Welcome to Episode 4!
Today’s guest is Sara Holden and she, well, has been shot, strangled, bludgeoned, suffocated & died in pretty much every imaginable way possible on the big & small screens!
Not at all. She’s pretty used to it, given her career as a Hollywood stunt actress!
A quick look at her IMDb profile will reveal an impressive CV with appearances in I’m Your Woman, Batwoman, General Hospital, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Veronica Mars, NCIS, American Horror Story, Venom, The Walking Dead, Transformers, Divergent, Man of Steel, Oz the Great and Powerful, Sons of Anarchy… the list just goes on and on!!
But who exactly is Sara Holden?
As with all STIMY episodes, we always start at the beginning. And in this episode, we learn about her life growing up in Detroit, Michigan, her love of theatre since young and how she actually had no idea what stunts even were back then! Although retrospectively, it seems as though it was all meant to be.
She was a tomboy not afraid to get down and dirty. Played soccer, gymnast, and also competitive cheerleading before joining the women’s rugby team at Western Michigan University. The story of how she even ended up in the rugby team is pretty hilarious and involves, surprisingly, the offer of beer! And being smashed into the ground at every match (which she seems to relish! 😉 Don’t look at me, I understand why either!).
Moving to Los Angeles
Upon graduation, she did an 8-month advertising stint before deciding to quit to give acting a shot. Her reasoning?
But you know what makes that decision especially remarkable?
One of the many pieces of evidence of her “what is the worst that can happen?” go-getter attitude.
Establishing A Presence In Hollywood
Establishing herself in Hollywood with no contacts, no job, and more importantly, no SAG card, was difficult.
And we explore:
- The art of networking in LA/Hollywood;
- The realities of being one of the many faceless “extras”;
- How she first discovered the world of stunts;
- How she got into the exclusive invite-only stunt training facility run by circus-trained Bob Yerkes;
- What it was like doubling for Pamela Anderson & executing her first professional stunt on an 80mph speed boat; and
- The turning point where she knew she could “make it” in Hollywood.
The Realities of Life as a Stunt Actress
We also get real on some of the challenges, including:
- How she got booked onto stunt jobs;
- How much stunt person make & the realities of the Hollywood freelance life;
- The competitive nature of the stunt industry;
- How she handles the injuries & risks taken on every day;
- The difference in career opportunities between men and female stunt workers;
- Why Sara is self-funding a car flip gag;
- The role of social media in as a stunt person;
- Managing life at home with young children during the COVID-19;
- What the future could hold for stunt work in a social distancing era; and
- What you should do if you want to be a stunt actress in Hollywood.
- Sara Holden: IMDb, Instagram, YouTube
- Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic
- Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below.
And don’t forget – if you’re looking to flip your own cars, make sure you give Sara a holler first!! 😉
Ep 4: Sara Holden - So This Is My Why Podcast
Sara Holden: I've always wanted to do this acting thing and if I don't do this now, I don't know that I'll ever do it. And so I did. I just drove out there and got a job as a hostess in Beverly Hills and just started networking.
Ling Yah: Hey everyone.
Welcome to episode four of the So This Is My Why podcast. I'm your host & producer, Ling Yah, and this week we are going all the way to Hollywood.
Our guest for today is Sarah Holden, a Hollywood stunts actress who has been in the industry for over a decade and has been shot, strangled, bludgeoned, suffocated, and died in pretty much every imaginable way.
But how did this Midwest girl from Detroit, Michigan even end up in the stunt world? That is what we will be unpacking today. Her childhood, her short-lived career in advertising until the age of 22 when she decided that now was the time: she would pack a bag and drive to LA to pursue her dreams of being an actress.
She knew no one. Had no job. But was determined to succeed, armed with a mantra of, "what is the worst that could happen?"
And succeed she has. Appearing in a wide range of works, including doubling as Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars, NCIS, Chicago PD, Transformers, Batman versus Superman and I'm your woman. This is a story of what it takes to succeed as a female stunt actress in Hollywood.
Hey, Sarah, welcome to the show. I'm so happy to be able to speak to you at last.
Sara Holden: Thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here.
Ling Yah: In preparation for this chat, I was just going through all the interviews and also your stunts reel on YouTube. And I was just amazed by the fact that there is just so much physical work involved and it's almost brutal.
You have basically died in every imaginable way in front of the camera and it just blows my mind that someone would actually choose that as a career.
So I thought we could go back to when you were young, you actually didn't even know what stunts work was like, but at the same time you said that you saw in retrospect that it kind of prepared you for the life that you have now.
Sara Holden: Yeah. Like looking back at my childhood, I never really thought of myself as a tomboy. But I was a hundred percent. I didn't really have a lot of little girlfriends. I had mostly played with all the boys and, you know, wrestling around in the mud and playing with Legos and GI Joes and all of that stuff. I've always been athletic as far as just, I've always wanted to do sports.
I wasn't amazing at any one particular sport. But I just like to dabble in all of them. And so I think I just was kind of pretty good at everything, but not amazing in one thing.
Gymnastics was a really big sport that I did again, very mediocre, but I still tumble around now because I still have those skills that I did as a child and softball .
And I played women's rugby .
Ling Yah: And you also did cheerleading as well where they threw you up into the air.
Sara Holden: Oh yeah. I forgot about that. Yeah. Yeah. So I was a competitive cheerleader where I was a flyer. So I've just, all of those things kind of helped me be, you know, fearless, so to speak.
Not that I don't have any fears, but I don't have a ton when it comes to the physicality of movement. I'm never like, Oh, I think I might get hurt doing that. I'm kind of like, you know what, I'm in good shape. Let's just give it a try. what's the worst that can happen.
So I don't know if that's the best thing, but yeah, I think all of those sports and everything, all those experiences kind of led me to having just no fear, I guess, and doing adrenaline type of activities.
Ling Yah: So you were doing all these activities, but then you chose to go to Western Michigan to do advertising, but then you also-
Sara Holden: Yes.
Ling Yah: Desire for theater? How does that all work?
Sara Holden: So after high school, I really wanted to do theater, a hundred percent theater, and my parents have always been very supportive of my choices, but they did say, you know, theater and acting, that is a difficult field and the success rate is quite low. Maybe you should think about having a backup.
So it was really just a suggestion and I thought, all right, well, okay. That's true. Acting is difficult. I mean, what are the odds that I'm going to make it as an actor? So I had advertising as a backup and I've always been interested in that type of work as well.
So I ended up majoring in advertising and then I had a minor in theater, so it was great because now. I mean, the field that I'm in with stunt work and acting, you have to advertise and market yourself. So actually it was a great decision. I didn't even think about it, but you know, it ended up working out because I think things do end up working out when you do things for people and, you know, in general, So, yeah, Western Michigan was an experience.
Um, it's definitely a party town. And so I got all of that out of my system and survived it and graduated with honors. It was a great experience.
Ling Yah: So I want to pick up the word you said, "survive". You've mentioned before that it was tough to survive Western Michigan. Why is that?
Sara Holden: Well, I mean, I'm kind of joking, but I think for anyone who knows Western Michigan, it's just a party school.
So when I say I survived it, it was just more or less. I got through it. I got all the partying out of my system. I actually graduated and got good grades, but I still had that typical classic college experience, which I'm so happy because I have a lot of friends that went right into stunt work and never went to college and never left , your family and your house and lived in the dorms and went to frat parties and all of the football games and never really had that experience. So I'm grateful for the experience and that's where I started playing rugby.
Ling Yah: So rugby was a kind of turning point for you, wasn't it?
Sara Holden: It really was, it was so funny. Cause I didn't even know what rugby was. Honestly. I remember I was walking through campus maybe, you know, from one class to another and I saw, you know, everyone advertised their groups and different things, with just pieces of paper slapped on poles or trees, on campus.
And I saw one that caught my eye and it said. Are you a girl? I am a girl. And then it said, do you like to drink beer? I said, well, yes I do. And it said rugby is going to be the sport for you. I'm like, what?
So it's like, you know, come to this field at this time and I did. I'm like, what the hell? That sounds interesting.
I was intrigued.
And it's just funny cause I go and I meet these girls and I find out what rugby is and it just was like this whole new sport and this whole world opened up and I played for four years and I mean, I still talk to all the rugby girls today. We actually just had a zoom call on Friday.
We had a reunion rugby's zoom call, which was great. And, um, I traveled to Australia and played, I went to Ireland and played twice and- it's a brutal sport. Do you know much about rugby?
Ling Yah: No, I don't. I just see people being tackled and you get all bruised and such, and I think, wow, that's really violent.
Sara Holden: It really is. And that's exactly what it is.
It's basically like football without pads. You're not wearing pads. Um, the only thing you have really to protect your body is a mouth guard, which is good because you know, people get their teeth knocked out and that's not cool.
So yeah, you're just, getting beat up the whole time. So I think that subconsciously got me ready for the stunt world because I was like, wait a minute. I can wear pads to do this. Okay. Well , that's easy. So yeah, rugby was, um, it was a great little stepping stone, I would say for my career.
Ling Yah: But did you never feel overwhelmed?
Cause you actually quite petite. You're only five foot two. So everyone else must have been giant as compared to you and you were just running there getting tackled by these giants.
