Kristin Bauer as the "rotting" Pam in True Blood Season 4
Dan Rebert and his team have created ghosts and goblins and creatures mutated larger-than-life for television shows, such as True Blood and Six Feet Under, and films, including Slither and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
The company’s Arleta production studio, while not large, is crammed full of bodies. Not all of them are human. Or real.
“It’s all just rubber and plastic,” Rebert says with a laugh, leading the way into a holding cell of deformed creatures and mutilated skulls.
“This was used for a movie called The New Daughter,” he says, striding nonchalantly up to a dummy of a naked woman with her stomach half-torn out. He pauses, shrugs and says, “Mole people.” Naturally.
Rebert, who sports a hoodie and a long ponytail, says he fell into this line of work “because I didn’t want to get a real job.” Despite his chosen profession, Rebert never wanted to experience actual blood and guts — as a teen, he even declined an offer from his district attorney father to witness an autopsy. (He ended up watching a video of the procedure instead.)
“You look at horribly gory things like this,” Rebert says, referring to the female dummy. “This is a magic trick to me. It’s interesting to try to simulate flesh and try to fool somebody. In real life, I have a hard time looking at this stuff. I’m actually squeamish when it comes to real stuff.”
Make-Up Artist magazine’s ongoing Web feature “Tales from the Set” features candid videos of award-winning make-up artists telling the good, the bad and the ugly details of working behind the scenes. In this installment, they feature the special make-up effects team from True Blood talking about a difficult lifecast process for actor Sam Trammell and how Sam’s manfur caused some painful problems.
In the video below we see True Blood’s Kristin Bauer van Straten talk about Pam in the Season 4 finale, about her face rotting and about how she loved all the special effects done by Masters FX, but was kind of glad when it was all done.
Also, from Kristin’s official web site, below are photos of her in various stages of the rotting process.
In the video below Dan Rebert shows us how Masters FX did the transition of Pam in True Blood Season 4 when the spell that rotted her face was placed on her by Marnie. He talks about how Kristin Bauer was very integral in making it all work so well.
In June, I went to the IMATS convention and attended the Masters FX True Blood panel. There, I learned how the scene with Denis O’Hare ripping out the backbone of the newscaster happened. However, now, theawl.com has actually spoken to the actor who played the newscaster, John Burke about his experience of filming that scene.
John Burke’s story:
One of season three’s most memorable, delicious, game-changing moments came when Denis O’Hare’s King Russell Edgington snapped and gorily murdered a newscaster on national TV. Burke is that newscaster.
I went twice to a special effects house in L.A., and they’re actually not as busy as they used to be because everything’s so CGI these days. They made a plaster cast around my chest, and they put a bladder in there that was filled with blood, and on the front of the chest was a little fist that would protrude when a mechanism was triggered, and they also of course made a fake spine for my back. So we put all that on, put on a shirt, cut a hole in the shirt, put my tie covering the hole, and then had a piece of fishing line attached to the tie, so that on a specific word the tie flipped up and then the fist came out and then the chest exploded with the blood. It was heavily choreographed, which added to the stress of the acting. There were three people to make the whole mechanism work: A guy to my left who hit the blood bladder to make the chest explode, a guy under the news desk with the fishing line that would flip up the tie and release the fist and one other person.
I think we did the scene about seven times, and it was just filled with blood. The whole camera crew, everybody was covered with plastic, and the thing would explode and they would descend on me with shaving cream, because apparently shaving cream gets the fake blood out of your skin, and then we’d reload and do it again. The blood itself is pretty much what you get on Halloween in any typical shop, and the consistency is kind of thin, but there’s a lot of it.
The hardest part was when [Denis/Russell] swept me off the desk. It was weird, I had to be dead and move, which was a somewhat complicated maneuver. The first time or two I didn’t get it right, and they came over and said ‘Listen, you’re dead now; you can’t lift your head; you can’t look up.’ So I kept my head down and tried to draw the least amount of attention to myself.
First we toyed with the idea that the fist would come out of my chest and I would still be somewhat conscious, so I would look down and go, oh my god I’ve got a fist coming out of my chest, but it didn’t play in the rehearsals, so I just went with what was natural, or what you would do if somebody punched you really hard in the back
It’s all about not anticipating—if I anticipated it, the scene wouldn’t have worked. After he swept me off the desk, I landed on a big foam pad and just lay there in all that blood while he ranted. I was listening to him go on and on, thinking, I don’t know if I could do what he does. Denis was just amazing; I gave him the key to the kingdom and he took it and ran with it.
