Exclusive Interview With Special Effects Man Karl Derrick
By James Whittington, Sunday 14th June 2009
Karl Derrick (here on the left!) is a multi-talented Make-Up, Special Effects and Visual Effects artist who has worked on some of the most successful genre movies of recent times. His latest creations can be seen in Jake West’s Doghouse which opened on June 12th so we decided to have a chat with this inventive guy to learn exactly how hard it is working in the movie industry.  

ZH: When you were growing up did you know that you wanted to work in special effects?   KD: When I was growing up Special Effects such as Make up and Creature effects were still in their commercial infancy. Back then, the Giants of make up effects whose shoulders we stand on today, people like Dick Smith, were still working in film. So, as a film fan back then, you grew up with Special Effects industry. I always knew I wanted to create and I’ve always been a bit of a joker, so the idea of getting one over on people is appealing. Getting them to believe what their eyes are telling them, rather than their brains.    ZH: How did you get your big break?   KD: Oh, there’s no such thing. I don’t know why this myth persists. My ‘overnight’ success has taken 17 years. You just have to keep plugging away. After a while, IF you stay within your budgets and deliver on time and go the extra mile, the jobs get a bit better, the budgets a bit bigger and the phone starts to ring more often. There’s no ‘break’ or shortcut.   ZH: You’ve worked on some very big Hollywood movies; do you prefer to have more money at hand or less? I mean, do you feel more creative the less money you have?   KD: I like both, they present different challenges. There’s a comfort in having a big budget, but then there’s less creative input. On the big budget films you’re a smaller part in a bigger machine. The converse is also true. I’m not afraid of venturing an opinion, I mean the production is paying for your knowledge and experience, may as well let them have it! I’ve been spoiled by working with directors like Jake West and Mikael Hafstro though. They make it possible for you to make them happy. I like budgets of 2-3 million Sterling. It’s big enough to make a decent film, to be able to afford a competent and experienced cast and crew, yet small enough to allow a great deal of one-to-one work with the Director and other Heads of Department. I believe film is still a powerful collaborative art and it’s really thrilling working with people who are very good at what they do. It’s magical.    ZH: How did you become attached to Doghouse?   KD: Jake and I met through a mutual friend a few years ago. We connected creatively and became friends. Jake landed Pumpkinhead 3 and I really wanted to work with him on that. But, the budget wasn’t enough for me to be able to do Jake and the creature justice and it didn’t happen for me. When Doghouse was green lit, Jake sent me a script and I replied with a 3 word email; ‘f***ing love it!’. That was it. I was the first person hired on Doghouse. We were up and running even before the Art Department. It’s necessary on a film like Doghouse, as we had so much to do. Dan Schaffer’s script is really, really good. I am a great fan of Dan’s writing. This is a far better script than most films of this budget level have access to. Dan’s background is Graphic Novels, so he writes very cinematographically. You can see the story as you read it. James Ryman, a really talented artist, had already done some great artwork for the different Zombird characters, so we had a good place to start. 2D to 3D is always a challenge though. What works on paper isn’t necessarily practical in the real world. I worked closely with Jake at every stage to be sure we were giving him what he wanted. We decided very early that the quality of the Effects work wouldn’t suffer for the film being a low budget project. We set the bar high. We also agreed to try and do as much as possible in-camera, with an absolute minimum of postproduction work on the make up and creature effects work. There are a couple of tweaks, but almost everything you see on the film was as it happened on set. I’m proud of that.   ZH: Was it a tough shoot?   KD: Yes, but tough and fun aren’t mutually exclusive. It was a wonderful experience. We were totally nocturnal for about a month. I needed a big on-set crew for this. We had over 14 make up effects crew on location. Mostly prosthetic make up artists, but also Effects Technicians and contact lens specialists too. We did a lot more than make up on Doghouse, we also made all of the action props and weapons and even the remote control trucks.   ZH: Was it hard to come up with the Zombirds appliances?   KD: It was challenging on the budget, sure. The difficulty we had to face on Doghouse was the sheer volume of prosthetic make up and effects needed. Here are some stats: Over four hundred foam latex prosthetic appliances 38 pairs of 15mm and 22mm contact lenses 52 sets of creature dentures 20 dead bodies A small mountain of body parts and dead heads. All the hero Zombird weapons All the rubber stunt Zombird weapons Up to 9 hero (close up) Zombird prosthetic make ups a day 50 background Zombird masks 4 hero R/C monster trucks 250 Litres of blood Over 60 make up effects gags   ZH: Did you add anything to the original make-up designs that Jake thought up?   KD: One of the great things about working with Jake West is that he thinks a good idea is a good idea, he doesn’t need to have come up with it himself. Jake and I are on the same page creatively, so we worked together to develop the look of the characters and to come up with some new and original gags for the film.   ZH: Did it take you long to apply the make-up to the Zombirds, such as Emily Booth who plays The Snipper?   KD: The stage one make-ups took up the 3 hours, depending on the character. The Stage 2 make-ups were more involved and took longer. We saved as much time as possible by going through the script and schedule with Jake and Dan Mumford, the 1stAD, and identifying times when characters weren’t front and centre. If they didn’t need to be close to the camera, we put them in a background mask. The focus drop-off on the lens was such that if they were only a few feet further back, they were in soft focus and you couldn’t tell. Saved hours of performers’ and make up artists’ time every day.      ZH: Emily said it took a few hours to get her make ready, how do you keep someone from moving around when you’re applying make-up?   KD: Emily is great to work with because she’s a total pro. We work with actors so that they work with us. They’re made to feel part of our team and we’re all out there with them in front of the camera. They know it’s a serious business and we’re on a tight time schedule every day. Everyone was great.   ZH: Did any of the cast complain about the prosthetics you applied?   KD: Not to my face! Seriously. We were blessed with a great cast and a great crew.   I was way too busy to do much hands-on application myself. My guys were brilliant and worked so hard every day, and the performers were all a treat to work with, so upbeat and professional. It was a great experience. One of the best ever for me.   ZH: Which character was the hardest to realise?   KD: I guess ‘Bubbles’. It’s back to the 2D to 3D thing. Bubbles stage 2, as drawn, was impossible on the budget we had. We needed to come up with a way to make the lovely Annie Vanders into this rampaging juggernaut but couldn’t afford a bodysuit or animatronic mask. So we made a big wraparound neck and chin piece that had a flabby silicone rubber bladder in the chin to make it flop about. Along with the facial appliances it really got the change we needed to distinguish it from stage 1. As always though, it’s the performance that sells the character. Annie did a great job. There were some great performances all round from the Zombirds. Everyone brought something special to their character. It was like the ‘Bash Street Kids’. Deborah Hyde who plays ‘Stella’ the Barmaid Zombird, is actually my department co-ordinator as well. She was busy on this one! It was funny walking into the huge make up room we had to find her in full Barmaid stage 2 make up and lenses, typing crew rosters with her long black bony finger extensions on. Surreal.   ZH: Has there been a point in your career when you’ve thought that you just couldn’t handle the challenge of what was given to you?   KD: No. If I’m not certain I can do it, I won’t take it on. I think very important not to over-promise to a production. If you start writing checks you can’t cash, you can find yourself in deep sh*t pretty fast. You have to pick your battles carefully.   ZH: Do you have any projects lined up?   KD: Doghouse 2! Ha ha…Seriously though, I have a few things which have been promised which are very exciting but I can’t talk about them yet. I’m waiting for Jake and Dan’s next project as I really want to work with them both again soon. We make quite a team. I’m also working with a young writer/Director called Zeb Lamb on a contemporary horror drama called ‘Tanners Walk’. Great project. I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay called ‘Lament’, a contemporary comedy/horror, about a group of holiday Brits undergoing mid-life crises while being hunted by zombies in a Western ghost town. Pure fun, lots of monsters. We’ll be after a couple of million in finance for that very soon.    ZH: Karl Derrick, thank you very much.   KD: Anytime.