Sara Holden: I got just mauled. I got my butt kicked every game. I think I was just a walking bruise for probably four years.
A really funny story on that.
I was dating my now husband. I met him in college and I had a rugby game in Bowling Green, Ohio, and I had to meet him later in Kalamazoo, which was about a three hour drive, I think, for a wedding. And I got tackled so hard in this game in Ohio that I ended up having a black eye.
And so later on in the day, the black eye was really starting to set in and really showing some nice purple and black coloring. And I, you know, get my dress on. I put my heels on, hair and makeup, and I showed up at this wedding and my boyfriend at the time was like, what the hell happened to you?
And I'm like, ah, I just got tackled. So the whole night, I'm on my boyfriend's arm with this black eye. What do you think everyone was looking at him? I was in this domestic abusive relationship.
And I had to say, I just played a rugby game today and they're like, Oh yeah. Okay. Whatever. So my husband never lets me forget that day because it was kind of funny.
Ling Yah: Well, he also can't say that he didn't know what he was getting himself into as well.
Sara Holden: Exactly. He knew exactly what he was getting into. And I mean, I haven't changed much at all, so yeah, that was just kind of funny, but
Ling Yah: So going back, so you were at university, you graduated and then you went to Chicago for an advertising desk job, but you only lasted for like eight months.
Sara Holden: Yeah. Well, I realized that the office world corporate role just wasn't for me, but again, I feel like every experience you have, you know, pushes you toward where you want to be or where you end up. And it was a great learning experience.
It was an advertising company. We did a lot of bud light and Budweiser marketing.
And we shot these commercials with real people. So I was still kind of in the business of filming, but I was on the agency side. I was fully behind the camera , not in any performance situation whatsoever.
And I think I was, you know, watching the people in front of the camera and going, Hey, I want to perform. Like I have way too much energy to be just behind the camera and doing all of the paperwork and the payroll. It was just so monotonous to me.
And so I'm glad that I had that eight month experience to learn a little bit about the business and be behind the camera. And then I thought, you know what?
I've always wanted to do this acting thing. And I studied theater and if I don't do this now, I don't know that I'll ever do it. It was kind of like my time, like, let's just take the jump leap of faith, if you will, and just see what happens. And so I did, I just moved to Hollywood. And I packed whatever I had into my car and drove out there.
I didn't know anybody. I did not have a job. I did have some money saved up, which was, you know, it's just a smart thing to do. And I remember I kind of told a little white lie to my parents and said that I had this job. I didn't really have a job at all. I'm just going to be out there like a year.
I'm just going to kind of try it out. And my parents knew I was not going out there for a year. I think they knew this was more of a permanent thing. And, um, yeah, I just drove out there and got a job as a hostess in Beverly Hills and just started networking.
Ling Yah: So you drove, you got into your car, you packed up your life, you told your parents you had a job, but you didn't have a job.
And how did you even begin to start your life in LA?
Sara Holden: I mean, it was really scary. I kind of got there and, um, my husband at the time, I remember I drove him to the airport and he flew back and I just sat there going, what did I do? Like what did I just do?
Like I'm here all alone. Oh my goodness. And um, I ended up getting a hostess job in a restaurant in Beverly Hills. And so I thought, well, that was cool. I'm in Beverly Hills. Like maybe I'll meet some really cool people.
And I did.
I mean, that was where my networking started. And I became friends with the bartender, who was a struggling actor because 80% of the people there is a struggling, something struggling, actor, director, writer, you know, whatever he does.
You want to be a comedian.
And he's still my dear friend today, which is awesome. And so, that was my first person like, okay, what do I do? And he said, well, you know, there's this, this and this. And then I did that and you meet more people and you just put yourself out there and let people know this is what I'm trying to do.
And you know, you'd be amazed. A lot of people don't want to help you, but there's still all those people that do want to help you. So you just surround yourself with those great people that are down to earth and real. And I ended up making a lot of friends with Midwest people because I am Midwest. And so I found myself kind of just gravitating towards them.
Um, I still have a lot of LA local friends, but there's not a ton of LA locals. It's a melting pot. You know, a lot of people move there to be somebody and be in the business, but yeah, I'm a good networker. I've always been a people person and I've never been one to be scared to ask something.
It's like, you know, what the hell do I have to lose? All someone can tell me is no. And then I just move on to the next.
I think being beat down a little bit always makes you stronger.
Ling Yah: And do you feel like that's a quality that you need in order to survive LA?
Sara Holden: Absolutely. Yes. If you don't have some sort of a thick skin, I just feel like it's maybe not the right career choice for you because it's 90% rejection.
I mean, I can't tell you how many auditions I had. I was like, Oh my gosh. That was amazing. I really feel good about that. Nope, didn't get it.
Ling Yah: Can you kind of remember, like how many auditions you're going for and the rejections? What was it like in those few years? Cause you tried acting for two years.
Sara Holden: The first two years were mainly just acting because I didn't know what the stunt world was.
It wasn't introduced to me. So I was out there just acting,
I mean, it took me forever to even get an agent, you know, I was rejected by so many agents. I'm like, all right. And you can't really go on real legit professional auditions without an agent. And I wasn't in the union yet. SAG, you know, is our actor's union.
So I didn't have my SAG card. So there was a lot of work to be done before I was even considered a professional . So I did a lot of extra work. So when you're watching a TV show or a movie, let's say it's a restaurant scene.
And all of the people in that restaurant, they're all extras. Background. So they're filling the frame because if you don't have them, you're literally watching an empty restaurant with two actors and you're like, well, that doesn't look real. So they just fill the scene and make it a real environment. But you're not talking.
No, you're just a space filler. I hate to say that, but you are. And so you don't have any dialogue. You get paid very, very little. It's extremely long hours. You really don't get treated great being a background artist. But if you do it long enough, you can start working toward getting your SAG card.
It took me a year to get my SAG card. Some people get it quicker. Some people, it takes five years, everyone's on their different path, but I was so happy when I got my SAG card. Cause I'm like, okay, no, I'm in the union. Like I'm going to be taken more seriously.
Meanwhile I was still hostessing and all of that.
Ling Yah: So what are the requirements to get a SAG card in the first place?
Sara Holden: Well, there's different ways to get it. Like the way I got it was through background work, but you can also actually book a union job, which is hard out of the gate.
If you have a special skill, you know, maybe you're an amazing juggler and they're looking for an amazing juggler for a commercial and you booked that job and it's a union job.
You get your SAG card. That's rare but it definitely happens. I know a ton of people that that happened to.
Did not happen to me. I had these ridiculous hours on set and making 50 bucks a day and all of this. So, you know, I loved being on set because even as an extra, even though you're not talking, I used it as a learning experience.
I'm like, okay, I'm watching the director work. I'm watching what the DP does the director of photography. I'm watching how the actors get prepared. I'm, you know, watching all of the moving parts to make a movie. I mean, it was like film one Oh one and I was getting paid a little bit of money, you know?
So it was a great experience.
Ling Yah: What was the big takeaway from those moments? Just observing people doing that work while you were just an extra.
Sara Holden: Well , it motivated me because I thought, okay, I am watching someone actually do what I want to do. And so it's just motivating me, like, okay, I can do that.
Like I have this step to do, and then this and this. And then I could be there. I'm literally 10 feet away from watching the person do what I want to do. And that actually gets me to the stunt world because I finally got my first speaking role. We call it a day player role and I had, you know, one or two lines and it was in a movie called Beer Fest, really funny comedy.
And it was an 18 hour day. And so when you're working for 18 hours, you're just talking to whoever's around you because it gets really boring and you can only sit around craft service and eat chips for so long. So I had a nice conversation with the guy next to me and came to find out he was the stunt coordinator.
And so of course, I'm asking the questions that you're asking now, like, well, what do you mean a stunt coordinator? What does that mean? Oh, you know, I'm here, you know, directing the stunts.
Oh, well, what kind of stunts? What is it?
So I started asking him a million questions. Well, then I ended up seeing, because I was in the scene, you know, the stunts being performed and I'm like, why I can do that.
And so I kind of just started talking to him about the business. He started asking me questions, you know, what's your background? What are your skill sets?
And I told him all the stuff that I did in the sports and the gymnastics and the competitive cheerleading and the rugby. And he says, Wow. You have a lot of what it could take to be a stunt person.
And he said, what's amazing is you have an acting background. You can perform. And that's half of a stunt person being able to perform. He said, so you really have a lot of what it takes and I'm going, wow. All right, well maybe this is another way into the business. And so. I ended up training. There's a facility in Los Angeles, started training.
Ling Yah: But before you got there, you actually had to hustle to just get that opportunity. I think in Christmas, 2006 you crashed a party by the Stuntman's Association, can you tell us the story?
Sara Holden: You sure did your research.
You know, and I forget, like, I, I skipped over a lot of stuff.
I'm like, Oh yeah, I do that. Um, so yeah, so once he kind of lit the light bulb into, okay, now I want to pursue stunts. I want to just see what it's like. I didn't know if I would actually do it, but I figured, well, I want to just educate myself on this aspect of the business. And maybe I'll like it, maybe I won't, I don't know, right?
