Gus Krieger, Writer/Director/Producer, The Binding Film
Jeff Farley, President, Obscure Artifacts
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter, www.jhandel.com
Lisa Younger, Actress/Writer, www.lisayounger.com
Jeff G. Rack, Producing Artistic Director, Unbound Productions
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: It’s almost Halloween, so tonight on the Buzz, we are looking at horror movies; well, that and all the Apple announcements this morning. We start with Apple, who announce several new laptops today, along with a major new upgrade; to Final Cut Pro X. James DeRuvo and I will both have comments on this, followed by analysis from Jonathan Handel, on the SAG-AFTRA strike of video game developers.
Larry Jordan: Then, from new technology to the dark of night, Halloween approaches. Gus Krieger is a Writer, Director and Producer, who earns his living scaring the socks off people. Tonight, Gus explains what it takes to create a scary film.
Larry Jordan: Next, Lisa Younger is an actress who has made a career out of acting in horror films. Tonight, she explains how she got started and what makes acting terrified so much fun. Next, Jeff G. Rack is an Art Director who specializes in sets that inspire fear. Tonight, he talks about how to design for maximum terror.
Larry Jordan: Next, nothing says fear like blood dripping off someone’s face. Tonight, Emmy nominated Makeup Artist, Jeff Farley, joins us to talk about creating truly frightening looks. Brace yourself, the Buzz starts now.
Male Voiceover: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking: Authoritative; one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals. Current; uniting industry experts. Production; filmmakers. Post-production, and content creators around the planet. Distribution; from the media capital of the world, in Los Angeles, California, the Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry; covering media production, post-production and marketing around the world. This year celebrates our 17th year of podcasting. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan.
Larry Jordan: Apple made big news this morning, announcing both new hardware and a major upgrade to Final Cut Pro X. James DeRuvo will be along in a couple of minutes, to talk about the hardware, but I want to spend a minute talking about Final Cut Pro X. The big news is an all new interface; I’ve spent the last couple of weeks using it, in order to create all new training. Apple’s goals were to remove distractions from the center of the frame; improve the visibility of the video clips; and cluster buttons and features in groups that made more sense for editing. Along the way, Apple also revised the magnetic timeline, added a whole host of smaller, but still important feature and function improvements and significantly, added support for wide color gamete media.
Larry Jordan: I want to spend a moment talking about wide color gamete media. Since the introduction of video in the late 1940s, what we see on the screen is only a fraction of what our eyes can see. Each major change in video, from black and white to color, to high definition to 4K, has been an attempt for our media to more closely resemble what our eyes can see. The latest version of this effort is video defined by Rec. 2020. Now Rec. 2020 is similar in concept to Rec 709 for HD, it’s a spec that defines things; like color space, saturation, resolution and so on. Apple’s support for wide color gamete media is the color space portion of the Rec. 2020 spec. The problem is that, while Final Cut and Pro Res now can Handel 16 bit color, our computer monitors can’t; though, a video monitor can. This means that we can shoot really high quality images; we can edit these images, but we can’t yet see these images properly on our computer screens.
Larry Jordan: One of the big benefits to the announcements this morning is that, Apple is taking steps to move both software and computer displays out of the limitations of Rec 709 and expanding into Rec. 2020. But they can’t get there all at once, they need an interim step and that interim step is called P3; part of the way between 709 and 2020 and you’ll be hearing more about this in the coming months.
Larry Jordan: I have an article on my website, at larryjordan.com, detailing more about the features in the latest version of Final Cut Pro X and my article includes a link to a new whitepaper on Apple’s website, that talks about this new color space, in illustrated detail; and I encourage you to read both. By the way, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter, at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue, every week, gives you an inside look at the Buzz, quick links to the different segments on the show and curated articles of special interest to filmmakers; and best of all, every issue is free and comes out on Friday.
Larry Jordan: Now, thinking of Apple, it’s time for a DoddleNews update, with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry, how are you?
Larry Jordan: Well, I tell you, my pen almost ran out of ink. What’s going on with Apple, what’s the news?
James DeRuvo: Well, it’s all about the touch bar; but, you know, today is the 25th Anniversary of Apple’s very first laptop computer. I think it’s the PowerBook 190. Apple announced the new Macbook Pro today, which they said, get this, is 6.8 million times faster than that original PowerBook.
Larry Jordan: 6.8 million. Okay, so what does this new speed demon do?
