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Q&A With Gary (Part 2- Directing) - 12:07 pm, 25th Aug 2014

1) IMDB is notorious for listing false information, so lets make sure that you currently have directed 4 projects. If it's more than that, what were they?

Four where I was directing first unit solidly, I have also done a host of stints as 2nd unit and effects director...as well as once jumping into the directors chair after our director was taken to hospital. The Producer just tapped me on the shoulder and said 'Looks like you're directing now!' - I had to got sit with the director in the ambulance before he left to get his notes and shot list!

2) Within The Rock is credited as your first gig as a director (and you wrote it too). How did that project come to fruition, and what was it like being a director on a full movie for the first time?

Wow...seems SO long ago now!

I had just done a film starring Robert Patrick called 'Last Gasp' which was directed by Scott McGinnis and Produced by Stanley Isaacs. After they finished the movie they formed a production company called 360 Entertainment, they then came to me with a script for 'Humanoids From The Deep 2' figuring they would get me to direct it and I would do the effects for a low number. I read the script and it was pretty awful so I pitched them the idea for 'Within the Rock' and they responded by saying 'send over the script' - problem was I didn't have one! - So that night I banged out about 50 pages and sent it over and got a pretty positive response...I hurredly knocked out the rest, then did a couple of re-writes and Peter Atkins did a polish - we pitched the script to Prism Pictures and 6 months later I was shooting a $1.2 million dollar feature in Hollywood aged 27.

The experience was a 'mixed bag' - I enjoyed directing more than any person should be legally allowed to enjoy ANYTHING, I truly found something I REALLY enjoyed and felt comfortable (if at times challenged by) I loved the technical and creative aspect of the whole thing and loved working with my actors and crew...everyday began and ended with me smiling and loving the whole gang, I tried to take all the lessons I had learned watching other directors and tried not to do all those things that directors did that I had a problem with. I thanked people, encouraged them, was open to ideas and always knew which direction I was headed in...very quickly I bonded with my DP Adam Kane and my first AD James Deck. they were both awesome at helping me achieve my vision.

The 'mixed bag' part was Stanley Isaacs, some people are put on this planet to test other humans faith, to squash creativity, to moan, complain and basically be a conduit for negativity...even when everything is going well. Here was guy who had basically spent little time on set, had little knowledge of production and who wanted to make a 50's sci fi movie. We quickly butted heads and eventually during post production I was asked to 'walk away' where he then (as the editor told me at the AFM screening I attended) 'ruined your movie' There are few people I wish physical woe upon on this planet...actually I take that back, there is only one person I wish physical woe upon...Stanley Isaacs...wherever you are Stanley...you're a prick.

But hey the film came out, we garnered some good reviews, I (like an idiot) turned down other directing offers...holding out for something better (what an idiot!) and basically it served as my 'film school' and I am grateful for that...years later I worked with both Robert And Scott who had since separated from Stanley and seemed to hold him in the same regard as me....wherever you are Stanley...you're a Prick!

3) Hansel and Gretel was a bit of a departure from the blood and horror that a lot of fans are used to from you. What attracted you to the project, and what memories have you from that shoot?

Indeed! - I was on Halloween: Resurrection in Vancouver and my old friend Gary DePew called me and said they had just lost their director on 'Hansel and Gretel' and would I be interested?...cool thought I, a dark, adult Hansel and Gretel...let me at it!...turns out it was a PG 'Hansel and Gretel' and they had already locked 'Cindy Loo Whoo' from 'the Grinch' (the now incredibly hot Taylor Momsen from 'The Pretty Things') Hmmm...why me I thought..because I know you can do it said Mr DePew. A couple of days later the producers flew up to meet me and a few days later they offered me the job.

What memories do have of the shoot? - Easiest question to answer I will ever be asked in an interview EVER.

Why?

Our second day of shooting was Tuesday September the 11th 2001....and we were the only production in Hollywood that kept filming that day.

I'll never forget directing a scene and my script supervisor (Jennifer) walking over to me, her eyes glazed and face pale and saying 'The Tower has collapsed,' we all just walked into the meeting room at the stage and watched the tv. It was hard to stay focused..but we simply had no choice, we were an independent movie, on a very tight budget.

AS a crew we were all drawn together by the tragedy of what was going around us..I have some fantastic memories from that shoot like...

Directing this young, as yet unknown actress called Dakota Fanning who was giggly and hilarious, but who was the consummate professional. I used a pink polar bear from the bedroom to communicate with her (for some reason I made him talk in a Russian accent) when she did a good job, after every take she would giggle, wide eyed and say 'Is the Polar Bear gonna talk!?'

