Updated: Mar 30, 2020
CREATORS CORNER WITH BEN FALLAIZE FROM "FATHER PHANTOM STUDIO"
Interview conducted by Michael Kellbach
As the COVID-19 global pandemic keeps millions of people at home with little to do, we sat down with Ben Fallaize from Father Phantom Studio. In our interview, Ben described much about what makes him who he is, as well as some of his thoughts on the effects of technological advancements to realism. The interview is quite long, and yet worth every minute. If you're looking to understand a bit more about our friend Ben and his stellar FX work, read on below. In this interview, he inspires and provides insight into just how much work and thought goes into his craft.
See below for our in-depth interview as well as a myriad of pictures showing his work and links to where you may reach him.
Before your work at FPS, what were you doing ? What did you do for work?
A forklift driver! (Laughs) As soon as I left school, my life simultaneously branched off in two very different directions. I started working at a DIY store, eventually helping manage the Warehouse and Garden Centre. This helped fund my projects at Colleague where I studied film production. I knew I always wanted to work in the film industry and educating myself on the industry seemed like a good first step. After Colleague I remained as a forklift driver while trying to get my own short films off the ground. I really enjoyed Writing, Directing and Cinematography, but producing… (Pause) I did not. Trying to choreograph a team of twenty to thirty people and organise locations, equipment, schedules etcetera is a mammoth task on its own. On all my films I had also made all the props, masks and gory make up. It was my Brother that put the two together and suggested I do the makeup – but for film. That was a real ‘light bulb’ moment in my life. Then, ‘Ben Fallaize Studio’ was born. While frequently visiting London trying to penetrate the film scene as a makeup effect artist, I remained a Forklift driver at a different facility, and was promoted to work as an administrator in one of the offices. That was awful! Typing in front of a computer hour after hour. (Grunts) I still don’t see how going from a free forklift driver driving in the sunshine all day, to being locked in a room, drooling at a screen is considered ‘’a promotion’’. I would often play pranks and annoy the rest of the staff to keep me entertained. This was now the 2013 or 2014 era. The film work was doing well, as was the collectible side. So, I left that job to dedicate my full time to the studio. Very soon after, I teamed up with another makeup Artist I met through film (Laura!) and “Father Phantom Studio” was born.
"I still don’t see how going from a free forklift driver driving in the sunshine all day, to being locked in a room, drooling at a screen is considered ‘a promotion’".
What is the constant interest in the FX community? In other words, what is the appeal to growing a business in this industry?
My interest in this field began very young. I grew up watching Alien and many other horror or ‘effect-mad movies’. From ‘Evil Dead’ to ‘Jurassic Park’. After each one I would always ask one question: ‘’How did they do that?’’ I was the type of kid who would perform surgery on his Furby trying to find ‘his secrets’ Or in other terms – how the hell it worked! But on the other hand, I would never pester a magician – my dad was a magician – because, I believed the ‘’magic’’ of these effects was the most important element. Once you knew that it was ‘’just a guy in a suit’’ or a puppet, or a Furby is just computer chips and wire (Pause) it loses its magic. The idea of making a monster, a character, to change someone completely using Make up and Masks fascinated me. I was a very practical and artistic kid, drawing, sculpting with play dough, making paper mache masks and costumes. I just loved the idea of constructing something that would give someone else that same magic and wonderment I’d get from Films (and theatre shows too!) The idea of becoming the magician himself (Pause) Of course, these days we know it’s all done on computer, and it’s all a bit magic-less….and shit.
This is a follow up to the last question. Do you believe practical effects will ever become obsolete in film and television? What would replace them and what are your thoughts about this?
Now this is a great question and a controversial one too. As we become more technologically advanced and technology becomes widely available, many traditional art forms will die. Look at it this way for example, Software like Z brush allows individuals who never touched clay before to ‘’sculpt’’ full bodied detailed characters. 3D printers have quickly become very popular; these remove the need to 1) Sculpt 2) Mold And 3) Cast. Sculpting, Mold making and Casting are all very different specialised artforms in themselves. Back in the heyday you’d have artists and entire departments whose skill and responsibilities were needed in each of these individual arenas. Now one machine can do all three jobs. Over the last decade in various studios, work benches that were once bathed in plaster and paint have now been replaced by computers and novelty mugs. It’s not only make-up effects that have been hindered by technology. Costume makers, set builders, and Carpenters have also lost work (to name a few). Why actually build a set when you could just throw up a green screen? (That’s sarcasm by the way) There’s also the psychological factors – the lack in the magic spoken of earlier. For me personally, CGI has no magic, no wonderment. It was done on a computer, looks like a video game, move on.We knew that Giger’s ‘Alien’ was a man in a suit, we knew the T-rex in Jurassic Park was an animatronic. Yet our jaws floored. We all jump and run when someone in makeup jumps out at us at Halloween – because it’s real. We know it’s make believe, but its real; it exists in our world on a physical level. When it’s a CGI composite, we know it simply doesn’t exist. It isn’t real. So, it doesn’t have the same psychological impact. Consider John Carpenters ‘The Thing’ compared to the 2011 remake. The future of Practical effects doesn’t look very promising, which obviously is a shame.I think there will always be room for make-up prosthetics, however. And still believe there’s room for both to work alongside one another. Independence Day 1996 or the recent Chernobyl series had the balance between practical and digital perfectly.
