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LMC: How did you springboard into real movie FX?

JR:   I helped Kenny on a couple of projects because he was getting into bigger budgeted film and commercial projects and wasn’t having the time to work on the Vault. We worked well together and I learned a lot from him. At the time, most of the effects guys in town were working on “Robocop” and Ken was part of that. I would hang out at the local effects foreman’s house and watch Ken do amazing stuff like work up silicone molds for the Robocop gun and make dupes out of resin for stunt work. The guy that was heading up the local team was a great effects man named Jack Bennett. (I idolized Jack because he worked on all the Larry Buchanan monster movies of the 60s shot in Dallas. “Mars Needs Women”, “Zontar, The Thing from Venus”, “Creature of Destruction”, etc.) Jack’s right hand was a guy named Larry Aeschlimann and he did a lot over at his house. (He also helped assemble the ED-209 when Phil Tippett brought it to town for the shoot.) I would hang out over there, sweeping up and the like, and watch them do whatever. They had also been working on a local short film called “Cellar Space” directed by Tom Alexander (Which is now part of a trilogy running as “Dark Dealer” on British TV). While working on yet another short film, I met Tom and he said that he liked my stuff and would I like to work on a monster movie. The other guys had started the project but Robo came to town and snatched up everybody. I said yea…he was shooting on film…not TV…this was real! I got to design and sculpt the key monster for the finale of the film. When the guys finished with Robo, they went straight back to Tom’s film and saw that the young upstart was already to mold and run foam. At Larry’s house I got to see and assist on all aspects of effects work. Ultracal molds that were good solid molds…running foam rubber…silicone molds…fiber glassing…real cable operated controls...radio controlled cable actuators…polyfoams…dental acrylics…etc!! I got a crash course in the business from people that were IN the business. I had stumbled into my career goal.

LMC: Did you entertain ideas of moving out to LA?

JR:   About 1987 Larry was telling me to go to LA. He had Winston’s address and Bottin’s address, and I sent them resume’s, but I didn’t pursue it. I really wasn’t interested in going to a large pond and being a small fish. I liked the medium to small pond that Dallas was. Here were all the connections I had made for the past 2 years. People were paying my day rate, they knew what I could do…my family was here. It didn’t make sense to go. I wasn’t concerned about working on big titled films. Commercials, industrials, stage, and TV were my bread and butter. I just liked the work…not the bragging rights. 

LMC: So you didn’t entertain thoughts of seeing your work on the big Hollywood screen?

JR: Not really. Just making a living was more important. It was the work that was the thing…the craft.

 

LMC: Do you still do work with Larry and Kenny or any of the guys from the Vault?

JR: Unfortunately, Ken died many years ago. It was a shame. If he was alive today, I’d like to think we’d still be working on projects in his garage. Larry moved to New York a few years ago and did some time at Henson’s shop…but I’ve lost track of him these days. Randy works in the video department at a local college and Richard is the on air voice talent for the Craig Kilborn show.

LMC: Talk about the different types of makeup FX work (stage, haunts, TV, etc).  What do you prefer?                      

JR: I like the different types for their varying requirements. Theatrical movies need the really nice detail, but you can fix things in-between takes or have another day to work on something…TV is less detail, so you can cheat to a certain point but they are usually quicker shoots so your work has to hold up…Stage is even lesser detail, but really has to hold up. You can cheat your details, but it has to last the run of a play. Haunts….you really can let any detail go…the over all effect is mandatory and it HAS to be able to hold up for quite a while under some major physical conditions. I like them all. Stage and Haunts are easier because you don’t have to bust a nut trying to get something to look perfect if you’re constrained for time. Just get it in the mold.

LMC: How did you get into mask making?

JR:  My first mask was back in ’86 while assisting Larry. We made a mask for a stuntman (Randy Fife) so he could do a full body fire gag. Larry sculpted this horrified expression over Randy’s life cast, and molded it, and I helped pour up the rubber. That’s when I first saw RD 407 in action. I was trying to pour up stuff in a mold making rubber called Paratol 706-G…and it wasn’t working. I saw how firm the fillers made the 407 and knew instantly why it worked the way it did. After that I started making masks of whatever. My first was of a creature from the 60s Outer Limits series. …“The Chameleon” I used water based clay totally out of necessity because I couldn’t afford the large amount of Roma that was needed. Little did I know that was not only accepted, but preferred by many artists. It’s expediency came in handy on one short film where I needed to make 5 different masks in 2 weeks!

 

LMC: Where you hooked into mask making at that point?  


JR: Oh yea...once I saw what can happen with the right materials, I went crazy. I couldn’t make up my mind about what subject to do next. I’d sketch out an idea, then come up with another one that sounded like a killer mask idea.    

LMC: When did you start selling your masks?

JR:   About that time, I started taking my masks to the local magic shops and arranging for some orders, but the effects business kept me busy. I didn’t actually sell a mask (that wasn’t for a film production) until the 90’s.

LMC: Do you collect masks?

JR:   No, believe it or not. I am thinking about changing that policy after seeing all these incredible pieces that are coming out, but I know how collecting can get. You can run out of room quickly!

LMC: What style of mask appeals to you?

JR:   I like the stuff I grew up with…Don Post titles…old monster stuff of the 50s…She Creature, Teenage Frankenstein, etc.

LMC: Any favorite masks? 

JR:   Ooh…tough one. Do you mean ones I’VE MADE or ones I’ve seen?

LMC: Both

JR:   Oh…My favorite mask I made has to be Tor. Don’t know why. The eyes needed more work, etc…I just like it a lot.

LMC: You’ve created a number of classic monsters in mask form, is this a trend for you?

JR:   I’m hoping not to be known as the classic monster maker, believe it or not. I’ve got a ton of original designs that I’m trying to squeeze past all the requests for classic monsters. I love making masks…but not always the classics, but if I were to collect any, they would be the classics…if that makes any sense.

LMC: What about creating original concepts?  Some of the work you did for Death Studios

JR:   The first I did for Jeff was Klutch Furst and that was really just a licensing deal. That’s a mask I did for myself  for Halloween. I hadn’t seen any Rat Fink type of mask, up to that point (besides Jeff’s licensed Rat Fink piece) that made me think of the old hot rod stuff of the 60s. So I knocked it out for myself and Jeff saw it in my e-mail portfolio and wanted it. Darkside Paul is carrying it this year. The Gravedigger was a collaboration between Jeff and I and that was fun. He knows what the collectors want and I followed his direction. I tried to think of an old bitter lonely man that could “slit you up a treat” and bury you without thinking twice. I probably spent too much time on it, but I’d still like to refine some stuff. I’m not sure how well it’s done in sales, but people respond to it. The Chupacabra was another piece I did for fun and actually sold only 2 or 3 copies. Jeff is licensing that this year from me. In the mid 80s I would look as Jeff’s catalogs and be amazed at the originality of the designs and how at the time it left Don Post in the dust, so I’m proud to have pieces at Death Studios.

 

 

 

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