Trap Door that doesn't break the actor - Accomplice

SeanR

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Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Location
Columbus, Ohio
Currently working on Accomplice. I'm looking for ways to build a trap door that an actor can step on and it opens. The actor is supposed to die from stepping in the trap, so being able to fall without really hurting his leg is important. The actor remains onstage. The trapdoor will be in a platform that is 18" off the ground. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks!
 

SeanR

Member
Joined
Jul 28, 2011
Location
Columbus, Ohio
Thank you, I hadn't thought of that. Now here's the catch, I need to secure it to keep it closed during the rest of the show.
 

Van

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Jul 27, 2006
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Portland, Or.
Can I take a moment to say I'm extremely concerned about this project. Falling through a trap door, even for a profesional is a dangerous thing to do. if it doesn't release perfectly, and if the actor is not positioned exactly on spot then they can be dropped off center and it will wind up dropping them at an angle which will result in them smacking their heads on the framing. I'm not being a nervous Nellie here I'm being a realist with "Years of experience" doing all sort of Staged Efects. I know it seems easy, we see it in the movies all the time. Well, In movies the profesional stuntmen are usually tied off in harnesses and supported by wires. We don't have that luxury on stage. Forgive me if this sounds pedantic but even an 18" drop, if not done perfectly, could result in some serious injuries. I would not attempt this stunt in a stage situation. Period. Think of the factors. You have to have a trap wich will release completely with no hesitation. you need to have the actor positioned perfectly ontop of the trap. Preferably you will need the trap to be made of two doors with the actor stnding directly on the seam between them. You are going to want a mechanism which once activated does not allow the doors to swing back and smack into the actor. Because the framing of the doors must me sufficient to withstand the weight of people the rest of the time, there will be some significant mass to fight. I would want the doors either Pnuematically or Hydraulically actuated to get them out of the way as fast as possible < faster than a gravity system alone> You are going to want a wireless actor interlock system so that the trap cannot be actuated until the actor is prepped for it. At the end of the day I would be asking myself even with all these safety measures, "Is it really worth the risk of injury ? Is there another way to accomplish the same effect.?"
 

gafftaper

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Jan 2, 2006
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Seattle, WA
I agree that this sounds dangerous. My concern is that the actor isn't jumping in clean, you have these trap doors in the way potentially causing injury. I also don't like the 18" drop. What about modifying it so that the door is completely removed from underneath by a stage hand and the actor, in a controlled jump, simply steps down into a hole. Make it only 12" deep. Throw some padding underneath (like a wrestling mat). I would feel comfortable with it. You could also create some sort of fake trap lid (made of thin plywood so that it's doesn't have the force to injure) which could be closed on him from behind like a rat trap, giving some extra visual zaz to the scene. Have the actor sell the gag and it'll work just fine.
 

chausman

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Spokane, WA
Have the actor sell the gag and it'll work just fine.
This is key. If you can't find a good way to make this work exactly, then the actor(s) need to be able to act like they've just broken through the floor, and then killed themselves.

And, I also second trying to borrow some mats from the athletics department if possible.