Recently Dread visited the Burbank, CA effects house Illusion Industries (formerly Drac Studios) for an extensive tour guided by company president and make-up artist Todd Tucker and while there got the lowdown on the future of the company as well as exclusive word on a handful of upcoming projects, including the Brooke Lewis-starring Vamp It Out and Tucker’s currently untitled Zack Ward vehicle, which he is set to direct later this year in New Orleans, LA.
While Tucker and Drac Studios’ previous credits include over a hundred films well regarded within the horror realm (his crew, made up of artists Joe Colwell, Martin Astles, Miles Teves and Adam Wells, have in the past delivered the innovative character creations for such respected fare as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Watchmen, The Passion of the Christ, Hannibal, The Mask and more), the re-branding of his company as Illusion Industries serves to not only communicate to the industry at large the full-service capabilities of the 11,600-square-foot shop – from character design to delivery – but also to announce its new independent production wing.
With his focus to remain on special effects make-up, animatronics and production services, Tucker has now joined forces with CPA & CEO Ronald Halvas and Executive VP Seth William Meier (the latter of whom brings to the company his experience as a line producer), and with the creation of three new company arms (in Moscow, Russia and Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana), Illusion Industries’ approach (according to Tucker) is, “To continue to offer superior quality creations,” as well as (given the company’s strategically placed trio of shops) multiple tax incentives to film productions tapping their resources.
Speaking with Tucker following our tour (which included an intensive look at the company’s many services, including ZBrush design, sculpture, mold-making, animatronics and foam latex/silicone prosthetic appliance and painting, with a living demonstration presented via the transformation of easy-on-the-eyes scream queen and producer Brooke Lewis as a rather hideous zombie), the FX artist and filmmaker (Tucker previously served as the director of this year’s family flick Monster Mutt) told us, “Currently right now we have three projects in development in-house. One of them is Christmas Tales, which is a family movie we are doing that focuses on Santa’s dog who must save Christmas and which incorporates animatronics and puppets in a digital environment, which hopefully we’ll be shooting this summer for a December release.”
“We also are doing the film Mr. Zorb – My Substitute is an Alien, which is sort of like Galaxy Quest (in tone) and will feature a combination of puppets and makeup, and which is geared towards the ‘tween audience. Also we are working on the Halloween family special Vamp It Out, which I’m producing with Brooke (Lewis), who will also star. The other project is our first in-house horror film, which is not titled yet. (Actor) Zack Ward, who was our bad-guy in Monster Mutt and who was ‘Scut Farkus’ in A Christmas Story, will appear as the villain in that. So we are taking everything we have at our disposal here and using them (in the production of these properties). Most of them are budgeted under five million. The in-house production part of the company is a lot of fun for us, and for me as a producer and a director, and it’s also a great outlet for us to create our own product and to actually have a library of films which we own.”
Check out some exclusive imagery below, and click on for the next page and more eye candy including a video with Brooke Lewis!
As for the casting of Ward in Illusion’s untitled horror project (Tucker, who previously served as assistant director of Stephen Goldmann’s 2008 horror romp Trailer Park of Terror, will write and direct, with an eye to shoot in Louisiana in the coming months), “It’s weird, but Zack is such a great bad guy,” he said. “I actually had a nightmare about him and realized in that nightmare that if I turned him into the next ‘Freddy Krueger’, that would be his calling. The film is going to be a ghost story, where Zack is a predator, who basically kills children to extend his life, and then is killed by one of the children, and now his ghost is haunting a house that a new family moves into with their child, and all hell breaks loose. We have the spirits of the dead children haunting the house and Zack’s character haunting the house, and trying to ultimately get his life back by sacrificing the child of the new family. It’s not going to be necessarily an overly gory film. It’s more about going into a creepy and supernatural world, and at the same time creating a character that will hopefully give nightmares to everyone that sees the film. Zack has such a great presence. When you see the makeup that we did on him, it’s still Zack, but I think (with it) we’ll be able to create something that’s iconic.”
Tucker, who served as co-producer on last year’s Adam Gierasch-directed Night of the Demons redux (and who also provided the unique character creations for that film) gave us a peek at Ward’s character makeup moments later (see the photo below) and expounded on the inspiration for the project.
“It was originally titled The Child Catcher, but we found that legally we couldn’t use that (name), so we are untitled right now,” Tucker told us. “The premise of it is actually based on a true story that I experienced some of the results of first-hand while in Australia working on another film. Basically, there was a group of priests and nuns that had run the convent that we were shooting at, and who were (prior to the production) sacrificing kids from the orphanage in the convent every week because they felt that in doing so that they would extend their lives somehow. Ultimately a lot of the kids who were there at the time and who knew what was going on, but had no place to go, were hiding in a part of the convent the whole time. I saw some of the areas and the places where they were hiding (after the convent was shut down) and some of the things that the kids had painted on the walls, and it was really creepy.”
With Brooke Lewis set to appear in Tucker’s untitled project as the imperiled child’s mother, he said of the Louisiana location in which he’s slated to shoot, “The plantation that we found kind of has the same feeling that the convent did,” said Tucker of the project. “The caretaker there started to tell us of some of its history when we were scouting and showed us the property’s ‘The Hanging Tree,’ and I walked around and took some video of that and of the basement area of the plantation, and it was creepy, so I kind of hope that will be the spirit of the film. We are also going to use some of the history of Louisiana in order to make something that has a lot of reality in its background, so it’s not going to be something that couldn’t possibly really happen, and we are going to shoot it in fourteen to sixteen days, with a minimal crew and minimal locations. The main goal is to have some really, really good scares and to kind of tap into the nightmare aspect of it.”
For more visit Illusion Industries online. Our thanks to Scott Essman for putting together the tour.
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