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18 Fascinating Behind-The-Scenes Secrets of Moviemaking

03 September 2017

We don’t know many of the tricks that go into moviemaking, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know any of them. If you want to see how filmmakers create their own little world for the audience to slip into, read on! Once you know them, you’ll want to watch the movies all over again with fresh eyes.

Drugs and alcohol on movie sets aren’t the real thing, in case you couldn’t tell already.

Powdered milk or vitamins is the cocaine substitute, and colored vinegar is used in place of alcohol. Even the ice is rarely real, with gelatin or crumpled plastic used so that they don’t melt away.

Cigarettes which actors smoke are not real, either.

Of course they’re unhealthy, and non-smoking actors don’t want to take up the habit, but it’s also partly because they don’t last long enough to shoot a proper take. Instead, herbal cigarettes are used. Because these cigarettes still have negative health impacts, actors are paid more when they have to use them during shooting.

Costume designers get very creative, reusing outfits from other movies that have already been shot and even using furniture supplies in the costume department!

Game of Thrones’ chief costume designer recently mentioned that the Night Watch’s capes are made from Ikea rugs that look like animal fur!

Using a greenscreen is a well-known filmmaking technique, which calls for actors stand in front of a green screen that will be edited out digitally to show the actors on a fantasy background.

Why a GREEN screen? Well, it’s because green and also bright blue have the highest contrast with human skin tones, lessening the likelihood that the people will be edited out along with the background!

Not every set is conjured out of filmmakers’ dreams, and animated digitally. Filmmakers often create miniatures of the sets that they can use as an edited-in background for the characters.

For example, the impressive architecture of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings movies is mostly made in miniature. So, tiny, right? Nope! The model of the tower that the wizard Saruman lived in was an amazing 27 feet tall and incredibly detailed!

Any time you see a character eating on screen, the actor isn’t really eating. They’re just chewing up the food, then spitting it into a bucket between takes.

Unless, you’re actor Chris Pratt, that is. According to Parks and Recreation co-star Aziz Ansari, “If you see Andy eating a cheeseburger in a scene, you should know Chris Pratt ate like 8 cheeseburgers”.

So if the food isn’t real, neither is the vomit!

Usually a bag with oatmeal or spaghetti is used, and attached to the actors’ neck that can be squeezed to make them look like they’re puking. But if they need to projectile-vomit, a pressurized system is used.

Have you ever noticed that in nearly all nighttime car scenes in movies, the road will be wet?

That’s because the moisture gives better contrast and reflects light more easily, so it looks better in the movie.

Prosthetics are more commonly used in movies than you think, for everything from scenes that involve characters getting injections to fantastical transformations.

There’s the famous ‘shooting Marvin in the face’ scene in Pulp Fiction for example, which involves a man’s head exploding. To do that, they built a head-and-shoulders prosthetic of the actor, then linked it up to a CO2 rig that would fire fake blood and brains everywhere!

In the time before the green screening, open water scenes were shot in special pools.


Filming on the open ocean can be disastrous, as the makers of Waterworld found out, when part of their sets were destroyed and floated away in a storm! This was part of the reason the movie went so far over budget and over time.

Have you heard?

When sound editors need something to sound like someone’s bones getting broken, they snap carrots and sticks of celery! Next time you’re watching a violent and bloody movie scene, spare a thought for those poor vegetables!

Most movie crowd scenes are done using CGI these days. But how do you get it to sound like a crowd of thousands.

Well, if you’re Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, you get an entire stadium filled with football spectators to roar! For the famous Battle of Helm’s Deep, the bad guy’s lines were projected onto the big screen at half time at a New Zealand football game, thousands of spectators were recorded.

If you’ve ever tried to get a good mirror selfie, you’ll know it’s really tricky to film someone looking in a mirror.

The shot needs to be taken from a specific angle to catch the person and their reflection without catching any of the camera in the mirror. While filming The Terminator, James Cameron decided to just make the actors face their understudies through a pane of glass, to create the effect of a mirror!

What would you do if it was scorching hot outside, but you need to film a cold winter scene for your movie?

Just cover the ground in fake snow and have the actors ACT cold! Well, it’s what they get paid for, right? But if it’s winter and it needs to look like summer? Just add some fake flowers!

What is it with children in horror movies?

For some reason they’re always involved, and it’s always scary! How does a child act scared, without actually getting scared? Well, directors treat filming like a game, asking the child to do specific things without explaining the context. Sometimes, they don’t even know they’re working on a horror movie! Danny Lloyd didn’t know he was making a horror movie until he watched The Shining years later!

Want a background role in a movie?

If you want to be an extra, learn how to mime well! Background actors talk and laugh without making sound, since the powerful microphones used on set would pick them up otherwise

How do actors film sex scenes?

Well, there are certain tricks and measures in place, but basically they have to power through! Sure it can be difficult and embarrassing to shoot explicit scenes but these scenes are usually filmed late in production. They’re rehearsed fully-clothed beforehand, and only key staff are allowed to be on the set.

What’s the trick behind keeping a plot secret?

Well, sometimes, they just don’t tell anyone, not even the cast! During the shooting for The Empire Strikes Back, only the producers knew the famous secret about Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father before that famous scene was filmed. And actor Mark Hamill was the only person involved in the scene who knew, with Darth Vader’s lines overdubbed later!

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18 Fascinating Behind-The-Scenes Secrets of Moviemaking
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