Monday, January 18, 2010

Paradise Profiles: Jeff Farley (Special Effects)

So, as many of you may already know, my second favorite horror movie of all time in the 1988 remake of The Blob. A few months ago I did a video review of The Blob on the blob and Jeff Farley, who was the creature effects crew for The Blob, commented on my video. I asked him if he would do an interview through Facebook about his role in The Blob as well as his website and his other works. He agreed to and I am thrilled and pleased to bring you the longest interview that I ever had. I also want to thank Jeff Farley for agreeing to do this.


IMDb states that your job on The Blob was 'creature effects crew.' What sort of jobs does that include?
Well, on THE BLOB, the crew was broken up into two separate units. Tony Gardner was hired to provide any makeup effects related to the bodies being "digested" and Lyle Conway was brought in (obviously because of the reputation of his work with the Henson's and the amazing "Audrey Jr." from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) to come up with the concepts for the title creature. Since we were directly fabricating the actual "Blob" itself and puppeteering it, our title was quite naturally, Creature Effects Crew. At least that's what my crew jacket says. I recall spending quite a bit of time going to the shop in Hollywood in the mornings, working a few hours there, then driving to first unit in Valencia to work for a few hours and then diving to Simim Vally to end up at Dreamquest for the rest of the day to work on the puppet crew. I must have done this every day for a few weeks. It was nuts, but we got through it.

How was working with Shawnee Smith and Kevin Dillon?
I only worked with Shawnee and Kevin a few times on set directly. They were quite nice and professional from my recollection. But we never really talked or anything. I do remember talking with Bill Mosely Erika Eleniak and Ricky Paull Goldin though. Just stuff you do on set to relieve the boredom. I worked a few years ago with Kevin on some Sci Fi Channel film and we had a good laugh about our experiences on THE BLOB.

When we first see the blob in the meteorite, what exactly was 'the blob' made out of?
The meteorite scene was shot on location in Louisiana while I was in Italy on Empire Pictures ARENA.

The hospital scene when Meg sees her boyfriend get devoured by the blob, how exactly was that scene pulled off?
The effect were Meg's boyfriend is devoured was accomplished mostly by Tony Gardner's crew. They did it with a combination of full-scale rigs built for Donovan Leitch and miniatures. Our unit may have provided the skins that were pulled over the body at different speeds creating a unique effect. The skins or "quilts" as we called them were created by using silk bags sewed onto silk sheets. These were then dyed, airbrushed and then each bag would be injected with methocel. That, along with hot melt vinyl and other more traditional techniques, were how the Blob was created.

What were the hardships of that scene?
Luckily, I wasn't involved with particular scene, but I'm sure it, like most everything else was "not a walk in the park".

For the kitchen scene, how on Earth did you manage to get a guy's head down the drain?
It's funny that picked out the drain sequence because I was involved with that. Andy Workman and I were tasked with building the kitchen sink (so yes, I have done everything) and it had to work with the collapsing head that the makeup effects crew built. The understructure looked somewhat like an eggbeater with a mechanism in the center that would cause the head to collapsed and fit down the drain. It was really quite ingenious.

Now, for that theater scene, what had to have been the hardest thing you had to do?
For the theater scene there were many things to do, but I recall being involved in the scene where Frank Collison's character is on the ceiling and gets Pons Marr. It was a very difficult setup.

In the end scenes, where we finally see the full blob, are any of the movements done in stop-motion or is all puppetry?
Everything from my recollection (it has been 20 years) was achieved through good old "blood, sweat and tears". Oh, and some elbow grease and intestinal fortitude were thrown in for good measure. No CGI at that time folks! To be honest, it was all puppetry.

One scene in particular (reference point 1:26:43) it seems as though there are layers to the blob and one layer came out of another. How was that done?
This was achieved by layers of quilts with slightly varying colors being fitted together and a puppeteer would thrust out their arms inside the bags to separate them. There was not a day when the puppeteering crew would not go home covered in slime. We would wear plastic garbage bags to try to cover ourselves, but it never worked.

While on the set for The Blob, what was the hardest thing that you had to do or help with?
The most difficult project I was involved with on set was the scene where Ricky Paull Goldin and Erika Eleniak are in the car. That included many days of prep, puppeteering and special rigs. The point where the Blob covers Ricky was achieved by harnessing him into a car mounted on a gimbel and turning the car on it's side. We then got to pour five gallon buckets of slime on him. That's show business kids!

