'We still have a long way to go,' says Marvel's first female stunt coordinator Monique Ganderton
With the recent release of action-packed movies such as 'Avengers: Infinity War', 'Civil War', and 'X-Men', most of us cannot help but wonder how all of it comes together and what goes on behind the final cut of a film.
Of course, some part of it comes from fantastic VFX tech but there is a whole other part of the action which comes from none other than stunt doubles.
We speak to Monique Ganderton, Marvel's first ever female stunt coordinator, to get the real action behind the screen.
"When the movie Avengers: Infinity War was coming out, it was time. Marvel approved of me which was incredible. I am so proud of Marvel and I am so proud of myself," Monique shares.
Being a stunt coordinator is no easy task and being a female stunt coordinator is even more so. In an industry which is predominantly male, Monique has accomplished a lot by breaking through those preconceived boundaries and landing a major role as the stunt coordinator for Marvel.
"I hope that this will open the doors for more women in this field. Women are supporting women of course, but what is really important is that men look to women as an equal and a different perspective to make the product so much better and whole. We still have a long way to go," she adds.
Being the stunt coordinator for 'Avengers: Infinity War' was nothing less than tough and there were multiple challenges and obstacles that Monique had to overcome.
"Just the sheer scale of the movie and how it is constantly coming at you for two hours and forty minutes was something challenging to deal with."
Due to its large scale, Monique shared how the team had to operate in two units: while one unit shot at a particular location, the other unit was shooting elsewhere. The shoots required a lot of juggling, organization, and moves akin to chess playing to get the whole operation to function well together.
"We had to make sure that everything was well planned, safe, and organized for both the units at any given time or location. Sometimes things never go as planned and so it was important to be able to adjust and work with any disruptions through the shoot," Monique says, adding that being able to juggle different responsibilities and problems is a strength of hers and she is an excellent multi-tasker.
One of the highlights for 37-year-old Monique was the close collaboration between the stunt coordination team and the visual effects team.
'Avengers: Infinity War' is a beautiful blend of live action supported by some fantastic visual effects; and so to get the desired shot, the two departments had to collaborate a lot to prepare for a movie of this size and scale.
"We really had to combine our knowledge together and learn from each other about what would work the best in this situation. I learned so much from the visual effects department, it was incredible. I am pretty fortunate and grateful to have been a part of all of it."
Edmonton-born Monique began her career as a stunt woman after a stint in modeling and acting at the age of 19-years-old.
She recalls how on a movie set she saw a woman roll down the stairs, shoot a guy, beat up some other guys, which made her think, "What is that? That looks like an awesome job."
This led her to take on some formal training and it worked out well for her given her athletic background and the fact that she had worked as a model.
Monique also shares how she had previously taken acting lessons which helped her out and so she became one of the few stunt doubles in Toronto.
Gradually she made her way to Hollywood and did stunt work in a slew of movies, including Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Twilight Saga among others.
She also dispels the myth that being a a stunt double is dangerous work as is assumed by most people.
"I feel that most of us are not daredevils or thrill seekers. We are calculated risk takers and so if I had to do a stunt 20 times in a row, I would do so and confidently," she explained.
The point is to be prepared and keep calm as you get ready to do the stunts.
Part of being a stunt double certainly comes from being self-aware and self-confident but one can definitely train. Monique says that what helps a person to do this sort of a job is "staying healthy and in shape". It also helps if the person is good at acting, she adds.
When it comes to being a stunt double, the actor and their stunt doubles must have that connection and natural flow. Many actors and their stunt doubles have been together for a long time which is certainly an advantage. It is almost as though the actor and the stunt double become each other.
Monique shared the example of Heidi Moneymaker who is the stunt double for Black Widow and has been for a long time.
"Heidi is Black Widow and we have been trained to capture the right moments and movements for the actors. It is about being able to make the actor look good".
The job of a stunt double is taxing and does affect your health.
"No matter if you eat right, stay in shape, healthy, this job is hard on your body and mind. It is hard for everybody especially your family as you are always traveling. Even the fact that you are falling on the ground so many times no matter how well rehearsed is going to be taxing on your body."
There is a path and most start as stunt doubles progress to stunt coordinators and can even get into directing. "Unfortunately, for women, it is not easy to go from performing to coordinating and especially when you have a family. There is a whole other side to the film business and it is hard on people".
The industry has a long way to go in terms of encouraging women in the different field it offers.
"I cannot tell you why it is so slow. There are so many different angles to but it has gotten better. When I started out, it was all about being showing your power and that you can do what the men do. That has started to shift and it is very normal to have a woman who wears dresses and heels to go to work and kick ass."
However, Monique believes that with encouragement and support from people in the industry, Hollywood can definitely become more inclusive.