Here is a pic of the grand master model maker Gene Rizzardi and his finished clear Enterprise E model. The model was built for Captain Picard’s ready room from Star Trek “Nemesis” and funny story goes along with this beautiful model. Way back in 2001 a lot of the sets for Nemesis would be built and dressed for shooting a day or so before they were needed for filming. One of the biggest issues with getting sets ready for filming trouble is getting the director over to see the sets for approval, This is very true with all shows because everyone’s time is spread out where there is an overwhelming amount of work on everyone’s plate…. Many times he wouldn’t be able to show up till the day before or less and any change was a big change in the 11th hour. That’s the nature of the beast and we all are on scramble mode till the last shot of the film is done!!!! This model is one very big example of this… a few days before the ready room was to be shot all the dressing and lighting was in place. My boss Herman Zimmerman, had me make a display model of the Enterprise E to have as a part of the dressing. The study model built for ILM on First Contact was used again and was set in the corner of the set….. The director walked in and made a hand full of small changes, he caught site of the Enterprise model in the corner and after looking at it for a moment he turned to Herman and said in a very British accent: I think I would like to have this model CLEA-AH (clear). Herman discussed the major issues of such a request, yet Stuart was very passionate about having a clear ship so the request stood.. Herman came back to the office and asked what it would take to make the ship transparent!!!!!! Yikes,,, I said it would take about 4 weeks and about $8000. Holly Cow said Herman and off he went to pitch the heavy news. He came back and said the change was still wanted and to go ahead with making a new “E” This in return postponed being able to shoot the Ready room so other sets had to be quickly finished to fill the Ready Rooms slot. Herman asked If I could make the model but there was no way to do both the art and the model at the same time. Herman took the project down stairs to the FX department and the job was given to model maker Gene Rizzardi. Gene took the master pieces of the “e” model from stage and started to sand and buff the pieces smooth as glass. Special platinum rubber molds had to made to accept the clear resins needed to make the ship parts clear…. Problem ensued right away with the parts sticking to the molds and the surface of the parts not curing… after multiple attempts regular RTV molds were made and seemed to work better with the resin than the Platinum molds did. Know the issue was casting parts without bubbles in the middle. After many try’s Gene got some good pieces and now had to spend a great deal of time sanding and buffing the materiel to a perfect smooth and clear finish. Gene made three or four final pieces as backups, and after all was said and done I believe the models cost to be about $13,000. and took 6 weeks to complete. The model was placed on the set, filming began and in the end you can kinda see it in the far background of a couple of shots!!!!! As short as it was seen in the background it at least made it… The model we made for First Contact is only seen as a shadow on the wall… HAAA! HOLLYWOOD!!!!!! Anyways the behind the scenes crew worked their magic and the finished piece was spectacular…
Archive for the 'Movie Model Makers' Category
IF you are a fan of of Star trek III The Search for Spock, there were certainly a lot of new ships to set a fancy to. The Klingon Bird of Prey, The USS Excelsior, The Massive Space Dock, and one little ship called the USS Grissom. I walked away from this film in awe and wonder with what ILM had done visually and creatively with all the new ships. The destruction of the Enterprise seemed unimaginable even after the film was over…quite a shocker. That moment hit hard, like Spock’s death in the previous film. These were definitely the glory days for the Trek films. From the Motion Picture to Trek IV possessed a magical presence on the screen that left me wanting more.
Aside from these fine films, the VFX ws as big of a star as were the main actors. Many, many incredible ships and scenes graced the screen from 79 to 87, and I’m sure we all have our favorites. One of my all time favs was the USS Grissom, named after Apollo astronaut, and Mercury pilot Gus Grissom who died tragically in a capsule fire in the mid 60′s. The Star Ship Grissom is defined as an Oberth class vessel and had a very unique set of lines and brilliant architecture. I loved all the designs from film to film in the above mentioned years, and the Grissom stands firm as one very cool designed ship. I’m not sure if this was a Bill George concept or a Nilo Rodis idea, but whoever the designer is my hat is off to you.
I was quite surprised when I saw the filming miniature at ILM because from the top it looked nothing like what was seen on film, mainly because the angles the model was filmed at were fairly mid hull shots with the ship traveling to or from the camera. Greg Jein gave me these pictures of the model and immediately you’ll notice the registry # is different from the ST III film version…this was done a lot on Star Trek so as to reuse a model from the films for whatever one of the TV shows it was going to star in next. A simple decal change made for a whole new ship at very limited expense. So with all that said, enjoy the pics and look forward to your comments.
