Star Wars!

For the love of the force…A Star Wars fan convention.

star-wars

Back in the summer of 2015 we were approached by Carl Whiteley to get involved in a large Fan Convention called ‘For the Love of the Force’.

We were asked to recreate a troop of Ewoks from Return of the Jedi, Cantina band members and Greedo. We were also asked to recreate Bib Fortuna with Alan Ruscoe who played it in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

Because of our Academy and what it stands for, I wanted to bring in students who have come through our doors and have impressed me with there quality, so I brought along Brogan Sharp, Anna McIntrye and Laura Rosemary Phillipson to help myself and my partner, Justyna Harrison build the characters needed for the event which happened on the 4-6th December in Manchester.ewok-star-wars-harrison
Justyna over saw the build of the Ewoks (we made 8 in total) Justyna sculpted one of the characters and we moulded him in fibreglass. Each of the Ewoks were produced in a soft foam which Justyna painted and furred each character to make them individual, She handmade all the costumes for the Ewoks too.

Brogan was responsible for sculpting the Cantina & Greedo heads. She moulded them in Crystacal R plaster and ran them in Latex, Brogan along with Laura seamed and painted them, We had to make 3 Cantina heads and 2 Greedo masks for the Convention. Anna sculpted the hands for the characters. It was a great job all round getting these characters made by my Ex Students and they all worked together as a team which is great to see.

I was responsible to recreating Bib Fortuna for the event. I originally sculpted and applied him when I worked for Nick Dudman as part of his crew on the Phantom Menace back in 1997 when they shot this film. It was great to redo Alan’s make up again but this time we used silicone instead of the Foam latex we used on the Phantom Menace.shaune-harrison-bib-fortunabib-fortuna-harrison-stagebib-fortuna-makeup-applicationbib-fortuna-jabba-the-hut
We brought Alan over to the Academy and we lifecasted him again, and using reference images from both the Episode 1 character and also from return of the Jedi, I sculpted him over a 2 week period. Along with Brogan (who sculpted & Moulded the Tentacles) we ran all the pieces in Pro-Gel 10 silicone. The Tentacles were run in a soft foam because of the weight issues of having them in silicone.

It was such a fun event to be a part of, seeing all our Ewoks in the Endor set, the creature masks up in the cantina Bar and Alan walking around as Bib Fortuna in the event was very cool.

Roll on 2016.

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Monsters from Ireland!

A few years ago I was asked to work on a low budget comedy Irish horror movie called Grabbers. If you haven’t seen it or heard of it, please check it out, it’s one of the funniest, most original comedy horror movies in ages and considering it was a low budget movie, the Visual effects are on par with movies 20 times its budget!

I met up with director John Wright and VFX supervisor Paddy Eason about a year before the project started up to talk about how we could make these creature effects on this tiny budget.

Paddy is a great advocate of only doing VFX work if it’s absolutely necessary and I was well aware of the amount of cgi and practical effects that were needed for this film so we all sat down and went through the script in minute detail. The main creature became a totally visual effect because of the sheer size of it (25 feet) so I concentrated on the female version which was a lot more manageable at only 6 feet in diameter. I brought on board a great concept designer, Martin Rezard who has worked on some of the biggest films in the industry, and martin came in and designed the original version of the ‘Grabberella’ (as she was affectionately known!) he also sculpted her for the film, later on Paul Catling (another amazing concept artist & sculptor) came in to work on the visuals and design environments for Grabbers.

We made 2 versions of theGrabberella, a hero ‘sleeping’ one and a stunt version to be worn by the stunt man for the scene where it attacked our lead actor. That stunt sequence was a combination of stunt Grabber and CGI tentacles which where animated to look like it was going crazy. The final sequence is pretty impressive and I don’t believe most people would know which part is real and which part is CGI. 

We also built the grabber eggs which worked out really well, they had to look translucent and be able to have babies inside the eggs that would twitch and move and be buried in the sea and let the Irish sea wash over them. Justyna Harrison built these and she used a material called ‘Sili-Glass’ as its glass clear but because it’s so brittle so softened the Sili-glass with a silicone called 7315…looked amazing!

We also built 2 severed heads for the film which turned out really well and a few ‘babies’ which essentially became ‘lighting stand-in’s’ for the actors to react against as these characters where totally cgi.

In the film you see a beached pilot whale which ended up being built by a local props man from Ireland, I only painted and dressed all the wounds onto the body of the whale, all the other whales in the background where totally digital. 

We shot the film for 3 weeks prior to Christmas in 2010 in Belfast then went to Donegal in January for 3 weeks to shoot the rest of the film, apart from the freezing cold weather and the rain and night shoots, it all went really well.

The main reason I wanted to do this film was that the script (which was written by Kevin Lehane) was such a great script, and Jon the director, the producers, Tracy & Kate and the VFX guys over at Nvisible where such a great bunch of people that I couldn’t turn it down. I also came off the back of Captain America: The First Avenger which was a great experience (doing the Red Skull character for David White) but it was nice to be working on a film where you knew that every effect you made would be used on camera. And Grabbers was such a collaborative effort and everyone jumped in when needed. (I remember one wet cold evening shooting on the sea front in Donegal, the wind was blowing the camera equipment all over the place so myself and the writer Kevin jumped in to protect the equipment with umbrella’s to keep the rain off…that wouldn’t happen on a big budget film)

Grabbers has gone on to become a cult film, and has gotten amazing reviews. It’s worth seeing the film just for the visual effects alone as they totally stand up against the big budget fx films that cost $200 million plus.

Even though I finished working on this film nearly 3 years ago, it’s still finding an audience and only last week Paddy Eason and myself got nominated for a Chainsaw Award for Fangoria (one of the best horror effects magazines of the 80’s and 90’s) for best creature effects in a movie, we’re up against the likes of the Evil Dead remake but it’s amazing to be nominated.

So get the popcorn in, and a few drinks and you never know, it may save your life! :)

Enjoy!