"Over the last decade in various studios, work benches that were once bathed in plaster and paint have now been replaced by computers and novelty mugs. It’s not only make-up effects that have been hindered by technology."
When creating a bust, what is the most important step or steps to bringing an inanimate object to a life-like state? There’s a certain magic you put into your creation and understanding. This level of attention is something most miss. To reiterate, what formula do use to bring life into busts?
Well firstly, thank you very much! I think you answered your own question right there. I treat every bust and mask as an individual and never see them as an inanimate object. The same way a child might see and feel about their favourite teddy. Every fold, every wrinkle, every hair, every blemish and speck of paint tells a story. These aren’t just pieces of rubber and resin, they’re characters and that’s what I try and bring out: the character and their story. For me, it’s not so much about skill or technique, it’s a feeling. You have a plain piece of rubber and I aim to give it emotion, a feeling (Pause) a life.
Tell us the backstory on the Spectre. Where does this mold derive? What’s its lineage to the 75 Kirk? And what are changes the mold has undergone?
The Spectre was a very long journey, and it’s still on going as it’s currently gone back to clay form and getting a complete revamp. Years ago now, I remember scrolling up and down the social media platforms and seeing kirk after kirk. The whole scene became obsessed with creating the perfect kirk and alas the perfect ‘conversion’. I often wondered how happy everyone was when wearing their mask about, having to open their jaw to stretch their mask so it resembles how the mask looked on screen. So, I thought perhaps a ‘pre-stretched’ mask might be a cool idea. I’d like to have a mask to sit in my case that actually looked like it did on screen (without over stuffing it). The only mask I was aware of like that was Lee Romiares ‘Second Stab’, and that was long out of production. I loved the hell out of that mask. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Don Post 98/99. And thought that would make a good, yet perhaps satisfyingly challenging, starting point. So, I asked Darren Perks for his permission and he gave me his full blessing. The first step was to enlarge the piece. Some slight adjustments were made, we slimmed the nose, thinned down the face and pronounced the jaw and mouth area. Then the Castle Stretch was added last.
What makes replicating an original Don Post Studios 75 Kirk so hard? Do you think we’ll ever capture what Bill Malone did when sculpting the 75 Kirk? Or do you think we have captured that?
I believe art (just like music) captures and entombs the era or period in which it was made. We can come close to making modern rock n roll, but it can only be replicated to an extent. Because we can’t replicate the essence (Mind frames, attitudes, abilities, behaviours, outlooks, product consumed, influences, experiences) of the 50’s. Trying to replicate a mask made in the 70s is no exception. We live in a completely different time; we are a completely different generation, our tools, our materials are completely re formulated and different. The other reason being we’re dealing with one of the most basic, yet complex features nature has given us: a human face. These are incredibly difficult to sculpt, yet alone replicate. Another factor to consider is each Kirk was made of latex. It’s organic, it moves, it changes, and every pull taken out of that mold was individual. Compare Josh Warrens Kirk to Darren Hughes. Both masks are very different. All the surviving kirks differ from each other dramatically. So, it makes it more difficult to sculpt and replicate. I will also say I think there’s a big difference between Bill Malones sculpt and the latex copies Don Post produced thereafter. Latex is organic and is as susceptible to gravity and age you and me.
"I believe art...captures and entombs the era or period in which it was made. We can come close to making modern rock n roll, but it can only be replicated to an extent. Because we can’t replicate the essence..."
When it comes to H20, you are the go-to guy for the best mask replicas. Where did the Brothers Return come from and what is different about this mask when compared to all others?
