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Stunt performer sets himself on fire at actors’ picket

Harrison Ford’s stunt double Mike Massa put on a fiery show at a SAG-AFTRA picket

Stunt actor Mike Massa, wearing a suit and holding a strike sign, sets himself on fire at Atlanta picket line. Photo: Mike Massa via Instagram
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Stunt actor and coordinator Mike Massa set himself on fire at a Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) picket line Tuesday, a fiery move in protest of the unfair working conditions both actors and writers are fighting the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over.

Massa, who recently worked as a stunt coordinator and Harrison Ford’s stunt double on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, joined a SAG-AFTRA rally in Atlanta, Georgia, and donned a suit and a strike sign to close out a rally in which stunt actors spoke on the importance of a new, fair contract. Crucially, Massa’s stunt was performed safely with a fire crew and special protective materials — fire stunts are notoriously dangerous.

Actors have been on strike since July 14 after the parties’ previous contract expired. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is also on strike and negotiating a new contract with the AMPTP.

Stunt actors, like writers and conventional actors, are on strike until their respective unions negotiate new contracts with the AMPTP, which represents the major movie and TV studios. Both writers and actors are looking for fair pay based off streaming profits and protection against the use of artificial intelligence, among other issues. For stunt actors specifically, SAG-AFTRA is looking for studios to pay residuals to stunt coordinators and to pay overtime for “so-called ‘flat deal’” stunt coordinators to compensate for “abusively long hours on set.”

“The AMPTP is opposed to us sharing the rewards of a successful show because we don’t bear any of the risks,” Elena Sanchez, a stunt actor who’s appeared in movies and shows like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and The Walking Dead, among others, said during the event and as reported by Atlanta News First. “Tell that to my friend John who lost his life working on one of your TV shows. Tell that to any of us who have literally broken bones and bled for you.”

Sanchez is referring to stunt performer John Bernecker, who died in 2017 while filming The Walking Dead. That same year, stuntwoman Joi Harris died while filming Deadpool 2.

SAG-AFTRA actors will remain on strike under a deal is met with studios represented by AMPTP. The WGA, on strike since May, are also in negotiations for a new deal. It’s the first time both WGA and SAG have been simultaneously on strike since 1960, and a major labor action that comes during several big years for the union movement.

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