Blood Sweat and Latex

For those of you new to the column: I’m retracing my personal history, recalling formative events in my life that made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist looking for relevance in the 21st Century. I have learned about liquid latex and at this point, I needed a camera. These are between my 15th and 16th years… Growing up in the late ’60s and early ’70s was a challenging time for burgeoning filmmakers. There were no consumer video cameras, no computers with editing software, and certainly no digital cameras. I recently heard someone describe this as the “Photo-Chemical Age” in an attempt to make it sound horrible and archaic. After all, now we can shoot, edit, and post our films more easily than sitting through 80% of what Hollywood has to offer these days. Well, it was the opposite back then. Motion Pictures were fantastic, and the theater experience was a tremendous joy, but making your own movies required a level of commitment that certainly would discourage anyone with a mild interest. Equipment wasn’t cheap and it had its limitations as well. Call it what you will, but the Photo-Chemical Age was glorious as well as frustrating.

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For those new to the column: I’m tracing the formative events in my life that made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist, searching for relevance in the 21st Century…At this point in my life, I am fourteen years old… Just off the corner of Royal Street and St. Ann Street in the French Quarter, there was a white building with green shutters framing tall windows. Stacked in the windows, peering out like eyeless sentinels were rows and rows of Don Post Monster Masks. No longer just two dimensional, black and white images in the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, they were there, in three-dimensions, painted in their garish colors. I was at the right place, alright: The Vieux Carre Hair Shop. Inside, two gentlemen greeted me. The first one was roughly thirty; he had a fringe of dark hair circling his baldpate and was mustached. This was Bob Saussaye. The other was a dapper older gentleman with a kind face; this was the owner of the store and Bob’s father, Herb Saussaye. Herb was more than the owner of the best-known theatrical wig and make up store in New Orleans. He was more than a knowledgeable make up artist. He was Willy Wonka, and I had just stepped into his factory.

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Shannon Shea has done special effects work on over sixty films. From Evil Dead II to Predator. From Dances With Wolves to Jurassic Park. From In the Mouth of Madness to Sin City. Every week he delves into his personal and professional history to tell the story of how he became a monster that makes monsters. So there I was, in a small conference room in Woodland Hills, California on a warm February afternoon in 2009. I knew that the meeting would go long, and I would have to spend at least an hour driving home to Los Angeles. Sitting next to me was Mark Dippe, Industrial Light and Magic alumnus and director of the movie Spawn, and across from me sat Dean Cundey, the guy that not only shot all of John Carpenter’s early movies, but also shot Jurassic Park and Back to the Future just to name a few. At the end of the table was producer Tom Kiniston; I had worked with Tom on the Tremors TV series, and next to him was Brian Gilbert, formerly of Stan Winston Productions. The director was Brian Levant, whom I had never worked with personally. However I was familiar with him because I was representing KNB EFX Group, and KNB had made the Turbo-Man Suits for Jingle All The Way, a Mr. Levant effort. We, along with other department heads had gathered to discuss Scooby Doo and the Curse of the Lake Monster. As we began to go through the […]

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