“Keep calm and love your stuntman” were some of the opening words from stuntman Jason Ament’s appearance at Tyler Junior College’s Jean Browne theatre.
An East Texas native, Ament spoke to TJC students about his life as an actor and stuntman on January 30. Ament gave advice as he spoke on the stage facing the audience.
“Never a dull moment…there are things I won’t trade for the experience,” he told students. “You have to make sacrifices and put yourself in the environment to get the job.”
Ament’s life as an actor started in high school when his English teacher, Angela Porter (currently a TJC speech professor), asked him to be an extra in a theater performance.
“I was working on a little melodrama barbecue dinner theater kind of thing,” Porter said, “and I needed some extras for my show, so I just asked this little punk — I mean this student — would he come help me be an extra, sit at a poker table you know, order some drinks, cheer the hero, boo the villain, that kind of thing. And of course he did, but the dude stole the show.”
After attending the University of Texas at Austin, Ament got his first acting job at the Texas Shakespeare Festival in Kilgore, TX. He moved to New York, then Los Angeles, taking odd jobs giving dance lessons, appearing in daytime television, waiting tables and doing commercials, slowly working his way up in the film industry.
Ament’s involvement in film has led him to meet popular actors and directors such as Mel Gibson, Ron Howard, Bernie Mac, Hugh Grant, Drew Chapman and more. Ament has participated in various movies and TV shows such as 12 Years a Slave and American Horror Story. He has even helped in the “pre-visualization” process (early development of action scenes) for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
“What kept you motivated when the times got rough?” theatre student Jennie-Dee Guys asked Ament.
“We’re passionate about things,” he responded. “That’s why we get into it. It’s like breathing. I enjoy what I do, and a lot of people can’t say that. We make-believe things… I get paid for make-believing and falling down. I’m like a kid in a candy store every time I get to go to work… my favorite part is that I’ve been able to do it for so long.”
Regarding stunt double work and deciding which stunts to perform, Ament said, “I had a pretty fearless attitude about it. I trust the choreographer. I bow up and go… I’m not reckless because it would hurt the people around me… I’ve lost more fights than I’ve won.”
Ament advised students to get involved in any available theater or film opportunity because training now can lead to something bigger in the future. With the film industry easing its way down south into areas like Shreveport, it’s becoming easier to hop on board. In today’s world, Ament said, “you guys can tape auditions and email them off. It’s as simple as that.”
Ament said that thankfully “there are things in place now that are, safety-wise, much better than they were 50 years ago. Anybody can be a stunt man for one take.”
The film business is certainly full of ups and downs, but Ament concluded “It’s a roller coaster ride, but at the end of the day, it’s what winds my clock.”