So I thought, okay. He piqued my interest in the stunt world. Now I want to meet more stunt people. And he told me about this facility. I, okay. What do I do? How do I meet more people? So I literally Googled, you know, stunts, I don't know, even know what I Googled stunts. Um, I think that I heard about a stunt group or something and it was right around Christmas time.
And so it said online that there was this Christmas party and it gave the address, which, you know, now looking back that that would never happen anymore. I don't think so.
I saw this as an opportunity and I'm like, okay, I'm just going to go to this address. And obviously it's going to be full of stunt people that are working in the business. I'm just going to go,
Oh my gosh, I can't believe I did that, but I did. And it was great. I just walked in, like I owned the place.
Nobody asked me any questions. I don't know how maybe I was just-
you know, I feel like when you're confident, it oozes out of you.
And if you just walk in like you belong there. I feel like people look like, you know, like, Oh, that person definitely belongs here. You know what I'm saying?
It's those people that walk in and they're like sheepish and they're looking down and they're like, Ugh, that's obviously a really red flag. Like, alright, that person's like totally sneaking in here.
So I just kind of walked in, like I own the place and I, and you know, just mingling, grabbed a beer, talking to people.
The longest conversation I had was with a man named Bob Yerkes. And he was a veteran stunt man. And he had this training facility in his backyard and he took a liking to me and he said, so you want to be a stunt woman.
I like, well, I mean, maybe I don't know. I mean, Sounds interesting. And he said, well, you know, he told me about this facility in his backyard. He was a circus performer. So he had his backyard. It's still a working, you know, training ground today. And he has a 60 foot high fall ladder, into a huge airbag.
He has trampolines and a trapeze and we do fall off of his roof and all of this stuff. It's like an adult playground and he invited me. And that was a huge thing because this place is an invite only, you can't crash it like I did. And I took that invite and I trained there two years, two to three times a week, and I just-
I was a sponge. I was surrounded by stunt people and not really working stunt people. We were all beginners. We were all green. We were all just learning off of each other and doing, you know, fight choreography and. learning high falls and there's a lot of different ways to fall off of a ladder.
You might not even know that, but there is. So we were just feeding off of each other and learning, and it was awesome. And that's kind of where my stunt career started.
Ling Yah: And was everyone around the same age and with the same kind of background?
Because I'm just trying to think, like certain things that you're doing right now, surely that you can go in with absolutely no exposure to that sort of physicality?
Sara Holden: Yeah, I think we're definitely on the same age. Like within a couple of years, we were all about the same age, but we all had different backgrounds.
For instance, there's martial artists that are in the business. They're amazing. I have zero martial arts background. I don't do martial arts. If I get a call for a martial arts job, I very quickly turn it down because that's not my - not to say that I can't train, but I didn't grow up with that.
And another thing I didn't- dancers. There's a lot of dancers that are in the business and that's something , I never did.
Um, Cirque people, you know, silks and people that are doing cirque aerial backgrounds. I don't have any of that. So yes, we were all the same age, but I feel like we all had different backgrounds, which was cool because we could all teach each other, you know, a martial artist could say, Hey, teach me a couple of kicks.
So maybe I could get by and do something. And then I could teach them a little bit of gymnastics so we definitely had different backgrounds, but that was what made it great. I think as we all just trained off of each other.
Ling Yah: And I loved the fact that I read that apparently you didn't actually have to pay to go there. Like Bob Yerkes was just trying to give back to the community as well.
Sara Holden: Yeah. It's amazing. I mean, I think there was a donation box. Um, I hope there still is. And we would all throw in what we could, but we were all not making money. Even if someone threw in like $2, you know, it's nothing, but, um, there was probably only maybe 20, on a good day.
Um, so yeah, it wasn't like you had to pay admission. It was like, hey donate if you can, if you can't get your next week, I mean, it was great. 100% still gives back to the community to this day. So that's awesome.
Ling Yah: That's amazing. So you were going there for training two, three times a week. What were you doing on the other side?
Were you applying for jobs,auditioning and also hostessing as well?
Sara Holden: Yeah, my hostessing job ended. I think the restaurant closed down actually. Um, and then I ended up getting a bartending job, which I was at for five years and it was at the farmer's market in Los Angeles.
So anybody listening, who knows anything about LA, or even visited LA it's very much a tourist destination. It's at 3rd and Fairfax. It's been around for years and it's fantastic. It's an outdoor mall called the Grove and the next to it is the farmer's market and it's outdoors and there's two bars there.
And I started bartending there and it was fantastic because of so many reasons. The clientele was all regulars. So we called it the West Coast Cheers. I don't know if you're familiar with that old TV show. Cheers, but it was a bar full of regulars. So, you know, Sean would come up and I would just have his order.
I know what he wanted. He didn't even have to ask me. And it was like serving beer to a friend. And so that was great for that respect.
And also the networking was amazing because it was right next to CBS. And so for lunch, all of the CBS people that worked on, you know, young and restless and dancing with the stars and whatever shows were happening at the time would come over for their lunch break.
And so I would be able to network with them. And again, I always let people know what I wanted to do, because if I didn't, there would be no opportunities to present themselves. So I would always say, yeah, you know, I'm training, you know, so at this time I was really training to be a stunt person. So they knew that, Oh, wow, we have a stunt coordinator on young and restless.
I'll send them over, you should meet them. And so I ended up meeting him and that led to something else. And it's so. I always tell people, let people know what you want to do. Absolutely. Because most people want to help. And I feel like a lot of people, if there's a way to help and move you forward in your journey that they will.
And so the farmer's market was fantastic. So to answer your question, long story short. Yes. I was training to do stunts and then I was also bartending and I was making great money. So I was saving, like I was not ever really struggling. I never was like, Oh my gosh, how am I going to pay rent? How am I going to put food on the table?
I've always been a good manager of my money. I'm a saver. I think I definitely have to contribute that to my dad. He was always like, work hard, save your money. And I did. And so I never had any issues with money, which is always a fantastic feeling.
Ling Yah: And was your family ever concerned? Where they like calling you saying, when are you coming back?
Have you had enough?
Sara Holden: Yes, my mom did. And it was just because she missed me, but she knew that I was on a mission and she knew that when Sarah's on a mission, she does not stop until it happens.
it was just more or less, can you come home and visit, you know, so I did fly home a lot to visit my mom. I think we only went maybe a couple months without seeing each other.
So that was great. And she was just proud of every little obstacle. When I started, you know, booking small jobs on TV shows. Like they were like, I can't believe this. And they tell all their friends and Sarah is going to be on, you know, I'm trying to remember like Monk. That was one of my first jobs, blonde and blonder.
Right? Double Pamela Anderson. That was. Super cool. Right. Maybe made that call Pamela Anderson. So of course the first question is, yeah, but you don't have any boobs.
I'm just going to put them in, like, it's just going to be fake. So they're very proud and they love, you know, bragging to their friends and our family and watch Sarah, she's going to be on this show.
Yeah. They're my biggest fans for sure.
Ling Yah: That's amazing. And what was the feeling like when you booked that first job, which was as Pamela Anderson and you had these giant boots by you on the speedboat, just going around 95 miles an hour. Like, what was it like?
Sara Holden: It was surreal. Well, the first thing was, am I really getting paid to do this and not just getting paid a little bit of money?
Like. For a day, for what I was getting paid, I'm like, this is crazy. Now getting into that, you know, stunt people don't typically work every day. And so, yes, we're making a lot of money in that one day. But when you spread it out from when you book one job to the next job, it's not that much because you're not working in making them every single day, but, um, yeah.
I just remember being on the second one. I have so much to learn because I knew that I was green and I was willing to learn. And I was just like, this is awesome. I know this is what I want to do. And I'm going to train and I'm going to ask all the questions and I want to do the best job I can and be as professional as I can.
So you keep working. And then I remember, I really wanted a picture with Pam, but I didn't want to be that person. Right. I didn't want to walk and be like can I get a picture with you. Meanwhile, I look exactly like her, right. I have the wig, I have her exact dress on and these ridiculously high heels.
And so I kind of was like inching over to her and she was, you know, surrounded by her people. And I felt so stupid because I'm like, okay, just go ask her, just get your flipping picture from one of your first jobs and what's the worst that could happen. Well, I think they realized that I was kind of like inching my way toward them.
And so. I'm trying to remember. She played a little joke on me and I felt I was so humiliated, but she was messing with me. I think I may have just asked, you know, is there any way I can get a picture? And I think she was just like, uh, no, I'm not going to do that. And like shut the door. She was in a car with her stylist or whatever, and they like shut the door on me.
And I just kind of stood there, frozen, like, Oh my God, I can't believe that just happened. And then two seconds later, she opened it up. She's like, I'm just kidding. Oh my God. Oh my God. I was so humiliated. And then I'm just laughing nervously.
I got my picture. And then we were like, cool, the rest of the day and like talking and stuff, but she, yeah, she totally got me and I was so humiliated.
Ling Yah: Oh my goodness.
Sara Holden: But I got my picture.
Ling Yah: Because you were on a speedboat and I'm sure that in Bob's Backyard, which is what you guys call it, right, like you don't have a speedboat to train in. So, how do you even prepare for that kind of stunt?
Sara Holden: Well can you really train, just going fast in a boat?