Or doing Mogwai voices with Howie Mandel in between takes

The great fun we had letting the kids 'eat' all the cake and food in the 'Old Ladies' house. I shot a bunch of takes (as safety's first without touching the food) then on the last take (since we only had limited time and budget) I said "Right, go for it...eat it all!' - and that's the take we used, when you watch it you see Jacob (Hansel) just grab handfuls of cake with his bare hands and shove it in his mouth...they were laughing SO hard by the end of the take!'

4) No More Souls caused quite an online stir on it's release both positive and negative. What prompted you to make it, and would you approach it any differently now?

No More Souls was prompted by Claire Jane Vranian and Mike Regan really, we had just got back from shooting Deader and Hellworld and I was complaining that 'that was it, I'll probably never get a shot at directing a Hellraiser movie!'. They were both very vocal in saying 'Well why don't you?' and the idea sort of blossomed from there. The only negative I have ever really seen (and it gets probably 99% great responses and reaction on youtube) was to the fact that Doug didnt play Pinhead but you have to understand it was made a as a 'bit of fun', it was like amateur dramatics!....we barely spent any money and the total crew was about 7 people hahaha. We shot it and then people kind of jumped and helped out (on post production), but it was never meant to be a big, professional production...although I (we) worked on several of the movies and we were pro fx artists it REALLY was made as a fan film. In regard to me playing Pinhead, I was only with an English accent!...if it had been an American character I probably would have had someone else play it...trust me I didn't particularly enjoy directing wearing that make up...its a nightmare trying to look through the camera with all those pins!...I ripped part of the make up off as soon as I was done for the rest of the shoot so I could handle the camera!

But It's been a joy to read the reaction and meet people who really liked it, I was overjoyed when Paul Kane included it in his book about the Hellraiser Legacy and when Dimension asked to have it on the Deader dvd as an easter egg!

5) Jack and the Beanstalk took you back into family film territory, did your experiences on Hansel and Gretel make for an easier shoot on this? Also, what were the main (if any) problems you encountered?

Jack was an awesome experience and I had a great time making that film! Sure it was tough, we had a very tight shoot (15 days) but I had a great cast and crew and more importantly the support and help of a great producer (Gary DePew) which makes a huge difference.

By the time I got to film Jack I think I had a pretty good idea of what I consider the 'directing process' and I did (do) a great deal of prep with my Director of Photography and first AD, we roughed out scenes, compiled shots list, discussed camera moves, equipment and how best to achieve our days (which is REALLY critical) I personally hate being on sets where everyone is asking 'What are we doing?' - I consider those 12,13,14 hours a day to be the most valuable time and if you waste any of it you're a fool...you have to stay focused and constantly push forward. Some crew might find that tiresome, but I actually think people enjoy it, the day goes fast and there is momentum, I'm also very vocal about thanking people and trying to make the day as fun as it can be...without it getting silly. I had an amazing cast and was especially happy that Chloe (Grace Moretz) was with us, I had met her MONTHS before we shot and we hit it off straight away and I thought we would lose her...but luckily she really wanted to do the film and she was a BLAST on set (as were ALL the cast ) as soon as we were done she got the part of Hit Girl in 'Kick Ass' and the rest of course is history! But look at that cast!!!.... Wallace Shawn who I adore and got to homage Princess Bride on camera, Christopher Lloyd!, Chevy Chase, the very sexy Katy Sagal, the very filthy Gilbert Gottfried (who I still keep in touch with) Colin Ford, (Big) Dave Mattey, my great friend Danny Roebuck and of course Darth Vadar himself James Earl Jones!

The hard thing about that movie was a making a G rated movie, its very tricky to make something live action, G rated and humorous without being so safe, so neutered that its boring and uninteresting. I know its essentially a children's film but I really wanted to make something a parent could watch with a child without anything offensive and still have a good time. Its been great to read reviews where people embrace it, or reference movies like Labyrinth and Never Ending Story or thank me for making a piece of 'safe' entertainment.

I know it's just a silly little film but I am very proud of some of it, especially how it looks considering it was shot in just 15, 11 hour days..with no re-shoots or additional photography! I love the 12 frame - black and white sequence with great piano soundtrack ( inspired by all the Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy I watched as a kid) and the crazy frame ramped Ninja pillow fight ( I love that people critique being able to see the asian stunt double for Chloe not realizing that it was a joke!)...even the 'hi-tec' opening with my nod to cyclops! (my favorite x-men character)...and wrting wise I am so proud of the whole backwards scene with Chevy Chase and my tip of the hat to Monty Python's Lumberjack/Pet Store sketch..especially since I got to play a Lumberjack!!!

6) Do you prefer directing your own material or others?

Hmmm...interesting question, honestly I haven't really ever directed 100% something written by someone else...I tweaked the hell out of Hansel and Gretel and I did two full re-writes and a polish on 'Jack and the Beanstalk'...I'd honestly LOVE to direct something written by someone else that I believed in enough to 'leave it alone'

7) Any future plans to step back into the directors chair?

