It would seem that I would be able to best answer this after a little background on me, and my love for the horror and science fiction film genres. This may get a bit long winded, but bear with me; I promise that it is pretty interesting, not the E: True Hollywood Story of, but still.
My love for these types of movies and special make-up effects began at a fairly young age; always fascinated, horrified, and inspired by Lugosi's Dracula, Karloff's Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Lon Chaney's Wolf-man of the Classic Universal Monster Movies. When I was a little older and found out that Frankenstein's "The Monster" was created by a Universal Studios Make-Up Artist by the name of Jack Pierce, I began to immerse myself in studying the art of make-up effects and did all that I could to learn about my developing fascination.
Through magazines such as Fangoria, Gorezone, and Cinefantastique; I always kept up on what was happening with these types of movies. This coupled with getting my first copy of Tom Savini's: Grand Illusions (which is now very worn out and dog-eared having been shown so much attention); started me on the path to become a special make-up effects artist.
With the 1980's in full swing, and a new breathe of "life" shot into the Horror and Science Fiction genre films of the time; I was totally entranced by films such as The Thing, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street; Battle Beyond the Stars, Jaws; and earlier films from the 70's such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Last House on the Left, and the original Star Wars films. It was at this time that I began to ask how the illusions of make-up effects were accomplished. A huge fan of the work of make-up effects artists such as Stan Winston, Steve Johnson, Rob Bottin, Rick Baker, Tom Savini, and the God-father of make-up effects, Dick Smith; I started slapping liquid latex and cotton all over my face and body to attempt to transform myself into some hideous monster, or pour Kayro Syrup blood all over myself to simulate some awful, bloody wound.
As the years passed, my love of the Science Fiction/Horror genre continued to grow and be nurtured by a strong passion to stay connected to effects industry that I love so much. Even through many job changes and the never-ending quest for the "perfect career", I was able to always hold a true passion for special effects make-up. I always held on to my copies of the magazines and continued to buy them at a rapid so I could religiously keep up with the current state of the horror/sci-fi movie genre and the special effects that enhanced the impact of these films! I never lost sight of the day that I would finally pursue my dream career!
So, now at the age of 33, and after having graduated from the Tom Savini Special Make-Up Effects Program, I finally have made my way to Los Angeles, California and have pretty much come full circle. I have worked as a professional make-up effects artist; doing shop work for special make-up effects shops such as Stan Winston Studio, Steve Johnson's Edge Effects, Tony Gardner's Artists Asylum/Alterian Studios, and Keith Vanderlaan's Captive Audience.
In the midst of all this, I also took the opportunity to start my own FX Company; Evolution Effects Studio, Inc. was started in October of 2003.
Q: You've done effects for independent movie such as KOTTENTAIL, SLIP, BIOPHAGE and most recently SKIN DEEP. Tell us a bit about each and what work did you do on each movie? What do you find similar when working on a feature?
Evolution FX has been growing my leaps and bounds over these past few months and it has been very exciting to see something grow like this has. I am actually in Pre-Production on three horror films right now with Evolution, while still having a very busy schedule at Stan Winston Studio, Inc. as well. The after Christmas break rush that all FX artists wish for is finally here and things are getting super busy!
In Pre-Production, Evolution has "Bayne: Killer of Immortals"; a very fresh take on the werewolf/vampire film being written and produced by Chyna McCoy (he was Lawrence Fishburn's stunt double in The Matrix films). We are doing all the werewolf designs and suit fabrication; trying to keep these lycans as fresh and as new as possible, as well as coming up with a new look for the vampire characters.
"Blood Rush" is another vampire short for which we are designing the vampire make-ups and other physical FX. Then we have "Skin Deep", a very cool creature feature written, produced and directed by Tony Warren. Evolution is doing all the physical FX gags; a small creature that crawls into a gash on a woman's leg with whom this thing has been attacking and climbs up her body under the woman's skin. As it makes it's way up her leg, you can see it undulating under her skin, it finally ends up in her stomach and begins to take the woman over. So, we also have designed the make-up effects for the transformation of this beautiful actress to her demon alter ego.
For "Kottentail", Evolution did lot of (yes, I'm going to say it) beauty make-ups, and also handled the blood effects and gags. We did a ton of throat slashes and gashes, bites, scrapes, one huge evisceration, and a lot of blood-bladder work. For "Biophage" was a very fresh take on the old Pittsburgh zombie film, written, and directed by Mark Rapp. For this, we created a ton of zombie/phage make-ups, did many bladder FX, fabricated body parts, and all else that you would expect to see in an independent zombie film made in Pittsburgh, PA. For "Slip", we did a lot of cuts, bruises, and gore type stuff.
We also just wrapped "Ghost in the Box", a short film ghost story based on a very old ghost that preys upon suicidal young woman - very, very spooky. For this we designed the Specter make-up, and did a lot of bladder effects.
Q: What is your favorite makeup effect to work on?
I like doing the gore and stuff like that, but that is not nearly my favorite thing to do in make-up effects. I really enjoy character creation; be it a monster, alien, human character, or otherwise. Having the opportunity to create these things through design, sculpture, doing the molds, running the pieces and ultimately getting to do what I think is the pay off for all of this - applying the make-ups to the actors. When you see something that you have created from start to finish come to life through the actions and personality of the actor playing the character, there is nothing better!!!
Q: What was the one effect that turned out to be the most difficult to do (among any of your work)?
Each effect has its challenges and roadblocks at some point; that is the wonderful thing about being a make-up effects artist; there is always more than one way to do something. I learn something new every day and am glad to have to opportunity to be around so many great people and artists; the folks that I work with in the shops and those that I have with me at Evolution Effects Studio!
To answer your question, overseeing the make-up effects on "Biophage" was pretty tough to start with, and not because the make-ups were hard. We spent many, many long hours at first on location in an old abandoned insane asylum/hospital that I swear was haunted. This place was so creepy and run down that you didn't want to walk any where in or around the place by yourself, and that was when it was light and 110 degrees outside (so you can imagine what it was like when the sun went down and all the spirits came out). It was just a very long weekend of shooting, 16-hour days in the East Coast Summer humidity, and having people miserable running around in zombie make-ups. It was tough, but very fun!
Q: You are a sculptor on DEAD DOG COMIC's line of action figures-based on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, HOWLING, EVIL DEAD, and Fulci's ZOMBIE, to name a few. Tell us more about that.
We are working on the first line of action figures for Dead Dog, the Night of the Living Dead: Barbara's Zombie Chronicles series. Chazz Demoss, Dead Dog's big dog has gotten the rights to some of these films and has taken the opportunity to write comics based on them and wanted someone to do action figures for each comic title. We are doing all the prototyping of the figures; sculpting the characters based off of the original comic designs, as well as coming up with all the accessories and paint schemes.
This is the first series of many to come, as you said above; we are going to be working on The Howling, some of the Fulci film characters and many others. Look for these soon at your local Spencer's Gifts and KB Toy Stores.
Q: What are you working on in the future? What would you like to work on?
Evolution has a lot of stuff on the cooker and we are looking to get even busier very soon. There are a lot of films coming up that I have bid on, and we all also work in the larger FX shops; so it can get pretty crazy trying to juggle everything.
I would like to get that one big break, that film that puts Evolution Effects Studio on the map and have. Don't get me wrong; I love what I do whether it is with Evolution or one of the other shops. However, it would be nice to be able to focus on growing my own business and getting jobs for that. I can't work for the man forever.
Q: Anything else you wish to talk about?
I've been long winded enough. Thanks to all that read through this and thanks even more if you found it slightly interesting.