SAVINI AND ME: Part Nine, The Grandest Illusion
In 1983, Savini was at the top of his game, making hit movies and shocking audiences around the world with his FX. While working on movie after movie, Tom still found time to work on a pet project. With the philosophy of “sharing secrets of the trade” that legendary make-up artist Dick Smith instilled in him, Savini set about writing a book to teach fans and aspiring filmmakers all of his own secrets of the trade. The result was the essential GRANDE ILLUSIONS.
The book, originally published by Morris Costumes, featured step-by-step instructions on how Tom did his amazing effects in such classic films as FRIDAY THE 13TH, MARTIN, CREEPSHOW, THE BURNING, MANIAC, DAWN OF THE DEAD and others. Chock full of pictures and drawings, explaining each step in the process, the book was an instant success that went on to inspire the next generation of filmmakers. Peter Jackson, the legendary director, extensively used Tom’s book to shoot his first film, BRAINDEAD (AKA DEAD ALIVE). Countless others like him took their copies to set, studied it like a bible and used it to help them form their own careers in the industry.
The book went on to numerous printings and spawned an amazing sequel, GRANDE ILLUSIONS BOOK II, which featured Tom’s work from DAY OF THE DEAD, MONKEY SHINES, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE II, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990) and more. The two even went on to be required reading in various colleges and film programs around the country.
While I had seen the books for years, I had never gotten copies myself as they were hard to find. When I started to work with Tom, I made it my mission to find the books as I needed them for research. Online they were selling for upwards of a hundred dollars each, I even found them at a convention in Germany selling for seventy-five. Finally, I found some reasonable copies (why I didn’t just ask Tom for a copy, is beyond me) and while I was using them as research, I ended up falling in love with the books. Looking at these two amazing volumes, it killed me to know they were not more accessible to fans and hopeful make-up artists. These books deserved to be in stores, available at conventions and sold for a decent price that fans could afford. With this thought in mind, I put together a proposal to re-publish, and nervously approached Tom.
The concept was to take both books and combine them into one, with a new introduction from Tom. When I approached him, I was ready to be politely turned down. The books have been out for a long time and done very well, so why mess with something that worked? Tom was thrilled by the idea however and ready to give the books new life and get them back out into new markets right away. It was up to me to hide my enthusiasm that my company was going to re-print the greatest how-to make-up FX books in history. I nodded and simply said, “great, I’ll work something up and we’ll get started on this”. Inside, I was screaming like a little fan boy.
Many meetings, phone calls, contracts and re-designs later, the book was almost ready to print. We had a new cover, carefully designed to look like the old books, but with a fresh edge; a new foreword by Tom; and a new photo gallery. The book was ready to go back out into the market. With GRANDE ILLUSIONS being so iconic, we were careful to not change anything, except for some tiny mistakes from previous printings. When I finally had the first proof copy in my hands, I could hardly believe that my company was putting out this book. It’s more than an honor just to have Tom invite me into his home, let alone work with him on his biography, and now, I was able to be a part of GRANDE ILLUSIONS, as well. In a way, it all seemed almost too good, like an illusion.
Now with the book back in the market and in stores for the first time, I hope it finds a new audience and continues to inspire generations of filmmakers like it has for years. Not only did Tom mark his place in history with his amazing work in film, he is also leaving behind a legacy of countless students that will forever know more about the craft and industry, because of the Grande Illusions books.
After taking a few months off to put these out, it’s now time for Tom and I to get back to work on his biography….