Stephanie Andrews has been living in Budapest for a year and a half, "but sometimes it feels as if I just arrived", she admits with a smile. Even today the city still fascinates her with how beautifully it’s lit up at night, the Parliament building – one of the most impressive buildings in the world, according to her – and the feeling of romanticism and artistic passion that is present in the capital. Of course there are certain things – for example the crowds of tourists during summer – that are not really her cup of tea. "I live right in the city centre and I often stay in during the weekends just to avoid the madness," Andrews admits.

Love at first sight

Before life brought her to Budapest, the enchanting American was living in Portugal and Spain. "For approximately a year I'd been living in the south of Europe but I was looking for a bigger city that also had more of a film industry. Budapest was high on my list of places to visit. When I came here I immediately fell in love with the city." Just one week later the decision had been made – she would be moving to Hungary.

It's close to impossible to describe her in just one word. She makes her living through a variety of jobs and occupations. One of them is being a travel journalist. "I’m a full-time freelancer, so I travel often and I’m constantly on the lookout for anything that could inspire a great story. Then I pitch the story to the right magazine."

You’ll often find her travelling solo. "I tend to be a wanderer by nature, and because I travel solo I’ve been beyond fortunate to have some pretty unique experiences and meet amazing people that I may not have had if I had been travelling with a group of people. "

Andrews has just returned from Israel and is still blown away by the city. "I spent one day in Jerusalem, the second day in the West Bank and the Dead Sea, and then the rest of the time was spent taking cooking classes and wandering the city. The food, the people, the history… everything about that place is just amazing." In February she will return to Israel to participate in the Dead Sea Half Marathon. "I’ve already decided that this will be my coolest travel experience to date," she assures us.

In her "second life" she is a stuntwoman. It’s a demanding job but that is also the part that she enjoys. It wasn't her first career choice, though: she originally wanted to be an actress. "I’ve been acting since I was 6 years old and I’d always dreamt of being on Broadway or in film."

In order to pursue acting Andrews moved to Chicago after graduating college. Then reality hit: "I felt like I looked like every other woman who was walking through the casting agencies’ doors and I wanted to find a way to stand out from the competition." She began looking for stunt training gyms in Chicago. "After just one training session I was hooked. Now I actually prefer doing stunts to acting."


Variety is key

It is no coincidence that Andrews decided to work in stunts. After all, her childhood was spent as a gymnast. "I did grow up doing competitive gymnastics but I wasn’t as dedicated to it as I should have been at the time and that’s something I now regret." Surprisingly enough, up until her early 20s she wasn't much into fitness or sports, but after she started stunt training that’s when everything changed. "I attended trainings two or three times a week and took martial arts and circus classes as well. I also dedicated a lot of time researching and understanding proper strength training, exercise and nutrition."

This was also the time when the young actress fell for the circus, a passion that’s still present in her life today. "About six years ago I started taking intensive trapeze workshops and about a year later I got a job at a trapeze school in Chicago. I was also training extensively on aerial hoop at the time."

At the age of 30 she decided to take her training to the next level and signed up for a full-time circus training program. "This was probably one of the toughest but most rewarding things I've ever done, sometimes training up to 12 hours a day. It’s probably the most beat up and exhausted I’ve ever been in my life but I look back on it with immense fondness and nostalgia."

Nowadays, Andrew's exercise regimen has changed quite a bit but it’s still just as rigorous. "I work out at least five times a week. I also just started working with a personal trainer and I love it! It's seriously been the best way to start my week." Her favourite is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where bodyweight exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups play a big part.

Ninety minutes to two hours is how much time she works out every day. She also likes to throw in some endurance training such as long-distance running several times a week. "It helps me relax and also boosts my creativity and mental clarity."

Fitness is a must

A clear head and a fit body – these are the things Stephanie Andrews needs in her job as a stuntwoman, as her job demands a lot. Yes, it is exhausting – but surprisingly not as dangerous as one would assume. "Something I hear a lot is, ‘Oh, you must be a daredevil’, but being a stunt professional is not about being the next Evel Knievel. Everything is extremely calculated and thoroughly planned ahead of time. Sure, you may get some bumps and bruises along the way and yes, of course, there is the possibility that something could go wrong, especially if it’s a more high-risk stunt, but by and large everyone you work with from the stunt coordinator to your safety crew and fellow stunt team are there to make sure that the stunt is as safe as possible."

She emphasises that the biggest red flag for a stunt coordinator is to hear someone say they are a risk taker. "Stunt people try to avoid risks and are never looking for dangerous situations," the stuntwoman explains.


Trusting the stunt coordinator is crucial

How is a stunt done and how does one get stunt jobs in the first place? "When it comes to stunt work you rarely audition unless it’s a live show," the redhead explains. "It’s much more common that the stunt coordinator already knows you and your skill set and reaches out to you."

Sometimes a fellow stunt professional may recommend you for the job. She has also gotten work thanks to her stunt reel – a video that showcases clips of some of her best stunts. Many times it's just about body type and looks, especially when it comes to choosing stunt doubles.

No matter how she gets work, safety is key. That's why there's always rehearsal ahead of time to walk through the action before the actual "Action!" is called.

Andrews receives most of her cues and direction from the stunt coordinator rather than the director. "It's the stunt coordinator who makes sure that the stunt runs smoothly and that everything is safe. The coordinator can literally be a lifesaver." The stunt coordinator does everything, from checking rigging and mats to working with the crew and stunt professionals to make sure that everyone knows their specific responsibilities.

Even with the best preparation, injuries are sometimes part of the job. "I’ve been very fortunate that I haven’t gotten seriously hurt on the job. Of course, bumps and bruises happen and I’ve certainly had my fair share."

Jokingly she says that she'd like to get a full-body scan "just to see how damaged some parts of me are after all the hits and falls I’ve taken." Being careful and thorough has served her well so far. "I did get hypothermia on set once and I’ve dislocated a few ribs. Those are probably the worst things that have happened."


Videogames have stunts, too

What stunt job was most memorable? "I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some pretty amazing sets. Probably the coolest one for me was getting to do stunts for the video game Saints Row IV." As a child, the ginger-headed beauty was in love with video games, but only as a grown-up did she realise that all the movements of her favourite video game characters were actually based on real human movements often performed my stunt professionals (known as motion capture). For Saints Row IV, she did some fighting, falls and gunshot reactions. She did some of the actions and fighting for the video game’s character Kinzie Kensington, a former FBI agent and the game’s protagonist, who even resembles her a bit.

Along with her motion capture work on Saints Row IV, another one of Stephanie’s favourite and most memorable stunt gags was a full-body fire burn.

Stunt work can be physically demanding and exhausting but she couldn't imagine doing anything else. Her advice to anyone aspiring to be a stunt person is to find their area’s local stunt group and to train as much as possible. For people wanting to be great stunt fighters, martial arts training is also beneficial. "Of course, what is taught in martial arts and the fighting techniques that often work best for camera are a bit different." Luckily, this is where stunt professionals can show you the ropes.

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