Candle Secrets from a Movie Set

September 06, 2018

Candle Secrets from a Movie Set

Being a candle-maker, I can’t help but notice candles when they appear in movies and television. I’m completely mesmerized when the movie takes place in the days before electricity and multiple lit candles are flickering brightly in almost every scene.  I’m sure I’m not the only candle-maker to notice how tall those candle flames are during those scenes and how much the flames flicker dramatically back and forth. As a candle-maker, I watch those movie candles blazing away and hope that candle lovers out there don’t think this is how their home candles should burn, (because they shouldn’t!)

So, what’s the big secret about movie candles? They are made differently than the ones you buy in the stores or your favorite candle studio. How do I know this? Besides being a candle-maker, I worked in the film industry for 14 years and part of my job was to manage any filming that involved lit candles. 

So why are movie candles made differently than the ones we buy for our homes? Dramatic effect is a big reason. We know from our own experience how much candles can affect the mood in a room. Candles used for film production have to work twice as hard to affect the mood of a large movie set. Movie candles  usually have large, bright, flickering flames to enhance the drama of the scene and allows the candles to be more noticeable. If a movie set director/prop master used a traditionally-made candle, the safe, normal-sized flame may not be that easy to see on a busy movie set. Plus, a one-inch, steady flame is not nearly as dramatic as a three-inch flame waving back and forth.

Did you know that every film shoot that involves candles with exposed flames must have a Fire Safety Officer present during filming? Those beautiful, dramatic candles in that scene sure look great, but they are not safe and require a dedicated fire safety watch while the candles are lit.

Most movie set directors have their “go to” candle resource for their prop candles because it requires a candlemaker experienced in creating technically challenging candles. Achieving the maximum candle height, while controlling rate of consumption, candle drip and smoking, requires a thorough knowledge in candle combustion. Film production studios cannot risk their cast, crew and property by purchasing candles from anyone other than experienced specialty candle crafters.  

So next time you’re watching a movie and see large candle flames flickering dramatically, just remember kids, don’t try this at home!

A slightly rounded, steady flame is a happy flame.

Living life by candlelight,

Kari Chandler

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