French stuntwomen ‘even better’ than the guys

From jumping off helicopters to parkour and fistfights, the male-dominated world of stunts is attracting an increasing number of women at a special school in France.

Take it from 29-year-old student Valeriane Michelini:

(SOUNDBITE) (French) 29-YEAR-OLD CUC STUDENT, VALERIANE MICHELINI, SAYING: "I'm a dancer and a show performer, so I'm used to thriving in a graceful and feminine world. And now, I'm in quite the opposite, I'm quite masculine and like brawls."

The Campus Univers Cascade is a school for stunt doubles and performers in northern France that bills itself as the world’s biggest at 12 acres.

Now, nearly a third of the student body is made up of women.

CUC Director Lucas Dollfus:

(SOUNDBITE) (French) CUC DIRECTOR, LUCAS DOLLFUS, SAYING: "Around 30 percent of all students are women in each training period. For example for this training, we have 80 students, among them 24 women. And each time we take in 14 newcomers in each training period, there are around seven (women) each time. It's the spirit of diversity almost each time, and all the better. It's good for the campus spirit, it's good for diversity, it's good for the job market. And it adds a touch of girlie tenderness, although the women do love brawls and they're very badass in any case."

Professional training in the school takes two years.

There are 10 training periods that encompass acrobatics, parkour, combat, drops and stunt wires.

Marine Dolle, 24, once worked as a makeup artist in film productions, but she said she has always been eager to delve into the athletic aspect of stunts.

(SOUNDBITE) (French) 24-YEAR-OLD CUC STUDENT, MARINE DOLLE, SAYING: "Stunts take from a lot of other fields - combat sport, drops, we have to be polyvalent, and there's also an artistic and athletic side to it. It's choreographed, it's calculated, it's technical, and so there's a lot of things to keep in mind, but it's really great."

Graduates end up working in superhero and action films, as well as live shows and amusement parks.

And with the film industry’s growing appetite for female superheroes, and more diverse stories across streaming platforms, there’s a real need.

CUC Coach Malik Diouf:

(client version) (SOUNDBITE) (French) CUC PARKOUR AND FREE-RUNNING COACH, MALIK DIOUF, SAYING: "The women who come out of this school are so polyvalent that they don't even finish their training here because they are hired in films. There was a female student who finished two training sessions and then left for Marvel. Another female student who finished two sessions but left to make a film with (French director Luc) Besson. There's such a small pool of options for stuntwomen that as soon as they have the slightest skills, they leave directly to work with the Americans, the English, or in the rest of the world, they don't stay in France. That's a bonus, and it shows that women can do it as well as guys, or even better."

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