Mark had called and made me this deal: If I could get out to Los Angeles, and find a place to live, he would pay me $200 a week to work on the film. Now, before you catch flies in your gaping mouth, remember the year, remember I was 22, and know that it was about $20 less than I was already making at Driller's Electric. As an entry-level opportunity, I could have done MUCH worse.
I spoke with my old CalArts roommate, Steve Burg, who was working for Visual Effects artist, Peter Kuran, at VCE and was living in a one room apartment in Alhambra (a neighboring town to South Pasadena, where Mark's home and studio were located). Steve said I could crash at his place, but he had little room and nowhere for me to sleep, so I would have to figure out a solution. It came in the form of a camper's cot which is a roll of canvas that stretches over a narrow, collapsible, metal framework. Done.
Mark had described some of what we were going to provide for the movie and had gone so far as to send me a photo of the test make up he had done on friend and art director, Phillip Duffin, that landed him the job.
|Mark's test make up on Phillip Duffin (photo courtesy Mark Shostrom)|
Mark picked me up at LAX and drove me to South Pasadena where his studio was at the time. I'm not sure if Bart Mixon was with him, but the three of us ended up in a coffee shop on Fair Oaks for dinner. Bart Mixon was from Houston, Texas and had been working on low budget genre films for a few years prior. I believe that he met Mark on the set of the film FORBIDDEN WORLD. In any case, it was clear that Mark and Bart had much more practical experience than I did.
Afterwards, I met Steve Burg and saw the little piece of floor in his tiny apartment that would be my home for the next few weeks. It was clear that Steve was working in a different world. He had to be at VCE early in the morning, and would not get home until after 7 p.m. most nights. I, on the other hand, was keeping Mark's hours which generally started around ten in the morning and would go on until about two or three o'clock in the morning.
The next day, I walked to work and met the final member of the crew, Ed Ferrell. Ed, was another Southerner, however he was from North Carolina. Mark had met and befriended Ed on the set of the low-budget slasher movie THE MUTILATOR. Originally a commercial fisherman, Ed was sort of a "jack-of-all-trades type of guy who demonstrated his versatility repeatedly on the show.
|Crew Clockwise from Left to Right - Bart, Ed, Mark, and yours truly.|
|Ed Ferrell and his mechanical arm|
|Getting into the spirit of the design process.|
|Mark's cool Ghost Soldier Maquette|
|Here are the head casts we did for the show...|
|...and the hand casts!|
|A body cast mishap! How could we have let that happen?!|
|We did so much mold prep work that Mark drew this cartoon of us.|
|Making body forms in the alley! Hey Bart, don't think that dust mask is protecting you from anything!|
I shrugged it off, a.) inexperienced that expanding polyfoam was toxic as hell, b.) unaware of being necessarily worried about anything and c.) ignorant of what a "worry rash" was to begin with. I kept on pouring rigid foam, sanding it, sealing it, until finally my rash erupted and bloomed to a point that the side of my face was so affected that my eye was in danger of being swollen shut.
"Jesus, you're really worried about SOMETHING!" Mark offered. It wasn't his fault, or my fault. It was just youthful ignorance. I began a topical cortisone ritual that began to clear the affliction after a few days. The truth is that since that show and for the rest of my career, I have had a sensitivity to expanding polyfoams. Once we figured out that I had this sensitivity, Mark was kind enough to insist that I never run polyfoam for him again. In fact, that led to a funny story I'll have to tell you when I get to the movie FROM BEYOND!
|After a week or so of healing, I still look like crap!|
The night we cast the last Ghost Soldier actor, Larry (something or other...sorry, Larry), I was in one of the two rooms that comprised the studio when I heard a loud thumping impact, over and over again. Confused, and a little frightened I walked into the adjoining room to find Mark wearing a dust mask around his forehead. He had stuffed two great handfuls of hemp fibers so it looked like he was wearing a crazy, long, scraggly, blonde wig and he was HURLING balls of water clay against a door with a deranged look of complete glee on his face. The target: Larry's headshot.
When it came time to begin sculpting the Ghost Soldiers, the duties fell to Mark and Bart who were much more adept sculptors. Mark asked me to knock out a "rib cage form" sighting that it didn't necessarily have to be anatomically accurate, but it had to have enough depth so that we could built tissue paper and latex as well as foam latex on top of it so that it would look like a rotted body. I still shudder when I think of that sculpture.
|Bart sculpts, too!|
|One of Mark's oil clay sculpts.|
|My favorite sculpt, done by Bart.|
|No, I was SOBER when I sculpted that!|
|Brandford's chest (one of my illustrations is on the wall behind it)|
Ed Ferrell and Mark also designed and rigged both the effect where a Ghost Soldier has his hand blown off with an M-16 machine gun, as well as, another shot where a Ghost Soldier has his jaw knocked off. Both effects required crude, but effective soft urethane molds (Ad Rub). We made one silicone mold on GHOST SOLDIERS, which by that time was being called by its release title THE SUPERNATURALS. Silicone was extremely expensive and our humble project didn't have the resources to use the material the way it is used currently. Because of this, only Bart's skeletal sculpting form was the only thing we molded in silicone and it became an investment mold that Mark would use for years to come.
|Here's the Ghost Soldier that eventually lost its jaw.|
|Some of the "FX" arms made for the show.|
|The skeleton sculpture base is prepared for a silicone brush up mold.|
|The final silicone mold and...|
|Here's what you would get if you ran it!|
The four of us worked incredible hours, on an average about 16 hours a day and most of the time, 6 days a week! On the one hand we needed the time to do the job correctly. We produced something like 6 Ghost Solider costumes with corresponding gloves and masks. Every suit was built using either Bart's or my sculpted rib form glued onto an under-suit. I'd run foam latex (the Charlie Schram formulation), we'd spatulate it onto to the ribs and under-suit and then using texture pads and wood tools, we'd sculpt directly into the foam latex.
|Sculpting rib "forms." Sheesh! I still shudder when I look at this photo.|
The foam was run, but now we had a new problem: Where the heck were we going to bake all of the suits?
(MORE TO COME...)