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Love of action flicks leads Athens native to career as a stunt man

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Andy Rusk, stuntman and stunt coordinator from Athens, grew up watching “Ted Turner’s Movies for Guys Who Like Movies” with his dad, bingeing on James Bond and Errol Flynn. He developed a love for action and the desire to learn how to put it together in front of the camera.

“I work in the movies because I’m excited to be here, I’m a fan,” says Andy. “I feel lucky to have a job I love that pays me not just a living wage, but a thriving wage.”

Majoring in theater, Andy graduated from the University of Georgia in 2003, working as a carpenter to put himself through school. He graduated in the middle of a housing slump yet had the opportunity to work on scenery for “We Are Marshall,” filmed in Atlanta and Rome. Andy next worked as a prop maker and joined IATSE 479, and union membership provided the health and dental benefits unavailable in Andy’s work in home construction.

During this time, Andy had many side gigs that honed the skills he’d eventually need as a stuntman. As a volunteer firefighter, he learned how to control fire and deal with its dangers. As a remodeler on a mill, he learned the art of rope rigging and rappelling while replacing windows unreachable by scaffolding. As a karate instructor, Andy improved his fighting, flexibility, and balance skills.

When he finally got the opportunity to work as a stuntman in 2011, he was ready.

Andy has appeared in dozens of television and film productions, but you’d probably never recognize him on the street. His first gig as a stuntman was on “The Walking Dead,” of which he’s filmed about 50 episodes. Andy’s skinny frame, background in firefighting, rope rappelling and karate made him a perfect fit to play a zombie. His most well-known scene is as a zombie who falls through the ceiling of a grocery store and hangs by his entrails.

“I could perform stunts in heavy makeup and special effects contacts that reduced your ability to see,” says Andy. “I was willing to suffer in the summer heat, but I loved it. I learned a lot and made a lot of money.”

Andy now works as a stunt coordinator on the show “Atlanta,” grateful to be a part of the thriving film community in Georgia.

“It’s great to see an overwhelming majority of crew jobs are going to people who live here, own homes here and whose kids go to school here,” says Andy. “I’ve worked in the film industry since 2004 and every set that I walk onto, I see crew members I’ve known for more than a decade.”

Courtesy Georgia Studio Alliance

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