James DeRuvo: It comes in two different models, three different configurations; so, could they have made it any more confusing? I don’t think so. But there’s going to be a 13 inch Macbook Pro and a 15 inch Macbook Pro. The 13 inch is divided up into two different models; they both come with dual core i5 processors; the new Skylake processor; with the Intel iris graphics and a 256 gigabit SSD drive. Also has two thunderbolt three ports. Prices will start at 1499. The difference between the two 13 inches is one has the touch bar and the other doesn’t; and we’ll get to the touch bar in just a second.
James DeRuvo: Then there’s the 15 inch Macbook Pro, which comes with a touch bar. It comes with the i7 quad core processor and these Radeon Polaris graphic cards and four thunderbolt three ports. Starting price on that one is 2399. The reason why I say it’s all about the touch bar is, because the majority of their time, talking about the Mac Pro, was all about this new thing called the touch bar; which replaces that row of 45 year old function keys that nobody uses on the keyboard.
Larry Jordan: Just a minute, I use the function keys; so almost nobody uses. Go ahead.
James DeRuvo: Mine has a nice layer of dust on them. This is really cool, is, it’s a Retina touch bar, that has the Force Touch built into it; and depending upon what App you use, the touch bar changes its configuration according to what it is. If you’re editing music in a garage band, all the buttons will change. If you’re editing in iMovie or Final Cut Pro, all the buttons will change. You can customize these buttons, you can assign these different buttons to do different things; and because it has Force Touch, it does what they announced in Final Cut Pro today, is that they’ve taken the timeline and put it onto the touch bar; so you can actually use your fingers to do little edits. Ripple edits and insert editing and all types of stuff, right onto this little tiny touch bar. It’s the craziest thing.
James DeRuvo: You can drag buttons from the screen onto your touch bar, because it’s essentially just this, I don’t know, half inch long, half inch tall, then 12 inch long retina screen is really what it is; and you can drag and drop right onto the bar. If you want to grab a clip and drag it into the timeline, you just grab the clip from your … and drag it onto the touch bar. Craziest thing I’ve ever seen and it’s really cool.
Larry Jordan: I am very interested in seeing one in person; I’m sort of dubious but I’m willing to be persuaded it can be a good idea. James, where can people go on the web to learn more about what’s happening at Apple and around the industry?
James DeRuvo: All these stories and more can be found at doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the Senior Writer for DoddleNews and returns next week with a weekly DoddleNews update. James, thank you so very much.
James DeRuvo: Okay Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye-bye.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an Entertainment and Technology Attorney of Council at TroyGould in Los Angeles. He’s also the Contributing Editor on Entertainment Labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter; and best of all, he’s a regular here on the Buzz. Hello Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Larry, it’s a pleasure to be back.
Larry Jordan: So SAG-AFTRA is on strike against the video game developers? What’s the story?
Jonathan Handel: They are. They’ve been negotiating, on and off, mostly off, for the last almost two years, starting February of last year, when the existing contract expired. A year ago, the members authorized the board to call a strike in its discretion and the board did do that, about a week ago, I’d say actually.
Larry Jordan: Well the union has characterized the game industry as having a freeloader model of compensation. What are they talking about?
Jonathan Handel: The issue and what they’re referencing is the lack of residuals in the video game industry; so, the union says, you know, residuals are what allow actors to live from gig to gig and the television and theatrical business, of course, residuals are a key part of actors’ compensation. Average residuals make up something like 40 or even 50% of an actor’s total compensation income in a year. But the video game industry does not pay residuals and, by calling this a freeloader model, the union are saying, look, the only reason these actors are available to work for you guys and the video industry, is that other industries are paying them residuals; so you are freeloading off of that.
Larry Jordan: Who is the creative artist here? Because, you’ve got the actors who are providing the voice talent, but you also have animation and graphic artists that bring the games visually to life. Why should the actors get residuals and the developers not?
Jonathan Handel: That’s right. Many of those other folks are on staff and work for many months on a game, whereas the actors may work for a few days, each given actor. The answer that is two-fold; one is that, we are seeing an overlap or clash of cultures here. Actors come from a culture where they do get residuals and it’s part of what’s customary and part of what’s often essential for them to survive economically. The other point is that, many of those other works work for companies where they get a form of secondary compensation or [backend] as well and they might stock options. So, those folks are working, you know, for some given period and they’re going to get something that is going to be very valuable if the company is successful; namely stock options.
Larry Jordan: Is this an issue of philosophy, of contract wording, or is it actual economics?
Jonathan Handel: Well, it’s an issue of philosophy in many ways, at this point, more than wording and more than economics. The reason for that is that the union has also agreed that they would accept a system where there would be residuals, but in the discretion of the company, the company could buy out the residuals in advance. The companies have tried to say, this is terminology, why is the union on strike over terminology? Of course, that answer can be flipped on its head. If it’s just terminology, why don’t the companies simply compromise and say, okay, it’s just terminology, we’ll agree to your terminology?