The date is May the 16th 1986, and Paramount Pictures releases the #1 smash hit of the Summer, “TOP GUN”. This was an exceptionally exciting time because this was the first movie I worked on, and I drove from LA to Phoenix, Arizona on opening day to watch it in my favorite theater, The Cine Capri. I find it so hard to believe that less than a year earlier I was a produce clerk at Bayless Markets and then all of a sudden my big dream of working in the movies was a reality. It was a fast year to say the least and the whole experience of watching the movie and then seeing all of our names in the credits was very surreal!!! I’m sure Doug, AKA Deg3D is going through this fantasy land experience as we speak with his starting in Hollywood less than 6 months ago!!! Go get em DEG!!!!
Writing this post brings back a lot of fun flashbacks and at the same time makes me realize I’m a lot older than I feel, HAAA! Anyways, Top Gun is the story of the best of the best Navy pilots that are hand picked to become even better pilots by training at Top Gun in Miramar, California. During a brief encounter with a Soviet Mig, Cruise and Edwards become legendary by making pretty close contact with the Soviet pilots. Both men get awarded the chance to train at Top Gun. A love story begins between Cruise and Navy advisor, McGillis. and falls apart when drama unfolds as friends are lost. Cruise has to cope with the fact that he feels responsible for his gunner’s death, and he is unable to operate as a pilot while carrying this heavy burden…Crisis arises at sea and Cruise has to pull himself together to help save his fellow airmen in an all out battle with the Soviets. In the end victory is ours, love is rekindled and the sun sets on one awesome film!
The movie was the first big hit of the summer and became a world wide blockbuster that launched so many careers into super stardom. Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan, Kelly McGillis, and Anthony Edwards to mention a few. The Cold War was a big topic in the 80′s and this movie brought it to the forefront. Full of action, drama, romance, and some incredible aerial sequences that still stand as a milestone to this day. Director Tony Scott and his crew put together a beautiful film with its awesome color and pacing. The score by Harold Faltermeyer and the songs by Kenny Loggins, Berlin, Cheap Trick, Loverboy, and the classics by Jerry Lee Lewis and the righteous Brothers made for a perfect soundtrack full of top ten hits, and many of the hits produced some very cool music videos. “Take my breath away” was the breakout hit by Berlin with beautiful vocals by lead singer Terri Nunn; the band was on their last years as a group, and they also had songs featured in “Space Balls”, and “Innerspace”.
The live action was being filmed in San Diego and Nevada, with the above deck sequences being filmed aboard the USS Enterprise CV-65 and interiors aboard the USS Ranger CV-61. In the Bay area, the behind the scenes folks responsible for the visuals were gearing up for the second leg of the film. The VFX team did some amazing visual work that tied together beautifully with the live action Aeriel scenes. The master minds behind the FX was Special Effects supervisor, Gary Gutierrez, and Director of Photography, Rick Fichter. The two had worked together previously on “The Right Stuff”, and the work they did on that film showed off their talents at creating incredibly real aircraft miniatures in flight that rivaled actual footage of the real planes. USFX based out of San Francisco was the VFX house that would be used to build all the F-14′s and F-5 models for the flat spin and explosion scenes. Chief Model Maker David Sosalla was running the crew, and we were working together at Apogee in Van Nuys, CA. David was finishing up a project he had going in Southern CA before he could break free to go to the bay for Top Gun. David would often borrow me from my Boss, Grant McCune, to run molds and to build little parts for him and when the time came for the big move up North, Dave asked If I would like to come too!!!! YEAH!!!! Everyday a new adventure would take place at Apogee and I was off to work on my first big movie. This was about mid November when we started working on the planes and we were in a warehouse over looking the bay. The building was freezing and the ventilation system was a fan in an open window. After the icy introduction we were off and running on getting all of the planes built. There were three sizes of the F-14′s, two nine foot planes, a bunch of 6 footers fashioned off of some ducted fan RC models by Larry Wolfe of Jet Hanger Hobbies, and then what seemed to be hundreds of 1/32 scale kits. The F-5 soviet jets were also ducted fan models recast for the film. The models were built at a frantic pace and everyday loads of them would be trucked off to the mountain top location in Oakland. The models, once there, would be thrown off 80 foot manlift’s, spun on wires, blown up, shot at, and burned on a daily basis. I went on location once to see these incredible events and within an hour I saw three of the jets miss the drop net and disintegrate into millions of tiny pieces!!! The hill top was terribly cold and horribly windy and there was no shade nor shelter to stop the weather that cursed and beat everyone to death. The filming schedule for our part of the film was relatively short and we wrapped out at noon on Christmas Eve.