Like there's really no training for that. It's like, okay. Are you scared? Are you scared of speed? Um, there's a lot of stunts that I still do, you really can't train.
It's more or less. Kay, are you scared to do this? And if you hit a boat and you fly out of the boat, worst case scenario, are you scared of, you know, hitting the water and, skipping across the water going 90 miles an hour, or you know, that would be bad, but I think about, okay, I've done water stuff.
I grew up water skiing. There's a lot of lakes in Michigan, the great lakes, obviously. So I've gone fast in boats before maybe not 90 miles an hour with a helicopter. Shooting down and you know, all these other things going on, but yeah, there really wasn't any training involved in that one. I think other jobs, yes.
You can train like Monk and I got hit in the head with a fake brick. So that's something you can train because it's just being hit. You're taking a reaction and you're falling. That, I could train at Bob's. I could go there. We could take a piece of foam.
I could have another stunt player hit me. I practice my reaction and I fall to the ground. I could do that a thousand times, but yeah, going 90 miles an hour in a speed boat, I mean, I guess I could find someone that has a boat and ask them, but I don't .
Ling Yah: And so you did lots of these things, but what was the turning point for you when you thought, okay, I can make it, I can actually survive as a stunt artist in Hollywood?
Sara Holden: I think the turning point for me was my first location job. But because prior to that, I was just kind of day playing. Like I would get, you know, one day on monk and then I would get one day on, um, er Nightrider I think there was a reboot of Knight rider. So I did one day on that. And, but then I'd go back to being a bartender for a month and then I would get another one day job on this TV show, but then I'd be a bartender for two months.
So it was like that, which was great. I mean, I still was like I'm working. But the turning point was my first location job and it was a movie called Piranha 3D. Super silly movie, but I was working for two or three weeks. It was a two or three week job, which was huge for me. So I had to actually tell my boss at the bar, Hey, who, by the way, was a huge fan and supported my career.
And every time I booked a job, if I had a shift, he would cover it for me and be like, Oh, do your thing. Which was, I mean, how cool is that to have your boss be super supportive of you and your career and.
So now that I got booked for this on as two to three week job, it's like, Oh God, I might lose my bartending job over this.
Like, this is a big, you know, leave of absence.
So I remember talking to him and he was like, you know what, go do it. Like, we'll get you covered and you still have a job when you come back. So that was amazing. But yeah, I think it was a turning point because I really got to bond with thirty five other stunt people. And we were doing amazingly fun stunts.
And we were, you know, going out at night, we were shooting in Lake Havasu, which is just a party town and it was in June. So I mean, the weather was amazing and we were filming on the Lake and. It was just great. I mean, I think that's where I was like, okay, I feel like I made it because I was with all of these other working stunt people and they saw what I could do.
And I think I proved myself on that job. And they were like, wow. Because I think up until then people were like, Oh, this Sarah Holden. Yeah. She's an actress who wants to do stunts. So that was kind of the thing.
Like I'm an actor, but I can do a little bit of stunts. Well, I want it to be known as an actor and a stunt person, like a respectable stunt person that is actually capable. And I think on Piranha, I proved myself and they were like, Oh, wow. Yeah, no, she, she can do stunts for sure. Like, she's a stunt person.
She was getting down and dirty and bruised up and, you know,
We were covered in blood the whole time. It was a ton of water work and it was just great. We were hanging off boats and we were just falling off of stages.
I was just getting bruised up and yeah, so that was definitely a turning point. And after that job, I feel like the stunt jobs were coming more frequently. Still at my bar job though. I mean, five years I was at the bar job. So yeah, I think that's kind of what was the turning point for me.
Ling Yah: So you said the jobs coming at you. Were they like people were approaching you like the stunned exes, or were you still auditioning, but you were getting it more frequently?
Sara Holden: Yeah, there's always auditions.
Well, sometimes I get a call just if I'm the right size , you know, for an actress, sometimes I'll get a call and just, Hey, are you available for this day?
Send me your sizes and make sure that I am a good match. And then I just get the job. Other jobs you have to audition. And that's still today. I mean, I still audition for jobs and I still get called for jobs. So it's the same. Every job is different. And a lot of times the director, not the stunt coordinator, but the director, they don't know what they want.
So they'll go to the stunt coordinator and say, Hey, listen. I need to double so-and-so give me five choices. And so a lot of times it's out of the stunt coordinator's hands and it's into the director's hands, even though he doesn't know about any of our skill sets. It's a lot of times about looks and that's unfortunate.
I feel like that's just how the business is now. I mean, I can't tell you how many jobs I've lost because I have blonde hair and it's like, well, wait a minute. You could dye it, or you could just put a wig on me, but a lot of times directors are like, Oh, I don't really like wigs.
Um, you know, if the actor is running, wig hair moves differently than real hair. And so a lot of times, so it's no no, I want to use the real person. I need a brunette that's five foot, two. And 105 pounds. Well, I'm out unless I want to go dye my hair for a job that I may not get. And then I'm stuck.
Okay. Now I got Brown hair and I got to go. So it's, I don't know. No one does that mean? It's just you just miss out on the job and that's just part of the deal.
Ling Yah: And how do you stand out among all the other stunt artists? Ir are there not enough of you guys to really have to compete among each other? And it's just fitting the requirements?
Sara Holden: Oh, it's extremely competitive. Um, and, and more so today than when I got in, I've only been doing it for, I think I'm in, yeah, 11 or 12 years.
Um, it's changed dramatically since I got in. Mostly because now filming is everywhere, not everywhere, but when I got it, it was pretty much you have film in LA and then there was a market in New York, but it was mostly LA. Now with tax incentives and all of that, you know, Atlanta is a huge filming place. It's bigger and busier I would say then LA right now.
And you know, you have New Orleans and Chicago, so now there's more markets to film in. So there's more stunt people and actors who, because there's more opportunities. So I feel like the competition is so much greater now because there's just more people.
And a lot of stunt coordinators are like, Oh, I want to give this person a shot. It's like, well, everyone deserves their shot. Cause we were all in that place. And I'm like, wait a minute. I, you know, I have more skills than her, or soa lot of times people don't even get the job for their skills. It's just-
someone giving them an opportunity. And I can't knock that because I was there too. I needed to get that opportunity. So it's definitely more cut throat now. And more competitive.
Ling Yah: I also read that you also created your own opportunity cause he wants it to car flips and no one wants to give you a chance.
So you went and fume your own thing just to show them that, Hey, I can do it.
Sara Holden: So I was on a film in Pittsburgh last November. And there was a pipe ramp, which is a car flip gag. And I've always been interested in doing more car work. Um, I definitely don't consider myself a car person.
Like that's not my number one skill, but I can definitely drive. I can do some stunt driving. I've taken the courses. I've done some professional jobs with car stuff.
I grew up in the motor city, you know, in Detroit and my dad always had new cars growing up and he was an engineer. And so I've always been interested in cars now.
I'm not like underneath the hood and like working on engines, but like, I feel like I'm more educated in cars than maybe the typical woman. I think that's safe to say. So when they were doing this car flip and I was really interested and I remember going to set, even when I wasn't working, like I had a day off and I'm like, Oh, they're setting up the pipe ramp today.
So I would go and I would just be a fly on the wall. And I would just, I would not say anything. Maybe I'd ask a question here or there, but I was just watching the special effects team and the stunt guys setting it up and prepping it. And I'm going, I really want to flip a car. Why do you ask? I mean nobody understands that other than other stunt women.
Like my mom, why in the world do you want to flip a perfectly normal car? Well, it's like asking a skydiver. Why do you want to jump out of a perfectly working airplane? Well, because that's their passion. It's hard to explain. Yes. We're adrenaline junkies. I don't know. It's just one more thing that I could put on my resume and as long as you're doing it safe. And there is a safe way to do these things, not to say that things can't go wrong, but if you do your due diligence and set it up, right, and then surround yourself with the correct safety people and they know how to make it as safe as possible, I'm all in.
And so that just made me realize, watching the stunt that day, I started asking , the stunt driver, you know, how did you get into it? And why do you think that a lot of stunt women don't get these opportunities? And it's not to say that there are no stunt women that have done these car flips, but it's a very small group of women.
And I personally know a lot of them and I've talked to them about it. The stunt drivers said it's not that I don't. Thanks. You, Sarah Holden could do it. I think you're perfectly capable of doing it, but it's my ass on the line if something goes wrong because I am giving you your first shot, right?
You've never done this before. And I also have to sell you to the production and to the director and the producer
It's an expensive stunt. And. It's a big piece in the project, right? Flipping a car. Like obviously that's a big turning point in the story, right.
And it's like, okay, Hey, Mr. Director, I'm going to put Sarah Holden in the seat to do the car flip.
How many flips is Sarah done?
None. And so there's just this level of anxiety and. Like, okay. Why would we put Sarah Holden in when we could put in Joe Schmo, who's done 20 of that. Let's put Joe Schmo in. And so everyone's just more calm on set that day.
And I understand that. I really, really do, but it's like, okay, if I wait for that opportunity, maybe it will never happen. Maybe my phone will never ring to do that pipe ramp. And so I thought, all right, well, I could just do it myself. Produce my own little scene or project, and I'll just flip my own car because then I'll have that first one under my belt.