Jonathan Handel: Frankly, it’s a bogus point to call it terminology. It is philosophy. The fear on the part of the companies is that, by paying residuals, they sort of symbolize the growth of the union within the industry. They may prompt other people to ask for residentials; it may prompt other people to want to unionize; it may prompt the beginning of a system that becomes more and more complex and ultimately costly, as residuals. You know, in TV and theatrical, it’s a very complicated system.
Jonathan Handel: All of that is the substantive difference in cultures here. Neither side has taken an approach that I think might make some sense, which is, okay, if the companies are not comfortable with residuals, why not offer stock options to actors? Traditionally stock options are triggered based on how long you’ve been at the company; but, in fact, it’s not required that options work that way. Options could work based on the system essentially of box office bonuses; how well does the game do; how many units are sold, which is exactly the set of triggers that the union was looking for in its residuals provision.
Jonathan Handel: So there is a way, it seems to me, of bridging this gap, but unfortunately right now, both sides are at the point where they feel insulted by the other, they feel that any movement towards the other would be a concession of weakness and, so, there’s no meeting scheduled and they’ve dug in their heels.
Larry Jordan: What do you see as the practical effect of the strike? How is this going to play out?
Jonathan Handel: The companies like the SAG-AFTRA actors, because they often are, you know, the people who are at the top of their game, no pun intended I guess, and have the skill set. There’s a professionalism there and, so, that becomes an issue. There are SAG-AFTRA actors who work very reliably, very heavily in games and are hired over and over again; you know, not because they’re famous or even recognizable, per se, but because they deliver the goods when they’re hired.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, where can we go on the web to learn more about all these issues?
Jonathan Handel: Well, two places; thrlabor.com is a redirect to our labor coverage; and to follow me a little bit more directly, jhandel.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s jhandel.com and Jonathan Handel is the Contributing Editor on Entertainment Labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Thanks very much Larry.
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Larry Jordan: Writer, Director, Producer, Gus Krieger, earns his living scaring the socks off other people. His work includes The Killing Room, Would You Rather Fender Bender? And The Binding. Gus, I think I’m delighted to welcome you to the program.
Gus Krieger: That ambiguity is a good thing, I think.
Larry Jordan: Gus, you write scripts for both horror and documentaries; which do you prefer?
Gus Krieger: You know, I’ve got a special fondness for both; you know, true stuff and the fictionalized scary stuff. But I think my heart lies with horror.
Larry Jordan: Oh good, because we’re talking horror tonight. How is writing for horror different from writing other scripts?
Gus Krieger: You know, you’ve also just got to be keeping the audience in mind with a horror or a thriller screenplay. You know, you’ve got to have that kind of opening night scenario in mind or people at home with their popcorn and their DVD, because, if the movie is not kind of actively working on the viewer in some way, in any given moment, then you messed up.
Larry Jordan: Well, how do you start planning a script? Are you reading the newspaper searching for disasters?
Gus Krieger: You know, I’m probably guilty of some real-life kind of pillaging at one point or another; but for me it’s always kind of more of the kernel of an idea and if something is compelling to me in that way. Usually, if I find that it doesn’t kind of leave my brain for a couple of weeks or months, then I know that there’s something there and have to go and explore it further.
Larry Jordan: Is the writing process different if it’s your idea versus an idea that’s been given to you from another Producer?
Gus Krieger: Yes. I mean, the difference is, you know, obviously you’re just kind of servicing your own whims versus somebody else’s. When you’ve been kind of literally hired by someone else to execute their vision, you’re sort of at their mercy and if they have an idea you don’t agree with, necessarily, you still have to go along with it and find the best way to make it work and make sense for yourself; whereas, if it’s an original thing that you came up with, you’re kind of unrestricted by any of that and it’s a little more free and fun that way.
Larry Jordan: There’s lots of different ways to write scripts and we’re not going to necessarily talk about all of them. But, in a few minutes, we’re going to hear from an actress who specializes in acting in horror films and she tells us that, most horror scripts are pretty light; leaving room for lots of improvisation on set and much visualization, but not a lot of conversation. Is that true for horror scripts in general, or is that just a statement that is applicable to a single writer?
