Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
Q&A: SFX Artist Jack Lynch talks “SALEM”!Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
There’s truly a lot of phenomenal horror television hitting the airwaves this year, but there’s few that can stand toe-to-toe with SALEM, a phenomenal witchcraft melodrama with tons of gore FX, bloody action, and psychological horror to go around. Yet what makes the show so damn impressive, outside of its Eurohorror-inspired visuals, is their used of practical FX, implementing some of the most disgusting and celebration-worthy SFX moments in horror TV history thanks to the likes of SFX artist Jack Lynch. With the third season already underway, FANGORIA caught up with Lynch to talk about his creepy creations on the set of SALEM…
FANGORIA: How did you originally get involved with SALEM?
JACK LYNCH: I live in Shreveport and we’ve been doing a lot of movies there for a long time. I think it was the obvious choice just because we’re right there in town. I was actually out-of-town doing THE EQUALIZER in Boston at the time they started the pilot, so I wasn’t available then. But once they started the series, I was asked to come in and take over from there.
FANG: Were you surprised at just how practical the series is? I mean, from the sets to the practical FX, it’s pretty mind-blowing.
LYNCH: Well I mean, obviously, with us being mechanical and practical special effects, I try to get them everything I can so. It’s not that I have any problem with CGI or visual effects, but if we can do them with practical, why not? I think it’s just one of those things that we’ve tried to convince them that we were able to do all these things. On the set, there’s a lot of fire effects and there’s a lot of smoke, and there are some visual effects but I was happy that we do a lot of SALEM practically. They employ 11 or 12 guys full-time on SALEM because we’re so busy with both units doing all the different things that we do. So yes, I am surprised that they do so much practical as opposed to visual, and we do rain, smoke, snow, fire, blood, etc. We do a lot of different things, and it’s a fun show to do.
FANG: SALEM certainly gets ambitious with a lot of their practical gags. Was there anything you were surprised that you pulled off?
LYNCH: Not really, but if there’s anything that makes the job difficult, it’s the pace. You’re on a T.V. schedule, so you’re filming one episode in seven days, and in the middle of that episode, you’re trying to prepare for the other days. There’s just a lot of communication between all the departments to make to make it all possible, with a lot of the staff and people cooperating with you, understanding how your schedule works, and what it takes to build or create something. So any time you’re on a T.V. show, it almost seems impossible but it always works out one way or another. We manage to get it done. Sometimes we have to reshoot an episode, but nothing really surprised me that much.
I will say, as time goes on, the episodes got a little more and more ambitious because we were doing a full second unit and first unit at the same time. We were on the property, but the property is so big that we were in two separate crews, working to accomplish what we were trying to get.
FANG: What’s it like to work with FX great Matthew Mungle on the show?
LYNCH: I’m really fond of Matthew and we work closely together. There’s always a good communication between us; he’ll do the appliances, we’ll do the blood work, that kind of thing. We communicate every single day, and Matthew and those guys are super talented. We talked before every episode and we’d figure out how we can do an effect to make it the best so we don’t have to do it as a visual effect. Matthew is a star in his field, so it’s pretty pretty amazing to watch what he and his crew can do.
FANG: How about the roster of directors on the series? SALEM’s been lucky to have regular contributors like Nick Copus but also some fantastic guest directors like Peter Weller and Joe Dante.
LYNCH: Well, for every episode, every director is different. Peter Weller’s very interesting and I really like Nick Copus, who stepped up his game of the show this year with a lot more action and you know different things that he did. Joe Dante is a great director; I mean they’re all great. We also had Jennifer Lynch this season, and she was just fantastic. But Nick Copus was very hands on, since he’s a producer and director, and very good at what he does. But it’s always fun to work with different directors all time because they all want something different.
FANG: What would you say is the biggest challenge of doing FX work on SALEM?
LYNCH: To be honest, it’s all difficult just because of the location. It’s very difficult location, and you’re moving all the time. There’s an episode early this season that involved a ton of smoke, and rain, a big wind, and that all means moving equipment from point to point and you just have to be really choreographed with what you’re doing. Working side by side with Matthew Mungle and those guys also helped make it easier because we all work together on the show as a big joint effort, but I think the most difficult thing is just coordinating to get things where you need them on such a big, big set. The town set is pretty far away from the interior set in city of Shreveport, so it’s hard to get things between them in a timely manner.
FANG: One of my favorite effects in the whole series was the “Cat’s Cradle” scene in the third season premiere. Can you talk a bit about that?
LYNCH: Part of that was shot on a stage, while part of that was shot on set. It took us about two or three days, and all the windows were built with break-away glass. We did one take with a dummy that was ratcheted out the window, and then we did one with a stunt guy jumping out the window. There was a lot of wirework on that scene to lift and raise people, but the shot turned out really good, especially when the guy came out the window. It was a great collaboration between our team and the stunt team and everyone else, and we were all on the same page. But still I think we had to do that shot several times, and luckily, it worked out really nice.
FANG: The premiere also has a great gag with a spinning levitating witch with a projectile blood effect. What went into pulling that off?
LYNCH: We created the whole rig,and it was on a D.C. variable speed motor. The first thing we did was raise the actual actress in the air and spun her by hand. We put the dummy on the motor, but it was a life-cast that Matthew Mungle and his guys took of this actress that we put on a mannequin-type body. We hooked the dummy up to a spindle so that we could fully spin her in the air, but it was all from underneath so you couldn’t see it. We also had big blood bags that we built under the skin and slit prior, so when she was spinning around and got to a certain RPM, the blood would start flowing out. We also had pumps and stuff so the blood would continue and could spurt out over Oliver [Bell] and the other actors. It was a really interesting effect, and another credit to our work with Matthew Mungle.
FANG: Having been on the series for three seasons now, is there any FX moment you were particularly proud of?
LYNCH: At the end of last season we did the big burning and fight scene in the church between Mary and Marburg, that was all pretty much practical. There was a little bit of CGI added to the fire, but those flames inside that church were real, and when it was all said and done, it turned out really good. That was probably our biggest effect from last season, and the network really wanted to do it all as CGI. They were worried about the fire but I told the producers that we could do a lot of it practically and they had enough faith in us to do it. I think everybody was really pleased with that but that was the one thing that I remember that stood out the most in the last year. Also, in season three, there’s a whole Native American battle scene with arrows and the squibs in the snow and the wind that also played out really nice.
SALEM airs on WGN America every Wednesday Night at 9 p.m.