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  Sandy Collora has been in the world of FX for many years and has risen to the top of his game. He's had a burning desire to direct and hit it big with his short feature Batman : Dead End.  Unless you just crawled out of a cave, you have seen this short or at least heard how cool it is from your friends.  Sandy flew in to LMC for a quick bite to eat and an entertaining and in-depth interview.   Don't be surprised  if you see Sandy's name flashing in the director slot of a big name film in the near future.


LMC: You grew up with artistic talent, were you always doodling and drawing?

SC:  Yes, that started very, very young… I got into comic books and dungeons and dragons in about the fourth grade, my friends and I would get together at each others houses and play D&D and draw. Then in 1977, Star Wars came out… I remember coming out of that movie at nine years old, knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I was fortunate to have that direction and burning desire to create at a young age. My childhood was a very important time in my creative development, I was always drawing and making models and costumes.

LMC: Did you ever venture into mask making?

SC:  I’ve made a few masks… They’re fun. The ones I made as a kid were pretty crude, usually from cardboard and paper towel rolls. My favorite mask that I’ve made is the Sleestak from LAND OF THE LOST. Someday, I’ll do the suit to go with it.

LMC: Did you plan to have a career in the arts?  Were you aiming to work on movies?

SC: Always, I never ever strayed from that… Working in the movies was my dream since I was a kid, the only job I ever recall having that was not creative was working briefly as a lifeguard before I got hired at Stan Winston’s.


LMC: What artists influenced you growing up?

SC: There was a lot of stuff actually… Early influences were mostly comics and Heavy Metal magazine, Corben, Moebius… Frazetta, Neal Adams, John Byrne… The guys that illustrated all the D&D books and Dragon magazine were good too. The biggest influence however, was a book my mom bought me in NYC right after Star Wars came out called THE ART OF STAR WARS.  All the stuff by Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie was voluminously inspirational to me, I think to this day, that early ILM, Johnston-esque, marker style is evident in my design work.

LMC: What’s your opinion of the latest Star Wars movies?                      

SC: I’ll say this… Though I own both films, and have seen them several times, they’re not really STAR WARS movies to me. STAR WARS, for me, will always be the original trilogy. There is a magic, a passion, a sense of wonder and gritty realism in those films that the new films are totally devoid of. There’s so much cg stuff, that it almost feels like you’re watching an animated movie. I think a lot of the people in the art department that worked on the new films are extraordinarily talented, but for some reason, the original trilogy, especially Star Wars and Empire, are better looking, better designed, better acted and certainly directed better than the new films. I personally feel that Lucas has become more enchanted with the process of filmmaking and how to make cg characters, rather than the films and characters themselves.

LMC: You got your first big job with Stan Winston.  How did you get your foot in the door?  What was your primary job?

SC: It was November of 1986, I was lifeguarding and going to school, I remember not knowing really how to get my whole movie career started, so I just picked up the phone book, looked under special effects, and called the first listing, which was a company called Apogee. I told the girl that answered the phone who I was, and she connected me to very nice man named Rick Lazarini, who at that time was in charge of the creature shop at Apogee. Rick was very cool, he was very impressed with my portfolio of drawings, and told me that although they were not working on anything at the moment, that Stan Winston was working on a show called LEVIATHAN, and was looking for people, he gave me the phone number over there, and said I should talk to Alec Gillis, who was running Stan’s at the time. I got home, called over there and talked to Alec.  He asked me to come in for an interview, which went very well, he was super nice and gave me a tour of the shop. I was amazed and totally enthralled with everything that was going on there. He asked me if I knew how to make molds, to which my reply was “What are molds?”  He laughed and asked when I could start, to which my reply was “Start what?” I guess he and the guys over there really got a kick out of me, and hired me as kind of an assistant.  Since I was still in school, I could only work part time at first. I was mostly running errands, getting people lunch and doing odds and ends in the shop, which I did for many months on LEVIATHAN and ALIEN NATION, which at the time was called OUTER HEAT. After I was finished with school, I went full time that following summer and was learning a lot from all the talented artists that were there, by then I was cleaning molds and patching foam latex for the rest of those shows, and was let go when they ended. I really never did anything creative there until a few years later, Stan himself asked me to design some cat creatures for a project that eventually became REALM OF THE CLAW. I remember helping the crew move from the Northridge location to the new, bigger shop in Van Nuys. I also did a bunch of sketches and a maquette for the show they were getting ready to do at that time, which was PREDATOR 2. Those were never used, or acknowledged for that matter by Stan. But that’s ok, those samurai-inspired designs finally showed up in Batman Dead End.


LMC: You’ve worked on a number of big name movies.  Are there any that are particularly memorable?

SC: MIB was particularly memorable because I remember getting a phone call from Rick Baker, asking me to come and design creatures for the show. I get to his studio, and he greets me at the door and says there’s a design meeting with everyone, he leads me into this conference room where Steve Wang, Miles Teves, Jordu Schell, Aaron Simms, Matt Rose, Jose Fernandez, Moto Hata, Eddie Yang, and Carlos Huante are all sitting there. We all had a great meeting, talking back and forth about different designs, approaches and ideas for all the characters, Rick asked everyone to come up with different ideas for certain characters. I predominantly worked on The Edgar cockroach, Mikey, and the alien baby. Though my stint on that show was brief, it will always be very special to me because Rick felt that my design skills were at such a level as to be included in the design team with all those talented guys. It was an honor, and I had a lot of fun.

LMC: Wow, that’s quite an A-List of talented designers. 

SC:  The best of the best… the “TOP GUN” of creature designing if you will.

LMC: How was Jurassic Park?  Guyver 2, MIB to choose a few?

SC: JURASSIC PARK was different for me, because I never worked in the creature shop. I didn’t work on the dinosaurs at all. I did a lot of graphic design and concept work on the logo and the posters. I also carved a lot of the fossils that are on the walls in the park and in Hammonds office. GUYVER 2 was awesome because I got to work with Steve Wang again, we had worked together previously on a bunch of stuff, but this was the first movie Steve and I worked on together. I did a bunch of designs and concept art for the film. Steve will always be inspirational to me because he’s one of the first FX guys to break out on his own and direct. I related to him a lot because I was on that path, and had a tremendous amount of respect for him both as an artist and a director. I learned a lot from Steve on that show, and over the years. We’re great friends, Steve is always the first guy to lend a hand and help out when I’m shooting something and vice-versa. It was actually pretty special when he was on the BATMAN: DEAD END set, to have Steve there, the guy who created the original Predator! The Predator squid tentacles were out of control that night. We’re actually working together now on designs for a project I might be directing in the near future.


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