to Los Angeles in pursuit of more diverse training opportunities. There, I found a welcoming community of talented friends, colleagues, and mentors. With my boxing and Muay Thai background, I started working as a boxing coach while pursuing my dream of being a stunt woman. I currently train weightlifting, conditioning, agility, wirework, horsemanship, and tactical skills for stunts, while continuing to evolve my martial arts background. I am fortunate to be working full-time as a stunt performer, most recently on such shows as Euphoria, NCIS, and The Rookie, and I have doubled many actresses at this point in my career, including Emmanuelle Vaugier, Ronni Hawk, Lizzy Caplan, and Roselyn Sanchez. What inspired you to become a stunt person?
As far back as I can remember, I always loved moving my body and overcoming athletic challenges, both physically and mentally. I had a background in stage and film acting, and always gravitated more towards physical acting, especially anything that allowed me to use the martial and athletic skills I so loved. As a young athlete and budding actress, I became aware of several inspirational stunt performers, especially women, who were gaining attention in the industry, and once I discovered stunts as a viable career option for myself in college, I was hooked and never looked back. What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it?
I believe my greatest skill is adaptability. On the job where I performed my first car hit, the scene was filmed in the desert at night, and called for minimal lighting other than the brights on the car headlights. This cut my visibility down significantly, especially after the hit itself, when the headlights were gone and I had no light to spot my landing. I had two rehearsals, and was able to make sure I could safely land on the cement consistently in the dark. Discovering that kind of physical and mental awareness was really encouraging, and that confidence in my abilities in planning for and adapting to uncertain situations has helped me on countless jobs after. What is the best part about being a stunt performer?
It's tough to pick, but I think for me, the best part is the community. Doing such an exciting, often unpredictable job, with supportive and talented colleagues, many of whom I also count as close friends, makes the entire experience of working in this industry even more rewarding. It's important to be able to trust the people we work with, since safety is such an integral part of our job. And it makes the jobs more fun! The stunts themselves can be challenging, captivating, and just cool as hell, but it's also great to be able to laugh and have fun on set when the cameras aren't rolling, and to have friends in the community to train and hang out with. What advice would you give other stunt people?
Listen to the people who have gone before you. The experience and knowledge they've gained on and off-set is so valuable. And train, train, train. Train whenever you can, and as much as you can. It can seem tough to find time for it when work picks up or life gets in the way, but making the time to train consistently is key. Continually strengthening your body and building a more diverse skill set will allow you to accept more jobs with confidence, and also help you to adapt to unforeseen circumstances or changes on set. IMDb: iStunt: Stuntphone: Stunt Listing: Stunts Unlimited: Instagram: @rachelgelfeld