“I’ve always been interested in trying to see how far I can push myself, and, you know, what exciting things that I can do.”
If you’ve ever been to a Zoiks! show, you could probably pick senior Austin Schopper out in a crowd. Aside from his affinity for improv comedy, dressing in drag and his trademark blond locks, there’s another side to Schopper that many on campus never get to see – his work as a stuntman.
Schopper, English secondary education major, started learning stunts at a school in California.
“I’ve always been interested in trying to see how far I can push myself, and, you know, what exciting things that I can do,” Schopper said. “I started taking advantage of opportunities, and the opportunity just kind of fell into my lap to go to California and start doing the work.”
Schopper’s background in martial arts and gymnastics aided him in learning stunts. He doesn’t usually do any stunts during Zoiks! performances, except for a few shoulder rolls during the Halloween dance show.
“It’s always a lot of fun to do, but improvising stunts is a pretty quick way to injury,” he said.
During summers, Schopper teaches at the Hollywood Stunt Camp at Pali Overnight Adventures in California. The camp offers professional stuntmen instructors, high falls, hand-to-hand combat, swordplay techniques, fight scene choreography, safe landing and falling techniques, according to its website.
“My summers from about mid-May to the beginning of September are spent teaching people how to jump off of buildings,” Schopper said.
Traci McCool, Schopper’s girlfriend and a 2012 alumna, said she’s witnessed Schopper doing stage combat and jumping off of buildings onto crash pads.
McCool said she’s seen most of Schopper’s Zoiks! performances, and she herself did some improv in high school.
“And though he has attempted to have me try stunts, I am very rarely interested in jumping off buildings,” McCool said.
McCool also said she does worry about Schopper hurting himself but acknowledges that he’s never seriously been hurt doing stunts.
“(Doing stunts) is not statistically as dangerous as driving,” McCool said. “He did break his arm while totaling my car.”
Schopper said that in the three years he’s been doing stunts, he was only injured once in a relatively minor way. But Schopper said by the time someone starts doing stunts large enough where serious injuries could happen, they’ve been trained to know what they’re doing and how to avoid accidents.
“There’s a saying they have in the stunt community, which is, ‘When you stop worrying, when you get up to a fall, and you look at it and you don’t have any concerns, it’s time to walk away,’” Schopper said, “because it’s at that point you’re not taking it seriously.”
Schopper said the toughest part of doing stunts is being able to talk himself through doing something that “everything that you’ve ever been taught in your life says that you shouldn’t be doing.”
Schopper said his favorite stunt is a header – when the stuntman jumps headfirst off of something, like when there’s an explosion in a movie and characters are forced to dive off buildings.