21 jobs you probably never knew existed

  • Master model builders construct the massive Lego structures, like the ones replicating American cities, at Legoland.
  • A baby wrangler is hired by movie productions to make babies cry onscreen.
  • Marble harvesters extract 4 million tons of marble per year from the famous quarries in Carrara, Italy.
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Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: From people who harvest giant blocks of marble to master Lego builders, to people who can make babies cry in movies, there are a lot of fascinating and unexpected jobs out there. But just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean you haven’t seen their work on the big screen, on your plate, or in your blankets. Here are 21 jobs you probably never knew existed.

This cinder-block was made to be broken. And it was created by NewRuleFX’s Ryan Johnson, who specializes in breakaway movie props. His most frequently requested props are these glass bottles. They’re made with a thin resin plastic that looks exactly like the real thing, but an actor can break one over their head on camera without getting injured. Some other props include chairs and bricks that can fall apart with just a little pressure and glass shards that are actually made from rubber. Breakable windows are made by gluing together multiple panes of glass. So while the shards are real, they won’t hurt the actor as long as they punch straight through the pane.

To be a great bonsai artist, one needs to dwarf real trees, and then master bending and twisting trees into intricate and artful shapes. But there’s one trait a bonsai tree artist like Chiako Yamamoto needs to master, patience. It takes three years for a transplant to create new roots and five years for the tree to adapt to any of Yamamoto’s changes. According to Yamamoto, this small bonsai took 15 years to finish. And this one here took 25 years to look like this. And while this is an art form, these are living things, so they constantly change and respond to light and water. It’s no wonder that one can sell for around a hundred million yen or just under a million dollars.

Matt Slagle is one of the master model builders behind these massive Lego replicas of major cities. Here’s New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. The builders used 10 million blocks on Miniland USA, with New York alone using three million. And everything there from a car to the Statue of Liberty, had to be built exactly on a one-to-20 scale of its real life counterpart. And master model builders have to get every tiny detail right, like you can see here in each of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies. Their crowning achievement? The One World Trade Center replica. At 26 feet (7.92m) tall, it stands as the tallest Lego model in the U S.

More marble has come from the quarries in Carrara, Italy, than anywhere else on earth. The quarries produce four million tons per year, and it takes 13,000 people to harvest and extract all that material, including 600 truck drivers who make their way up dangerous roads every single day. To remove the marble, quarriers have to carefully drill three holes in a slab, creating one vertical line and two horizontal lines. These meet in one central strategic spot. They then carve it out using a five-millimeter diamond wire until the marble is fully removed from the mountain. More wires or a chainsaw can then cut these marble blocks down even more.

Real truffles are only found underground by a truffle hunter like James Fever. First Fever’s dog has to sniff out the truffles’ location. Then Fever has to dig each one out by hand. He also needs to sniff it to make sure it’s even ripe after picking it. And even if he does get a good one, it can go bad after just five days, so they need to be sold quickly. However, a truffle can reap big rewards. An 80-gram truffle can net you $US90 ($AU123), while the world’s largest white truffle sold for $US61,000 ($AU83,369) in 2014.

Elaine Hall is what is known in Hollywood as a baby wrangler. Her job is to make sure that child actors are safe on set and that they give the best performance possible. Hollywood has specific time limits for how long young stars can work, so Hall makes sure her stars nail their takes as quickly as possible. When working on “Akeelah and the Bee,” she was able to get a baby to hysterically cry on command simply by fake crying herself.

The Greenland shark is the most toxic shark in the world, but in Iceland, Gurjon Hildibrandsson and his family have been making and selling fermented meat from it for generations. It’s a laborious six month process to make these sharks edible. The meat is first fermented in cold storage rooms for six to nine weeks. Then it needs to be hung outside for six months to dry out while still retaining the correct texture.

While certain food items you see on screen might be fake, a lot of food and movie scenes is real. And for those occasions, productions hire a food stylist like Zoe Hegedus. Her job is to make sure all the food on camera is both appealing to the cameras and edible for the actors. Sometimes that even involves substituting real food with edible lookalike props. For example, when working on the film, “Midsommar,” Hegedus had to make a Scandinavian dish topped with egg yolk. However, the real egg yolks wouldn’t hold together on the long hot shoot days. So instead she concocted a sphere made of mango and orange juice that looked exactly like a real egg.

Before eiderdown fibers end up in high-end duvet covers, they first need to be harvested from ducks. Farmers start by collecting every eider nest by hand. The job entails a lot of wandering because the nests are located far apart, and a harvester needs several nests, as each one yields just 15 grams of material. The harvesting process is both ethical and completely natural, and at the same time, incredibly difficult, but that’s only a fraction of the work. Machines help the harvester sort through the nests, but unwanted objects like rocks, sticks, seaweed, and feathers need to be picked out by hand. Cleaning one kilo of it can take up to five additional hours.