Gus Krieger: You know, I think that that’s a fair statement, kind of as far as the broad genre conventions go. You know, traditionally kind of act three of at least the flasher sub-genre is, you know, the lead kind of running around being chased and there’s not a lot of dialog, usually, by the time it gets that [mono or emono] showdown or women emonster as it were. So, you know, it makes sense that an actor would rely more on kind of physicality or what happens to them in the moment. The spontaneity in all that might be a little freer when it comes to acting scared than when there’s a very kind of tightly structured more dialog heavy script.
Larry Jordan: It may be just my old fogginess, but when I think of writing I think of writing dialog and I realize, in a horror film, an actor’s either running, fighting, or hiding; there’s not a lot of words there. What are you actually writing?
Gus Krieger: Well, you know, depending on the filmmaker and if you’re a Writer/Director or if you’re writing for somebody else, people like to kind of have varying degrees of specificity, all that. You know, I’ve seen screenplays where it’s just, you know, he chases her around the house and then that translates into, you know, 15 minutes of screen time, in cases where it’s very specific and granular in terms of, you know, she scoots three inches to her left, she holds her breath, the shadow passes by her face; you know, that kind of thing. It kind of depends on the style of the person doing the scripting.
Larry Jordan: It doesn’t start with the line, let’s split up and then she says improv after that?
Gus Krieger: You know, that would be a good kind of mold, a good framework. A good jumping off point.
Larry Jordan: In the past, when I look at films like Wait Until Dark or Rosemary’s Baby, these were heavily story and character based films; horror films today tend to focus more on violence and blood. How important is story in today’s films?
Gus Krieger: You know, it’s a good question because I think that, there are a lot of people that kind of have that notion. I think that, if you look hard enough, you can find movies that still kind of strike a good balance of each. There was a movie out this year called The Witch, that was directed by a gentleman named Robert Eggers, I believe. That was a movie that had some very extreme, very kind of specific moments of gore and violence; but outside of those would probably total, you know, maybe three minutes of screen time in 100 minute movie. You know, it’s a period piece about a religious family living on the outskirts of a wood in the 1800s; so, that movie kind of played more like The Crucible or a work of literature than a straight horror movie; even though, ultimately, that’s very much what it was. I think, if you know where to look, you can still find films that kind of strike that 1970s balance of story and thrills.
Larry Jordan: From a writing point of view, when you’re thinking of your actors, are you using a horror film more as an ensemble, or are you looking at something which is more star driven?
Gus Krieger: You know, it’s a good question; because you find great examples of both. You know, Rosemary’s Baby, which you mentioned, is a very good example of something that’s, you know, a vehicle for that lead actress. You’re with her, you know, 85% of that film, even when there’s other folks around. Then, I think, maybe from some of the more ensemble, slasher pieces are always more of a group by their nature and kind of benefit from that; because, if there’s not a star there, then you don’t necessarily know who’s going to be the one to make it out alive; which kind of adds to the kind of tension aspect of it. If you have kind of eight characters that are all given equal weight, you’re not sure who’s going to go next and that can be a lot of fun.
Larry Jordan: Fun is such a relative term.
Gus Krieger: Movie fun.
Larry Jordan: What’s the process of writing the script and what I’m looking at here is, it’s like comedy, once you understand the punch line, the joke isn’t funny anymore. How do you keep that audience tension that we all look for in a horror movie, when you know in your head how it’s going to end?
Gus Krieger: Sure. Yes, I mean, the kind of big question that hangs over every horror movie, you know, it’s going to be one of the ones where the main person makes it out alive or one of the ones where all the good guys die and the triumphant person. There’s always ways to kind of keep things fresh within that; some of the tactics are a little cheaper, you know, you blast a lot of noise when a cat leaps out of the closet and some of them can be a little more kind of creeping and subtle and it’s something that you don’t think got you too bad in the movie theatre; but then, once you get home, you’re checking the closet before you go to sleep. So, there’s all kinds of ways in.
Larry Jordan: Is there still a challenge in writing a horror film? Is there still something new to discover; or do we just go for more graphic examples of violence?
Gus Krieger: You know, the neat thing about the genre is that, every time we kind of collectively think that we’ve hit a wall, somebody comes along and turns everything on its ear. You know, for a while we thought that the slasher genre was completely stale, coming out of the 80s, and then Wes Craven did Scream and that pumped a bunch of new life into that; we got another ten years of, you know, teen, whodunit flashers. Then, once that started to get a little more tired, The Ring came along and then everything was Japanese remakes for a couple of years. Then people got bored with that and Hostel came along and everything turned very extreme for a while. After that was Blumhouse and they were back to the more kind of PG-13 ghosty elements. Every eight or ten years or so, the popular version of these movies kind of take another left turn, which is part of the reason that I think it’s endured for as long as it has.