And maybe hopefully that will lead to other projects or maybe it will not lead to anything. And this will be the only car flip I do in my whole career. And I still have pride in that because A, I put my whole self into something. I put my mind to something and I did it.
B, I funded it myself and C, I have a really cool piece of footage that I can look back and show my kids and show other, maybe stunt women that don't have opportunities.
Hey, listen, I didn't have this opportunity, but look at what I did and inspire people. So I feel like it's a win, win situation. I mean, obviously again, I hope it would lead to other things. But maybe it doesn't and that's okay with me. And so that's what I'm currently working on, which I think is how we met, right.
And it just goes to show like, put yourself out there, tell people again. I know, I feel like I'm repeating myself, but tell people what you're trying to do and things happen. I mean, I'm talking to you now because you saw a post of me going, Hey, I want to create my own opportunity.
I really am looking for more followers on my Instagram cause I really want to get sponsored by a motocross to help fund some of the gear that I need.
Hey, if you want to follow a stunt woman, do it. And then you kind of take me to talk to you and you know, it's just, that's how it works. And I love the power of social media for that exact reason.
Ling Yah: Yeah. And do you feel like social media is something that you absolutely must have nowadays?
Sara Holden: That's a really good question, because if you asked me that six months ago, I would say no, six months ago, I was like, social media is exhausting.
It's annoying. I can't stand the people that are posting five times a day and telling me exactly what they're doing on their trip. Like, go live your trip and be with your family or whoever you're with. You don't have to tell me the play by play of your European trip. Like just go live in and be present, right?
I am. I understand. You're exciting. You want to share? And I do as well, and I do share, but not every day. Not every single thing you do. So I feel like social media in that respect, it just annoys me. But I'm understanding now, especially with this project that I'm doing, social media is a huge factor and I'm still learning.
I've learned more in the last four months about social media than I have in the last 10 years. I recently got on Instagram. I think I've only been on, well, maybe. I mean, it's been a year, I guess that's kind of recent though for Instagram. I don't know. I feel like not so much for stunt jobs.
I mean, I don't think a coordinator's going to look at my Instagram and be like, Oh, we should hire her because she has followers. No, not one. I mean, there's a million coordinators, not a million, hundreds that are not on social media and just don't do it. I've already felt like I've proven myself in the stunt community.
They know who I am. They know what I'm capable of. I'm not going to get any more jobs because of my Instagram.
Now on a flip side, this car flipped for instance, for a sponsorship. Yes, I do feel like it's important because if someone wants to sponsor me and put their name, you know, into my project and have me give shout outs and hashtag them and promote them, Hey, I'm wearing this gear to do this car flip because I feel comfortable in it.
And so I'm now promoting their product. And so if I have, you know, five followers, well, not really promoting too many people, but if I have 20,000 followers and a lot of them are sports enthusiasts or motorcycle girls or stunt women or adrenaline junkies, that's a market that this product wants to target.
So, absolutely. I think it's important, which is why I've been trying to boost mine just for that fact, not for my stunt roles, but for this particular project. Yes. 100%.
Ling Yah: And I feel like you've been really successful. You were just telling me earlier this year you had a thousand and now in May , which is just five months.
You have like almost 11,000, which is an incredible kind of increase.
Sara Holden: It's amazing.
This is actually how it started. I was telling someone about the project and I said, I really want to, um, throw out, you know, trying to get maybe a little sponsorship from call it a motocross company or something to try to help fund some of the gear that I need.
So the first question they asked was, um, how is your social media following? And I thought that was the most ridiculous question at the time. I'm like, uh, what do you mean? Like, facebook? Like, no, like you're are you on Instagram?
I was like, Oh yeah. I recently got an Instagram and they asked me how many followers I had. And I think at the time I had like 800.
And so I said, yeah, I think I had like 800 followers. And they were like, that's it?
I'm like, I don't know. I kind of feel like 800 is a lot of people. They're like, Oh my God, Sarah, that's nothing.
And they're like you need to boost your Instagram following to even have a company even look at you seriously. And I'm like, wow. Okay. I just really, I don't know. I mean, I have been just so ignorant at the time because I just didn't. I just really didn't know I didn't put a lot of effort into social media.
I was like, yeah, whatever. I didn't really feel like I needed to share my entire life or all of the accolades and all the cool stunts I've done.
Like not to say I didn't post them, but I didn't think about it that much. And so after that conversation, I was like, okay, cool. I need to boost my following.
I started posting my project on Facebook groups. And, you know, a lot of them started with mom groups because. I'm a mom and that's my number one job. And my number one priority is that I'm a mom. And so I posted it on one , mom group.
And my Instagram not only blew up, but my Facebook people were messaging me going, oh, my God. I saw your post bed is amazing. You're a badass. What an inspiration.
I showed my post to my daughter who watches American Ninja Warrior. And not that I'm on that, but you know, there are a stunt people. My friend, Jessie Graff is a huge American Ninja champion. And just, you know, I couldn't believe how I was getting blown up.
And my Instagram went from 800 to like 3000 in like two weeks, just from that one post at a mom group. And maybe the moms are sharing your hits with their friends. I don't know. You know, you never know when you put it out there, how it goes. I mean, it didn't go viral by any means, but it just. It went somewhere, right.
It had legs for sure. And then someone was like, I want to talk to you on this podcast. You're inspiring. I'm going, really?
So I just made me realize, okay, this is interesting to people. People want to hear what I have to say, and they're interested in my story and that is just. I mean, how is that not inspiring, right?
How does that not give you the motivation and the drive to keep going? And so then I would post it to this group and this group, and here we are. And I'm under 11,000 people which- listen, 11,000. It's still not a lot. There's people that have a hundred thousand, but to me, My growth. I'm very proud of it.
And I hope it keeps growing. I don't know that it will. I hope it does, but, um, I'm really happy where it is and I, you know, it's gotten me to talk to you .
Ling Yah: Have you felt that kind of rapid growth has kind of had an impact on your life so far?
Sara Holden: I mean, my, my husband kind of, you know, makes fun of me.
And he's like, Oh, are you like an influencer now? And like, I don't even know what that is. He goes, Oh my gosh. So he kind of makes fun of me. I don't know that it's impacted my life because now we are in a quarantine, right. We haven't even talked about that, but, um, you know, and it kinda just.
My momentum kind of stopped because the world stopped.
And so that was like a bummer. And so I'm still trying to like, get my momentum back, but it's hard because you know, everyone's just in lockdown and so that's been difficult. Um, I'm hoping that I can keep my momentum going. And, but now I'm a teacher. I'm a homeschool teacher now.
Ling Yah: What is the role that you've had so far, that's the most memorable for you?
Sara Holden: So there's been a lot, but I would say the most recent one was a film called I'm your woman. And we filmed it in Pittsburgh. It's the one I told you about with the car flip and I got to double Rachel Brosnahan. And so she plays the marvelous. Mrs. Maizel.
It's past season one. I think it's in like season three. Oh my gosh. I can't wait for you to see it. It's a fantastic show and she's brilliant in it. So I was so happy to be able to double her and she is from Chicago. And so she's a Midwest girl.
So we were just like talking, talking, talking like hit it off, you know, right away. And I got to spend three weeks in Pittsburgh, which- location jobs are fun because you get to just live somewhere else for a while. And you know, being away from my kids is always hard, but I would come back every-
I think I came back every week and just to make sure I wasn't away from them for too long, but that was really fun. Cause it was a big car chase scene. I love doing car work so that was really impactful because I think, well, that was huge because that's what prompted me to want to do my car flip projects.
Another really memorable job was when I got to double Michelle Williams in a movie called Oz the great and powerful. And it starred James Franco and Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis.
So that was amazing because I didn't double Mila, but I got to rehearse all of her flying rigs. So she was the wicked witch. And so I was rehearsing all of these amazing flying gags on broomsticks. So I was flying around the room. I mean, it was amazing and fun and also doubling Michelle Williams.
So she was Glinda the good witch. And I, again, got to do a ton of flying stuff with her cause she was, you know, the good witch. And it was just a lot of harness work. So I'm living in this flying harness for, you know, 12 to 15 hours a day for four months. That was a really long job for me, long running job.
And it was filmed in my hometown of Michigan. So that was extra special because I didn't even have kids at the time. I wasn't even married at the time. So I basically moved back into my parents and my home, and I was able to go to work and go back home. And that was just special because I think my parents were happy that I was able to work in Michigan.
That was very rare. Cause nothing was filmed in Michigan at the time. And this was just when tax incentives were happening. So people were going to different States to film. It wasn't just Los Angeles and New York. So that was really special.
And then, um, one other one that I did- Sons of anarchy, that was a really great, great job because I've never done any motorcycle stuff.
And it was my first lay down. Now I wasn't driving the bike. I was just a passenger in the back and I was doubling Ashley Simpson. So she's super sweet and I make a really good double for her. And so that was just a fun job because I would do two episodes. It was a really, really popular show at the time.
So that's always great when you're working on a hit show and just doing motorcycle, chase, and then falling down. And then I got to do a cat fight, like a girl fight with Katie Seagal, who I just knew Katie Seagal as Peg Bundy from Married with children. And I don't know if you're familiar with that show, but I just couldn't believe that I was actually working with Peg Bundy.