Now, watch the scene as it was shown on True Blood in Season 3.
And below is the video I shot at IMATS during the Masters FX True Blood panel that includes the explanation how the scene was filmed. It starts at 6.39 minutes
Below is part of an article they gave to fangoria.com where they share even more and, also some new and interesting photos.
It’s an early evening in the studio where HBO’s popular supernatural series TRUE BLOOD is being shot, when an ear-piercing scream interrupts the quiet summer tranquility. Contrary to the usual reaction one would expect to such a sound, no one blinks an eye. It’s pretty much business as usual on a series in which staking, decapitation, full-body immolation and numerous other forms of graphic violence are all in a day’s work.
Most of the aforementioned mayhem (as noted in the exclusive pics here) is engineered by the team at MastersFX, whose ground-breaking makeup work have been seen in such series as TALES FROM THE CRYPT, SIX FEET UNDER and FRINGE. On this particular evening, we’ve managed to corral four key members of that team—including MastersFX owner Todd Masters; TRUE BLOOD FX producer Dan Rebert; MastersFX visual FX supervisor Andre Bustanoby; and coordinator Mark Vinniello—for a rare interview about their contributions to TRUE BLOOD, which enters its fourth season this summer. Punctuated by the occasional unexplained scream of course…
STEVE JOHNSON: Is there such a thing as too gory?
DAN REBERT: A lot of times, in production meetings we toss ideas around. The writers and creators of the show lean on us for input, asking what we can do with a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time. And I’m often told that what I’m pitching is too gory. The producers laugh it off and joke around, tell me I’m sick. But one of our biggest effects on the show was when Bill [Stephen Moyer] is having sex with Lorena [Maria Klaveno]. In the middle of it all, he reaches forward, grabs her head, twists her neck and snaps it. He twists her head all the way around backward and continues having sex with her. That’s probably one of the most graphic, horrific things that I’ve ever been asked to create—and they wrote it! And these writers and producers tell me I’m sick?
JOHNSON: Todd, this show is quite reminiscent of DARK SHADOWS. It’s Gothic, it’s melodramatic; you’ve got forbidden desires, werewolves and vampires. But if you were directing or producing, what would you add to it?
TODD MASTERS: I’d like to see them push the envelope even further. The stuff that Dan and the shop are doing is just amazing and it seems to be a big of interest to the fans. There are lots of water cooler moments in this show, regardless of the effects; it’s just the kind of show that you want people to talk about. But moments like Lorena’s head twisting, that to me is the fun and games of the show.
JOHNSON: With film vs. television, how do you meet those schedules, on what has to be a tighter budget?
MARK VINNIELLO: Dan has often said that working on TRUE BLOOD is like doing a film every two weeks, and the expectation for such a quality show is to maintain that level of quality. One of the things that has helped us out is that a lot of the materials available now weren’t available 10 or even five years ago.
Here are a few more photos:
To read this entire interview and see more photos go to: fangoria.com
Last Sunday, June 26, 2011, I went to Pasadena to attend the International Makeup Artists Trade Show (IMATS) Convention. True Blood was to have a panel there including the team that does all the special effects, and I wanted to learn more about how those crazy stunts and blood baths are done.
To introduce you to what this convention is all about, below is video of highlights from IMATS shows that are held in London, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Sydney and Toronto each year.
While walking around the Exhibit Hall at the convention center in Pasadena, I was fascinated by all that goes into the makeup for fashion shows and for TV and film, but I was at this convention, primarily to see the True Blood Panel which was presented by Make-Up Artist magazine and called BLOODY SUNDAY: A True Blood Panel Discussion.
The discussion featured Andre Bustanoby, Lana Grossman, Todd Masters, Brigette Myre Ellis, Dan Rebert and Mark Viniello. They are from Masters FX, the company that has done all of the True Blood special effects and makeup.
Moderated by Joe Nazzaro the panel was held in the Main Stage (the largest room at the Convention Center). The True Blood panel discussed their work from the show’s previous seasons—as well as teased us with what’s to come in Season Four! We got to witness never-before-seen test shots and got a detailed expose on their work, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience.