Tom Paton, director of G-LOC chats about his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman
Posted in Features, Interviews, Tuesday 14th September 2021
Tom Paton on the set of G-Loc-3-1

Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.

Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?

It's honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it's always a "pinch myself moment" when I see something that I've made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any ...

Escape From New York score to be released on blue vinyl
Posted in News, Wednesday 8th September 2021

Originally released on the 31st of July 2015, the vinyl edition of John Carpenter's classic 1981 thriller, Escape From New York mirrored the expanded CD release from 2000, with over 20 minutes of previously unreleased music plus music from scenes deleted from the final print and original dialogue highlights.

The masters for that CD were re-mixed from the original multi-track session tapes by long-time Carpenter associate Alan Howarth.

This is the first time on coloured vinyl for this LP, all previous pressings having been on black vinyl and will be released January 21st, 2022 thanks to Silva Screen Records.

Interview with Sean Nichols Lynch writer and director of Red Snow
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021

Final film of Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition 2021 is a fangtastic (sorry) twist on the vampire movie, Sean Nichols Lynch's Red Snow. We had a quick chat about this blood-splattered shocker which has a deep vein of humour running through it.

HC: Where did the idea for Red Snow come from?

SL: I was trying to get a different horror feature financed and was struggling to get it off the ground. It was a frustrating period for me, and I honestly felt like I'd never get to make another film. I happened to run into Dennice, who I knew from my film school days at San Francisco State. We got to talking and I started to think about how great it would be to just drop everything and ...

Interview with Alex Kahuam writer and director of Forgiveness
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021
Alex Kahuam 1 Forgiveness

Director Alex Kahuam has brought to Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition a brutal and intelligent film, Forgiveness. Almost devoid of dialogue, it's an excursion into the raw side of reality. Here he chats about this movie and his plans for the future.

HC: Was there one movie you saw when growing up which made you want to go into filmmaking?

AK: When we were kids my brother and I my parents took us a lot to the theaters and this is where everything began for me. I just loved the experience so much and till this day I thank them because they triggered this on me and for many years filmmaking has been my life. While growing up Hollywood films have always be...