And I think I even told her that I'm like, you're just Peg Bundy to me. Like, I'm sorry. And she was the sweetest actress to work with. She was so nervous. She was going to hurt me. And I said, listen, You get in your character, like I'm going to do the reaction. She had to take my head and like bash it into this, you know, door jam.
And then push me into this breakaway vase. I mean, it was a gnarly fight. She was like, I just don't want to hurt you. I said, you're not going to hurt me. And if you do, that's part of my job. So let's just do this or it's going to be awesome. And it was funny because I think I visited the set months later and some of the crew guys were like, that was the best girl fight we've ever had on the show.
I'm like, that was cool because then I know I did my job. It was memorable. The crew guys are still talking about it. So that was really cool.
Ling Yah: That's amazing. So I would imagine that you are normally going home after jobs with bruises and cuts and everything else. How do you manage those injuries?
Sara Holden: A lot of drugs? A lot of, no. I mean, I don't mean that I kind of do. I mean, it really, a lot of ibuprofen, um, arnica gel is really good for bruising, but I mean, you have to remember, there are a lot of jobs that I don't get bruised either. And a lot of people are like, that was a stunt?
You'd be amazed how many people think, you know, things exploding and falling up motorcycles, falling downstairs, which yes, a lot of it is, but there's a lot of really, really easy days where maybe the actress could do that stunt. I mean, a lot of times, if you're with an actor that is coordinated and that's physical, they want to do their own stuff, but they're really not allowed to a lot of times because of liability.
Let's say it's just a simple slip on a banana peel type of fall. I'm just making this off. We call it a pratfall.
A lot of times an actor can do that and they want to do it. But let's say they do it and they're on take five. Cause it's never one take. Okay. It's very rare to do one take.
Usually you're doing three, five, seven, 12, 15, depending on the director and the angle and all of that. So let's say an actress is like, I'm going to do this little slip on a banana peel and she's so into her character and maybe she has a line of dialogue and she twisted her ankle on one take.
Guess what, the production's down for who knows how long maybe she broke her ankle. Maybe she sprained it. Maybe she has to be in a cast who knows. Now people are out of a job, maybe productions. Now it's just too much at stake.
Where if you bring a done person and I, you know, Tweak my ankle, I, us to get someone else like we're just completely disposable.
I mean, it's unfortunate, but we are, it's just the reality of it. So, um, a lot of times I do a stunt and it's super simple and I come back with not one bruise on me and those are very glorious, wonderful days. Because we know that the next gag or the next gag after that, you're going to be falling downstairs and you're going to be really, really sore the next day.
So, you know, we love the light days, I would say,
Ling Yah: I would imagine so. And are there any, like when you get the job and you think maybe the risk is too great and I should say no. Or do you always feel like I have to say yes because people might think, Oh, she's going to attend my next job.
Sara Holden: Yeah, that's a really great question.
And, um, I would say I have different answers pre and post kids. So before I was a mom, there wasn't anything I wouldn't do because I was still trying to prove myself. And when you get big gag calls, those are rare. You don't always get car hit calls and you're like, car hit. Why do you want to get hit by a car?
So those were like, woo hoo. Those are big money days. You know, the bigger the gag, typically the, well, no, you do make more money. The bigger the gap. And. If it's a big gag and you do more than one take, you're getting paid more because the risk is high and you're most likely going to get hurt.
So there is more money. So, before I had kids, I was up for anything. I mean, I really was.
Now that I'm a mom. Absolutely will turn things down. I feel 100% confident turning things down. I think the coordinator will respect me and, and any stunt person. Hey, listen. Um, I'm a mom now. Like that's just not, I'm just not willing to take that risk.
I appreciate the call. Thank you so much for the opportunity. And I think that they will not only respect it, especially if they're a parent, but they'll say, you know what, let's say a month goes down the road and they have to find someone else, you know what? Let's call Sara again.
We gave her that opportunity, but she turned it out. Let's call her for this one. And so I think that it's a good thing. Um, like a carnet. I don't know that I really. Have any desire to do that because I just- I've seen the accidents and I just really don't want to break my femur and be out of the game for six months with two small children, it's just not worth it.
And honestly, I'm fortunate enough where my husband has a good job. I'm not the breadwinner or I'm not like I have to take this job to make our mortgage or to put food on the table. It's a good feeling. And so, yeah, I'll turn things down. I don't turn a lot down, but I'll turn a little bit down.
Ling Yah: That's amazing. And you talked about money. I was wondering if you could give us an idea of what a stunt person would earn.
Sara Holden: We're all in the union. So it's a union day rate and it changes every year, but it goes up a little bit every year. I don't even know exactly what the day rate is today.
I'm going to guess around a thousand dollars and that's for eight hours . But you're never on set for eight hours. You're typically onset 10 to 12 to 14 hours. Well, that's where you really make more money because then you get into overtime and double time and there's union rules where they have to feed us and with a sit down meal every six hours, if they go past that, we're getting paid meal penalties every 15 minutes.
So, you can make thousands of dollars in a day. And then on top of that, depending on what show it is, you'll get residuals, right. Royalties. And so if it's a prime time show like Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, sons of anarchy, how I met your mother or anything like that, prime time stuff. When it airs and every time it airs again, and if it goes into syndication, you're getting mailbox money.
And that is a beautiful thing. But again, like I said earlier, people would be like, you made a thousand dollars today. Well, yeah, but I didn't work again for two weeks. So if you take the thousand dollars and spread it out over two weeks, Is it that much money? But then you have to, you know, you add in the royalties and no one knows what that is.
Like, there is a calculation, but we performers have no idea. We think that we probably should be getting more, but there's just no way to fight that. But you know, in a course of five years, that thousand dollar day could turn into a $10,000 day from all the residuals that happened.
Or maybe it, you know, the show ended up airing again on prime time, then you're getting a big residual check and then the show goes into syndication. So you just never know. And that's why it's hard to turn down jobs because yes, you get the day rate, but it's really about the money that comes five to seven years after that, does that make sense?
Ling Yah: That makes total sense. And since you've been in the business for so long, 11 years, do you feel like you have more negotiation power or it's just, that's the rates.
Sara Holden: No, I have no negotiation power whatsoever. I still work for scale. No one's gonna pay me more than scale. There's not many people that can really say I want to get paid more than scale.
I'm sure there are some, I am not one of them and I am happy to work for the scale day rate as 95% of us are. We just want to work.
Ling Yah: Yeah.
Sara Holden: We love what we do and honestly, right now. Cause I'm just financially secure and I'm just secure in where I'm at in my life. I don't even care about the money. I work cause I love being on set.
I love performing. I love the comradery, the creative process, being with the crew. I just love all of it. The check that comes, that's just an added bonus to me, honestly. And that's really awesome. I think
Ling Yah: That's really amazing. And I was also wondering in terms of pay, is there a discrepancy between the males and the females?
Sara Holden: No. I mean, we all get paid the same. Cause it's again, it's union scale. Like , we all get paid the same. I would just say there's more opportunities for stunt men, um, which in turn would be more money. Cause they're getting more opportunities and that's kind of, again, what prompted this car flip.
I'm like, you know what? I want to be able to. I mean, I, I don't really know how I'm going to do this yet, cause I'm still in the process.
But if I can, you know, after I do this car flip, which I'm hoping to do in the next couple months, again, COVID kind of made that, you know, came to a screeching halt because I would have been doing this maybe this month or next, but that's okay.
There's no rush and let's wait till the world gets back to normal and I'll do it then. But if I can inspire one stunt woman to say, wow, you know, Sarah created her own opportunity. I want to do this, or I want to do that. And I even got approached by a producer in Toronto who wants to maybe pitch a show about not just the carpet, but just maybe opportunities and women in stunts.
And so I'm kind of talking to her about that.
Like you never know what could come I'm out of this. And so I'm just excited to try to create more opportunities for women. I've never wanted to, a lot of people say like, what's the next thing?
Like, obviously I'm getting older and am I going to want to fall downstairs when I'm 60? Probably not. I do feel like I have a lot more left in me. I'm in the best shape I've ever been even before my kids. But, um, you know, the next step typically, as a stunt performer is a stunt coordinator. I don't have any desire to do that.
I don't know why, I don't have a good answer maybe, cause I don't want the pressure of putting all the budgets together and, um, I just don't know that I have all that in me and the pressure of making sure everyone is safe. If someone got hurt on my watch, that would be really hard for me because ultimately it would be my fault.
You know what I mean? Cause I'm the coordinator and the boss of the, you know, it's not people so to speak, but so I don't really want to do that, but again, if I could have any part in just giving more women, stunt people opportunities, that would be awesome. Like let's say this TV show idea happens and I could give job opportunities to women.
That would be cool, like as a producer, not a stunt coordinator, that would be just amazing. So I hope that could happen. You never say never.
Ling Yah: And I love the fact that, you know, that it is obviously really competitive, but you've also talked about the fact that there's also this huge camaraderie as well.
And I was wondering, is there anyone who really you look up to and inspires you in your work?
