Q&A: SFX Artist Todd Masters on “HEMLOCK GROVE”
When Todd Masters was given the challenge to top the Emmy-nominated makeup SFX in HEMLOCK GROVE’s first season, he knew things needed to be both bigger and better; a challenge for which the long-time SFX maestro was game. Masters figured it was time to make viewers not only witness a werewolf transformation, but to feel it, skin ripping and all.
At the press event for season two of HEMLOCK GROVE, Masters spoke to Fango and proceeded to give us a hands-on demonstration of what bloody FX went into the series:
FANGORIA: You’ve been in the business for quite some time now.
MASTERS: Yeah, like a hundred years.
FANG: With that experience (in actuality, thirty years), is it easy to still be in love with what you do? What about working on shows like HEMLOCK GROVE keeps it fresh and exciting?
MASTERS: It can easily be like you’re suggesting, “Oh, not another alien or werewolf,” if you use the same methods and techniques. We’re all about trying to reinvent ourselves. Growing up, we’d watch movies or even read FANGORIA, then head down to the basement and try to come up with what we had just seen ourselves. We try to reinvent ourselves with every show; we’re artists, and we use weird materials to create our images.
I kind of like the challenge of continually trying to one-up ourselves, and our team is full of people that do a little practical, a little digital. We all grew up, like I said, reading FANGORIA magazine and loving these movies like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON or THE HOWLING. We always think “What if Rick Baker had those tools back when he did AMERICAN WEREWOLF, how cool would that transformation be?!,” so what we try to do now is honor the work that scared the crap out of us as kids and upgrade it to a today level. By taking the best of the practical and the best of the digital and smacking them together, we end up with something that no other show has, and it’s really exciting for a monster maker. It’s like we’re reliving what we loved as kids, but with a whole new freshness.
FANG: You mentioned marrying the two, the practical and digital. What about that mixture do you feel benefits the overall effect?
MASTERS: It benefits the overall story, because as artists, we really try to keep the audience from being extracted from the experience. I’ve always hated it when you’re really into a movie, then you notice something and say, “That’s CGI.” We want the audience to be so into the show and experience that the combination of practical and digital just blends together and looks real. We want the audience to not only watch the effect but also actually feel it.
FANG: The transformation in season two makes you cringe almost, you can feel the skin practically ripping.
MASTERS: Yeah, exactly.
Masters then walked us through a few of season two’s upcoming FX. Picking up a mold of Olivia (Famke Janssen)’s face with a tongue inside that looked and felt completely life-like.
MASTERS: What we have here, is a tongue prosthetic that was made inside of a fake head for Olivia. At the end of the last season, she had her tongue ripped out, so we needed to film this insert piece that really showed her sutured back together. It’s a nice replica, and a little finger puppet that we made to sell that…lovely, isn’t she?
Todd then walked us over to a set of behind the scenes photos, as well as a mold of Roman (Bill Skarsgård), complete with bulging eyes and a tube feeding into them.
MASTERS: What we have here, is Bill Skarsgård. He goes through this whole crazy medical procedure. We’ve been playing around with this all day, so he’s not exactly in the best of shape, but you can see that his eye will totally deflate on command. Behind that, we have photos, where you can see Shelly in process. Every day, Madeleine would have to sit there for about three hours at a time.
FANG: With season two, what was the overall goal, as far as the SFX went?
MASTERS: We had the big transformation in season one and that got us an Emmy nomination. With season two, we were challenged to make things even better, and I really think we did a good job of that.
HEMLOCK GROVE is currently available on Netflix Instant Streaming. You can check out the full gallery of Todd Master’s HEMLOCK GROVE SFX below!