Exclusive Guest Blog: Vincent Guastini – V.G.P. Effects & Design Studio New Projects – Aftermath, Dimension 404, and Vincent’s Directing Debut of The Dark Tapes
Vincent Guastini best known for his make-up effects work in Requiem For A Dream, Dogma, Last Of Mohicans, Letters Of Iwo Jima, and Stephen King’s Thinner. Guastini has multiple projects that have been released in the month of April that his company did makeup effects for, including one that is his directorial debut, The Dark Tapes (review).
First on the effects side is the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new movie currently playing on the big screen, Aftermath. V.G.P. Effects and Design Studio did the effects for the film which is directed by Eliot Lester and produced by Darren Arnofsky and his company Protozoa.
“We did some really impactful effects for this film the bodies were hyper real right down to glass imbedded in one of the bodies I nicknamed, glass man. At this time I don’t know how much they will be seen in the film itself because the bodies are pretty graphic. The day we shot the scene there was a winter storm that covered the location in heavy icy snow. Most of the bodies were set up in kind a of hurry on the outside damage field location because Arnold was set to do his scene at a certain time that morning. Also, I don’t know if the movie is going to go the extreme graphic or gore route.”
“Even with those unknown facts it was my good friend producer Eric Watson who got me on the film, and of course it’s been quite a while since Darren Aronofsky and I were on the same project. I wanted to make sure that the stuff looked great. I had to have all the bodies done and ready four weeks before they filmed to give them enough time so that they could be shipped to location in Columbus Ohio and set up in the plane crash. That was the one thing I got to personally prep – the ones inside the plane. Also I knew being on a project like this was a once in a lifetime situation and I wanted to make sure the stuff looked perfect.”
For The Hulu TV show, “Dimension 404,” Produced by Lionsgate and created by Rocket Jump and show runner Desmond Dolly. Vincent got his chance to do a creature of the week type show.
“This was a crazy show to do. From a video game monster that comes to life in the episode “Polybius” starring The Fog‘s Adrienne Barbeau as a Gatekeeper of sorts, to a giant talking square brain as big as a building named Bob. There’s even a bunch of Alien tentacles that take over your mind and body that rip through your mouth and eventually the whole world in the episode, “CineThrax.”
“This show had every practical effect you could think of. Animatronic puppets, practical make-up effects as well as miniature versions of creatures like Bob which were to be added later and or aided digitally into a scene along with a full-size puppet version of Bob for the actors to interact with. Other duties included giant 9 foot tall suits like our Polybius monster who was played by famous monster suit performer Doulas Tait. It was our chance to do a new creature of the week show that was like a cross between “Twilight Zone” and “Amazing Stories.” So far the new show has been getting great reviews critically, among them TV GUIDE saying, “Sometimes the story it’s telling is creepy, sometimes it’s playful, but it’s always interesting, and that’s what makes it enjoyable hour to hour.”
As far as Vincent’s directing debut on a film called The Dark Tapes which he is also a producer on. The flick has garnered over 56 awards and is already considered a critical success having swept all the film festivals and getting kudos from genre critics on sites like Blumhouse, Ain’t it Cool and Rue Morgue, who said it had, “The best jump scares and best practical effects” It’s said to be the most awarded and critically acclaimed found footage film since The Blair Witch Project.
Of the film Guastini says, “I did not have much time to direct the main wrap around called ‘To Catch a Demon.’ Originally I had 4 to 5 days to direct the segment which was at first planned as an episode within the film itself. It later became the wraparound due to some editing issues and my time being cut down to 3 days after losing lots of time on set to unforeseen interruptions. I had to make up that time while keeping the story and script cohesive enough so that people would not be confused during editing. The shoot also had some complicated practical effects and action. Producer and writer of the film, and director of the other segments, Michael McQuown, was the one who came up with the idea on set to make it a wraparound. I also contributed to the “Twilight Zone” finale of my segment to wrap-up the ending.”
“The film was released nationally on April 18th on all platforms and is being distributed worldwide by genre giant distribution company Epic Films run by Patrick Ewald. Epic was the first one I wanted to handle the movie and first phone call I directed my producer to call, and to my shock they said yes right out of the gate!”
“All the effects for The Dark Tapes were designed and created by my company, but for my segment the demon is an over 7-foot tall nightmare that stalks genre star Courtney Palm. The creature’s inspiration and look was from the internet urban legend ‘The Russian Sleep Experiment.’ It was a story and a look that scared the shit out of me. I had my key designer Josh P. Crockett do some incredible designs based off my ideas to flesh the creature out. I then hired my good friend and long time crew member Josh Wasylink to sculpt the monster. My two key guys on set were effects veteran and long time V.G.P. crew member Jeff Farley along with assistant John Fasano Jr. They both helped me through the process of getting my creature in out of his demonization.”
