8 surprising jobs that keep film sets running

  • A lot of unseen work happens to make every movie come to life.Tailoring and simulation artists at Pixar animate clothing, which is key to making characters in movies like "Coco" and "Onward" feel real.
  • Tailoring and simulation artists at Pixar animate clothing, which is key to making characters in movies like "Coco" and "Onward" feel real.
  • Food stylists keep food on set fresh while artists make fake food for other scenes, and baby wranglers help babies cry on screen.

Following is a transcript of the video.

[crying]

Narrator: This crying woman isn't crying at all.Advertisement

Elaine Hall: And a baby'll start to cry.

Narrator: She's what's known as a baby wrangler, someone whose job it is to get the best performances out of the youngest actors. This is just one of the many surprising positions you will find on a movie or TV set.

Cameraman: Whoa!
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Narrator: There are people who train insects, style food, and even design clothes for animated films. These jobs are essential to making movies work. Let's take a look behind the scenes at eight jobs in movies you may not have known existed.

It's not only real actors who need costume designers, but animated characters as well. At Pixar, there are people who are specifically hired to animate clothing, like tailoring and simulation artist Kris Campbell. They have to design and model clothes and then make sure they fit on the animated characters. This process involves computer simulations to make sure the fabric moves correctly. In "Coco," for example, these simulations helped them prevent clothes from getting stuck in the skeleton characters' bones. Campbell's work throughout the years prepared him for "Onward." However, he wasn't just animating clothes this time. In this film, the item of clothing was a character. Acting out how the animated characters move in real life can provide reference. When the animators in "Onward" needed to figure out how a floating pair of pants would behave, they put someone in a green suit and a pair of khaki pants and observed what it would look like to see somebody walking around who was missing the top half of their body.Advertisement

While a clothing animator focuses on clothing, they still have a great understanding of how every aspect of animation works. Dad's upper half in "Onward" had no muscle underneath, making simulations much more challenging. So Campbell relied on a simulation created for characters with volume, which was originally used for the squishy movements of Hank the octopus in "Finding Dory." And they need to add small details to clothes that you would normally expect to see, like little threads hanging off a sweater.

A vital but unexpected part of the job: shading. Lighting can help textures look more realistic, which can sell the whole look. This is the reason why Dad's vest looks naturally puffy instead of plastic.

Productions try to use real food whenever they can, and when they do, a food stylist comes in to handle it all. It's a lot more than just altering dishes to fit an actor's dietary restrictions, though that is certainly part of the job. Food stylist Zoe Hegedus had to solve a number of different problems on the set of "Midsommar."Advertisement

The film was mostly shot outdoors in the heat, so she had to make sure the food both looked and stayed fresh. Sometimes, this was as easy as spraying a potato with cooking spray to make it look like it just came out of the oven.

Other dishes needed to be altered entirely to beat the heat. For example, those meat pies you see on screen aren't filled with real meat, which would spoil quickly. Instead, Hegedus cooked oatmeal and colored it brown, giving it the look and texture of chopped meat.

She also had to plate a lot of eggs for the Sun's Eye dish that was prominently featured during one of the film's many feasts. First, she tried making some real eggs, but the yolks kept exploding, meaning she and her team had to swap the dishes out every 15 minutes. Plus, workdays could last 10 to 12 hours, so there was a risk of them drying out. Instead, she decided to make this mixture out of orange and mango juice and shaped it to look exactly like real yolks.Advertisement

And what does a food stylist do when they have to find an item that's not even available where they're filming? For one pivotal moment, they needed to have a fresh herring, which is abundant in Sweden but not so much in Hungary, where the movie was shot. The fish had to be real in order to get this horrified reaction from Florence Pugh. Eventually, she had to get 20 pieces of herring shipped in from France, meaning they had only 20 tries to get it right. Luckily, they nailed it after seven or eight tries.

Some foods are just too difficult to use the real thing on set. For example, real ice cream would melt too quickly. Or maybe you need a lot of food to sit in the background of a shot. In these instances, a fake-food artist is essential. This scene in "Glee" was set in a diner and called for lots of ice cream sundaes, milkshakes, and banana splits on the tables and counters. Fake versions were needed so they would appear fresh and new the entire time. Fake-food artist Brenda Chapman made a variety of these desserts, which were set at various stages of being eaten.

When someone like Lisa Friedman needs to make fake food, she'll first get a real version of the food she needs to recreate. Then she makes a mold of that item. She pours a mixture of rubber and foam into that same mold to create the shape, but it isn't until the item is hand-painted that it starts to look like the real thing.Advertisement

Aside from being a great painter, being a fake-food artist means getting creative with the materials. To make granola and ground beef, Friedman took corkboard and crushed it, giving her just the right texture.

