Filming in the Rain: How Movies Make it Look Like it’s Heaving

Heavy rain on a street with parking lines
Yep.

Right, you watch films. You notice it sometimes rains in some film? Ever noticed it’s always SMASHING it down, as opposed to a light drizzle?! There’s a reason for that.

How Do Directors Film the Rain?

As it’s difficult for cameras to pick up rain drops, film crews typically use a rain curtain contraption. This ramps up the drama with great big dollops of fabricated rain.

It’s tough to capture the water as the camera has to focus in on actors, extras, and other actors (such as Brad Pitt).

As well as the set, of course. But why look at mise-en-scène when Brad Pitt is on camera, am I right?! Oi oi, darlin’!

Anyway, a classic example of this issue is Braveheart (1995). Along with the limbs flying through mid-air and general mayhem, the other thing we remember from that film is how wet everything looks.

That’s because it was raining for pretty much 80% of the production shoot.

Not being able to turn the weather off, Mel Gibson went ahead and shot scenes in what would normally be classed as pretty heavy rain. But you can’t see it, can you? No, laddie!

So, to convey properly dramatic rain, production crews use the rain curtain.

And sometimes will also add milk to make water less translucent. All to create the effect of a thoroughly full-on downpour.

So, don’t be fooled. Clever sorts can make the most non-existent rainy scene look like there’s a deluge of epic proportions going on.

Examples of Heavy Rain in Film

Shawshank Redemption is a fine example, when Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) crawls out of that river of excrement and enjoys a rainy moment of rainy freedom.

Or there’s Jurassic Park, there lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) is taking a dump and gets wiped out by a hostile dinosaur.

Note the rain for added drama and connotations of fouling oneself due to fear.

What a way to go, eh? A mixture of humorous and goddamn terrifying.

But we also have the rather romantically lame. In Four Weddings and a Funeral there’s Andie MacDowell opining, “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed” Dumb bitch.

Anyway, one can argue that a good rainy moment can add considerable profundity to a scene.

A sense of pathos, as in Withnail and I where the former must lament his stalled career.

With the low budget for that film, you can’t help but feel director Bruce Robinson probably just went outside in heavy rain and filmed it.

The voices are clearly dubbed at the start of the scene, but on the Withnail and I DVD commentary, Robinson confirmed this was Richard E. Grant just on it.

Elsewhere, we have the incredible closing monologue from Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner.

But rain can be a joyous thing, too, such as with Shawshank Redemption. Or Singing In The Rain. It’s not always appropriate, of course.

Had it rained heavily throughout The Lion King, for example, then it would have ruined the film.

Why would Simba want to rule over such a damp and dismal kingdom? Exactly.

How Do You Shoot Someone In The Rain!?

Well yeah, you avoid the Sun and just try to film at night where possible. That’s the sage advice we stole from the above video.

From our perspective, to make sure your actors are around in the evenings ensure you have access to a gun.

Then, if it’s the day, shoot them in the foot or leg. This will incapacitate them and ensure they’re around for an evening shoot.

Anyway, don’t take our word for it. We’re just trying to be helpful here. We’ve never filmed a film and are flagging up a cinematic oddity most of us are unaware of.

Except those souls working behind the scenes drenched in make believe raindrops.

16 comments

  1. Enjoyed the Withnail clip! Can’t believe I’m still without!

    The shows I’ve worked with rain, have used rain towers and massive water truck. Costs a small fortune. Besides paying for all the water and equipment you need; 2 water truck guys; 1 to drive the truck, 1 to switch on the water. Then there are a couple of Grips to lay hose & set up the water towers.. Then a couple of Electrics to lay cable. Then several Special Effects guys to operate the water tower. Then hair, make-up and wardrobe dailies to help mop up for extra takes. If the water runs out, then the truck…. well it costs a lot of money. All labour is unionized!

    Rutger is amazing in that Blade Runner scene!
    Neat post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The only time I ever heard of heaving before is in 500 Miles . What’s with you English? I can usually tell if it’s really raining or if they are faking rain. of course if it’s Brad or Andie who cares. Fabulous links but no Brad And no Andie, That was disappointing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always liked the Blade Runner rain, and a lot better than I liked the Jurassic Park rain (actually, what I mean is I liked Blade Runner better than Jurassic Park). Of course there are two ways of doing this. One is to have all the apparatus, trucks, wind machines, etc etc. The other is simply to film on location outdoors in Wellington, New Zealand.

    Liked by 1 person

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