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.
Interview with Julien Seri, director of Anderson Falls
Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020

Ahead of the UK premiere of serial killer thriller Anderson Falls at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Julien Seri reflects on this, his first 'American' experience, challenging fight scenes and the importance of personal vision.

It has been five years since we premiered Night Fare at FrightFest London, what have you been up to since then?

JS: I worked on two, very singular, projects as a producer and/or director. I signed for both with Wild Bunch, but we've failed to produce them yet. So I keep fighting. And I did a lot of commercials, TV series and music videos.

When did you first hear about the Anderson Falls script and why did you think it was perfect for yo...

Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020

Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...

You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?

AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial br...

Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of Habit
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020

Simeon Halligan is one of the busiest people working in the industry today. Writer, director, producer, director of celebrated film festival Grimmfest, in fact the list goes on.

His latest film is the neon tinged, blood-splattered masterpiece Habit which is showing on Horror February 14th so we thought we should get the story on how he brought this shocker to the big screen.

HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?

SH: I read the book a couple of years back and really liked it. A combination of gritty realism and dark fantasy; set within a very recognisable Manchester. There's a juxtaposition in the book; from a kind of soc...

Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020

Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.

HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?

JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...

Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019

The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.

HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?

SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...

Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019
On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.

HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?

TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.

HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...

Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019

Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.

HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?

JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...

Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019

Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.

HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?

GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...

Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on Friday 1st November 2019

FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.

HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?

CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...

Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
Posted on Wednesday 30th October 2019

Ahead of the UK premiere of Swallow at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his feature debut, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the genre.

HC: Swallow is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?

CMD: Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say "script is coin of the realm". The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out. The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I ...

Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019

Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...

HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?

PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...

Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019
CHILDS_PLAY_Universal_2D_BD_Pakcshot_UKIt was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.

HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?

LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.

HC: W...

Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
Joy Ride
Sunday 1st March
9.00 PM
Star Trek: Voyager
Monday 2nd March
7.00 PM
Thursday 27th February
10.45 PM