An Interview with the Fellows at Drac Studios
by Laura Tucker
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Having the opportunity to interview two of the guys behind the Academy Award-winning makeup and special effects team at Drac Studios, I jumped at the chance. It sounded like one of those dream jobs, one of those things you grow up wanting to do and can’t believe your lucky stars when you actually get to do it. That’s actually how I feel about my own job, getting to watch TV shows and movies, and interviewing people involved in the process. Talking to Todd Tucker and Harvey Lowry, it seemed they fit the bill.
Todd did most of the talking for the team, but Harvey also pitched in occasionally. The third member of their team, Greg Cannom, wasn’t around. Drac Studios is a new collaboration for them. The three had all worked together on a number of other projects over the last fifteen years as the creative part of the makeup and special effects process. They decided a few years back they wanted to be in control of everything, yet keep that same collaborative creative team.
Looking over the list of credits between the three guys, it’s rather impressive. I asked what their favorite area was to work in, special effects, makeup, creating creatures, or if they all had different specialities that they bring to the table. Tom feels this is the great thing, as they really all have their own personal strengths. Greg is such a legendary makeup artist, and he read about him as a kid. Coming out to Hollywood to work with such an iconic guy in the makeup world was like working with a superstar.
In the early 90s, Tom came in with the ultimate goal of wanting to set all this up and do some acting as well. Harvey was learning the business end of the process. So together as a trio, Greg is the artist, the creative guy, Harvey is the hardcover business man, and Tom is in the middle, doing both the creative and business. That’s what makes it all work so well for them, as no one is really doing someone else’s job, since they each have their own strengths.
Looking over the impressive list of films the three of them have worked, one of my favorites on the list is Mrs. Doubtfire. The irony for me looking at it was that it was one of the two bodies of work that was Academy Award winning, yet the story in the film revolved around someone else being a makeup and special effects expert (Harvey Fierstein as Robin Williams’ brother), providing him with the masks to carry out the old lady look. Tom noted they kind of did the same thing in the movie White Chicks, and will be doing Soccer Mom, an upcoming Disney film. He doesn’t mind if someone else takes the credit in the film as part of their role, as long as in the end, it’s their names rolling in the credits.
Now this was truly an odd question, but it ran through my mind looking at all the different films this team has worked on. In many of their films, they’re making people look older. I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d ever done that to themselves, apply old makeup, just to see what they’ll look like in their golden years. I kept thinking that would be one of the first things I’d do if I learned that process. Tom and Harvey couldn’t say they’ve done it, but they do admit to occasionally trying new methods and appliances out on their staff.
Tom has played many different creatures as well, including fifteen different werewolves, so has tried out the transformation process that way. In a true testament to the craft of Drac Studios, once they do age an actor, afterwards, the actor will come back in with a picture of their parents, showing that the old age makeup on them looks astonishingly like like their father or mother currently. This happened with the makeup applied to Brad Pitt for the upcoming film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Many times, the women get quite upset to see what they will look like aged, and putting someone in fat makeup is the worst. They put Miss Michigan in a fat costume and makeup once, and she actually became very distraught!
Going back to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, when I asked what body of work they were most proud of, Harvey feels the makeup for this was beautiful on Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Tom chimed in saying that he is most proud of Mrs. Doubtfire and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. He is just very glad to have his name tagged on to those movies. With Mrs. Doubtfire, though the story was great, as was Robin Williams, he just didn’t expect it to work, as it seemed cheesy, yet it did. With Pirates, they only worked on the first one and felt it was very groundbreaking and just cool to be a part of it. He really feels the first one is far superior.
As far as other films with special effects and makeup, Tom and Harvey do look at others’ work. Asked if there were any others they wished they could have worked on themselves, Harvey would really have loved to work on The Species, surprising Tom, but Harvey replied he just likes creepy looking monsters. Tom thinks it would have been really cool to work on Gremlins. There are so many of them due to the fact they keep multiplying, that he’d probably be kept really busy on that film.
Still, there has to be some type of dream gig for them, something that hasn’t been done yet. I wondered if they could write a film based around the makeup and special effects they wanted to create, what would it be. Tom replied for him it would be to do a big fantasy type film like Legend with Tom Cruise. He’d like to create a really cool fantasy film, then be able to direct, produce, and create everything and have full control to run with it. Harvey’s fantasy projects are in the works for later this summer. While one is a family fantasy film, the other is a horror thriller based on a Spanish urban legend. You have to admit that sounds interesting.
Both Tom and Harvey agree it’s truly a dream for them to now be creating projects from scratch, where they can just run with it. It’s a big creative release, yet they didn’t have that opportunity before, unless they paid for it themselves, and they knew that would upset the wives if they pulled that.
For an example of the process they usually go through, seeing a film through from beginning to end, they discussed the horror comedy Trailer Park of Terror. They met with the executive producer, but didn’t feel the script worked. Once it was rewritten with a new direction, they came in and produced the film through their production company, as well as that of the executive producer’s. The characters are a family of rednecks, with a similar look to the Pirates of Caribbean, and don’t look like zombies. It was an eighteen day shoot, and by the time it got on the screen, it was neatt to see, since they’ve been involved since the beginning. It’s never exactly whey they imagine, yet still very gratifying with a creative rush.
There are a few Drac Studios projects coming up that the guys can discuss, other than the ones already mentioned. They have several ongoing on television,such as Moonlight on ABC, The Middleman on ABC Family, and several of the Disney Channel shows such as The Suite Life of Zach and Cody and That’s So Raven. They have a mega feature coming out early next year, Watchmen, directed by Zach Snyder. They’re also working on Night at the Museum 2, in which they’re hoping it will top the first one, and it just seems they might.
There are also a few other really exciting projects coming up for Drac Studios that Tom and Harvey really wanted to discuss, but just couldn’t spill the beans yet for at least another month. We’ll have to catch up with them again to get that scoop!
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