Stephen Kutcher is known as The Bug Man of Hollywood, training bugs for the big screen. To get a spider to crawl across the floor and into a slipper in “Arachnophobia,” he guided the spider to where it needed to go using invisible vibrating wires. In Spider-Man, Kutcher put a spider on a paintbrush, then tapped it once the spider was at the end to get it to drop down to an exact spot. And in “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” he trained 3,000 locust to cling onto the wall of a cage by shining a heat emitting light at it, drawing them to the warmth.

Not all scissors are mass produced. Some are still handmade by master putter-togetherers at this factory in England and can cost anywhere between 100 and $US315 ($AU431). Cliff Denton is one of just two remaining master putter-togetherers at the Ernest Wright factory. And it takes years of training to get to his level of craftsmanship. The final stage of scissor making alone can take five years of training. If you hit the wrong spot while hammering the blade, the entire pair of scissors will be ruined.

Sophia Bogle is a book conservationist whose daily job is to restore 120-year-old archival books. The process begins with deconstruction. Vogel removes the acidic old tape from the book cover. She also sands it and then cleans it with a repair knife. Then she washes the individual pages in hot water and restores them using Japanese tissue to fix any tear she finds. The rest of the process involves touching up the cover, embossing, and then gluing and pressing it all together. And the tiny details matter. If she uses the wrong type of black pen on the cover, she can damage it.

A lot of those sounds you hear in nature docs are actually fake since it’s often too difficult to capture the real sounds in the field. So Foley artists like Richard Hinton have had to find creative ways to pair sounds with nature. Some of the sounds he has mastered are swimming schools of fish, lava, and even an orangutan eating.

Just one of these Kolinsky sable paint brushes can take a week and a half to make, with brush makers separating hundreds of strands of hair by hand. And it’s the hair that makes these brushes remarkable. The brushes are made from the strong high-quality tail hairs of the Kolinsky sable in Siberia. Sandra Harris is one of only nine brush makers in the world who can make these Series 7 Kolinsky sable watercolor brushes. It can take three years of training to get to her level.

Fugu, or puffer fish, is a poisonous fish that’s a delicacy in Japan. To properly prepare the fish and make it edible, chefs like Yutaka Hattori must carefully remove its toxic eyes, gills, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, and ovaries. The Japanese government tightly controls who can prep the fugu. Only a few select chefs are trained to make it edible, and they must take an extensive exam to legally serve the fish. One of the biggest challenges is that the poisonous parts vary by species and can be more difficult to identify in hybrid puffer fish.

Rogan art is created with a castor oil based paint combined with different colors. Before using it, it needs to be lit up. It’s a dangerous process that only a few artists are skilled enough to handle, as it can catch fire at any time. During this process, Abdul Gafur Khatri swirls paint on his palm to create heat, and then uses a metal rod to create designs on fabric. This art form has been in the Khatri family in India for eight generations, and they are the last family still keeping it alive. These days, they find themselves competing with mass produced textiles. It’s a completely freehand painting process, meaning the design can come out completely different than originally planned. This is one of the reasons it takes years to learn, and also what makes both this skill set and the craft itself so unique.

Filmmakers can’t achieve the realistic look of their characters’ weapons in close-ups if they resort to plastic blades. Enter blacksmith Tony Swatton, who has been forging weapons for movies and TV for over 30 years. He made the swords in “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the hook from “Hook.” And Swatton can design weapons from all eras and cultures. Zoro’s blade in “The Mask of Zorro” was created using two curved hunting swords from the 1500s that were cobbled together to look like the classic rapier.

Cheryl Eisen stages luxury apartments up for sale in New York. That means she makes them look stylish enough that people will actually want to buy them. Eisen selects her decor from a 60,000 square foot warehouse in Jersey City, full of custom furnishings, lighting, and artwork. She might choose an oversized print to make a room look bigger, or throw in some floor-to-ceiling drapes to make ceilings appear higher than they really are. A stager must have a good eye to nail the right aesthetic for the location and the prospective buyer. Staging an apartment shows the buyer how they can live in and furnish a space, which you wouldn’t see in an empty apartment.

Your favorite video game characters might be created digitally, but somebody still needs to act out all of their motions. Enter Richard Dorton, a creature performer who specializes in all kinds of video game characters. His movements become the base of these characters thanks to motion capture. First Dorton’s full body is scanned and his motions are captured by a computer in real time. These actions are then translated to the CG character in the game. And to make this all the more realistic, he has to get really physical, especially for particularly dramatic moments like this roar. The most commonly seized item at JFK International Airport is actually food, and it’s an agricultural specialist’s job to seize and destroy all of it. These agents are trained to prevent the spread of any pests or diseases that could harm US livestock or crops. So before dropping any fruits or vegetables in the grinder, agents like Ginger Perrone must cut open and inspect each piece for evidence of disease or pests. But Perrone gets a little help from some four-legged canine friends like Biscuit, who’s trained to sniff out food in luggage. These dogs’ sense of smell is so strong that they have an estimated 90% accuracy rate.