I'd LOVE to, and there have been possibilities and rumors...unfortunately things just haven't fallen into place, I'd love to direct, certainly love to be paid a decent amount to direct, the reality is that until you get into the decent budget world there really is NO money in it!...getting paid $60 -70k might sound like a lot...but trust me, you're going to be on the thing for a year to two years...and by the time you're finishing post you are BROKE!...especially when you start dumping parts of your fee back to production for extra visual effects shots or music!

ADDENDUM:

How Ironic, I've just ended up back in the directors chair and what a great time I had!...sure it was only one day and it was a fairly in-expensive shoot but it was awesome...and I cant wait to share all the details!!! (and show the pics!)

8) Which directors do you admire the most and why?

I suppose the directors I admire the most are the ones who are consistently good, there is a lot of 'chance' in the film industry and a lot of collaboration...so you cant judge a director on one film, especially if you weren't there to see how much 'they' actually did.

Names that spring to mind are legends... Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Scorcese, Coppola, Hitchcock, David Fincher and of course Stanley Kubrick - the one director whose films i TRULY believe get better and better the more you see them (in the same way a fine champagne tastes better with every glass and cheap champers makes you want throw up after the 2nd glass)

I also have a huge amount of respect for Martin Campbell, Bryan Singer, JJ Abrams, Robert Wise, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Joel Cohen etc

Of the directors Ive worked with I love working with Patrick Lussier, he knows what he is doing and is a joy to work with, most of the directors on the above list I haven't worked with...except for David Fincher (Gone Girl) ...and all I can say is that for the few days I was lucky enough to to be hired by him I watched very closely (treating every second I was there as a 'paid for' master class) and I saw a genius at work, a man who wasted no time, understood every facet of the production around him, a man who did not suffer fools gladly, who LOVED the process and the random situations it sometimes created and always seemingly knew how to deal with them, who welcomed collaboration (when he asked for it - hahaha) who knew what he wanted, but whose ego wasn't so big that he wasn't open to change if something different was better...a man who simply wanted you (as a crew member) to do exactly what HE wanted, to the best of your abilities, without compromising him....and I relished and enjoyed every minute of it.

My reward? A firm handshake, being looked straight in the eye by the man himself and hearing 'Great job Gary- thank you!'

Honestly?... I'll take that over a gold statue.

New Webcourse Coming Soon From Gary - 2:24 pm, 22nd Aug 2014

Please click here to see the fantastic teaser for a new special make-up effects web course that Gary is doing for The Stan Winston School of Character Arts.




R.I.P. Dick Smith - 10:55 am, 31st Jul 2014

Special make-up effects legend (and I don't use that word lightly) Dick Smith has sadly passed away.

He created cinematic wonders way before todays reliance on CGI and will be greatly missed.

Below is a quote from Gary that gives an example of how supportive and influential Dick Smith was of his fellow make-up effects artists.



Q&A With Gary (Part 1- Acting) - 6:00 pm, 10th Jun 2014

What was it like acting on a movie for the first time? Were you nervous, or had your previous 'behind the camera' experience put you at ease?

Well, oddly enough I had always wanted to be an actor. Prior to doing fx that was my main dream and there were many opportunities for that to possibly happen with teachers at school applying for various grants and positions at some of the top UK drama schools, but these dreams were quashed pretty quickly, mainly by my Father who I suspect thought that wanting to act was just 'folly'. He was not a great fan or supporter of my dramatic endeavors... he once said to me 'If you want to be an actor come to work with me and act like an electrician'.
So it had always been on my mind, but then a situation on Dracula 2000 arose that got me in front of the camera. First of all Patrick Lussier gave me a little cameo as the dead ships Captain in the opening credits...but all I had to do there was not move or flinch despite pounding waves and a host of REAL 'nibbling' rats crawling all over me! But in that movie Van Helsing is played by Christopher Plummer, and Joel Soisson and Patrick had written an opening monologue for Christopher, he was to record later, but they wanted a temp track and asked if I would record it since I am English and can do a half reasonable German/Austrian accent...I think they assumed I would just walk in and read it verbatim...flat. But I took the dialogue, broke it down, worked on the intonation and emphasis of the parts, so when I came in to do it it was a pretty fleshed out performance...I wasn't trying to be 'an ACTOOOOR, I just did what I thought was the right thing to do. So I went into a recording studio, stood in the booth and started reading. I finished the first take and looked up at Joel and Patrick who were staring at me with a weird look on their faces...Joel clicked on the speaker and said 'You can act!' That was it really until we did Dracula: Legacy, and when they sent me the script they just said 'Hey we wrote a role for you in it!'...next thing I know I'm in Romania, in wardrobe standing next to Jason Scott Lee playing 'Tommy', a pretty nervous and cowardly camera man for the EBC!