Interview with Sarah Appleton co-writer and co-director of The Found Footage Phenomenon
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021
Sarah Appleton

The final documentary of FrightFest Online Edition looks to one of the most misunderstood genres out there. The Found Footage Phenomenon dissects this often over-looked type of movie with interviews from many key players. We chatted to co-writer and co-director Sarah Appleton about this very informative piece.

HC: Have you always been a fan of horror movies?

SA: Yes, I grew up watching Hammer horror movies and Japanese horror because my dad was a film critic, so I used to look through all his VHS tapes he'd taped off the late night tv and pick something to watch. Evil Dead II was one of the first horror movies I ever saw, aged about 8.

HC: Can you recall the first fo...

Taxi rides and crumbling hotels - Day 5 of Arrow Video FrightFest Online Edition: Part 2
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021

As we enter the final evening of Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition 2021 there's still plenty to look forward to starting with a belter from directors Brad Baruh and Meghan Leon, Night Drive. Ride-share app driver Russell picks up his Hollywood fare Charlotte... and his whole life turns upside down. Slipping him a wad of cash, she hires him for the rest of the evening. Their first stop at her ex's place sees Charlotte running out the door clutching a tiny suitcase being chased. They make their escape, but accidentally run over a pedestrian, setting in motion a chain of gruesome events that will go to places Russell could never have imagined in his wildest dreams. What starts off as a simpl...

Interview with Josh Stifter director of Greywood's Plot
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021

There are a number of monochrome movies at FrightFest this year and one of the stand out ones is Josh Stifter's Greywood's Plot so we had a quick chat with him about it.

HC: Was there one movie you saw when you were younger that made you want to be in the filmmaking business?

JS: Beetlejuice. I saw it when I was 5 years old. My family all got the flu and my mom went and rented it. This was back in the day when you didn't have access as easily to movies so if you rented a movie, it often would get watched a couple times before it was returned. Since we had nothing else to do, we all just laid around sick watching Beetlejuice over and over. I became obsessed. It was the first tim...

Interview with Conor Stechschulte writer of Ultrasound
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021

Based on his own graphic novel 'Generous Bosom', Conor Stechschulte has written a tight and tense script for Ultrasound which is showing today at Arrow Films Fright Online Edition. We chatted to him about the process of bringing his original idea to the big screen.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to become a writer?

CS: I did! At about 7 or 8 I went from wanting to be a fighter pilot to wanting to be a writer. My formal education is in visual art, but I've always had narratives at the heart of all the creative work that I make and have never really stopped writing in one form or another.

HC: Was there any one person who inspired you?

CS: I can't...

Interview with Rob Schroeder director of Ultrasound
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021

The feature debut of Rob Schroeder, producer of Sun Choke and Beyond The Gates, Ultrasound is a startling puzzle box Sci-Fi mystery and playing today at Arrow Films FrightFest Online Event. We chatted to Rob about this chilling movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be in filmmaking?

RS: Not really. When I was young, I loved going to the movie theatre every week, but I didn't see filmmaking as a career because in my town I didn't know any filmmakers. The movies were always so special for me and even sacred, so at a young age I did sense the magic.

HC: How did become attached to this project?

RS: I developed the project, by reaching out to Cono...

Interview with Peter Daskaloff director and co-writer of Antidote
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021
Peter Daskaloff Anitdote

Peter Daskaloff has brought his nerve-jangling movie Antidote to FrightFest Online Eidtion 2021 so we chatted to him about this complex and intriguing movie.

HC: What is your writing method when working alongside someone else?

PD: I usually write alone. But for Antidote, I had to hire a co-writer because the subject was complex. I needed another set of eyes to look at it from outside my box. Matt Toronto was recommended to me by my executive producer, Ian Michaels, who has worked with Matt before. The collaboration was a bit bumpy, but the resulting script turned out pretty good.

HC: How did you go about casting the movie?

PD: I had a casti...

Interview with Francesco Erba writer and director of As in Heaven, So on Earth
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021
Francesco Erba As In Heaven director

As In Heaven, So On Earth mixes the found footage genre with incredible animation to deliver a truly unique take on the format. The movie effortlessly moves from its gothic animation to cutting edge technology footage and brings together a tale which is emotional and utterly heart breaking in equal measure. We chatted to its writer and director Francesco Erba as it plays at FrightFest Online Edition 2021.

HC: Where did the idea for As in Heaven, So on Earth come from?

FE: As in Heaven, So on Earth was born not only from one specific idea but, as very often occurs, from many different ones, different influences and life experien...

Interview with Casey Dillard actor and writer of Killer Concept
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021

If you managed to catch Driven the other year at FrightFest then you'll need to catch Killer Concept today. Writer Casey Dillard is back alongside director Glenn Payne but this time serial killers are the target. We chatted to Casey about this movie.

HC: It's been a couple of years since we last chatted, apart from Killer Concept, what have you been up to?

CD: Mostly avoiding Covid and trying to find work-arounds so that I can still perform safely.

HC: Where did the idea for Killer Concept come from?

CD: Glenn wanted to make a simple movie with minimal people while our core filmmaking team was unable to go to work so we kicked around a lot of ideas and KC wa...

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