“I constructed the suit and painted the creature. I think Ryan Allan Young, who played the creature, did a hell of a job doing some incredible stuff thanks to my old stunt buddies help, Jeff Scott. I also art directed the set and made a lot of the props for the episode. My thought process was to have these bizarre tesla coils surrounding the bed to create a kind of Ghostbusters-type tech for the machine that would be catching the demon. I can say I’m really not a big fan of found footage films. I love doing movies that are cinematic. So I found it a challenge directing a movie this way and wanted to see if I could pull it off. Hopefully the end result is a different kind of experience than the usual found footage movies out there. Watching Ridley Scott’s Alien over and over again helped me a lot. Having a great DP like Matt Shapira, who I worked with on another film called Behind the Walls, shooting my episode and Michael’s as well definitely helped. Without him it would not have been nearly as good. Working with some of the kings of the found footage sub-genre, namely Adam Robitel on The Taking of Debra Logan, Insidious 4, and doing VHS Viral with Aaron Moorhead Justin Benson and Todd Lincoln was a big help experience-wise in doing mine.”
Vincent has also many side projects that him and his company did effects on still to come out like, Kane directed by Chris Olen Ray, Rolfe Kanefsky’s creature and practical effects-laden film called The Black Room and another effects laden Alien film called Welcome to Willits directed by Trevor Ryan. “All of these films are currently competing against one another at the First Look Film Festival for best special effects.” That’s not it though. Guastini also has Behind the Walls, written and directed by The Kondelik Brothers which he co-produced there. “I’m excited by that one as well I got to do miniatures as well as a full creature suit that harkens back to Altered States, and The Thing. I also just built a fully contained Raptor suit for a film being done overseas called My Jurassic Place. It was a true challenge to get a suit done like that finished and we did it under some pretty incredible constraints as we had to additionally create the stages of growth from baby to adult.”
“I Love doing the smaller shows, there so much fun they help pay the bills and creative freedom is awesome. Getting to work with my friends is awesome. Chris and Rolfe are a blast to work with and they let me do for the most part anything I want. The Kondelik Brothers are also very loyal not many filmmalers keep hiring you back… it’s rare these days. Most times on these smaller projects, like the one in production right now that I’m producing by this genius in England named Peter Andrew Montgomery Scott. He’s the new George Pal in my books, and has created this project that has all kinds of old school practical effects, miniatures, stop motion creatures, you name it. It’s called Dark Earth and it’s really a pretty epic little film. I can’t wait for that to be done, if you are fan of 60s, 70s films like War of The Words & H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, or even Ray Harryhausen and steam punk epics like Men in The Moon then you’re going to love this film!”
“It seems like I’m asked to come on as producer quite often now because I affect the outcome of the film on a lot of levels… as well as having some pretty solid connections to tap into it. It’s nice to be asked now without me asking. That’s happening now to great effect thanks to directors like Steven C. Miller along with Darren Lynn Bousman and Se7ven producer Richard Saperstein who got me my first executive producer credit on Silent Night starring Malcolm McDowell, the loosely based remake to Silent Night Deadly Night. After that, producing credits seem to be forthcoming on a pretty regular basis.”
“On the directing side for me next on the map is a movie called Deadly Skies. This is going to be my most visually ambitious project and I promise some stuff has never been seen in quite this way in a long time. Think Close Encounters meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre and you can get a pretty good idea where I want to take this.”
“Amy Williams has just come on as producer who I love and trust like family. She produced Mothers and Daughters, and produced with me on Rock Paper Dead. The feature is directed by horror legend director Tom Holland. I got offered to do the effects on their film and come on as a co-producer after I heard that they were trying to lock in a director. I suggested Tom Holland and bingo the deal went through.”
“The film is awesome, and I can’t wait for people to see what Tom has done. It was personal dream to get Tom Holland on a genre project again and be able to effect that happening is something I want to continue to do as a producer not only for him but for other legends in the horror film universe that would normally not get that chance as much anymore. There’s a prejudice in Hollywood towards some of our older geniuses. Some people think they’re there too old or don’t have the same chops as some of the younger guys. It’s my way of giving back to what they gave me when I enjoyed their work growing up as a kid and how they influenced me.”