As told to MICHAEL GINGOLD
In part one of this exclusive interview (read it here), makeup effects artist turned writer/director Geoff Redknap explored the development and inspirations behind his debut feature THE UNSEEN. Now, Redknap goes into detail about how his unique protagonist was realized on screen, with exclusive behind-the-scenes pics.
Now on Canadian VOD from Raven Banner Releasing, THE UNSEEN stars Aden Young as a man who has inherited a curse that slowly turns him invisible—but in patches rather than the traditional transparent transition. Redknap told RUE MORGUE about the process after the movie’s world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival.
I had worked for a makeup effects shop in Vancouver that employed a lot of people, and two of their key guys were Werner Pretorius and Richard Darwin. Werner’s an amazing designer and a great makeup effects artist, and Richard is kind of a legendary animatronics designer. He came out of the UK Henson team, and he’s been in Vancouver for quite a few years now and worked pretty much everywhere. And it was serendipitous that right when we were gearing up to make THE UNSEEN, Werner and Richard decided to form their own makeup effects company called Amazing Ape Productions. I went to them and said, “You guys are my first two picks to build this Bob puppet, and maybe it’s perfect timing that you’re starting your own outfit. Do you want this to be your first project?” They looked at it and said, “This is crazy, let’s do it,” and that started a long process.
First, we had to find a makeup effects shop in Australia to do lifecasts of our lead actor Aden, because he was there at the time, and we couldn’t fly him to Vancouver for it. So what you do in a case like that is, you find someone local. I didn’t know anyone down there, so I got some suggestions and contacted a shop called Odd Studios—Adam Johansen and Damian Martin. I cold-called them out of the blue and said, “Hey, guys, makeup effects artist doing his first feature in Vancouver. I need you to life-cast my actor, who’s on the other side of the planet, and I’m looking for your friendliest family rates.” Those guys gave us a great deal, and they cast Aden. They had a great time meeting him—they were so excited! They put it all in a big crate and shipped it to Canada, and I think it was after that that I figured out that they were the guys who did MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, and won the Oscar! I was so excited to be talking to them, and I now consider them friends and colleagues, which is so cool ’cause I’m a die-hard MAD MAX fan.
So we got the lifecasts shipped over, and Werner and Richard set about building a life-size puppet of Bob for an important setpiece later in the film that I won’t spoil. It’s a big scene—you’ll know it when you see it—and it’s a combination of practical effects, makeup effects and visual effects, all coming together to achieve something that, if it had been all visual effects, would have blown the budget.
There was also prosthetic work, and that was headed by Toby Lindala of Lindala Schminken FX, which was my origin; I started on THE X FILES, working for Toby. All these years later, when I needed somebody to do the prosthetics for THE UNSEEN, I went to him, and he said, “This would be awesome, I’d be honored, the timing’s perfect, let’s do this.”
Photo by Joe Lederer
We did something that is kind of unconventional in makeup effects films, in that usually, it’s kind of a closed-shop approach. You hire one company to do all of the work, or you hire one designer, and he subcontracts it out. Guys like Bill Corso will head up a show, but they’ll hire a shop. In this case, because I knew everybody in Vancouver, I knew the guys I wanted for each part of the effects load, and I knew their strengths. I also didn’t want to overwhelm one company with everything, so in this case we had two shops, and we had our head-of-department makeup artist, Sarah Graham, supervising it all.
Sarah is someone else I’ve worked with, and she’s done it all—straight makeup, makeup effects and heading up shows. That was another serendipitous thing. She was transitioning from teaching at a makeup school and had just decided not to do that anymore, and she was on the verge of moving to LA or Georgia or Vancouver. She hadn’t decided yet, and I called her up and said, “Hey, I’m doing an indie in January, do you want to head it up?” And she was like, “I can do that!”
The movie’s full of makeup effects people, really. Toby and a guy I work with all the time, Mike Fields, did the burn makeup on the father character. Mike also played the bandanna guy at the bus stop. When I was writing the script, I was like, OK, Bob’s addressing how he’s going to hide his condition more, he needs to get a bandanna or a scarf or something. Then I thought, “Maybe he sees some punk kid on the bus and can buy a bandanna off him.” When I started verbalizing it, I thought, “Oh, I know who’s playing the guy!”
Even with the visual effects, I’ve done a variety of shows with Bob Habros over the years, and when I put THE UNSEEN together, I went to him and said, “Bob, tell me how we can do this.” He was actually instrumental in the idea of doing as much practical as we could, and planning the visual-effects shots for the key moments, and not building a project full of so much work that he could never achieve it all at a level that would hold up.
Concept design by Bronwyne Sloley