This was one of those life changing times and filled with so many memories and new friends. Long gone are the days of miniature crews and FX being done this way, and I am so glad that I was allowed to share in the fun of these golden times. On film everything looked so incredible and the crew had really outdone themselves with these incredible visuals. It was a real treat to work with Gary Gutierrez and I’ll always be a fan. His work on “The Right Stuff” still stands as some of my favorite movie magic. Working with David Sosalla and Rick Fichter would go on for many years to come and they were always great fun to do shows with. Below are the names of the talented crew that put all of these FX together, and it would be so cool to catch up with everyone again. With all that said, Happy 25th Anniversary to TOP GUN and to all of those that made it happen!
Special Effects by
Steven C. Foster
special effects (as Steve Foster)
supervisor of special photographic effects
special effects coordinator
Robert G. Willard
special effects assistant (uncredited)
special effects crew (uncredited)
special effects technician (uncredited)
Visual Effects by
model maker: USFX
animator: USFX (as Sam Comstock)
model maker: USFX
model maker: USFX
director of photography: USFX
production manager: USFX
animation supervisor: USFX
Donald Hansard Sr.
process coordinator (as Don Hansard Sr.)
process engineer (as Don Hansard Jr.)
model maker: USFX (as Marghe McMahon)
model maker: USFX
assistant model maker: USFX
assistant model maker: USFX
assistant model maker: USFX
model maker: USFX (as Steven Sanders)
model department supervisor: USFX
Happy Friday, and I just came across some cool pictures of Greg Jein’s beautiful K7 Space Station from the DS9 episode, Trials and Tribble-ations. Greg Jein is one of the greatest model makers of all time, and his passion for Star trek is equally as great. This was definitely a labor of love project, and it shows in all the details. I love Greg and so miss the days of working in his shop back when real models were used for movies!!! So here are some fun pics to start the weekend, and hope everyone has a great couple of days off!!!
So Sorry for this very late post, but we lost our internet for the last three weeks and only just got it back up and working. With that said, the last post of the year was to be about Grant McCune and all the modelers at his shop, but sadly, before it was finished news of Grant’s untimely passing changed the story from one of great fun to one of horrible sadness.
2010 has been a hard year full of many sorrows and tragedies. We have lost a lot of Hollywood legends and dear friends, and as the year comes to a close there is one more final goodbye to a dear, dear friend. If you’re a regular reader here, the name Grant McCune is not a new one to you, and with great sadness, Grant passed away on Monday December the 27th of Pancreatic Cancer which he was only diagnosed with 4 weeks prior to his passing. For those of you who don’t know of Grant from a friend’s point of view, he was the chief model maker on a little film that came out in 1977 called “Star Wars” and his masterful craft won him an Oscar. Grant was always a little embarrassed about that because it was really his first film in many ways, and being the humble man that he was, always felt funny about it.
Grant started in the business working with his good friend Bill Shourt on the Mechanical Shark from Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws”. Bill and Grant went from working under water to outer space when George Lucas was putting together a team of specialists to create the undiscovered country of major motion control VFX for his space epic “Star Wars”. The Original Industrial Light and Magic VFX studio was a rented warehouse in Van Nuys, California, right next to the Van Nuys Airport. Star Wars was a landmark film and opened the door to a new world of VFX laden films incorporating Motion Control camera systems and technologies designed and created for Star Wars. Lucas was signed on to do a sequel and he wanted to move his operation up to the Bay area which was George’s stomping grounds. A call was made to see who wanted to follow to a new ILM to be situated in Marin County just north of San Francisco, and who was going to stay in Los Angelas. John Dykstra and six others of the main group decided to stay in southern CA while the others moved on. John Dykstra, Bill Shourt, Grant McCune, Richard Alexander, Roger Dorney, Doug Smith and Bob Sheperd got their money together and formed a new company called “Apogee”. Apogee retained the original building plus one directly next door to house all the new cameras, machine shop, creature shop, optical and animation department, model shop, and lots of stage and office space. Their first project was the television pilot and series called “Battlestar Galactica”. Grant would head up the model shop, and crews of modelers would come and go as the projects came in. Following Galactica came Star Trek (The Motion Picture), Caddyshack, Firefox and a host of other films and commercials.