Larry Jordan: You wear multiple hats; you’re a Writer, you’re a Director, you’re a Producer; we’ve been talking about writing, because it all starts with the script, but of the three, which do you enjoy the most?
Gus Krieger: Enjoy can be a little bit of a relative term; you know, enjoyment versus fulfillment and all the rest of it. When things are really kind of firing on all cylinders, the Director side of things can be extremely exciting; because you kind of have an army of artists and craftsmen at your disposal, to help execute everything that you’re currently attempting. It’s kind of unlike any other job, in that regard. You know, I imagine maybe an architect feels that way, how you design something that’s kind of theoretical and then you get, you know, all the best people that you can or that you can afford to come and help you actually create the thing.
Gus Krieger: That aspect is pretty great but, you know, by definition, Directors kind of have less opportunity to ply their trade because of how much kind of goes into kind of getting it up and running. You know, sometimes it can be a nightmare if the mechanism is not functioning properly; but, if everybody’s kind of doing their jobs as hard as you are, that can be, you know, a really one of a kind experience.
Larry Jordan: I know that feeling; it’s like, wow, I’m in charge and all of a sudden, oh Lord, I’m in charge.
Gus Krieger: Yes, exactly, it turns on a dime.
Larry Jordan: That changes generally twice or three times in the same day, if I remember correctly. From the business point of view, can anybody make money at horror? I mean, is it still a financially successful proposition?
Gus Krieger: Yes. I mean, you know, it’s tough. Unfortunately, you’re seeing in the movie industry, all over the country, the shrinking and disappearance of the middle class. You know, it used to be a $3 million horror movie was low budget and now that’s in the higher end of what most of these are costing these days and everybody goes into it kind of hoping for that lightning strike. I mean, something like Paranormal Activity truly was the lottery; they made it for something like, I think, 30 grand and then it grossed, you know, close to 100 million worldwide, or 60 million; you know, some insane profit margin on that and that’s what everybody kind of going into it hoping.
Gus Krieger: That’s an unusual example but it’s getting harder and harder to be super profitable, but, as long as you kind of have a unique and interesting and different story to tell, there’s always a market for that.
Larry Jordan: Can you find it in distribution, or is it done just through indie?
Gus Krieger: You know, it can kind of swing both ways. I’ve known people and I’ve done it myself where, you know, you just kind of hope for the best; you hope to play the festival. They get, you know, a pick up without festivals or I’ve known plenty of people that, these days, just make a movie and release it themselves on iTunes; so, you know, it’s super independent. It’s the film equivalent of self-publishing an eBook or something like that. The nice thing about social media and that whole side of the business now is that, if something again is brilliant or truly unique, it will find its audience, even if it doesn’t get a theatrical release or a traditional kind of platform studio release. That’s comforting, the fact that you can still find quality stuff out there just based on recommendations and all that kind of stuff.
Larry Jordan: Gus, for people that want to keep track of the stuff you’re working on, where can they go on the web?
Gus Krieger: You can find me on Twitter @mrgusk and I think that’s probably the best point of contact. My page there has references to other websites and all that kind of stuff. My most recent movie, The Binding film, is on Twitter on that hat @thebindingfilm.
Larry Jordan: Gus Krieger is a Writer, Producer, Director, with his most recent film being The Binding and, Gus, thanks for joining us today.
Gus Krieger: Yes, thank you.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye-bye.
Gus Krieger: Bye-bye.
Larry Jordan: Lisa Younger is an Actress and Writer, trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts; currently living in New York. She’s appeared in numerous award-winning web series, stage productions and films that routinely make the festival circuit. Hello Lisa, welcome.
Lisa Younger: Hello, thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: What got you interested in the horror genre in the first place?
Lisa Younger: It was just by happenstance that I was cast in my first horror film. After that it became very commonplace; I found myself very easily being case in those roles and I started to divert to a horror sub-genre of horror comedy and I think that’s where I’m really at home.
Larry Jordan: Horror comedy. Is that possible?
Lisa Younger: I know, it’s relatively new and, if you Google it, there are articles about it. It’s so much fun to do and it melds everything that I love about horror, which is the physicality of it and the challenge and the lightheartedness and being able to just go as far as you can into the absurd.
Larry Jordan: What’s the challenge of doing horror? I mean, don’t you just sort of stand in the corner in a dark room and scream?
