Miss Raspberry Beret used to do continuity on film shoots and so she is given to exclaiming “those are not his hands” while we’re watching things on the free-to-air. Put simply, this means that the hands in the close up shot that we see turning a key, loving placing a rose on a pillow or grabbing a knife handle and operating it in a stabbing motion, are not the hands belonging to the actor in the wider shot.
There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes close-up hand shots are cutaways done later in that day’s shooting when the actor has left the set already. Sometimes the shot has to be ‘picked up’ which means there was no thought of having the shot in the first place, but editing has revealed that the sequence doesn’t make sense without a close up of the hands. And sometimes the actor is a flippin’ megastar and there’s no way they’ll hang around portraying the part of their character’s hands especially when some shmo can do it.
Doesn’t half spoil the magic though, when you’re watching (for example) a Clooney character sorting through a cigar box containing the last mementoes of a dead father; you’re tearing up; the finality of it all is hitting home; and then, “Those fingers look too stubby to belong to Clooney.”
At a less exalted level, a friend of mine wrote and directed a short film and had to pick up some close shots that showed a kid letting a praying mantis walk over his open palm. It was too much trouble to get the original actor back for what was basically a three second shot – albeit a crucial one. So my friend became the kid’s hand double.
It sounded like a silly idea, but in the end his dainty, child-like hands did the trick perfectly.
Elevate the Insignificant