I knew of Grant from the credits in Star Wars and from all the publications about the films VFX sequences. After years of research I found an add for Apogee in a trade magazine for film and gave him a call. We met in early 1984 and for the next year and a half I would frequently make the drive from Arizona to visit. One hot summer Wednesday in July I stopped by again to say hi. I was staying at my uncle’s house in Fullerton and doing some side work for him while I was on vacation from my job at the grocery store in Phoenix. I told Grant in a joking way that I lived here now, and he said; you live in CALIFORNIA!!! Why yes I do,,,,, he then said, how do you like working outside….. in the heat??? I had just come from 120 degree Arizona heat to California which was barely 100 degrees so hot outside was NOT California, HAAA! I said I love to work outside why? What came next was the big phrase that I thought I would never hear….. Good! would you like start working here tomorrow, your job will be brushing latex into a giant Dinosaur mold and he pointed outside to two half molds of a full sized T-Rex ! WOOOOOOOOOOO Oh yes I would love to, and he said; OK then see ya tomorrow at 7:00, and how does $7.00 an hour sound… That sounds Awesome Grant, Thanks and I will see you tomorrow I said and off I went to get ready for the big day!!!! What an unbelievable time! So on Thursday August 1st 1985 Grant McCune brought me into the world of VFX and one young boy’s dreams came true. I called my boss at Bayless markets and gave my two week notice over then phone and the sound of cheers rang out from everyone standing by the phone on the Arizona side of the line.
Grant was a great boss, and you couldn’t really call him that because he was more a friend than a boss. Always quick with a joke and a laugh, he loved his job and he so gracefully shared all of what he knew with you. Everybody loved Grant and also working at Apogee; it was a place that felt more like a house full of your favorite relatives than a job. There was really no division between the high end and the low end of the crew, and everyone there was incredibly talented and a joy to be around. Grant was a music lover and was ever so fond of the Gypsy Kings, Linda Rondstant, Leon Redbone, Patsy Cline, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Every morning when he would get in, we would all be blessed by a shout from the door, DOES EVERYONE LOVE THEIR JOB, followed by one of his tunes. Frech fries and breakfest burritos were next in a day of usual favorites. “Invaders from Mars”, “Top Gun”, and “Spaceballs” were my first movies working with Grant and and through him I met some of my very best friends, Cory and Allen Faucher, Pete Gerrard, Glen Campbell, Bill and John Shourt, Robert Beilmere, James Spencer, Pat Denver, David Dryer, Lisa Wise, Debbie Nicoles, Carolyn Diltz, Mike Yost, Greg Jein, Monty Shook, and way too many others to mention here. As Hollywood goes, there would be times where the modelshop crew would float from Apogee to Boss Films, DreamQuest Images, Fantasy II, LA Effects group, and up north to ILM for other jobs, but we would all gladly come back to Grant and Apogee.
The CGI world started to become the way of the future in the early 90′s and by about 1994 (it was provide it or die), which made up the new Hollywood attitude and about this time all the major model shops where coming to an end. Apogee’s final days were in 1995, and as the major VFX company closed it’s doors (literally over night), Grant retained his side of the company and formed his own VFX house under the new name of Grant McCune designs. Fifteen years later his company still stands and does various jobs for films and also in the capacity for specialty props and collectables. Grant was a master photographer as well and he had a darkroom set up at work which he was turning into his daughter Lilly’s new darkroom over the last month or so. Grant also had a full shop at his house and he would commute back and forth between the two with goods and parts created for whatever the current project was. There was nothing that he couldn’t do with his hands and imagination, and he so loved what he did!!! Grant’s wife Kathy was the subject of many of his photo themes and she was always quick with a tip on nutrition. Their children, son Cole and daughter Lilly were always around, and it was always a pleasure to see the McCune family in the shop. Grant was an extremely generous, kind, and grateful man and was always there to talk to and lend some advice no matter what the subject was. He was like a second father to me; he was my friend, my buddy, and a man I loved dearly. He will be missed deeply and his passing came way to quickly and the reality of this is not setting in easily with all of us who knew him. Life is oh so fragile so be sure to tell those around you that you love them often. Kathy McCune and all the gang at GMD want to carry on with what Grant had started and happily his shop will be staying open. It will always be a landmark of where the true magic of working in the movies began for all of those that worked and visited there.
God bless you dear friend Grant, and love to Kathy, Cole, and Lilly.
Here are some pictures of Grant at work and, as soon as I can find all of mine, I’ll be sure to do an update.
