Alien Life Forms 101" is a rare thing to find on a college
curriculum. What schooling or job experience helped prepare you for
the very unique position you play in the Farscape universe? In
essence, how did you get to "where you are
Good question, how
do you become a maker of alien life forms? The answer is, pop
yourself in a time machine, and go back to being a kid. Basically, I
was bought up watching endless TV shows and films with either a sci-fi
or horror theme. Especially in the 70's, TV seemed to be full of this
type of stuff, and my parents noticed that they could have some peace
and quiet if they sat me in front of it. Eventually, I wanted to have
a piece of what I was watching and the toys disappointed me. So I
started to make my own stuff. I’ve said elsewhere that I wanted to
be Baron Frankenstein, and I know that this seems to be a common theme
running through other make-up effects people as well. Eventually you
find out that the monsters are made by make-up people and not mad
doctors or scientists. So I started to absorb everything I could about
make-up and the rest is history. These days there are many books,
magazines, videos and websites dedicated to making monsters. There are
even college courses on the subject, although the only one I recommend
is the Dick Smith make-up course.
Could you please
outline the step-by-step process involved with the creation of a new
"creature" from concept to finish? When and how would the
costuming department be a part of it? Who else plays a role?
The process is
something like this: The producer/director will usually approach you
with their ideas. In this case it was mostly David
Kemper. David would say, “I haven’t written the script yet,
but here’s what I think I am going to need for this episode.” This
was called a ‘heads up’. From his description, we would determine,
if it was going to be a puppet, a make-up, an animatronic, or a
combination of these things. I would then do a design, and pitch the
ideas to David and all the relevant parties. Hopefully this would be
approved and we would then jump into the next phase. If the character
was going to involve an actor we would push for the actor to [be]
hired as soon as possible, for head casting and body casting purposes.
If the design meant that we were also going to change the actor’s
body shape, we usually felt that it was better for the creature shop
to design and build the creature costumes, rather than the costume
department. The creature costume designer was Lou
Elsey. The reason we felt it better to do it this way round was
that, given the short time span, (usually 10 days) it was impossible
to build the undersuit in time to give the costume dept enough time to
do their bit. Instead, Lou Elsey and her team would design and build
the muscle undersuit and the creature costume in conjunction with each
other. Plus, and this was the bonus, we could put creature building
technology and materials into the creation of these costumes that
would not necessarily be in a straight costume designer’s bag of
skills, thus giving us the edge. [I] have to admit that I think the
results were pretty cool, and on future projects I will suggest this
is the way we always do it. I felt that the creature shop costumes had
a nice alien feel to them, and that it was worth the effort. Don’t
Couldn’t agree more! Of all the Farscape
aliens that you've designed to date, which represents the most
challenge or difficulty in bringing to life and why?
The hardest characters
on Farscape, and this is a tough one to answer, probably ended up
being the Scarrans.
As soon as we heard that these were the characters that spawned
Scorpius we knew that these had to be some kick ass bad guys. Although
at that point no one knew that they were going to be in more than one
episode. So we pulled out the stops, and created something not unlike
the Scarrans we all know and love to hate. Of course in those days we
hadn’t yet secured the whole creature costume gig. So although the
original design didn’t look a million miles away from the way we
know and expect the Scarrans to look like, we were really just warming
up, and they didn’t quite have the characteristic Scarran costume
that I think later defined their race. The reason why I say these
things were so difficult was because we subsequently kept bringing
them back (‘cos they were so cool) and kept refining their look. In
season 4, they are the best they have ever been, and you will
understand how we artistically painted ourselves into a beautiful
corner as season 4 plays out.
everything I look at, read or watch has inspired me to a certain
extent, but two things have inspired me more than anything else.
1. The production team behind
Farscape, who fearlessly allowed us to go where no other sci-fi show
has gone before. And fully joined in, with our desire to populate the
universe with aliens that were not just empty echoes of ourselves with
slightly different foreheads.
2. The Farscape creature team,
without whom none of this would have been possible, or as much fun.
And who worked tirelessly, because at the end of the day, they just
got it! If we had been allowed to do season 5, I wouldn’t have
changed one person in the creature shop crew. They were brilliant!!
And I hope that someone will have the foresight to reunite us on
last thing, "SAVE FARSCAPE"
thanks to Mr. Elsey for taking time out to visit with the crew of