Lisa Younger: Yes, that’s part of it. Horror is interesting because it can be very tense on the set. I do think the tone of the film tends to introduce that, in terms of how people work; and I also think it’s tough because, you’re always in a state of tension as the character. If you look at horror films, everyone is either running away, fighting, or hiding; and they usually have some type of physical limitation. You know, I played a character who had a broken leg, so she was limping and, characters after they get into a fight with the villain, then they have these wounds and they’re usually always lost as well. It’s like they walk into a building that they’ve never been into before, they’re just in these new situations. They’re lost, they’re scared, they’re running, they’re confronting the villain, they’re fighting the villain, they’re hiding from the villain; it’s a lot.
Larry Jordan: How do you prepare your body for horror scenes and your voice; especially for screaming?
Lisa Younger: The voice, I find, as long as you scream from your diaphragm, you really can do it again and again and again; and it’s not going to hurt you. In terms of in my body, you have to start from a place of extreme relaxation; so, I think meditation and yoga and just you doing a body scan before scenes at the beginning of the day can really help; and then, when you’re in that place, you can build tension where you want the tension to be. You have to show fear to the audience, so, you do have to create tension; but you want to do that consciously.
Larry Jordan: It’s been said that horror films are the most reliable way for independent filmmakers to make money; is that true for the actors as well?
Lisa Younger: I do think there’s more horror work, there’s just so much quantity and it’s very easy for horror films to get distribution. They’re so popular overseas; so when you jump onboard in a horror film, you kind of already know that this is going to get sold. You’re not working in the dark in that sense, where you’re sort of creating a film almost on spec and thinking, maybe nobody will see this; in terms of independent filmmaking. There’s a lot of times indie films just don’t find an audience and horror really has a built-in audience; so, that’s good for everybody involved.
Larry Jordan: Do you need a good script, as an actor, to make a believable horror performance?
Lisa Younger: I think a good script is necessary. I do think, however, with horror, you have a lot of room to play with the script. Horror scripts tend to be quite short, actually; I think they leave a lot of room for just very elongated, almost silence scenes. If you watch horror, there’s not as much dialog as in other films; they spend a lot of time really building up and holding the tension. You get the script and it’s almost underwritten. But I think that comes with the understanding that, on the day, you’re going to fill that blueprint in.
Lisa Younger: I think horror these days is so different from, you know, the Rosemary’s Baby day of horror, because, those films are all about the script and they’re all about the cinematography, compared to what people are doing now. People now are much more into just the violence and the ghosts and the moment of scares.
Larry Jordan: You’ve managed to make a fairly substantial career out of horror movies. What is it that you like about acting in them?
Lisa Younger: I love the challenge, I love that they’re usually ensemble pieces; I really enjoy working with other actors and other artists and the ensemble is, I think, very important. I also just love the technicality aspect; it appeals to my meticulous detail oriented nature. You get to work with people that are really doing what they love; I don’t think anybody gets into horror because they’re not interested or they think, like, oh, it’s just a job.
Larry Jordan: Lisa, where can people go on the web to learn more about you and the work you’re doing?
Lisa Younger: I have a website. You can look me up at HYPERLINK “http://www.lisayounger.com” www.lisayounger.com and learn all about me.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word lisayounger.com; Actress and Writer. Lisa, thanks for joining us today.
Lisa Younger: Thank you so much Larry.
Larry Jordan: Jeff Rack is an Art Director for films and commercials and as an e effects artist, his work can be seen at Armageddon, Con Air, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes and many more. He was also involved in the construction and design of theme park rides. He’s designed more than 150 productions across the world. Hello Jeff, welcome.
Jeff G. Rack: Hi Larry, how you doing?
Larry Jordan: I am doing great, because I never understand the whole concept of art director and set design and I know, in the time we’ve got, you’re going to tell me everything I need to do. First, what are you working on now?
Jeff G. Rack: Well, of course, Wicked Lit is up at the moment, but I’m currently working on a theatrical show with Theater 40. It’s a piece on Chaplin and Mary Pickford; so that’s an interesting set design; because it’s the 1930s.
Larry Jordan: Well, let’s switch over to Wicked Lit and scary stuff. How do you make a set look scary?
Jeff G. Rack: You know, it’s about atmosphere; so, you want to just create an atmosphere and, actually, working at Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery, I’m starting off with a pretty good atmosphere to begin with. I just go in and augment something that’s already great to begin with, that works for each of the specific storylines.
Larry Jordan: Well, is the idea to show or to leave stuff to the imagination?
Jeff G. Rack: You know, I’m a big believer in leaving stuff to the imagination. You know, you put out there the things that will kind of trigger that imagination; especially with a Halloween or horror based show. We kind of work out of darkness and, you know, kind of carve out a darkness; so, what isn’t seen is often, you know, more effective than what is. Yes, definitely it’s the combination of the darkness with the design.