Where were you when you first saw yourself 'on the big screen', what movie was it, and what was the experience like?

First time physically was Dracula 2000 with my little cameo, that was sort of a novelty moment, Dracula : Legacy was the first REAL on screen dialogue moment. I saw it at a Cinema in Hollywood. I was curious at first, and then as it went on I just found myself sinking lower and lower into my chair. I understand actors finding it uncomfortable watching themselves and I have a greater appreciation for what they do all the time.

Which of your acting roles do you consider your best, and of course, are there any which make you cringe a little now?

The next one hahaha..I hate all the previous ones, I just see the things I'm doing wrong :-)
Ive only done 'scenes' really, never a fully 'realised perfomance' with a big arc or anything...I think some of 'Tommy' (Dracula: Legacy) is a bit big, I think the Security guard in 'The Seeker: The Dark is Rising' is fun...although I would like to have seen the original cut, David Cunningham (the director) said it was cool...but people found it too frightening! I'm sure its 'heresy' to say this but I think my Pinhead in No More Souls is quite a nice and understated performance?...I love my 'nervous lumberjack' in Jack and the Beanstalk, although I didn't realize I was channeling 'Dudley Moore' until I saw it later!

Is acting something you'd like to do more of? Possibly in some bigger roles?

Yes I would and Mr.Jackson, Spielberg, Abrams etc, etc I am available if youre interested...I'm sort of hoping that as I get older and maybe shuffle out of make up effects I might be able to do a little more...we shall see.

You did a full body burn for Dead Island, when was the first time you did that, and how the HELL do you prepare yourself (physically and mentally) to do that for the very first time?

Ive been doing stunts and have been inspired by stunt people since I can remember and having ridden motorcycles my whole life and studied various martial arts (mainly Aikido) since I was about 12. It was a field I feel (if not for fx) I would have liked to have gone into. I was always pretty physical with a good sense of myself and I know (thanks to Aikido) how to fall and basically I always seemed to end up on set hanging out with stunt people and then assisting...be it moving mats or 'spotting' actors or stunt people (watching out for them, or basically being ready to grab or body protect them in case of danger)...over the years that became doing hits or small falls, driving, being jerked etc and then fire. Oddly enough fire work is something I'm VERY comfortable doing, fire work like most stunt work isn't about being a 'daredevil' or a 'risk taker' its all about 'risk elimination', taking something that looks and feels inherently dangerous and eliminating as much of the danger and chance for injury as humanly possible. With a burn that means layers of fireproof nomex underwear, a great barrier 'fire gel', good mask, rehearsal, a calm, controlled filming environment and a great, level headed back up team where everyone has one or two specific tasks and all eventualities are considered and prepared for...after that its just down to me, keeping a clear head, listening to my body (anything getting really warm, how long till I 'have' to breath etc) and trying to give a good performance. My biggest concern usually is just making sure the director gets what he wants, with a burn my only other concern (if its 'hold your breath' burn) is that I have to be aware that excitement kicks in, adrenaline starts pumping, your heart beats faster and so you burn oxygen quicker which may shorten the 'burn time', so I always try to stay as calm as possible and try regulate my breathing and heart rate as much as possible prior to being 'set alight'
Also like most things you 'build up' to a burn like that, you do partials first (hands and arms etc), learn how to move fire around and away from your body without panicking etc before doing a BIG burn.

Any 'close shaves' on a stunt, and any injuries?

Sure...broke my knee doing a 'tramp stunt' on Mimic : Sentinel in Romania, I was doing a trampoline bounce (in full creature suit) onto the back of a car, I'd done it about 3 times when they decided they could see a reflection off the metal on the tramp so they threw some black fabric over the trampoline, I didn't check it and when I did the next take my foot snagged on the fabric, stopped me getting any 'lift' and I smashed into the back of the car knee first (I wasn't wearing pads because of the creature suit :-( )...they took me to hospital and put a cast on me, I cut it off as soon as we got back to the studio since I had to work the next day :-) - I made a 'brace' I could wear and remove and I used that :-) The good thing about this story?...that last take was the directors favorite!, he liked the creature slamming into the side of the car!

Are there any stunts you've yet to do but always wanted a chance to do?

Truthfully?...I'm too old, for me that ship has sailed, I would like to have done a nice 'bike jump' on camera, but these days with the advent of freestyle motocross there are guys doing stuff that is WAY out of my league...even when I was at my peak of riding! I really enjoy the small stuff, helping out and I enjoy fire work..so I take what I can get when I can get it and I am MORE than happy to be a part of a team making sure someone else is safe.





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Pinhead Makeup
Gary applying 'Pinhead' makeup.
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