The Dumping Ground
The BAFTA award winning CBBC series the Dumping Ground has been going for several years as a follow up show to the incredibly successful Tracy Beaker program. I have been asked over the course of three series to provide a variety of action props from the realistic to the bizarre. Props include a controllable robovac, a marble run to papier mache frogs! Below are some images of action props made for the show.
Latex/polystyrene rocks made for ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Christmas special.
Sand sculpture, one of four identical sculptures used.
Safe and ‘safe cracker’. I fitted the safe with electronic lights and built the ‘safe cracker’ to look like one of the children had designed it with the ability to manipulate the dial and crack the code displayed on an electronic screen.
Miniature background locusts to pin onto cast members.
Wolfblood is into its 4th series, currently airing on CBBC. I have been fortunate to have been involved in this series since it began. The first series I was involved with creating fog effects for the special effects department and also helping the makeup department with their transformations makeups that were scaled down to claws, wolf teeth and eyes. My role was to take finger casts of our actors and under the direction of makeup designer Michael Birtley, whom I had previously worked with on Ghost Street, I assisted in building the false nails/claws to be worn by our young cast.
More recently it has been the art department who have called upon my skills to create various action props and set pieces to be used during filming.
Latex rocks for a cave in sequence.
Fracking model for school display.
Engraved ‘Wolfblood’ goblet.
Segolia laser pens, first generation.
In March 2015, ITV began to film one of the company’s biggest dramas in their history, the multi million pound epic family drama based on the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf.
The program required all the usual elements typical of a period drama, costume, makeup, production services and of course special effects.
The visual effects that include set extensions and the multitude of CGI creatures were handled by the MILK visual effects company, the practical elements handled by the Rowley FX team for whom I freelance with.
We took on a whole variety of work, the huge exterior sets built in Co Durham and Northumberland needed to be brought to life with smoke elements, braziers, smelting pits, fires and atmosphere. We also worked alongside the visual effects boys and the stunt co-ordinator to achieve other practical gags.
The studio workload was equally massive, particularly the huge interior of the Great Hall. There were dozens of sconces, braziers and other flame elements to keep on top of as well as having haze machines running too.
Filming finished in early October, the drama aired early in the New Year to mixed reviews. Too many people compared it to Game of Thrones which was a little unfair. Game of Thrones is a very intense, gorey, highly political drama for adults, Beowulf was a family drama. Perhaps too simplistic, perhaps it deviated from the original story too far? Whatever the reason, the viewing figures were not high enough for the series to be picked up for a second season. Shame, but I’m proud to have been a part of it.
Photo courtesy of Rowley Special Effects
Vampires aka Bloodless
This is a low budget film shot in the north of England during 2010. It took a while to be released as the budget was found to finish the CGI effects and to get a distributor on board. The finished film however will not disappoint fans of British horror.
My involvement began when producers Steve O’Brien and Richard Johnstone asked if I’d take a look at the script in December 2009. I read it and made notes over the festive period and really enjoyed it. The film was green lit early into the New Year and we began filming in late Feb, early March.
I put a small team together to help me get through the workload that includes Jez Hunt, Dawn Hardy and Will Steele. We had a whole load of work to do, several vampire makeups, their victims, some dummies, flame effects and a few prop builds. We had one week pre-production time then it was a case of evenings and long hours during the shoot to get the work done.
As ever with these things it was a learning curve, but I am proud of what we achieved in such a short amount of time on such a small budget.
Look out for Vampires, it’ll make a great spooky gift!
Holly….she stole the show!
One of the many wounds applied on set, straight out of the kit. forthis I used sculpt gel coloured with liquidex acrylic, stippled with pros aide and made up with creams, all in approx half an hour. Not to bad!
I’ll add some behind the scenes pics in the Blog in the near future.
I was a member of the special effects team who created the spectacular Fire for the hit ITV soap Emmerdale that aired in January 2011.
I assisted Ian Rowley Special Effects to create the various fires with the use of flame bars, smoke and a spectacular fire ball at the Emmerdale Post Office.
We filmed in November 2010 during the heavy snows that engulfed the UK. If you watch the scene closely you can see the continuity nightmare that was to hinder the crew. Snow..no snow etc. Thankfully much of the scene was shot in sequence so it appears that not only did the good folk of Emmerdale have a raging fire to contend with but horrendous arctic conditions too.
This is a wonderful short film that was adapted and directed by the very talented young film maker Alex Nichol. The film is an emotional little drama with a healthy dose of the blackest of humour. It is based on a short three panel cartoon created by the genius of Nicholas Gurewitch.
I had great fun creating the production design for the short, finding suitable prop items, creating the illusion of a real fire and providing the simple make-up. Even the grave stone is fake. Enjoy.
My involvement came late in the shoot of this new short film. I was asked to create two main make-ups. The first being a facial acid burn, the second was to create the effect of letters being carved into the victims skin.
James hopes his film gets to have it’s premiere at the Berlin film festival next year. Fingers crossed that it’s a huge success.
Sadly the long running, award winning programme is no longer on our screens but the hit TV show was my training ground for television.
My first job was to help out the art department as a prop maker and scenic artist back on seasons 7 and 8. My first role was to create tag/street art for the mischeivous character Terry, who got up to no end of trouble leaving his mark, ‘Godzilla!’ on the streets of Newcastle.
Later I was trained up as a set dresser and eventually an art director for seasons 9 and 10. Byker Grove was a popular and fast moving childrens drama, the script threw many challenges and with the help of an experienced and friendly crew we met those challenges head on.
The hit ITV series from Coastal Productions, “Wire in the Blood” showcased a number of grizzly scenarios and stories. My involvement came in season six when I was asked to create three mutilated suitcase victims.
In the story the bodies are discovered inside suitcases with their limbs hacked off, I guess they just don’t make suitcases big enough for serial killers these days! Then the mutilated corpses where thrown into a lake with the hope that they’ll never be seen again. Unfortunately for the killer but fortunately for me the bodies are discovered and I was given the task to realise their horrid demise and I had only a short amount of time to do it.
I began the job by doing research, what does a body look like after its been mutilated and thrown into a lake for several months? Well I found my answer from some rather disgusting images care of the pathology department. With research in hand, I drew up some designs and discussed the look of the corpses with the art department, who adviced me on just how grotesque to go with our poor victims.
So based on those instructions I set about creating the bodies by taking life casts from some very helpful volunteers. From those casts I created sculptures of the dead victims before making moulds and eventually the silicone castings.
The silicone rubber was pre-pigmented before applying into the mould, building up translucent layers one at a time. The bodies where then fitted with a wooden skeleton and filled with an expandable polyurethane foam.
The final bits to add was some congielled blood, gooey stuff to make the skin appear slimey and of course finished off with wigs and hair. NASTY!
Gore galore was created for the Comedy Horror “Zombie Women of Satan” which was written and directed by Warren Speed.
Lets be honest this is a film for the boys who like nothing better than to crack open a beer, sit with a curry and to leave their BRAINS on the door step.
This was the first feature film that I had the opportunity to supervise both the physical effect gags and the make-up effects. It involved two mad weeks of pre-production, working out of a small dusty room with my good friend and artist Jez Hunt. We created a whole variety of effects from duplicating weapons such as knives, golf clubs and baseball bats, to making and applying the gory appliances for the many silly if not horrific sequences.
We used every cheap gag that we could think of, the budget was low but the effort was huge. Many effects worked out wonderfully, inevitably some however were less successful but strangely added to the comedy. The film truly was a baptism of fire for all involved.