Hey kiddies! This is my new project called PERSEPHONE, named after a figure from Greek mythology. Persephone was a nature goddess who became Queen of the Underworld after being abducted by Hades. The myth of her abduction represents her role as the personification of vegetation – which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth in autumn. When she is in the Underworld we experience winter. And when she visits the world she brings with her spring, flowers, and the resurrection of life. As both a Goddess of Spring, and the Queen of the Underworld – she exemplifies the tension between life and death.
My lovely bride Jen (Lady Bathory) returned as my assistant for this project, as well as my faithful friend Demian Vela. We also worked with some new collaborators. Rebekah Whitt played the part of Persephone, and her make-up was done by Shawn Shelton with Bandersnatch Studios.
The walls and archway of the set were made from plastic VacuForm panels that we painted to look like stone. We built the set inside a factory near Robert Kurtzman’s studio in Ohio. Kurtzman is a legendary make-up FX artist and the founder of KNB EFX. He also wrote the original story for the movie FROM DUSK TIL DAWN and was the director of WISHMASTER. Kurtzman introduced us to David Greathouse (House) – who created all of the foam latex vines that we wired and glued to the walls of the set.
Kurtzman also introduced us to Beki Ingram, who turned out to be the real hero of the project. Jen, Demian and I were all enormously impressed as she spearheaded the enormous task of dressing the set walls with fake foliage and roses, which were meticulously glued to the walls, one flower at a time.
Beki has recently become a TV celebrity. She is one of the leading contestants on the hit reality show FACE/OFF, which features up-and-coming special-effects make-up artists in a winner-takes-all competition. The program airs on Wednesday nights on the SyFy Channel, and each week we are glued to our TV sets rooting for our friend.
Demian took a week off of work and drove 800 miles to Ohio to help with this project. I think he was excited by the prospect of hanging out with Robert Kurtzman.
Me with our half-finished set walls.
We needed more space for our lights so we moved to another part of the factory to finish our set dressing. Here you can see Beki, Demian, and Jen slowly dressing the set walls with green foliage.
We stole grass and sod from Kurtzman’s backyard and hauled it to the factory in the back of my mini-van. I inserted fake arms (minus the hands) into the set floor. I would have used the hands as well but they looked so fake that I cut them off. We hung giant sheets of black velvet behind the set. Black velvet and a fog machine are all we had to hide the fact that our set was built inside a factory.
Here is a lighting test with fog.
Two interns from Kurtzman’s studio came by to help on the day of the shoot. Beki painted their hands and arms to match the prop arms on set. I shot their hands separately and used Photoshop to graft them onto the fake arms that I photographed on set. The out-of-focus hands in the foreground of the final image were photographed live in front of the camera, with the interns kneeling beneath the lens of my camera like puppeteers.
See you next time!