The secret of movie special effects: woggling

Last night we shot the first scene of our new film project – Cigarette. Or rather, we shot the last scene. And it involved a lot of woggling.

Scene 9, which will end the film, is the only one to be shot outdoors. We decided to shoot it ahead of principal photography (which starts in just under two weeks’ time) because we couldn’t be sure of good weather in our three-day shooting schedule. So we opted to grab the first dry evening that came along.


Without giving too much away, the script calls for the light from a fire to be visible through a window and play on the face of our protagonist. Our friend, who has offered up his house as the location, was oddly reluctant to let us set fire to his living room. So we turned to special effects. And we went for a stunningly high-tech approach.

We ended up with two fans fitted with strips of paper placed in front of work lamps, one with an orange gel, the other with a yellow gel. The effect was pretty good, but a little too regular. It needed some randomness. And so Trish, our art director, ended up hovering over the lamps waving her fingers (and sometimes feather dusters) in the path of the light. For some reason, this activity was dubbed ‘woggling’. And highly effective it was too.

It was a fun night, in spite of a few glitches. The clapperboard app on our iPad stopped making any sound (we fixed it in the time-honoured fashion of turning it off and back on again). We had a whole new sound crew, with Ian as sound recordist and Erica as boom op: both were doing it for the first time and did a great job. We did, though, have a few sounds issues with passing cars (I suspect it was the same one going back and forth), screech owls, dogs and foxes. Hopefully, it’ll turn out to be atmospheric.

And Mandy, our star, gave a great performance, even with no words to speak. Her expression in the key shot carried a lot of bathos.

It felt like a great start to the production…

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