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 on 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 ...

Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Tuesday 15th June 2021
Alexis Kendra-4

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.

HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.

HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...

Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted on Tuesday 1st June 2021
Soska sisiters-WEB-1

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.

HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!

Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.

HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...

Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Mickey Fisher 1

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.

The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.

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

MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...

Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
Posted on Saturday 20th February 2021
Gary J. Tunnicliffe doing SFX make-up on the set of Hellraiser Judgement

Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.

HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?

GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when s...

Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Director Chee Keong Cheung

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HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?

CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...

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Posted on Sunday 15th November 2020

On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.

HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?

SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...

Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
Posted on Sunday 1st November 2020
Concrete Plans poster

Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.

Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!

HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?

SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can ...

Interview with Shayne Ward, star of The Ascent
Posted on Thursday 22nd October 2020

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HC: How much did the X-Factor change your life?

SW: Oh, like anyone can say who has been on it, who has done well on the show, it does change your life because it catapults you into the limelight, into the public eye. One day you are relatively unknown...

Interview with Ryan Kruger, writer and director of Fried Barry
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Fried Barry

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HC: Where did Fried Barry come from?

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Interview with Deiondre Teagle, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
thumbnail_Brandon Blood

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HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor?

DT: I've definitely known my whole life I've wanted to be an actor. One of my favourite movies of all time is the original Men In Black. When I was little (about 3 or 4 years old), I would re-watch my VHS copy of that movie over and over and over again. I would re-enact every scene. Since then, my love for acting and film has just grown. I have such a love for the...

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Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020

Grimmfest 2020 is packed with world premieres and none so bold as Charlie Steed's Death Ranch. We chatted to one of its main stars, Faith Monique about her role in this brutal and brilliant movie.

HC: Was there one person you saw at a young age who inspired you to want to become an actress?

FM: Funny fact, I grew up without a TV! So, at a young age, I never had an actor that inspired me and to this day I still don't. Acting did not become a dream of mine until 2016 and for inspiration, I like to dig deep into my own soul to find truth to bring into each character.

HC: Are you a big fan of horror movies and were you aware of grindhouse and e...

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The Rezort
Tuesday 28th September
10.45 PM
Leprechaun Returns
Friday 24th September
9.00 PM
Star Trek - The Original Series
Wednesday 29th September
8.00 PM