Angelica Lisk-Hann is a Black stunt coordinator in a snow-white industry

Stunt coordinator Angelica Lisk-Hann stunts in her vehicle while discussing being Black in the Canadian film industry
Nick Lachance

Angelica Lisk-Hann has been bruised, concussed, pierced and “kicked in the lady parts.” Those are the hits that come with being a stunt performer. So too is seeing white people wear Blackface.

“Painting down” is the expression that’s used for the very common practice in the film and television industry, when a stunt performer is made up to look like an actor from another race or given some richer foundation to take on a darker complexion, as even Lisk-Hann has done. It happens because there haven’t been many Black stunt performers ready to take on piecemeal work in an industry that largely casts white.

Lisk-Hann, who is Canada’s first Black woman stunt coordinator, discussed the ways the Canadian film industry could amend that on the NOW What podcast, suggesting new hiring practices while recognizing the barriers that still make it difficult to find and hold onto diverse talent in the field.

She is a rarity in an industry filled with white men who often hail from sports, horseback riding or race car driving. She’s been performing stunts for almost 25 years, her credits ranging from Degrassi, Alien vs. Predator, X-Men: Dark Phoenix and the upcoming Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts. And she got into this line of work incidentally.

Lisk-Hann, who is nominated for Best Stunt Coordination at the Canadian Screen Awards for her work on The Retreat, got into this business pursuing acting. She even has a few small roles on her resumé. “I wanted my own show,” she says.

Stunt coordinator Angelica Lisk-Hann stunts in her vehicle while discussing being Black in the Canadian film industry
Nick Lachance

It was on the set of the 1998 Dave Chappelle comedy Half-Baked that stunt coordinator Branko Racki told her she was only okay as an actor. But he saw her potential as a stunt performer who could help fill in for the industry’s lack of melanin. He also recognized her physical ability.

Prior to pursuing the screen, Lisk-Hann went through gymnastics, was an Olympic hopeful for track and field and played a lot of team sports. She was also a snowboarder, which she blames on growing up in Trenton, Ontario. “Not a lot of Black girls at that time were snowboarding.”

Half-Baked is where she got her start as a stunt performer. And as the credits and bruises piled up, she worked her way up to stunt coordinator, going from the rare Black woman who can fall off a chair on demand to the woman who hires all the diverse talent to fill in those roles.

But filling in those roles isn’t easy, and Lisk-Hann says that she would never put anyone’s safety at risk just to hire a performer for their colour.

But she also takes it upon herself to correct the landscape by mentoring new talent, while advocating for the industry to provide more training and opportunity. “If stunt coordinators would hire these people for more than just when they double one actor, they could have a career in this business and they would stay in,” says Lisk-Hann. She suggests stunt coordinators shouldn’t just be targeting according to a specific need but just keep in mind to hire women and BIPOC for other roles like safety crew. That way they fulfill common needs on sets and also jump in to double when needed. “Give them an opportunity to make a living.”

Stunt coordinator Angelica Lisk-Hann stunts in her vehicle while discussing being Black in the Canadian film industry
Nick Lachance

Listen to NOW What podcast for the rest of our conversation on the fight for opportunity, working with unions that tend to protect the old guard and Lisk-Hann’s Canadian Screen Award nomination for her work on The Retreat in the Best Stunt Coordination category, which she had a leading role in creating.

@justsayrad

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