Larry Jordan: What’s the relationship between the Art Director and the Set Designer and the Lighting Designer?
Jeff G. Rack: You know, we all work in tandem. I mean, obviously, how the light hits the set and how it’s used to augment the set is important. A lot of times I’ll build in windows and make sure that there’s lighting fixtures, sconces, chandeliers, source lights that the designer can use to help create the mood.
Larry Jordan: Wicked Lit is a theater and you’ve done both theater and film; what’s the difference between art directing on film and art directing in the theater?
Jeff G. Rack: You have more money, for one. You know, when you art direct for theater, you’re usually creating one space. It might change throughout the show but it’s pretty specific what you’re looking at and it doesn’t alter. In production design, a lot of times you have to overbuild things; you build things so that a Director can come in and shoot in any direction, on the spot; you know, so it’s not as planned out usually. A little bit more work is involved, because you have to kind of sometimes work an idea 360; you know, being able to shoot in any direction. There’s a lot more involved. There’s more planning involved in something like that. But, yes, it’s a combination of that and you use more money to realize things.
Jeff G. Rack: With theater, you’ve got to be a little more creative, which I actually like; I like having to design with a limit, because it forces you to make some interesting design decisions.
Larry Jordan: For people that are interesting in seeing your interesting design decisions, where can they go on the web to learn more?
Jeff G. Rack: You know, go to wickedlit.org, to visit our website for Wicked Lit and our company Unbound Productions; and, it can give you the information on the show.
Larry Jordan: Jeff G. Rack is an Art Director for a variety of films, commercials and stage plays and Wicked Lit is one of them. That’s wickedlit.org. Jeff, thanks for joining us today.
Jeff G. Rack: Thank you Larry, appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Bye-bye.
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Larry Jordan: Jeff Farley is an Emmy nominated Special Effects and Makeup and Creature Designer with nearly 40 years’ experience. In fact, he can make anybody look like just about anything. Hello Jeff, welcome.
Jeff Farley: Hi Larry, how are you?
Larry Jordan: I’ve been talking Halloween and horror, I’m so terrified right now I can barely sit here in a dark studio; so, other than that I’m doing great. What is it that makes horror makeup so interesting?
Jeff Farley: I think it’s just the sheer fun of it. A lot of us grew up watching horror films and it sort of stuff with us and we’re just like big kids.
Larry Jordan: Well let’s pretend that a Producer wants this giant gothic looking dragon head, how do you go about figuring out how to create it?
Jeff Farley: Well, the first thing I do is get how much it costs. Really, you’ve got to talk to the filmmakers first and get their ideas of what they’re looking for and, from there, it’s a process of sort of whittling things down to materials and time and labor and, you know, just the nuts and bolts things about actually getting the job done. From there, that’s where the fun begins; it’s where the creative stuff starts going.
Larry Jordan: Thinking of the dragon, do you start with an image in your head, or does it evolve as your hands play with the different materials you work with?
Jeff Farley: Oh again, sometimes the filmmakers will come to you and they’ll have their ideas; they will already have put together a [log] book and say, you know, we want a bit of this and a bit of that and from there you try to follow what they’re going for. At the same time, you know, put a little bit of your own influence into it also; just to, again, make it creatively satisfying for yourself. That’s not always possible, but, even then you just try to do the best job you can. It’s a little give and a little take.
Larry Jordan: Do you work in other people’s studios, or do you have your own space?
Jeff Farley: Well, these days I rent space; I actually put all my stuff in storage a couple of years ago, just to fight inflation and things like that, but, when I get a job I’ll rent space over other studios. I sometimes work at one or two of these other places also; you know, to just pay the bills and just fill the time in between the jobs of my own that come in.
Larry Jordan: You’ve got a wonderful video on how you put together, I don’t know what the word is, whether it’s a costume or makeup; but you turn a guy into a monster; and these are normal looking, kind of happy to meet them on the street and, by the time you’re done, I don’t want to be within two city blocks of him. How do you make makeup scary? What do you create that makes us afraid?
Jeff Farley: Well, you’re probably talking about my nosferatu slash Batboy vampire makeup. But, in that case, there’s always some sort of deep rooted psychological fear of just creepiness and the nosferatu makeup from the 20s, I think everybody’s seen it and it really strikes a chord with people because it’s just such an effective makeup. In that case, it was a lot of just, let’s put this together and see how it works and a lot of it comes from the lighting; the camera also; just even down to the editing and the actor adding his own sort of inflections into it. The Director, of course, he’s got his take on it. It’s kind of a collaborative effort but, in the end, we just try our best and we just hope that we scare a few people.