How was it like working with Chuck Russell?
Working with Chuck was an interesting experience. He is a very focused, talented and detail-oriented individual. He is also prone to fits of screaming in your face when you haven't done what he wants you to do. I had one direct experience with him on the previously mentioned sequence where I was chosen to double Ricky for the slime tests. Well, here I am lying on a board between two ladders and someone pours five gallons on slime on me. I felt this was rather absurd and laughed. Well, Mr. Russell would have none of that! He gets one inch from my face and screams at the top of his lungs "THIS THING IS ABOUT TO FUCKING KILL YOU AND YOU'RE FUCKING LAUGHING? YOU SHOULD BE SCREAMING YOUR FUCKING LUNGS OUT! CLEAN HIM UP AND LET'S DO IT AGAIN!" So I had to do it a second time so he would be satisfied. To be honest though, I saw the same thing happen to the leads and even the director of photography, Mark Irwin. So I kind of feel as though I joined some kind of weird club.

What was the best memory you had?
The above mentioned memory.

While working on Carnosaur, what was your role?
I sculpted the small scale Tyrannosaurus Rex puppet for the original. It was then used for all of the sequels.

On Alien vs. Hunter, was it difficult to not copy to heavily off of Alien and Predator?
Oh yeah, when you work for The Asylum, you try not to tarnish the good names of any classic film! They rely on having some type of hook and if it's familiarity, that's not too bad I guess.

How was working on the set of Tropic Thunder?
I never made it the set on TROPIC THUNDER. I was brought in by Ed French to sculpt and mold Jack Black's Fatties character prosthetics. The molds were then shipped from my studio to Spectral Motion where the foam was run.

After reading some of your referrals, how does it feel to be so highly regarded in your prosthetics, creature and makeup design?
To be honest, it feels a bit strange. I started out as a fan going to conventions and hanging out at Forry Ackerman's. One of my neighbors was an editor of STAR WARS.and I spent my teenage years hanging around guys like Denneis Muren, David Allen, Jim Danforth and a number of others who so generously gave their time to help myself and others out. Now, I try to give advice to anyone who is interested in this as a profession.

What got you interested in makeup and creature design effects?
I was bitten by the bug early. My earliest memories must be from when I was about 3 or 4 and seeing the Cyclops fall off the cliff in SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and KING KONG. My brother also had an Aurora Frankenstein model kit. I knew I wanted to do special effects when I was 8 when EQUINOX was released. I recall seeing our local morning news show and Dennis and Davis were on with some of the puppets. It also turns out I grew up where the film had been shot. The Green Giant sequence was shot where my father was a member of the local archery club. I ate my lunches off the picnic tables the Green Giant stood on! How cool is that for a young monster fan? I actually started to move towards makeup effects around the time DAWN OF THE DEAD was released. That film (quite literally) "blew me away"! At that time there where so many great technical innovations happening that I felt that was the place to be. More than gore, I was interested in the artistic and technical challenges. I try to use that philosophy in all of my work.

Where did you get the name 'Obscure Artifacts?'
I came up with the name Obscure Artifacts one day when I was giving some copy for Kit Builders magazine. I was doing some EQUINOX kits at the time and needed to come up with some moniker. As Lee Van Cleef said in MEAN FRANK AND CRAZY TONY, "It's a nice name, you should keep it".

Was there one time, in your whole career, where you were so frustrated with a project?
I could fill a thousand pages with all of the times I've been frustrated. But you have to get the job done and move on.

What is your favorite horror movie?
Without a doubt, EQUINOX!

For all the people who want to get into this field, what do you have to say to them?
Well, Jim Danforth gave one word of advice about getting into the business... "DON'T"! Actually, I would encourage anyone to pursue their goals, but to be aware that to achieve them, can mean some very long hours and to always try to keep improving the work you do constantly. Be satisfied with your work, but never enough that you don't grow. And just be the best person you can be. Confidence is good, but ego can get you kicked out the door.

What do you do to relax in your spare time?
Answer questions!

You can visit Jeff’s website by clicking here.
You can add Jeff as a friend by clicking here.
You can become a fan of Obscure Artifacts by clicking here.
You can visit Jeff’s IMDb page by clicking here.


Chris Hallock said...

What a great interview!
LOL at Chuck Russell screaming in his face.

I absolutely love that effects work in The Blob remake. What a great flick!

Haha, Equinox does have some great effects. What a glorious mess of a movie.

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