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Self-described redneck Tate Steinsiek made it to the FACE
OFF final challenge with consistent work and an ability to navigate both sides
of the room while others were stirring up drama around him. We caught up with
Steinsiek a few days after the finale aired…to find him in Hawaii working for
FANGORIA: You’re in Hawaii right now for a gig, right? Not a
TATE STEINSIEK: I’m working on a picture called
PIRANHACONDA. I’m not the effects artist. They had an artist on set already. They
brought me on as the creature designer, and I built the creature. I built the
big, massive, piranhaconda puppet head. And I shipped it out not expecting to
go to set. They got the head and they loved it. But with the tsunami warning
after the Japanese earthquake, they lost a couple days of filming. What that
resulted in is they called me up, they’d seen my films before, and they asked
me, “Tate, we’re so far behind schedule in our shooting, would you be interested
in coming out and directing a B-unit for us so we can catch up on our footage?”
And I was, like, “Hell, yeah!” They flew me out, and I’ve been here for two
days directing B-unit and it’s going awesome.
FANG: I do find it hard to believe Roger Corman would allow
a tsunami warning to stop production.
STEINSIEK: Yeah, you know what? I wouldn’t be surprised—they
made everyone go to high ground. They made them go to this high school. And I
know for a fact they took the head with them. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we
see some footage that looks oddly like there’s a high school in the background [laughs]. There’s no stop to him. There’s just kind of a pump of the brakes.
FANG: That gig came from the show, right? Isn’t that a
direct connection to being on FACE OFF.
STEINSIEK: That’s a pretty fair assessment. It’s not a
direct connection, but this is a Syfy film, yes. But how it relates to the show
is… It’s funny. I’m starting to see a lot of productions feel like they know me
because they’ve had an opportunity to see what my personality is about for the
past eight weeks. A lot of times in indie film, that’s one of the hardest
hurdles to overcome—getting someone to trust you, to get them to treat you like
a person. You always have weeks of the butt-sniffing stage [laughs], for lack
of a better term, before you can get anyone to really treat you like a person.
And these guys were calling me up like they were my homies the first time we
talked. The show was basically just an eight-week business card for me. It was awesome.
They called me right up, they already trusted me, they believed what I said.
They gave me a ridiculous five-day deadline to build this enormous, beautiful
head, and I delivered. They were obviously a little nervous about someone
giving them something cool in five days time, but obviously they really, really
loved it because they flew me out and let me direct the B-unit [laughs]. FACE
OFF has definitely helped me out.
FANG: Has there been any other work or potential work that’s
come out of the show?
STEINSIEK: The coolest thing on the horizon is an indie
company, Dolphin Bay Films, and producer Joel Hulett greenlit a budget for the
HIM feature based on the character I created for the villains episode. We go
into preproduction in November. After the villain episode, there was such an
outcry for that, and so many people hitting me up saying, “This is the most
creepy thing I’ve ever seen.” I’ve had multiple people hitting me up telling me
they had nightmares about this creature, even as recently as a week ago. “I had
a nightmare about ‘Him’ last night—he was attacking me in my sleep.” That’s one
of my goals—to be making my own films. So I decided to call in a few favors on
this one. I got a cast attached, some really well known actors. I got sponsored
for my gear from a production house in New York. I’ve got locations set up.
It’s just amazing. I’m basically able to step over hurdles that I know would
have been in my way had I not been on FACE OFF.
I’ve had the concept for a number of years. He’s a background
character in a feature script I wrote a long time ago about a traveling
sideshow. But he was never focused on, and I never elaborated on him. In this
sideshow story, I’ve got probably 20 to 25 freaks and characters that populate
this circus and roam around in the background. And me being an
attention-to-detail freak, I sat down one day and I created an entire character
list, and just for my own benefit of understanding them I went into detail for
each character. And “Him” was one of the characters I briefly touched on.
I’ve talked to Syfy, and they’re very behind me on this.
They actually want to see this happen. It’s a great, validating aspect of the
show. I go on [the show] an unknown artist and come out of it a feature
director as a direct result of FACE OFF. They’ve been very supportive.
FANG: There have been a couple contestants from the show
I’ve interviewed who have said you were one of the messiest people in the
STEINSIEK: [Laughs] They worked so much out of us, day to
day, that I didn’t really have a reserve of house cleaning energy [laughs]. When I got home, first step into the room the shoes come off. Second step,
there go the pants. Third step, shirt on the floor. Fourth step, jump into bed
and eat dinner off my bedside table. Let’s just say—I left it all on the stage.
It was all I could do to climb three flights of stairs each night.
FANG: What were you doing before you applied for FACE OFF?
STEINSIEK: I was at a festival with a couple of my films. I
actually won Audience Choice at the International Horror Film Festival, and
that’s where I was when I got the call [to audition for FACE OFF]. I’d been
doing a lot of TV for History Channel. I did have a feature lined up, called
POSSESSED, that was lined up for the time line during FACE OFF. As soon as I
got [the call to audition], I instantly called the production and told them
that I wouldn’t be able to do the film. I really took a leap of faith because I
hadn’t even made it through the casting process yet. Just as soon as I knew
there was an opportunity, I canceled the film just so I could be sure to give
them some advance notice as well as give myself this opportunity.
FANG: Do you see yourself more as an FX artist, or as a
director? Both? Where do you fall?
STEINSIEK: I tell you what—[FACE OFF judge] Patrick
Tatopoulos has the best job in the world. Way before the show, he’s been one of
my hugest inspirations. The guy is not only able to create the monsters he
wants to with his own hands, but he conceptualizes these worlds, and these creatures,
and these mythos that translate into these amazing storytelling adventures.
That’s what I want to do. I love special effects. I love creating. It’s been a
passion of mine since I was a child. But instead of just creating the monster,
I want to create the world. And in that idea, I want to establish myself
further as a special effects artist, to the point that my company, Ill Willed
Productions actually has a full-time staff so I can conceptualize, I can go in
and make sure things are going in the direction I want. But I can concentrate
more on the bigger picture of the universe that I want to create.
FANG: When I interviewed your fellow contestant Tom Devlin
and asked him who from the show he would work with again, he said something to
the effect of “When I get money, I want to get Tate out here.” He thinks the
two of you have the same mindset. Do you agree with that?
STEINSIEK: I tell you what, man. Tom and I could start a
business together, and we could run it very successfully. We see horror under
the same light. We have the same aesthetic concepts with horror. And not to
mention we just hit it off. I’m a little bit more approachable than Tom is [laughs],
but we’re both hard to win over in a real, long-term friendship kind of way.
But he and I hit it off, and we’re going to be friends forever. But on the
opposite note of that, and the funny thing is in my life I always seem to be
the middle man in between feuding parties, Conor [McCullagh] and I really got
along. We formed a really strong bond on the show as well. They didn’t really
show that a lot, but we did. We kind of fantasized about what could we have
done had we been able to actually team up on the show. I would not be surprised
if very soon you see Conor and I on a film set somewhere together. I walked
away learning more from him that I learned from anyone else on the show. He was
very open, he was a wealth of knowledge. I think my creativity with his
execution would be a pretty ridiculous team. I could see me having Part A FX
with Tom and Tate, and Part B FX with Tate and Conor, and both being very
TO BE CONTINUED
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