Below are three videos I took at the event. I apologize for the camera movement; I was late to the event (someone guided us to the wrong location) and people were walking behind me resulting in lots of bumping and nudging leading to camera movement. I know it’s hard to watch because of that, but the information they provide is absolutely fascinating so I suggest you just go along for the ride, you won’t regret it.
The panelists showed us scenes and guided us through how they were done. Most are from Season 3, including when the King rips out the vertebrae of the newscaster, Lorena’s death scene, the twisted sex scene, just to name a few. We also get to see how they did fairyland and the “goblins” for Season 4. You’ll learn some interesting insider info and they even show us a photo of Executive Producer, Alan Ball in full make up! Look on the table in front of Todd Masters to see the “dead head” of Jessica’s first victim that was used in Season 3. Oh, and you’ll be surprised to learn that the naked guy in the sink in Sookie’s kitchen, from the end of Season 2, is a goblin in Season 4.
The scene from True Blood season 1 where Bill burns in the sunlight while attempting to save Sookie, was filmed in three stages and required full body makeup for each of the stages. To create the burnt vampire look a head mask cast was made by the special effects team of MastersFX.
MastersFX is an award winning prosthetics, animatronics and character effects company responsible for some of the most impressive, scary and gruesome scenes ever seen in modern movies.
“When you first have to have a head mask cast,” Stephen Moyer says, “I’ve done that a few times, and that’s quite claustrophobic. All you’ve got is a nose hole and everything else is covered—literally, 360 degrees, everything goes, and sometimes they’ll leave it on for too long and they can’t get it off, and they’re literally manhandling you to try to get the thing off, and because you can’t hear anything, everything’s inside your head, and it’s very odd.”
Worse, sometimes an actor can get stuck in there. “My sister was with me the last time I did it, and she videoed it. And they couldn’t get it undone and they had to go and get like a tire iron to get into the thing to pull it apart.”
Stephen’s sister Amanda was also present in the trailer when Stephen’s makeup for the last burning stage was applied. Because she saw it all come together from the beginning she didn’t have a problem seeing her brother reduced into a crispy bacon state. She did however have some trouble on the set watching the final moments of Rene in the graveyard.
The only one who didn’t seem to mind to any of the goriness was ‘a man’s best friend’ Splash.
Stephen and Splash
Amanda was so kind to share with us some of the photos she took that day in the makeup trailer.
In the first season of True Blood many scenes required special makeup, prosthetics or puppets. Just think of the drowning of the possum, Bill burning in the sunlight, the staking of Longshadow, Eddie’s face burnt by silver, Liam’s tattoo, Janella’s cut throat, Sookie drinking from Bill’s arm, the blood, and last but definitely not least, the fangs.
Now again in Season 2, True Blood has scenes with similar needs. For example, in episode 1, we found Miss Jeannette dead in the back of Andy Bellfleur’s car and in Episode 3, Sookie’s back was “scratched” by the Meanad requiring help from the famous Dr. Ludwig. And, as in Season 1, these effects were created by MastersFX, the award winning prosthetics, animatronics and character effects company responsible for some of the most impressive, scary and gruesome scenes ever seen in modern movies.
Regarding MastersFX’s work on True Blood, effects producer Dan Rebert told io9.com, earlier this year, that ‘True Blood’ is by far my favorite television project. I love the fact that the show’s mythology goes much deeper than just the relationships between humans and vampires. In the world of ‘True Blood,’ many races of magical creatures exist right under our noses. It is dark fantasy mixed with drama and humor … what’s not to love?
We are very fortunate to have the same core crew of artists for the show’s second season,” Rebert adds about his MastersFX team. “These guys have been with us for years and are the finest craftsmen I’ve ever worked with. We all look forward to the challenges ahead of us on a darker and scarier ‘True Blood’ season two.
Out of all the TV shows that we’re currently working on, and maybe have ever worked on, I probably feel the strongest about True Blood. I just loved getting those scripts every week. They were always really exciting in terms of where the plot was going. They had a lot more special effects than I was expecting after reading the book. And what really, really turned me on the most about True Blood – I was excited about it from the beginning, working with Alan again was going to be great and doing a vampire show with him was going to be great – but what I didn’t realize about True Blood of how much of a fantasy story it is. It’s not just vampires. There’s a whole host of magical creatures that come up through the season, and the depth of the mythology for a TV show really is what amazed me about the show and the concept. It’s not just a vampire show. It’s much more.”