Steve Best of Fake-Up has been working in the special effects industry for years. This month, for the second in a series of monthly workshops, there’s the chance to have a go at body casting with the man himsen, upstairs at The Navigation Inn. We put a few questions to our Steve ahead of the day…
Tell us a bit about Fake-Up…
The company has been running for about two years. We started with two people, but as we're just a part time business, we now run Fake-Up with just one person, occasionally getting students in during busy times to help out.
How did you personally end up in the special effects industry?
Having been a filmmaker for many years, I've always loved the SFX side of movies. I first started working with SFX in film when I was about fourteen. Many, many years ago. After watching so many SFX artists being so creative, I decided that I wanted to concentrate on effects rather than actual filmmaking.
Do you have any rules or things to avoid when making these kinds of effects?
Health and safety is so important, as you're working with chemicals and these come in contact with the actor’s skin. Creating and applying SFX make up can be a long process, so patience is key – rushing will end up ruining the work you've spent so much time creating.
Can you briefly explain how the body casting process works?
We use body casting to create a mould of a human body part. This could be a hand, face, full head or other part of the anatomy. We use either alginate or silicone for creating a body cast, which is normally then coated in plaster bandages to offer up a hard shell for your mould. This can be a long process, especially for the actor, as with a full head cast, they can only breath through their nose, can't speak, can't see and can't hear much either.
What do you find Fake-Up special effects are most commonly used for?
We make them for all types of use. Halloween is the busiest time for us, but people buy various prosthetics for use in film, stage, cosplay and TV. We've also supplied them to first aid courses who use them in their training programs. I try not to work on film sets as their budget doesn't really cover the cost of materials, but I am doing the SFX for a short horror being filmed in April called Scratchings.
What kinds of people do you normally see at the workshops?
People who simply want to learn about the process that they often see on TV or films. We also work with people who own their own workshops and want to learn more about a certain side of prosthetic creation. Most of the people who attend our workshops either want to work in the SFX industry. We do get a lot of students at our workshops who want to further their knowledge and fill in some of the knowledge gaps that their college course may not cover.
How did it come to be that the workshops are taking place in The Nav?
The Nav has a great space upstairs with lots of natural lighting and it's close to my studio, so I don't have far to take all of the materials I need for the workshops.
Special effects appears to be art with a lot of science involved – does one aspect of it appeal to you more than others? Have you found different workshop attendees to become more interested in different aspects of it?
There are various different types of SFX artists, some who concentrate on sculpting, others who will work mainly with colours and tones and some who just love creating the silicone or gelatin masks and props you find in films like Star Trek or Lord of the Rings. I enjoy them all, but find application and transformation of an actor to be the most rewarding. Most of the people who attend the workshops enjoy the messy stuff and the creation process as this involves a lot of artistic work.
Has anyone fainted yet?
Yes, I've had people faint two or three times. When you create an open wound on their arm, it looks very real and although when, as an example, I'm sewing them up, the actor can't feel a thing, but the brain tells them otherwise. I often tell people to look away if they feel queasy. The best compliments I get are when people tell me that my work is disgusting after fainting!
Can you tell us a bit more about the monthly workshops?
We've run a few workshops now and they've proved to be popular enough for us to run one a month. We normally run for about six hours which gives us enough time to create, mould and present some finished prosthetics. We try to keep the cost as low as possible as we understand that most students don't have money to burn, but due to the cost of materials, we can't really go much lower. We're still much lower than the workshops down south though.
Anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?
We also run workshops at schools and colleges across the East Midlands, which are popular with staff and students alike. Recently we've even run SFX sessions for parties and hen nights, which is different, but loads of fun and an alternative evening’s entertainment.