Q: What first got you interested in makeup effects? What were your influences?
Early on I didn't give too much thought to effects make-up itself. I was only really concerned with making horror films in general and went to film school, hoping I'd come out and be able to direct the next Evil Dead. It wasn't long after graduation that I realized wedding videos weren't making me the right connections, and you don't really find too many people in search of a director for their project. If I wanted to meet people making horror films the fastest way would be through special effects.
Q: What are your top three favorite makeup effects you've seen in a movie(s)?
I've most recently been making everyone watch the autopsy scene from Saw IV. I love that it was built from the inside out in a way that the actors could really interact with it, cutting it apart in stages as if it were real. I can only imagine the effort it would take to make something like that. My other two favorites are both from Fulci's Zombi 2, the splinter in the eye and the shark tearing off the zombie's arm. The eye is just gross. It's got that exploitation flair, where they're just showing us a gratuitous close up for no other reason than because they can. As for the shark well, it was a real shark! How do you get a shark to act, let alone tear off a prop arm and decide to leave the actor intact?
Q: You took Tom Savini's class in Pennsylvania?
Yeah, that was fun. There were a few teacher's there that I learned a lot from, Jerry Gergely and Eric Molinaris in particular, but when it comes down to it it's a business like any other college and it runs on money. A lot of students just get pushed through and there are definitely some instructors who aren't qualified to be teaching the subjects they're being paid to. I'm glad I went, but I don't fell I got half of the education that the school promised.
Q: Your company is DEAD PRETZEL FX. How did you come up with that name?
At some point in college I wanted to start a band named Death by Pretzel. Never happened but the name stuck with me. It never had any real meaning I just thought it was funny. When it came time to form a company I decided to shorten it due to the addition of FX and LLC.
Q: How did you get the gig on DEADHEADS?
Brett Pierce, one of the directors, saw my work through a mutual friend of ours and got my number from him. We has a few phone conversations about the project over the next month and then I met with his co-director and brother Drew. I don't think I actually agreed to do it until another month or so later. It was a really ambitious and effects heavy project for the budget they had and I was scared we couldn't get it done in five weeks. Which we didn't. We wrapped two days ago with just over nine weeks of shooting. I'm glad I did it though. The Pierce Brothers were able to pull together an amazing amount of talent across all the departments and I think that together we pulled off what's going to seem like we had a lot of money at our disposal.
Q: What type of zombies did you create for that movie? Did the directors have something specific in mind or did they give you free reign?
They had some strong ideas for the three leads. We did a series of three make-up tests before settling on the look that ended up being used. The rest of the designs were left up to me. These were all artificially created zombies so none of them were too tore up so we relied a lot on color. I wanted a palate that resembled the colors used in the old rat fink illustrations, strong greens, purples and reds. We just tried to tone them back enough to sell some sort of realism.
Q: What is your favorite zombie or effect in the movie?
To be honest my favorite zombie is one my assistant Jason Chapman did. It's the first zombie featured in the film. He's very simple with a few sores but I think it's the best work I've seen thus far from Chapy. He's set a very high bar for his future work to live up to with this film. If I were to pick something I did, it would be a zombie bride that appears in the film. I tried really hard to make something that was sort of a high fashion zombie. I wanted the sores and wounds to shape her face and work with her gown in a very aesthetically pleasing way. The whole crew found her stunning. Though I don't know what that might say about us.
Q: What were the most zombies you had to prepare at one time?
One night my assistant and I had about 4 hours to make 20 zombies plus two of our lead zombies and other lead actors. That was our only really heavy day. We grabbed a couple of PA's and started a sort of assembly line.
Q: You also worked on a movie called CUT, PRINT. What is that about?
It's kind of a documentary type film but it's a pretty far departure from that shaky cam crap everyone's been doing. It's about a serial killer messing with some internet entrepreneurs who make fake snuff films. I curious to see how it's received.
Q: Are there any upcoming projects you'll be working on?
Yeah, a lot actually, but I'm hesitant to talk much about most of them until the paperwork is signed.
The one I'm most excited for is called ROADKILL, which we're hoping to start this summer. Our creature design is something that to my knowledge hasn't been done before and the script is really character driven for a horror film. It follows a group of rockabilly types through a 50's style monster movie that involves and lot of drag racing.
Q: How can people contact you?
My company, Dead Pretzel FX LLC, is registered with the Michigan Film Office and all of my contact information is there. I actually do a lot of business through myspace since it's the fastest way for me to update my portfolio photos. I'm listed there as Dead Pretzel FX.