Sara Holden: Oh God. Absolutely. Um, I would say when I first got in, I hate to say this, but like I would say I wasn't welcomed with open arms with the stunt women because it is so competitive. You know, I come in and maybe all of the other five foot, two blonde chicks are like, well, there's another person who's going to take my job.
I understand it. So it wasn't like, Oh, Sara Join our group. Like, no, I didn't have that warm, fuzzy feeling. That's a bummer because I feel like when I meet new stunt girls, I do have that. But that's just my personality.
Listen, we're all going to get some jobs. We're all going to lose some jobs.
It's all going to go around. Why don't we not support each other and lift each other up rather than, you know, punch each other down. But I think again, I ended up proving myself to those earlier stunt women that maybe were like, Ooh, yeah, I don't want you in our group. Um, and I hope that I've proven myself and I think I'm very friendly with everybody, but I love the comradery.
There's definitely some women. I look up to my friend Lisa, she is, um, She's quite a bit older than me and she is still killing it and I'm like, you are amazing. And I want to be you when I grow up. She keeps herself in shape. It doesn't matter what her age is. Her phone is still ringing.
She's still doubling major stars and it's awesome. So I 100% look up to her. There's another woman, Debbie Evans. She is just a massive legend in our world, a stunt driver. She's one of the stunt women that has flipped cars. And I actually talked to her a couple months ago about my project.
And I was like, what do you think about this? And is this crazy? And tell me how you got started. And so she's just the nicest person ever and gave me a ton of tips and she left the door open, like, Hey, wait, you know, along your journey, if there's any questions, call me. That was huge because she's been in our business forever and she's super respected.
She did all the fast and furious driving. Like she's awesome. She's just awesome. And she also is a wife and has children. And so I look up to her because she's maintained a career all these years and has a family, because that was a big thing for me. Like, I mean, how am I going to maintain my career and be a mom?
How can I do this? And she basically was like, you just do it. And it's hard but you figure it out. And now I understand exactly what she means cause I'm literally doing it right now.
Ling Yah: I was wondering, because you talked about the fact that, you know, she's so much other than she's still doing it. Is there like a limit in terms of how old you are before you kind of have to stop?
Because I was looking at Bob Yerkes for instance, he was also doing the kinds of stunts and he was 70 plus when he was doing his last movie, which is absolutely insane. How do you do that? And how do you ensure it is by all these injuries you can still perform at the highest level?
Sara Holden: You can't, there is no crystal ball in this business.
I would say it's safe to say that stunt men have a longer career than stunt women, and that's a bummer. That's another thing I would love to try to change. I don't know how to change that because we all get older. We all deteriorate, all of our injuries still have a lasting effect.
I mean, why can stunt men still work at 70, but stunt women can't cause I don't know any stunt women at 70 that have worked. Sixties, yes, not many. The reason is the phone stops ringing because the new group of 20 something girls come in and they're anxious and they're green, but they're motivated and inspired.
And so the coordinators will hire that.
I mean, let's be real. Let's say there's a 30 year old actress. Does she want a 25 year old stunt woman who's in tiptop shape doubling them or does she want a 65 year old that's sagging, you know, with bags under her eyes. I mean, I'm sorry.
That's just the reality of it, right? I mean, it's just how it is. It's part of the business. But with actors too, I mean, like. It's the same business. It's just a part of the world that is not great. So there's really no answer. I, there's not a magic number. I'm just going to keep putting myself out there, taking care of myself as best as I can.
We all age. It is what it is. And I just hope that I have a long career. I don't know how long it will last, but I'm going to keep going until the phone stops ringing.
Ling Yah: And you also mentioned that an actress would want someone who's young, but because no one ever actually sees the stunt actress, sometimes they don't even know it's this stunt actress acting like how do you deal with the fact that you have done this crazy, crazy things?
And no one knows it's you.
Sara Holden: Yeah. I, you know, I don't care at all, even being an actor, I don't care because, um, if you're getting into the world of stunts to be famous, you're in the wrong business because we are the unsung heroes. We are the people that you don't see, right. Unless you're doing like a behind the scenes thing, maybe you get a chance to talk, but that's super rare.
I mean, there's a lot of times where I've done a really cool stunt and I've heard on, um, you know, good morning America, my actress going yeah, you know, I did all my own stunts.
And I'm sitting there going with my coffee, like what? No you didn't. I literally like took the biggest beating for you, you know, limped around for four days, doing that one gig that you just took credit for on Good Morning, America are you-
but honestly, it's, it's almost like you got to laugh about it because I think most people now know that there are stunt doubles.
You know, maybe 20 years ago, I think the stunt world wasn't as talked about or celebrated. I think now people know there are stunt doubles. When you see a huge action film and nine times out of 10, I think a person's like, yeah, that's not the actor. And in not that you can tell cause I think you know, the stunt coordinators nowadays do such an amazing job with the doubles.
They looked so good. When back in like the seventies and eighties, you could literally pause and be like, Oh my God, that is a dude with a wig, doubling a chick. You know what I mean?
The business has changed, but I just think the viewers are more educated and they're like, that is not that person, that actor getting blown up or is getting set on fire.
So I think, you know, most people, we don't care about that. We just go, we do our job, we want to do it awesome. Make the best piece of action that we can. And then we just go home and we're normal people and we ice our bodies, whatever. And we just wait for the next job. So that's just kind of how I look at it.
Ling Yah: What's your biggest piece of advice with someone who's considering going to this?
Sara Holden: Whoa, I know that's always the question and I feel bad because now it's a lot harder. I'm not gonna lie. It's a lot harder to get in the business. It's not impossible. So I don't want to discourage anybody.
What I would say is with iPhones and all the video technology and everything that is available now. Erm start honing your skills and start getting on tape to show somebody when you have that opportunity to show, showcase your skills, you're not like, Oh yeah, let me shoot something and send it to, no, you've got it right there. This is what I can do. Can you write a skateboard?
Oh yeah, this is all my skateboard stunts done. Like, have it right there accessible because. You know, opportunities when they come, I think what's the, what is the saying?
Ling Yah: You have to be ready for the push when they come.
Sara Holden: Yeah. Preparation opportunity meets preparation, versus I'm going to mess this up. Anyway, there's a phrase like if you're prepared for the opportunity then it's there.
And so I would say, listen, you know your skills.
Whether you're a martial artist, get some of that on tape, right? All of your tricks or a gymnast or anything that you do, err free running, you know, motorcycle stuff, car stuff. Um, so I would say hone your skills, take acting classes because a lot of times now the production last to hire an actor that can do their own stunt if it's a small thing.
A lot of my roles have been playing my own part because they know I have an acting background and I can deliver a line or two of dialogue. And then I do my own stunts. That's really valuable nowadays. Cause you're kind of getting two for one. You're not hiring an actor and then you have to double them and pay two different people.
You're paying one person that can do both jobs. So if you can take an acting class, improv. Improv is huge. I use improv still today and I did improv at second city in Chicago. Many years ago. And that was amazing. So I would say all of those things and anything sports, if you can take direction from a coach, it's just like taking direction from a director.
And so if you are coordinated and can take direction and your athletic abilities, then you're halfway there.
Ling Yah: And would you recommend this kind of career for your own kids though?
Sara Holden: Oh, gosh. I don't know if anyone's actually asked me that I.
If they want to, I will open the door for them. I'm never going to push my kids into doing something that they don't want to do.
Um, just recently my son actually knows what I do. I don't think he ever really knew, like when he was four and five and I would fly to LA to do a stunt. He'd be like, mommy's working, she's putting a wig on, like he did not know what I now- he'll. He'll like. It's actually really good. I'll be honest.
I'm like, Oh God, is he going to be a stunt guy? Cause I've seen more coordination from him.
He has this little power wheels car that my husband just tricked out and did all these modifications. So it just goes really fast. And he's like doing reverse one eighties and slides. And he's like, that's a stunt mom.
I'm like, Oh yeah, that's a stunt. And he's really good on his bike. So he'll do like skids on his bike and I'm like, wow. He could be, he could be a little stunt kid. He is starting young and I'm thinking, gosh, I should probably tell all the coordinator friends of mine, if you ever need any stuck kids, like my kid could do it.
My daughter, she, my daughter's three. So she's just kind of finding herself. She's definitely fearless though. I'm like, Oh no, is she a mini me. And it's a little scary, so, yeah, I mean, we'll see, I'm definitely not going to push them to be stunt people. If they want to use their brains and be a lawyer and a doctor, please do that. Because this is definitely a different business.
It's an amazing business, but you know, if they want to, yes.
Ling Yah: Yeah. And we've kind of alluded to this earlier, but I mean like, what is it like being stuck in home in quarantine? It's May, 2020. You have been with your young kids for like weeks and your husband as well. What is it like, how do you manage that?
Sara Holden: Not only weeks, but 11 weeks. It's something that's err, for sure, like there is such a thing as too much family time, I think because me and my husband travel so much for work that honestly, we're like two ships passing in the night at time you know, we used to be.
And now we're together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And I look at him, I'm like, can you stop chewing so loud? And my kid's mom, mom, mom look at my mama, but at the end of the day, I've heard mom like 850 times. And I'm like, Oh my gosh, please stop.
And on top of the fact that I'm like, Turned into a teacher. So now I am a homeschooling teacher, which Oh, teachers should get paid, like triple their salary because I just, I'm not cut out to be a teacher.