(Ahh) Thank you again – and big thank you to the community that has supported me over the years! The original ‘Brothers Return’ began life as a small clay press of an SSN’s Face. I remembered I sculpted the ears and jaw in first, and then the rest of the head followed. In the end the entire piece ended up being an original sculpt. After a year or so of making these I was contacted by someone claiming to own the screen used. Turns out he wasn’t joking! We arranged to meet up and upon first seeing the screen used I took one of the biggest deep breaths I ever did take! It was a thing of sheer beauty and in pristine condition. I was allowed to inspect every detail. Not long after that, ‘The Brothers Return V2’ was born. And I made a good friend too! The mask they made at Stan Winston’s was very peculiar indeed! With its fluffy hair, aggressive eyebrows and feline looking eyes, it had a certain cheeky look to it. People don’t realise, but there’s a load of ‘kirk’ elements in the sculpt. You either love or hate the mask, but I feel that how it is lit and shot in the film lets it down. The mask was always lit flat, washing out the sculptural features and details in the paint work. It’s interesting that today; we know more about the H4 mask than we know about the H20. I will say this though: throughout the shoot someone would have been constantly restyling the hair.
A white mask to the oblivious person sounds easy to paint, but we know this is anything but the case. What is it about the Myers mask that brings so much more to a mask than a simple white coat?
(Hm) Loads! I believe nothing about the original hero was coincidental or by chance. I believe the person or persons responsible for painting and finishing the Hero mask knew what they were doing. They knew where to highlight and where to shadow. There’s basic ‘’rules’’ painters and make-up artists use when it comes to offsetting, breaking up or neutralising colours. I think the person responsible for painting the hero knew these ‘’rules’’ and knew what they were doing. I believe Tommy Lee Wallace’s story, but I believe his mask became one of the two stunt masks. I often wonder after receiving the Hero from Don Post, if they had their make-up artist ‘’mess around’’ with it. Same goes for Halloween II. Someone added all that weathering and dirt. The Mystery continues (Pause) As far as replicating the famed white mask goes, I believe it’s more complex than adding browns and blacks. When I paint one, I try to think of the film, its atmosphere and try to replicate that same atmosphere within. It’s so important to me that I want a customer to put on one of my masks and feel like they have just jumped straight off the screen. Like I spoke of earlier, it’s more of a feeling….a vibe….a story.
How do you take a mask that has once seen a better day and give life to it again? Is it more than a fresh coat of paint ?
I think a lot of the answer lies in the answer to a previous question. When someone sends me a mask, I treat them as my own. They always get any defects, rips, rot, creases, folds and etcetera fixed. They remain properly stuffed and always freshly talc’d!
What is the most overlooked feature of the Kirk that most sculpts fail to recognize? And on the flip, what is something that is given too much attention?
It’d hard to pinpoint specifics, but I would say one thing that used to put me off a lot of masks was the ears being too flat. I have nothing but total respect for anyone who attempts to sculpt a kirk, especially from ground up – that’s brave! I’d also say I believe a lot of people naturally sculpt it looking too angry. I’d say most of the ‘’aggressive’’ look came from the paint and shape of the eye cuts. While making the Spectre I too initially made the eyebrows far too angry looking.
What is the best advice you would give to a novice artist looking to venture into mask making?
To play, experiment, and have fun! I have many ‘novice artists’ asking me how I did that? What did I use to do this? Unfortunately for them, I’m not a teacher, I’m still learning myself! And that’s what 50% of being an artist is. Experimentation. Many years ago when I was trying to find the correct hair for the H20s, I researched and ordered a sample of almost every kind of hair there is, from every corner or the globe from Sheep, Goat, Alpaca, Horse, Yak, Human, Crepe, Synthetic…….trying to find the best match. Same with paints and other materials. This exploration and experimentation is part of being an artist and the fun of it! Just last week I was testing various urethane-based glues, and just now I’m about to order some ‘’new’’ sealers to test. So, my advice is simply this: Go figure and have fun! On the other hand, if you paint a mask purely because you want to unleash it to its full potential then send it to a pro.
Before we say our goodbyes I have a question I need answers to. What is a hot dog... is it a sandwich or is it a taco, and why ?
This question just blew my mind! I have consulted with council and our opinion is that a Hot Dog is much like Caitlyn Jenner: it is its own thing. It is its own identity; it knows no limits or boundaries of society’s labels. But allow me to ask you……If you tried hard enough, could you count to potato?!
We sincerely send our thanks to Ben and his team for all of their hard work. We also send our thanks to Laura for always getting back to us when Ben has been too busy! At The Halloween Market, we believe that artists are the backbone of the community, helping us achieve some of our wildest, screenaccurate dreams. Make sure to take a look at some of the work done by 'Father Phantom Studios', and send them some of our love. If you have a mask from them, or if you would like to acquire one in the future post away in the comments below!
Article written by David Rodriguez and The Halloween Market team
Interview conducted by Michael Kellbach