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Body of Work

November 27th, 2013

November 27th, 2013

Waldo Mason

Waldo Mason

Waldo Mason is an expert at creating corpses. But before anyone calls the police, we should say that these are solely prosthetic ones for all manner of film and TV. He also makes a mighty fine alien and some exceptional exploding heads. Warpaint caught up with Waldo to discuss the rising body count as one of his latest ventures The World’s End is released on DVD.

Waldo Mason at work

Waldo Mason at work

Having been in the UK prosthetics industry for 19 years, Waldo has had the pleasure of working with some of the best film-makers in the business, on jobs such as Saving Private Ryan, Waking the Dead, the Harry Potter Series and as creature sculptor/designer for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. But despite his squeamishness-inducing creations, it is Waldo’s enduring love, interest and enthusiasm for his craft which shines through most clearly. When asked where the inspiration and desire to get into the business came from, it was clear that his passion can be traced back to his childhood. “I used to love watching horror films when I was a kid,” he tells us. “This led to locking myself in my room where I began to sculpt my first creatures. I think An American Werewolf in London was probably my biggest inspiration – it definitely helped that I had got hold of it on a pirated VHS, although I knew I shouldn’t be watching it!”

The 'Blue Gloop' aftermath from The World's End

The ‘Blue Gloop’ aftermath from The World’s End

This personal interest and love of horror films has stayed with him, pulling his attention and formidable talent to creating all manner of ghastly corpses for projects such as Burke and Hare and Ripper Street. “I enjoy gory jobs because of the challenges they present in obtaining a realistic result, as opposed to making just a red stump with a chunk of bone protruding out of it.  I try to use as much anatomical reference as possible from textbooks and photos, as well as occasionally consulting pathologists I have worked with to achieve an accurately realised end product.” And while the jobs may call for somewhat unrealistic or hilarious circumstances, Waldo remains committed to realism. “I definitely prefer doing the realistic [to the fantastical] as I find it more of a challenge,” he says. “Fantasy is more open to interpretation and, as such, can never be wrong.”

The World's End

The World’s End

After working for several years at the Jim Henson Creature Shop in London, and contributing to all manner of TV and film projects, Waldo knows that creating a final look is the product of several people, a collaborative team effort to realise an image that may be held differently by different people. When discussing creative freedom, he went on to remark that, “generally jobs are quite heavily art-directed, as either the production designer, make up designer or director have quite specific ideas about what they want, and a lot of the specifics they ask for are plot points – particularly in forensic shows.  But quite often, within those parameters, you can do what you feel is right for the job, and the aforementioned departments are usually very grateful for the input.”

Captain Jackson's pathology department in Ripper Street

Captain Jackson’s pathology department in Ripper Street

As many MUAs know, the film and TV industries certainly are funny ones, with miles of footage being shot and hundreds of man-hours poured in to creating pieces of media which rarely last longer than a couple of hours when run. When asked if special effects make-up artists get enough credit for their work, which takes hours and may only last minutes – or seconds – on screen, Waldo is surprisingly accepting of the situation. “I personally don’t mind if the work is shown briefly, as I think it has more impact if used sparingly. It is usually just part of the story and generally doesn’t need to be dwelt on to achieve the desired effect. I think make up artists get credited more these days as the use of make up effects has become more commonplace in recent years, and with the advent of the internet and social media people tend to publicise themselves much more, opening their work to a much wider audience than ever before.”

Ripper Street

Ripper Street

Speaking of wider audiences, brings us to the Harry Potter franchise, which saw Waldo working on six of the eight spectacularly successful films. “The Harry Potter jobs were fantastic, as they provided work that spanned a period of ten years… as an FX artist making a living, it was fantastic to have been involved!” he explains. “But finances aside, it was a great experience working with such an amazing crew – some of whom I had worked with in the past, but also many talented new people whose work really stood out and continue to deliver beautiful work in the industry today.”

Waldo's recreation of John Merrick from series 2 of Ripper Street

Waldo’s recreation of John Merrick from series 2 of Ripper Street

As The World’s End, the final film in the hugely popular Simon Pegg and Nick Frost trilogy which also includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, is released this week on DVD, we asked Waldo if he felt any additional pressure for working on such a hugely popular and highly anticipated final film. “Not necessarily pressure,” he mused. “Although I was a huge fan of Shaun and Hot Fuzz, the film had to be approached as any other and boiled down to the necessary basics: budgets, schedules & deadlines. With that said, we were all really pleased to be involved and were as excited as the regular fans every time a new piece of casting was announced, or a new set of storyboards was released! We were also very aware of the huge following the trilogy has and really pushed to make everything the best it could possibly be within those constraints… or better, if possible!” Greg Townley “There were scenes that were tricky, not necessarily technically but just because the whole shoot was very demanding and there was always a lot to get done very quickly,” Waldo said, when discussing particularly complicated prosthetic and SFX scenes. “The toilet fight at The Cross Hands was, for me, the most important as it was to be the first we see of the blanks in the film, and it was the first prosthetics scene we shot. It involved every aspect of what we did on the film as a whole, covering animatronics, “blood” rigs, articulated stunt dummies, smashing heads, popping off limbs, and of course the blue “gloop” that got everywhere! The gloop was the most problematic in a way because everything was shot out of sequence, so whenever a head popped or gloop sprayed up the wall it would need to be cleaned up and later put back again for continuity. It was very hard to keep track of what was supposed to go where as the fight escalated! Mamby “The scene also featured my favourite piece of our work, the animatronic teenager’s head that Gary King first pops off. This was our very first item on set and Matt Denton, the animatronics supervisor, oversaw the mechanical build by Gustav Hoegen and used the performance control system he developed to puppeteer it on set. Together with the beautiful paint job by Nicola Grimshaw and hair work by Maria Cork, it was a great opening number for our department and got a great response on the day.”

Ripper Street

Ripper Street

With such a wide range of creations over the years, it took some thinking to narrow down his favourite character of all of those he has crafted. “I think I’d have to go with the Elephant Man from Series 2 of Ripper Street,” Waldo eventually decided. “We had a strict budget to stick to and didn’t have very long to produce the pieces. The production company were lovely and the actor (Joseph Drake) really made the make-up work, in spite of the long shooting days.  It was just an all round, pleasant experience which seemed to hold up quite well on screen – I hope!” Waldo’s work can next be seen in Fox’s new production of Frankenstein, working in collaboration with director Paul McGuigan and production designer Eve Stewart; “Obviously I can’t go into much detail, but we are really enjoying the couple of bits that we are making!” There is also the expectation of a third season of Ripper Street in the new year. In the hopes of scoring a big tip, we asked what his ultimate tool, his holy grail, was – and his answer brings us straight back to his love and dedication to his craft. Because instead of a brand of faux-blood or type of silicone for realistic limbs, we received an answer that cements the human behind his creatures: “Unfortunately, after years of hair punching – which I found myself doing a lot of at a certain point in my career – where hairs have to be inserted individually with a tiny needle into the skin of whatever you are making, I quite often struggle to see what I am doing any closer than two feet away from my face… so I’d have to say my glasses! I never really think that I need them until I realise I have forgotten them, and I find it almost impossible to get anything done!”

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By Warpaint Magazine

2 responses to “Body of Work”

  1. aworldoffilm says:

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