An Inside Look at Netflix’s The School for Good and Evil with DNEG

Member News  |  28 November 2022

DNEG, one of the world’s leading visual effects and animation studios, acted as a key VFX partner on Netflix’s fantasy drama film, The School for Good and Evil, contributing to more than 430 shots. 

Image Courtesy of DNEG © 2022 Netflix, Inc.

Released in October 2022, The School for Good and Evil is directed by Paul Feig and is based on the 2013 novel by Soman Chainani. The movie follows two best friends, Sophie and Agatha, as they are kidnapped and taken to the titular School for Good and Evil – a school meant to bring young students to their destiny of being good or evil. Starring in the production are Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie, Kerry Washington and Charlize Theron. 

DNEG’s work on the production was led by VFX Supervisor Anelia Asparuhova, DFX Supervisor Jolene McCaffrey and VFX Producer Vikram Chadha. 

Anelia Asparuhova, VFX Supervisor at DNEG; Jolene McCaffrey, DFX Supervisor at DNEG

As one of the key VFX partners for The School for Good and Evil, DNEG was responsible for providing the FX sequences for several key moments. Work ranged from set extensions and the atmospheric makeup for the interiors of the ‘Theatre of Tales’, to conceptualising and developing magic FX looks for the big battle between Good and Evil. Overall, DNEG created 184 shots across this sequence. 

DNEG also developed a finger glow prosthetic augmentation, chocolate fireball, battle axe fire simulation, an Excalibur sword replacement and cyclops facial animation as part of its contribution to the film. Many of the sequences have direct involvement with the actors, requiring DNEG to continuously body track the actor affected by the simulation and run the FX afterwards. 

Image Courtesy of DNEG © 2022 Netflix, Inc.

Regarding the cyclops facial animation, the DNEG team needed to convey strong emotions of anger, which is usually accomplished by bringing both eyebrows to life, but the character had only one eyebrow. Whilst shooting, the actor wore a prosthetic on top of his face that DNEG then replaced with FX, manipulating the character’s single eyebrow as if it were two, to create an understandable visual language.  

Another key aspect of the film is Sophie’s signature magic power, used to reflect her moods and feelings. DNEG created a range of simulations to convey the different forms her magic could take; without making the magic too gory, the team converted the liquid form of the blood diffuse into a playful puff of smoke or a fire blast.

Image Courtesy of DNEG © 2022 Netflix, Inc.

The DNEG crew also used its talents to generate the primary environment in the film, the ‘Theatre of Tales’, where the students of the School for Good and Evil learn more about their fate and meet the students of the opposing school. DNEG was tasked with giving the theatre an intimate look, despite the large size of the space. The team extended the back wall, added wood panelled ceilings, baroque sculptures and crystal chandeliers that matched the two themes of good and evil. The team was careful to layer all of the shots using volumetric rays to create the geometry of the room, paying special attention to the intricate details needed for the key set piece. 

DNEG’s FX team was also heavily involved in the project: using fire, liquid, smoke, particle and electricity simulations to bring to life the special powers and magical world seen throughout the film. 

Working on this show has been a magical experience, which gave our team the opportunity to tap into their creativity and produce some truly fantastical effects. Where else are you able to create blood magic? The FX in this production succeed in telling the story and helping the audience fall in love with these characters. The programs we used allowed our team to think outside the box, adding to the fantastical world of the School for Good and Evil. We are very excited to see audience reactions to the special effects DNEG contributed!

Anelia Asparuhova, VFX Supervisor on The School for Good and Evil

Working on The School for Good and Evil has been a wonderful experience, we’ve been able to stretch our creative muscles and create a new universe. Bringing the battle for Good and Evil to life, as well as developing set extensions and all the different types of magic, has allowed us to be part of the experience and we had a lot of fun along the way.

Jolene McCaffrey, DFX Supervisor on The School for Good and Evil