‘True Blood,’ ‘Falling Skies,’ and ‘The Leftovers’ to Feature Unique Work of MASTERSFX Company
“Freshly-Made Monsters” created and produced by award-winning creative character effects company MASTERSFX will be unleashed during the “Summer of Monster Love 2014.” The creatures will be featured within three, high-profile TV series. This array of bloody and slimy new creatures will include vampires and makeup FX featured in the HBO series True Blood (Season 7, debuting June 22) an assortment of aliens in the Dreamworks/TNT series Falling Skies (Season 4, also debuting June 22) and special FX, which also will be seen (or unseen) in HBO’s new drama series The Leftovers (which debuts June 29).
MASTERSFX is continuing its special form of “bloody arts” on HBO’s seventh and final season of True Blood – having produced the makeup FX and prosthetics for the series since its debut in 2008. “We’ve been on True Blood starting with the pilot,” says MASTERSFX Coordinator Mark Viniello. “And since then, we have produced over 500 vampire bites, created more than 400 pairs of fangs, and spilled more gallons of blood than I can calculate.”
The company followed True Blood creator and executive producer Alan Ball from Six Feet Under, where the FX shop created the “dead” of another type – humans. The company won an Emmy Award in 2002 for its work on that series. Now well-past that show’s conclusion, and in the final season of another, MASTERSFX President/Founder Todd Masters reflects on the numerous corpses left in his wake. “I have mixed feelings about the final season of True Blood,” he said. “We’re not quite finished yet, but it is sad to see the end of all these great characters and fun story lines. True Blood redefined the modern vampire, and we were extremely happy to have played a part in its bloody glory.”
MASTERSFX will continue to victimize the fictitious citizens of Bon Temps, La., for a few more weeks, as the show winds downs filming. “And then, just maybe, we can try and get some of these blood stains out of our clothes,” Masters joked.
For Season 4 of Falling Skies, the Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks Television series returning this summer on TNT, MASTERSFX faced a completely different monster challenge. The studio has created armies of practical alien characters (pictured) on this series since its 2011 launch – and has used the challenges of a weekly, “Alien Invasion” series to evolve its classic monster techniques, helping the studio ultimately reinvent its FX process.
With the many different types of alien species that MASTERSFX has enabled to invade Earth over the past three seasons, the company had to change its FX approach to keep up. “We love the look and feel of physical creatures on set, interacting with cast and sets,” Masters explained, “But they can often be too unwieldy and difficult to evoke dramatic emotions from. At the same time, computer rendered creatures have their advantages also, but often aren’t as persuasive as creatures who can physically appear and act on set.”
For the upcoming season of Falling Skies, MASTERSFX is implementing both practical and digital FX to present various creatures, including members of the alien “Volm” warrior race – including the most popular character added to Falling Skies during Season 3, “Cochise,” portrayed by actor Doug Jones. Jones’ on-set practical alien “Cochise” appears nearly complete when filming, so other actors can interact with him and respond directly to his life form, naturally. “His alien portrayal can physically be part of the scene, can be directed, and can interact with the other performers, as well as with the sets and the props organically. In this manner, he appears as a true cast member of the show,” said Johnathan Banta, senior VFX supervisor at MASTERSFX.
As for the new HBO drama series The Leftovers, which focuses on the residents of the fictional town of Mapleton, whose preconceptions are shattered in the wake of a global event dubbed “The Sudden Departure,” MASTERSFX remains tight-lipped. “Our role on this new series is to help fill-in-the-blanks,” said Nicholas Podbrey, MASTERSFX producer, quite slyly. “In the world of The Leftovers, 2 percent of the population departed. So, we’re helping tell this story through very subtle special effects that audiences may or may not even notice.”