I just don't have the patience. It's amazing to be able to teach your kids something, but day in and day out. It is like, woo. And not to mention, I only have one child in school, but it's like, or I'm trying to teach my six year old, a kindergartner, and then I have my three-year-old going, mom, mom, mom, look at me when she's gotta go to the bathroom.
And I'm like, Oh my goodness. It's, it's something. And any moms out there listening. Totally are relating to me right now. I know it, they might be laughing even because I basically drink coffee all day until I can start drinking wine. And then I started drinking wine and then I'm like, Oh, okay. It's time for bed.
And then I wake up and it just starts all over again. And I don't know what day of the week it is. It's like, it doesn't matter. It's whatever 2020.
Ling Yah: Do you have any tips for managing this? Oh, you're just- survival mode every single day.
Sara Holden: Oh there. Yeah. I have no tips, survival mode every day.
I bought a trampoline for my children. That's been a saving grace for all of us because I can train. So I'm actually moving my body and I'm able to flip and do my training and my kids are exerting energy outside, or they're not, you know, like, Ripping up my house. So that was great. I'm still glad we purchased that.
It was a really good purchase. And, um, I would say giving breaks, like if you're homeschooling your kids, and they're young. I mean, an hour of schooling, that's a long time for a little person. So I would say, you know, give them breaks. Like we do an hour and then you get 20 minutes, go up in the play room and do your Lego's like, just forget about it.
And then we'll hit the books again and we'll do some readings. So that kind of helps me because then they don't get as frustrated and then, you know, then it's lunchtime and then I'll do okay, it's recess, go jump on the trampoline. And then it's this and this.
So I feel like having them on some sort of schedule helps my children so they're not running all over the place and they're like, okay, we have recess and then it's lunch. And then we have a nap and then we have this. And I think the schedule works for us at least.
Ling Yah: Oh my goodness. I feel tired just listening to you say this.
Sara Holden: Oh It's ridiculous. I know I'm exhausted by the end of the night.
Like I swear. I can't wait for Hollywood to just open up and get my first job back and I can just sit at craft service and shoot the shit with the crew guys. Like I just am longing it for that. Seriously.
Ling Yah: You even know when Hollywood might open and like what is going to be like, because you guys, it's not like you can do social distancing with your work.
Sara Holden: I know it's so it's really scary because nobody has that answer. And I've talked to a lot of people in my business and nobody knows the answer. Some people have said, stunts, as we know, it is over. And I'm going, what now? Now who knows if this is true?
I pray it's not. Um, I think eventually the whole world is going to get back to normal. It's a matter of when. Is it six months from now? Is it a year from now? When the vaccine comes out, are we all going to be forced to take it? I think I heard, you know, once a movie opens up, we're all going to have to be tested prior to getting on the set.
Um, and that makes sense to me, right? Like we all, they're gonna have those rapid tests and hopefully they're accurate. Like right now in Michigan, at least we have tests. But, I don't even know how accurate they are. My husband could have sworn he had COVID cause we were traveling all over the place.
He was sick for six weeks. We were in Finland, Italy, Canada, Amsterdam, and we were all over and he took the antibody test and it came back negative. And he's like, I don't believe that. I don't believe that test. I actually got tested for COVID because I came down with something in March and it was something that knocked me down for a couple of days.
It wasn't super severe. I didn't have a lot of fevers, but I had headaches, I had the loss of smell. I don't know if you've heard of that symptom. I had that. I was like, this has to be it. I got a test and it was negative. And so I just don't know about the testing here.
So I think once they come out with this, the accurate, you know , rapid testing, like we'll all get tested before we get on set. I just don't know. I mean, if someone said there's not going to be any love scenes or fight scenes anymore because you'll be too close and I'm like, how can you have a movie without a kissing scene or a fight scene or anything close?
Exactly. Well, earlier on, in our chat, I talked to you about background artists and they were like, Oh, background artists. That career is over. So it's like, okay, so they're talking about CGI computer generating all of these people in the scene. So honestly, I don't think anybody knows. These are all just speculations.
And I just pray that everything just gets back to normal. You know, I tell people we are all struggling. I think we're all struggling in different ways. Like there's people that are struggling, you know, emotionally, because maybe they're alone isolating by themselves.
And they're not, you know, like my mom. My mom lives by herself and she's struggling because she's just been in quarantine and she's like, I just want to touch people. I just want to hug people.
And then there's people that are struggling financially. You know, they're out of work. They're not able to work and that's terrible then there's, people are struggling, like moms like myself, struggling with like, the kids are home all day. We're trying to go to a homeschool. And now I have the responsibility of teaching my child on top of, you know, cooking meals every day.
And then I got to go to the grocery store, but I have to wear a mask and gloves, and I don't want him to infect my family. And we're all just struggling in different ways.
And so I love the hashtag we're all in this together because we really are. The whole world is in this together. I mean, you're in Malaysia right now. I'm sitting in Michigan and we're literally dealing with the same thing and that's just incredible.
Ling Yah: It is.
Sara Holden: It's just a crazy, crazy thing. So I don't know when Hollywood will open up.
I wish I had an answer
Ling Yah: And we've covered so much. So thank you so much for your time. I was wondering if this is anything else that you feel that you want to share that we haven't covered so far?
Sara Holden: I feel like we covered everything. Um, the only thing I'd probably want to touch on that I'd maybe want to end with is this project that I'm working on in hopes to inspire new stunt women and say, Hey, listen, we know that all the stuntmen get the majority of the good gags, if you will, and maybe their phone rings more.
But there's no reason that it has to still stay this way. Um, I think that as we progress and more women's stunt coordinators come onto the scene and they are slowly coming onto the scene. Let's just root for each other and let's band together and lift each other up.
I mean, listen, the whole, you know, me too movement and women's empowering era , it's still happening and why not lift each other up. And let's work on this together. And if I could give women stunt players, any more opportunities or inspiration with my car flip, that would be a huge win for me.
And then also I would inspire my daughter.
I'm raising a daughter. I want to raise her to be powerful and to break barriers and to not take no for an answer and just be this confident force. That's a job that I want to instill in her. And hopefully I'm an example of her and she will look up to me and be like, you know, my mom did this back in the day.
Like I want to do this too. So that's my goal.
Ling Yah: That's really inspiring. So I normally end every interview with three questions. So the first one is, do you feel that you've found your why?
Sara Holden: No, I don't currently feel like I have found my why, because I think I'm still involved in that process.
So no, I don't, which is cool because that means my work isn't done and that means I still have more to do.
And I think, like I still am a young mom. I feel like I still have a lot of time in this business to where I have to learn where my why is.
And maybe it comes out of my project. I don't know.
Ling Yah: And what are your hopes for your legacy?
Sara Holden: Well, I think I answered that with my daughter.
I just want to leave going, you know what Sarah gave it her all. She didn't take no for an answer.
She wanted to, um, You know, inspire other people and be an example that, you know, don't take no for an answer and do whatever you want to do.
If your dream is to flip your own car, just make it happen and do it. It's probably going to be a lot of work, but I've never been scared of working hard. And, um, I want to instill that in my daughter for sure.
Ling Yah: Thirdly, what do you think are the most important qualities required to succeed in your field?
Sara Holden: I would say to be a stunt person, um, taking direction is number one, because ultimately your boss is the director. And if you can't take direction, you just need to go home because there's going to be little adjustments.
He's going to say, okay, can you do that? That was great, but can you do it this way? Or that was great. But I want you to say the line before you do that. Like, so taking direction and also being coordinated it's big. I mean, if you're klutzy. I don't know if stunt work is your calling, and also I would say professionalism.
Those are the three key things. I mean skills. Yes. You have to have skills, but taking direction, being coordinated and being professional will get you more jobs. The skills, you'll always have your skills. And I think that's 10% of the job is the skillset, which sounds crazy. But the rest is yeah.
Ling Yah: Amazing. And where can people go to find out more about what you do and just keep up to date?
Sara Holden: I am on YouTube as Sarah Holden, I'm just kind of starting a channel and putting stuff on there. But the main thing you guys could help me out with is to follow me on Instagram and it's at Sarah Holden stunts.
And, um, that would be amazing and I would love all your support and it would be awesome. So thank you.
Ling Yah: Yes and hopefully you'll inspire more people to flip cars.
Sara Holden: Absolutely go flip a car, but do it safely and contact me before you do it. Okay. So I can give you some tips.
Ling Yah: Definitely. Well, thank you so much, Sarah, for your time.
And that was the end of episode four.
Personally, I loved her, "what's the worst that can happen" go-getter attitude. Something thatI think we can all- myself included- apply to our own lives.
The show notes for this episode can be found at sothisismywhy.com/episodefour
I will also be including in the show notes, the links to some of the things discussed in this episode, including how you can keep up with everything that Sarah is doing.
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And hit the subscribe button if you'd like to know when the next episode is coming out because when we come back, we'll be meeting a violist of a well-renowned award-winning string quartet, diving deep into what it's like to be so fully immersed in the musical world as a child, before founding the Dover Quartet with three other students while at Curtis Institute of music.
Being in a quartet, it's not unlike being in the marriage and you'll find out why in episode five.
See you then!