Sometimes, a character will need different-looking eyes than the performer portraying them, such as Hugh Jackman's bloodshot eyes in "Les Misérables." In these cases, they'll go somewhere like Eyeworks for Film in London. Putting contacts on can completely change the color of an actor's eyes. It can also make them look older or even like another species. First, the designer will get a brief description of the character, then they'll research what the look should look like, develop concept art, and then finally check the actor's eyes to fit the contacts for them.Advertisement

In order for the contacts to feel normal and natural to wear, director of Eyeworks for Film Sinead Sweeney says the contacts they design have to sit directly on top of the cornea. They have to make lenses of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the lenses they make are much bigger than the average pupil.

The trick to getting them on? As Eyeworks told Insider, put your chin up and turn your eyes to the left.

Working with bugs on camera is no easy feat, but, yes, you can train an insect to act. Getting bugs to move in the right direction involves playing with light, air, and room temperature. Entomologist Steven Kutcher can get all kinds of bugs to perform on camera. For "Spider-Man" and "Arachnophobia," he was hired to wrangle the film's spiders.Advertisement

For one shot in "Arachnophobia," a spider needed to crawl across the floor and into a slipper. So Kutcher devised a clever trick using invisible vibrating wires. By playing around with these, Kutcher could get the spiders directly where they needed to go.

When working on "Spider Man," Kutcher had to get a spider to descend from a web and then onto Tobey Maguire's hand, where it could deliver the fateful bite. Kutcher decided to stand above Maguire while holding a paintbrush. The spider crawled along the paintbrush until it reached the end. At that point, Kutcher tapped the brush, and the spider dropped down.

He faced an even bigger challenge in "Exorcist II: The Heretic." He had to train 3,000 locusts, which needed to cling onto the screened wall of a cage. However, most of these locusts stood on the floor. In order to drive them onto the walls, he took a heat-emitting light and shined it against the cage, and the locusts subsequently flocked towards it.Advertisement

When a sex scene is filmed for a movie or TV show, it is crucial that the actors feel protected and not violated on set. For this reason, the role of intimacy coordinator, which is relatively new to Hollywood, has proven to be essential. An intimacy coordinator, like Ita O'Brien, is tasked with coaching actors on sex and love scenes. The most crucial part of her job is making sure these moments are done safely and with clear consent during this time.

The motivations behind these scenes are clearly established. O'Brien worked with the cast of the Netflix series "Sex Education." She had to make sure the cast was safe and prepared for the show's intimate moments. For these scenes, she created cushions and flesh-colored articles of clothing. These items gave the cast the ability to cover themselves as well as extra barrier of protection during the simulated sex scenes.

Babies don't always cry on command, so when you need one to wail on camera, that's when you bring in a professional. Elaine Hall is a baby wrangler, but she also describes herself as an interpreter.Advertisement

Unlike with adult actors, babies can only be on set for a limited amount of time, as they can only legally work for four hours a day. This means that Hall needs to get babies to master their scenes in as few takes as possible. She has many tricks for how to do this. If she needs to make a young actor look happy in a scene, she might attach a funny-looking face to the camera lens.

But what about making a baby cry, like she did for a scene in "Akeelah and the Bee"? [baby crying]Advertisement

Well, she got really, really involved and even started sobbing herself.

[crying]

According to Hall,Advertisement

[crying]

when the baby heard her crying, the baby immediately started crying herself. Then, to get the baby to stop, Hall stopped crying and reassured the baby that everything was OK.

Oh, and objects like a rattle or a bell also help.Advertisement

While actors are sometimes given rubber swords, especially for really dangerous stunts, there are times when they need real weapons for utmost authenticity on camera. Enter blacksmith Tony Swatton, who's worked on over 200 movies. Yes, he is a real blacksmith who makes actual, functioning swords for Hollywood.

Cameraman: Whoa!

Narrator: Swatton's weapons look great in close-ups and give the actors the feeling of holding a real weapon, which in turn makes their performances even better. His job isn't as easy as just creating any old weapon out of metal. He needs to be really accurate to match the setting.Advertisement

For instance, when he worked on "The Mask of Zorro," he created a curved hunting blade that would have been used in the 1500s for Antonio Banderas. Besides being hyper-specific, he also needs to make multiple versions of a weapon for different purposes.

For example, while he will make a steel sword for close-ups, swords made out of aluminum are better for sequences involving action and actual sword fights. You can see here with the steel blade Swatton made for Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean." Swatton has worked on some movies that involved large battle sequences, like "The Last Samurai." For that, he wasn't just making weapons for Tom Cruise; he also had to make about 600 aluminum blades for all of the extras in the biggest battle scenes.Advertisement

Ian Phillips: Thanks for watching. It takes a whole lot of talented people to make your favorite movies. What other movies would you like to learn more about? Let us know in the comments.

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