Women who work in the background – Camilla Naprous, horsemaster

In our early spring issue, we shine a spotlight on women who work in the background. And we discovered these women are definitely no shrinking violets... Meet horsemaster Camilla Naprous, who coordinates all the horsey stunts and tricks in Game of Thrones... 

Portrait of Camilla by Aloha Bonser-shaw

Portrait of Camilla by Aloha Bonser-shaw

"I supply horses to the film industry. So any period movie or TV drama you watch that has a horse in it, I’m usually involved. I choreograph all the horse scenes, stunts and fight sequences. I also teach the actors how to ride – which can be interesting, some actors are in their fifties and have never even sat on a horse before. I recently got back into costume and performed as a stunt woman in the new Wonder Woman. But, these days, I prefer being part of the creative side. There’s so much risk involved in stunts and it takes me ages to recover now I’m in my thirties – the people get hurt way more than the horses. 

"The stunt and horse industry is usually ran by men – in fact, the film industry as a whole is very male dominated – so I’ve had hurdles to cross. It can work in my favour, though, especially when teaching a woman to ride – it’s an emotionally-charged experience and a woman may feel overpowered by a man. 

"The biggest TV show I work on is Game of Thrones, which has legendary horse-based episodes. Sometimes, we’ll have as many as 100 horses on set. And I’m in charge of them. I choreographed the Dothraki charge in season 7 – the directors told me I could create anything I wanted. It was the first time you see the Dothraki do something, so I designed the sequence to show off that they were accomplished horsemen. It has become iconic. And ‘Battle of the Bastards’, which features horses who are trained to fall over, was a great episode to work on – that’s one of my stand-out pieces of work. It has become critically-acclaimed in my world.

"However, our department is never truly recognised by the industry – we’re really sitting in the background, working creatively. I’m not a production, make-up or costume designer so my work can’t get recognised. The stunt world is ignored by the Oscars, the Emmys and the BAFTAs. Action is a huge part of some films, so I don’t understand why. Perhaps it might change soon. I don’t want my industry to remain hidden, I want to show the future generation of female horsemasters what they can achieve. I’m a big believer in women working together, rather than getting to the top by being very alpha. Some women stand on their own, not working together, and I don’t want to be like that. You’re only as good as the team around you. There’s no need to be a bitch, you can’t do everything on your own."

You can read about three more wonderful women doing brilliant things – a fashion designer, a ghostwriter and a supernumerary – in our early spring issue, available to purchase here