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The Honourable Woman: Dramatic blood-soaked scenes

Ed Smith

Special Effects Supervisor

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ATTENTION: This post contains spoilers and is intended for viewers who have already seen episode two of The Honourable Woman.

The Honourable Woman is an epic eight-part BBC Two drama starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as powerful businesswoman and philanthropist Nessa Stein, daughter of the late Israeli arms procurer Eli Stein. Newly enobled into the House of Lords, she is rocked by the mysterious death of a business contact and a kidnapping.

My role for The Honourable Woman was as special effects supervisor.

I work as a supervisor for live action special effects, this means that we provide all the special effects that are actually shot at the time the scenes are acted out and filmed with the camera, as opposed to generating and compositing stunts and effects with a computer.

The benefit of live action special effects for the actors and the director is that they have something to interact with when playing out scenes.

One of the effects I was asked to provide was for the scene where Ephra Stein (Andrew Buchan) and his wife Rachel Stein (Katherine Parkinson) are at a gala function and a protestor smashes a bag on the table covering them in fake blood.

The requirements were for a vessel containing a good amount of theatrical blood that was strong enough to carry the liquid yet would break easily in every direction to the splatter the blood on to the bystanders.

A protester enters the gala dinner, holding the wax vessel containing fake blood

It was decided that we would make vessels the size of a flattened grapefruit out of wax and fill them with blood.

The properties of wax enable the vessel to hold the liquid yet break and shatter easily while creating no hazard to the actors.

The wax itself was coloured a blood colour. After filling, the vessel was sealed with wax.

Rachel Stein (Katherine Parkinson) and Ephra Stein (Andrew Buchan) are ambushed

Tests were carried out on special effects technicians who are used to being guinea pigs for all sorts of tests that might include bullet hits, throat cutting rigs, hanging rigs, immersion in fake oil, or having a lit light bulb smashed in the face.

The tests help us make any adjustments that are needed to enhance the effect, or make it more actor friendly (if they are using the prop), or to make the effect safer should it be a higher risk effect.

Rachel Stein returns home after a traumatic luncheon

We provided six wax vessels for this scene. However with this type of effect, the production would hope to get the shot first time as there is a lot of clearing up to do and costume changes involved for a second take.

Occasionally the crew may have to go again if there is a camera or lighting problem, or if the lines were not quite right.

Luckily we shot this effect in one take I believe.

Ed Smith is the live action special effects supervisor of Colin Gorry Effects, the company which produced the special effects on The Honourable Woman.

The Honourable Woman continues on Thursday, 17 July at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC Two HD. For further programmes times please see the episode guide.

More on The Honourable Woman
BBC Two: The Honourable Woman: Take a closer look 
BBC Media Centre: The Honourable Woman 
BBC Writersroom: Q&A with Hugo Blick and script from episode one
The Guardian: The Honourable Woman Recap: Episode two - The Unfaithful Husband
The Telegraph: Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Honourable Woman: Now the biggest pictures are on the box 

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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