Interview with Special F/X Guru, Chris Bridges

I have another treat today everyone.  Anthony Alviano, the star of the great indie horror film Long Pigs, was nice enough to put me in touch with special f/x wiz Chris Bridges.  You may not be familiar with the name (yet) but you are definitely familiar with his work.  He did the SFX on Mimic (1997), Jason X (2001), 300 (2006), and worked on Rodrigo Gudino’s short film The Demonology of Desire (2007; which I covered in my Texas Frightmare Weekend round-up here).  But that’s not all; Chris Bridges also worked in the make-up department on over 15 pretty high profile films including Blade II (2002), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Saw III and Silent Hill (both 2006), and Diary of the Dead (2007).

His most recent outing (taking the indie horror scene by storm) is the film Long Pigs (see my review here).  Besides having a well-executed story and great acting, the film also has some really stand out special f/x that I, for one, wasn’t expecting to see in such a low budget flick.  I contacted Bridges last week and he was nice enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to answer some questions for me.  And please note that like all my interviews I don’t alter or change any of the answers!!

 

Who can forget the Reapers from Blade II?

Q: Hi Chris.  Could you tell us a little about yourself and your past work?  What films and which artists do you consider your greatest influences?

A: Hi, well I grew up in Calgary, Alberta and began my career in effects in 1987 on a small independent film. It was really simple stuff but I loved it. The thing about Calgary at that time was that most of the film and TV work was wrapped around Westerns so I did a lot of scars, burns and dirt. I had to learn a lot on my own from books and from reading magazines like Fangoria and Gorezone trying to recreate the effects pictured. Movies like Star Wars, The Thing and Alien probably got me interested in effects, but it was the artists like Dick Smith, Rick Baker, and Rob Bottin that really inspired me. Aside from make up effects, I also had a passion for mechanical effects and started building puppets and R/C stuff which really rounded me out as an effects guy. In 1997, I started work on Honey I Shrunk the Kids the TV show, which was really fun. I did that for two years then moved to Toronto to work on Jason X with some friends. Soon after, I started getting my own jobs, like Mutant X and 300. In 1996 I got Diary of the Dead and finally started Gaslight Studio.

 

That certainly doesn’t look like a “baked ham” anymore!!

How did you come to work on Long Pigs? Not taking anything away from it, but comparatively it has, I would imagine, a much smaller budget than what you’re used to working with?  Did your budget pose a problem for what directors Hynes and Power wanted to create?

At that time I was sharing a workspace with a friend of mine, Tony Labatt. One day Tony came in and mentioned that one of his friends was on a small film and that they were having problems with some effects they had hired out and could we maybe talk with the directors. We did meet with Chris and Nathan, they even brought us the body the other effects guy made in hopes that maybe it could be salvaged. They made it clear they did not have much money left over from the original build, and I think I felt a little sorry for them, I mean the body they brought in looked like a baked ham. And so Tony and I agreed to help and remake the body – as cheaply as we could.

The f/x work in Long Pigs is nothing short of excellent.  Did Hynes and Power kind of “cut you lose” and let you develop/come up with the f/x?  Or did you work closely with Hynes and Power to come up with some great set-pieces?  Could you give us an “inside track” on 1 or 2 of the f/x?  How the hell did you pull them off?

First, thanks for the kind words. I knew right away what had to be done and I knew that the corpse had to be convincing. Chris and Nathan let Tony and I do our thing and were basically ecstatic – we even agreed to help, anything – and I mean anything we would have made would be miles better than what they already had. Tony and I finished the first body and we shot it. I took a lot of shortcuts to make it, but thanks to some dramatic lighting I was pretty happy with how it turned out. A short while later, Chris called us again and asked about making a second body for the film. Chris mentioned that the body needed to somehow be rendered into nothing in front of our eyes. I sort of took it as a challenge – I don’t remember ever seeing something like that in any horror film. The second body was made of a rubber skin with white foam inside, no guts and no bones. I knew that as long as we could jump in and dress the cuts during the cuts we could pull it off. To get the full idea you should watch the special features of the DVD, it shows exactly how we did it.

 

Never done before: The dismembering of a body on camera without the camera blinking or moving!!

I often find that in genre films the f/x, when done really well, almost take on a life of their own.  The f/x sometimes become like a character and that, I believe, ultimately hurts the film because they then stand above the film.  The f/x in movies should enhance and help to highlight what is going on in the story.  You nailed the f/x in Long Pigs and they really enhanced the story.  How do you approach doing the f/x for films so they in fact highlight and not overshadow the films?

I find these days many films try to throw their effects in your face, as almost to show off. I think I try to approach a films effects on a “less is more” thing and let the effect serve the film and not the other way around. For instance, in Long Pigs, the effects were really not that gory. Anthony was doing such a great job that the body we made complimented him and vice versa. As for the male body for the time lapse, it was shot so matter of fact and not like CSI where you have all those tight in your face shots, it just looked… normal, or as normal as a cannibal rendering his meal could be.

What are some of your upcoming projects?

We are doing the [TV] series Lost Girl, shot here in Toronto. It looks really good and we’re building a lot of cool stuff for it. Also, this past February we built some great effects for Larry (I Sell the Dead) Fessenden’s Hypothermia.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions Chris.

My pleasure, take care.

—–

Perhaps his highest profile film!!

Good stuff.  I think it take a pretty classy guy to help out two directors who got screwed over by the last f/x guy!!  Make sure to look out for Lost Girl (about a succubus, Bo, who feeds off the energy of humans) due out later this year and I’ll keep you up to date on any and all of Bridges’ future projects.  Thanks again to Chris Bridges for taking the time to answer some questions for http://www.anythinghorror.com.

Stay Bloody!!!

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2 Responses to Interview with Special F/X Guru, Chris Bridges

  1. l3pr3chaun says:

    Great interview again Scott. Chris seems like a pros’ pro in how he handles his business and really takes pride in his art. I love the fact that he takes a team approach and thinks of the project first and not how he is going to wow everyone with the next cool fx. Although he is a technician, he truly understnds and respects the art of film making and works towards furthering the entire project he works on. I wish there were more who took the “less is more attitude” and looked always for ways to enhance the project. Bravo Chris! & Thanks again for some really insightful and intelligent questions Scott! You are indeed Staying Bloody Brilliant & I love the new look of the site!

    • Thanks Bill!!! I was really impressed with Chris as well. He’s a real pro who cares more about the final product than he does about the film being a showcase for his skills (& the man has skills).

      Keep yur eyes open for Long Pigs. You’re gonna be really impressed with what he accomplishes in that film. AND the film as a whole is great!!

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