Saturday, 18 January 2014

interview: Rich Knight

Rich Knight designed and created all the great make-up effects for William Winckler’s Frankenstein vs the Creature from Blood Cove. That meant he had to make not just the Frankenstein monster and an ersatz Gill-man, but also a werewolf, the Bride of Frankenstein, the ghost of Dr Frankenstein himself, assorted injuries and even scars on his own face because he was in the cast as Salisbury, assistant to mad Dr Lazaroff. Rich very kindly answered some e-mailed questions in July 2005 and also provided me with these terrific behind-the-scenes photos.

How did you become involved with designing and creating the monsters for WWFVTCFBC??
“I was originally contacted by Bill Winckler to work on the sequel to his film the The Double-D Avenger. He wanted to have me design some retro style werewolf characters for the movie. Soon after he contacted me, Bill told me that he had placed DDA2 on the back burner, but he had another monster movie in mind. Bill sent me a copy of his script for Frankenstein vs the Creature from Blood Cove and once I discovered that it was a Frankenstein remake I was hooked. That's basically where it all started, it would be two years later that the film was finally made.”

And how did you end up playing a major acting role too? Is acting something you're interested in or was it just convenient?
“The role of ‘Salisbury’ was originally supposed to go to the late actor Ed Bishop. However for whatever reason he was not able to take the part. There was even mention of casting one of the actors from the old Godzilla movies to play Salisbury, but that never happened either. As we grew closer and closer to getting the green light for the project, Bill came up with the idea of making the character a scarred victim of the creature and suggested that I play the part in make-up. This immediately appealed to me, and gave me the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of such make-up greats as Lon Chaney and Tom Savini, both of whom are famous as make-up artists and actors.

“I did have prior acting experience before WWFVTCFBC, but this would be the first speaking role I would receive. Soon after production ended on Frankenstein, I was offered acting roles for two other movies: Night Walker in which I play a vampire, and Killer Sound (currently in pre-production) where I play a musician who becomes a killer.”

What sort of brief - artistic, technical, financial - were you given for the various monsters?
“I pretty much had complete artistic freedom on this project. I had been in contact with the director for a period of two years, corresponding via e-mail and phone. I would design sketches of the monsters and e-mail them to the director, he'd then put in his two cents, and I would create more designs based on his input. This process carried on until both he and I were happy with the designs. Technically everything had to be designed from scratch, so we started with life-casting the actors and then commenced with the sculpting process.

“Financially there wasn't much to work with. Although I am not at liberty to discuss the exact amount of our make-up effects budget, let's just say that with that amount of money you might be able to buy a used car, and if you saved up some more money, and if you're lucky, you might be able to get that car to run. I ended up investing some of my own money in order to ensure a higher quality production value to the make-ups, but even with that, the money we had to work with was very low.”

Very few make-up designers have had the daunting task of creating a full-body, completely practical monster suit on a low-budget, let alone one that could withstand submersion in water. In creating the Creature, how much were you working from experience/learning and how much were you finding your own way?
“The budget was definitely tight on this project, and naturally the bulk of it went towards designing and creating the Creature suit. It wasn't really the cost of creating the suit that was most challenging, but rather the time we were given to do so. In total our crew had one month and two weeks to create not only the Creature suit but all of the make-up and effects for the film. There was a tremendous amount of work to do in such a short amount of time. On top of the time crunch, we also encountered many setbacks due to the heavy rains we suffered here in Southern California throughout the month of January.

“I relied on my experience in creating monster suits and creature effects for this project as there simply was no time for experimentation or error. This suit had to be able to withstand the abuse it would receive during the fight scenes, and be able to go underwater. To top it all off we only had enough time and money to create one suit. A shoot like this really calls for three suits (two for on-set use and one as a standby) but we were only able to create one. In addition we should have had six months to create the suit, but we were given a mere month and a half (part of which was during the Christmas and New Years holiday), despite my constant appeals to the director to rearrange the shooting schedule.

“I didn't get too much sleep throughout this shoot as I was commonly working for ten to twelve hours on set in Woodland Hills, then driving back to my shop in Riverside County (about two and a half hours driving distance) to finish the work needed on set the next day. The first week into the shoot we still did not have a Creature suit; I literally worked day and night along side my crew to make all of these make-ups happen on time and within budget.

“The Creature suit held up surprisingly well because I tried my best to account for the wear and tear that it would surely endure. I spent many hours late into the night patching and repairing the suit as well, preparing it for the next day of shooting... only to repeat the process all over again for the next day of shooting. Honestly the suit was never really finished as it was intended to be. The work was rushed in order to accommodate the extremely tight shooting schedule. In the end, the suit worked, however it could have looked and functioned so much better had the director only given us even just one more week of pre-production time.”

How long did each of the various make-ups take to apply and remove?
“My own make-up was a very simple application of rigid collodion scarring material, combined with a blind eye contact lens - the total application took me about twenty to thirty minutes. The Frankenstein make-up, a multi-piece foam latex appliance, took an average of two and a half hours to apply which is pretty standard for such an intricate appliance. It took about 45 minutes to remove the make-up. The Wolfman make-up took about the same amount of time to apply and remove.

“The Bride make-up took the longest, mostly because we had to actually run the moulds on set. I created a gelatin appliance for the Bride's stitches, but unfortunately I only had enough time to make the mould for those appliances. Once again time was against us, so to make up the difference I brought the moulds to the set and ran them right there on location. The total time for the Bride make-up was somewhere around four or five hours... but again, this was mostly time spent preparing gelatin and running moulds, actual application time was about the same as the other make-ups.

“The Creature suit was easy, simply put on the suit, darken the actor's eyes, put on the feet, the gloves, the mask and the teeth and there you have it - instant monster. It took about 15 minutes to get the actor in and out of the Creature suit. The ghost of Dr Frankenstein was just an over-head mask, so all it required was a little blending around the eyes and hands. Of all the make-ups, the Frankenstein monster was the most rigourous because we had fifteen days with the monster on set. That means fifteen separate appliance applications in a short period of time which can be stressful on anyone. Lawrence was a real trooper though, and he did a wonderful job bringing our monster to life! In all honesty I believe my crew and myself must have broken some sort of records with all the work we did in such a short amount of time, but sadly the director still felt that the average time of two and a half hours in make-up was too long.”

What did you learn from working on this film which you will be able to apply to future work?
“I think that the most valuable lesson that I learned on this shoot is the importance of a proper budget and pre-production time. I took on this project for one main reason, because it was a Frankenstein remake. Because this project appealed to the ‘Frankenstein fan’ in me I was willing to cut my salary in order to get the gig ... this was a big mistake! I believe that when you allow yourself to work for less money than you are worth the production company either has no respect towards you because of it, or they will try to get away with adding more to an already agreed upon FX budget. This project was no exception, and I suffered for my art to say the least. The most disappointing part of this sacrifice is that the director never ever realised just how much he was getting for such a small budget and he probably never will.”

interview originally posted 25th July 2005

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