Daniel Schoch '09 begins his day like any other performer in the acting industry. He arrives on set, enters a dressing room and surveys his wardrobe choice for the day. Later, he meets the swipes of brushes as a team perfects his hair and makeup – but in between those moments, Schoch thinks about the day ahead. Sometimes, he finds himself in a fight scene, serving as someone's right-hand man. Other times, he's driving a vehicle through a crowded, tight street, making a quick getaway.
As a professional stuntman, the College of Communication and the Arts alumnus knows the value of capturing a perfect, cinematic shot while ensuring the safety of himself and his team – a mindset that comes from years of experience. He's performed in numerous shows from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Gotham and Maniac, to Marvel's Daredevil and The Punisher. More recently, Schoch has taken on roles in upcoming, highly anticipated films including The Joker and Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, as well as The Kitchen, Motherless Brooklyn, and Crown Vic, which will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this year.
"The role of the stuntman isn't only to make sure no one gets hurt," commented Schoch. "It's also about the reset. Every time the camera cuts, you have to do the same thing, the same way, every time."
Despite his many responsibilities, safety is always his top priority. While actors are rehearsing their lines, Schoch coordinates with the stunt team to make sure the director captures all the shots needed while making the action as low-risk as possible. "In the entertainment industry, it's important that what 'looks cool' is also safe, whether that be maintaining control of a vehicle or getting into a fist fight," said Schoch.
For the theatre alumnus, becoming a stuntman soon became the end goal once he got started in the entertainment business. After graduating, he began working on set with Law & Order in the show's location department, helping to vet locations for various episodes. There, he saw how a "well-oiled project" operates, learning first-hand how each department communicated with the other to bring a production to life. He was instantly drawn to the stunt department – an ongoing area of bustling activity. "I fell in love with it, and knew that's where I wanted to be," said Schoch.
Over the next few years, Schoch worked on a variety of projects from being a stunt double in the film Gods Behaving Badly to a stuntman in television shows including The Blacklist and Gotham. "Storytelling is so diverse in the movies, and the same goes for the stunts," reflected Schoch. While his typical character involves standing in for the "bad" guy archetype as a cop or thug, the best part of his work is being creative and trying to problem-solve.
"On set, we're always asking 'How do we tell the story in the most creative and exciting way? How can we make it look as real as possible while being as safe as possible?' I consider myself so lucky to work in an industry that brings entertainment to so many people," said Schoch.
Schoch on the set of a production.
The skills behind his performances, however, stem from his education at Seton Hall University. He credits Dean Deirdre Yates and Emeritus Professor James McGlone, Ph.D. for teaching him two distinct styles of acting: the organic method of letting the character influence your movement and the more rigid method of meeting specific marks and expectations.
"As a stuntman, I have to decide the style of fighting for each role I take on. A biker can't fight like a ninja," noted Schoch. "At the same time, it's important to always hit your marks and listen to the director – in between, you have to find the character inside of you."
Beyond the classroom, Schoch also performed in Seton Hall Theatre productions and worked on set with Pirate Television. The "stepping stones" to his career, the hands-on experience he received gave him responsibility beyond his traditional classes and taught him how to work in a team setting. "My production classes taught me that you're responsible for one job – and you are the only one that can do that job," said Schoch. "That carries over in my work today. There's no substitute for a stuntman and if I don't show up, there are no second chances."
Working on a team is one of the best parts of being in the entertainment industry, Schoch noted. Recently, he partnered with several College alumni on a project for the Liberty Hall Museum in Union, New Jersey, helping to produce what will become a virtual reality experience for visitors – a task which was directed by his peer, Emmanuel Vozos '07.
For students looking to enter the industry, the alumnus emphasized they should take every relevant class possible and be involved in campus activities, even if it just means listening to production preparation. "Even if you only stay behind-the-scenes and watch how a production unfolds, that experience is invaluable," said Schoch. "By watching, you might realize that something is not right for you – or, you'll find out that's exactly what you want to do."
For more information about the Theatre program in the College of Communication and the Arts, please contact Associate Dean Thomas Rondinella at email@example.com.