Larry Jordan: Well, you made a point I want to follow up on. How much of your creative work is dependent upon the Actor wearing it? I mean, if you’ve got tons of prosthetics on, you could have just about any warm body under there.
Jeff Farley: It also depends on how effective the person is who’s wearing it, because, they’re literally half of the job; maybe even more, maybe three quarters of it. Look at Jeff Goldblum of the remake of The Fly or Doug Jones playing Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies and the Crimson Peak ghosts. You know, what they bring to the table is real experience and they’re able to translate through all of that wall of makeup. Somehow it enhances the entire look. It’s very difficult to describe, but it’s sort of ethereal in that way.
Larry Jordan: For me, much of what is scary is what we don’t see, where our imagination takes over. I mean, there’s nothing worse than an effect or makeup that just doesn’t work. How do you, as the Designer, balance engaging the mind versus capturing the eye?
Jeff Farley: Well, I try to go into design things based on what’s in the script. Again, it’s taking the brains of others that give you the ideas, I think of where you need to go with these things. I mean, unless they give you carte blanche and say, we love what you did on this thing. I did a feature once where I was hired to do a creature and they loved what I did in a short film and they gave me a lot of freedom. It’s a case of just, you take it as far as you can.
Larry Jordan: Is that which is creepy, that which is scary, something that we see, in other words something that you create, or something that isn’t there; or is it, really you just provide a palette and the lighting and the camera goes from there? I’m looking at the balance of where you fit into the whole puzzle.
Jeff Farley: Well, you know, sometimes we have to be there; because, it’s a visual element. Film is a visual element and by that nature, Producers and Directors like to show you images that might shock you. But that’s not always to say that, just a slight move of the camera or a sound effect, or a lighting effect couldn’t be just as creepy. I think a lot of that comes from the audience’s viewpoint.
Larry Jordan: What first attracted you to the genre all those years ago?
Jeff Farley: Well, a lot of it just came from horror movies on TV; you know, Frankenstein, King Kong; you know, just films like that fascinated me. It turned out that I was growing up over in Glendale and I could just look in the phone book and there were people that worked on the industry that I could call and I’d get information. There was a man named Forrest Ackerman who edited a magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland and I spent about three years of my life over at his place, where he had a museum. I would help show people around the museum and just absorb all of this information and just meet people and it just sort of snowballed from there. I was about 14 when I got my first actual professional job; so it’s a pretty long haul from there.
Larry Jordan: For Producers who are planning their first horror film, where should they invest their money when it comes to makeup? What is it that creates the expense and where do they get the best return for a limited budget?
Jeff Farley: Well, I think it boils down to, you know, if they really want to show a lot, then of course there’s a lot to build and that takes a lot of money. If they can pare things down to a more reasonable nature, show some things, imply other things, try to strike a balance, you know, it makes the costs more reasonable. But really, when you get into things like very heavy mechanical types of items, you know, a good deal of cost could be incurred with those techniques. A lot of shows will hire me specifically for small [gags] because I seem to excel at that; so it will kind of go from one show to the next.
Larry Jordan: Jeff, for people that want to learn more about your work or hire you for their next project, where can they go on the web?
Jeff Farley: HYPERLINK “http://www.obscureartifacts.com” www.obscureartifacts.com.
Larry Jordan: I love the name of the company, obscureartifacts.com and Jeff Farley is the President and Head Creative Director for Obscure Artifacts. Jeff, this has been a fun visit, thank you so much for your time.
Jeff Farley: I really appreciate it Larry, thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: My pleasure, take care, bye-bye.
Jeff Farley: Have a nice evening, goodbye.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting, talking about horror films and talking about making people scared; the amount of different crafts that are involved. Whether you’re the Writer or the Director, the Art Designer, the Actor, the Makeup Artist and all the other teams that put it together, it’s just been fun talking about this specific genre and all the different people that are involved in putting this together. It makes me think of how collaborative the whole filmmaking process is and how everybody’s creativity spins off everybody else’s; starting with a story and going from there.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for tonight’s show; Gus Krieger, Lisa Younger, Jeff Rack, Jeff Farley, Jonathan Handel, James DeRuvo; for all of their time and their expertise. There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website, at digitalproducctionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews, all online and all available to you today. Remember to sign up for our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday. You can talk with us about it on Twitter, @dpbuzz and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner, with additional music provided by smartsound.com. Text transcripts provided by Take1 Transcription. Visit take1.tv to learn how they can help you. Our Producer is Debbie Price; my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for joining us for the Digital Production Buzz.