I'm looking for a good tutorial on how to set up a beheading using a silicone head.  This will be shot facing the actor being beheaded from chest up.  I suggested a cutaway shot but the director really wants to see it.  I appreciate any suggestions.  I will try them all lol.

He also wants a machete through the chest, also frontal shot.  I suggested a side shot, but he wants to see this thing going through the chest.  If you know of a good video tutorial or have suggestions, again, I will try them all to see which one works the best.

Thank you, I hope you're all having a great weekend.



  • Does the director understand that their request would dramatically increase the budget, and likely look a bit off?  Pulling off full-body gags in a single wide shot with no cuts is very expensive.  There's a reason it's not done very often outside of big-budget movies and is done almost entirely digitally for lower-budget productions. 

    Sounds like you may need a dummy torso/head for those shots.  We don't have any tutorials of a full beheading, but we do have one that includes a throat slash.

    But that would still require cutting from the slash to a wider shot with a dummy for the head removal.  Since dummy heads have a locked expression it can be pretty obvious the head is not real.  One trick would be to cover the head with a hood/bag or partially cover it with a blindfold.  You could also make it a puppet head and have the mouth moving a bit.

    For the machete gag, you could do a dummy torso combined with a live actor for the head. 

    I'd try and find examples of both gags in existing movies, and see how they are shot and how the gag is designed.  And if possible sit down with the director and go over those example videos to see what meets their creative goals, and settle on what is reasonable for time/budget/resources.  

  • Hi Chris,

    Thank you so much for the information.  This is greatly helpful because I was having a hard time visualizing it and wondered if maybe it was just my inexperience at play. 

    The director I'm working with does have caviar tastes on a ramen budget.  I did explain that we don't have that kind of budget but I would come up with something that will stay within the budget, especially since he isn't using any VFX.  He wants 100% practical FX, which I appreciate. 

    The scene is set up where the actress comes up behind the victim and rams the machete through and then he falls to his knees and she beheads him.  He wants that to happen from behind, but I may be able to convince him to have it shot from the back, where she looks into the victims eyes before she takes his head.  If that happens, I won't need to worry about that fixed facial expression and it will be easier to disguise what the head is actually sitting on.

    I do have a silicone head, but there is no budget for a silicone torso.  I have a cloth mannequin torso from a department store I was thinking of using if I can make it work.  My only other thought was to build some sort of workhorse type wood platform for that head to sit on and have it dressed in the same shirt with an above-shoulder shot only and the actress can behead it that way. 

    I also thought about using that same mannequin body for the machete scene or possibly using an old expandable sewing dress-form torso and have it expanded out all the way so the seam in the center opens and the machete could be driven through it that way with a shirt over it. 

    I will definitely ask the director if he has any movie references for scenes he likes that I can watch and learn from, hopefully formulate a plan from there. 

    I really appreciate all your advice. 

    Hope you have a great weekend, 

  • One option for the dummy torso (if it's covered in clothing for the shots) would be to make a duct tape/masking tape dummy similar to what we show in this course:

    Basically, you have your actor wear skin-tight clothing, then you wrap them in cellophane, and then you wrap them in masking or duct tape.   This creates an outer shell that can be carefully cut off and reassembled.   Then you can either fill it with 2 part expanding foam, wadded-up newspaper, or anything you like.  It's a super cheap way to get an accurate dummy of a performer.  Great for cheap gags, helping design costumes, etc. 

    If you want to be more advanced you can cut up each of the joints in the body (shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, etc) and add properly articulated joints, or something simple like rope/fabric joints if you don't need to restrict motion.

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