Here is the wrap up post to the final details and set up of the newly restored Nostromo miniature from 1979′s “Alien” it has been a while since the last posts were put regarding the massive restoration project, and here are a few of the last shots taken of the ship in it’s newly completed state and in her new home at the LA branch of the “Prop Store of London” http://www.propstore.com This was one of those golden opportunities to be a part of and thanks go without measure to Monty and all the gang at Grant McCune Design and Brandon at PSOL for letting me be a part of the team…Enjoy the last few images and soon I’ll put together a scrapbook of all the pictures we took…. OK have fun and Happy Thursday everybody
Hi all and so glad to have read all the great comments about the Nostromo!!! Seems that we all love Ron Cobb and those UK modelers’ massive space tug and are all equally glad that it lives again!!!!!! Today’s entry shows more of the detail construction and some of the set up at the LA Branch of the “Prop Store of London”. You’ll see all kinds of cool stuff in the background, so there will be more to drag your attention around while looking at the Nostromo. Todays photos start with the construction of the bridge’s belly module… this piece by looks of the paint and detail where it once was, indicates that it was added on much later in the model’s construction. Somebody on stage probably said, “Hey, the nose section is a bit thin!!! Beef it up a bit !!!” And I am sure that is what caused this piece to be built and screwed in on top of tons of lovely surface detail. Anyway, this whole piece was missing, so it had to be built from scratch using the photos at hand!!! It is basically a fat box with loads of details in the recesses and three nozzles attached to it’s rear. It also houses the massive three foot antenna array which was a bear to mount and keep straight…so with no delays, enjoy today’s Nostromo pics!!! There are also 8 hidden Mickey’s on the ship now!!! but not in today’s pics!! R2 will be the last pic in the last entry for this one.
Howdy there and welcome to Nostromo II, the restoration. Following the post from a few days ago, here is more on the beloved model from Alien and it’s TLC rebuild. Many months ago I did a special on Martin Bower, and it showcased a lot of his model work on the Nostromo way back in 1978…little did I know, a few shorts months from then I would be seeing this massive model in person and also getting a chance to be a part of the remodeling crew!! I thought the model was either destroyed or lost in the UK somewhere, and it was quite a surprise to walk in the model shop at Grant McCune Design and see this behemoth from across the room. I remember stopping in mid conversation with Monty Shook and saying, “WOOO-AH THE NOSTROMO!!!!” Monty said they were restoring it for a private party, and I couldn’t wait to get over and have a closer look. I was there working on another project that only lasted a day or so and never really got a chance but to see it from a far.
Well, a few weeks later Monty called and asked if I wanted to come over and work on the ship for him…the rest of the crew were busy with other projects, and the model had to be completed so I was there the next day going over all that Monty, Jack, Olivia and Jason had done to get her to the stable and almost finished state that I first saw her in. The mini details were what were left, and we went through the photos to decide what needed to be done…the more we looked the more missing things there were.
So, to start the project off, all the antenna arrays had to be rebuilt. None of the original pieces had made it back with the model, so all of them had to be created new from use of the photos provided. There were 10 arrays total, with the shortest being roughly six inches to the longest being 36 inches long. Grant’s model kits and brass rod collection had been depleted, and there was almost nothing to work with so a huge search throughout the shop’s drawers and boxes produced some parts from the old 70′s kits. New sets of brass had to be ordered and trying to find any of the kits used for the original were literally impossible or beyond expensive to acquire. On top of it all, the photos provided little help on what parts were used because the multiple laying of parts on parts on parts made the pieces indiscernible. With that said, the job of recreating the rods as close as possible to the originals came to be by matching the mass and diameters as seen from the photos and then translated out of the new material. The detail piece that the rods were attached to did survive, and Jack molded the master piece so a definite scale could be used for lengths and measures. The piece itself is a spaced out little chassis from the bottom of a 1/24th scale truck cab. From there, multiple sizes of brass tubing were cut and assembled to create the under structure of the antenna’s the rods and were then mounted to the chassis base piece, and then the kit bashing and detailing began.
In these pictures you’ll see some of the finished miniature in England as it sets in the model shop, then there will be a couple of what the model looked like when Monty picked it up from KNB, followed by a shot of what it looked like before the micro detailing began. The final pictures will show the construction of the antennas and how they looked after being placed back on the model. OK, enjoy and look forward to the next installment in the restoration of the great Nostromo!
Right after Star Trek Nemesis came out, I got in contact with the folks over at Polar Lights and did a pitch to make the master for their up coming model kit of the Scorpion. The ship was going to be in 1/24th scale and at that time had not been determined whether or not it was to be a snap tight kit or an actual advanced model kit that needed glue, fillers, and paint. First, the scale of the master was upped to 1/12th scale and rough blue prints, photos and measurements off of the actual piece were all used to build the model from. A bit of engineering had to go into the way the parts would go together and come apart, and that was actually one of the more challenging parts of the construction. Dave Metzner was the supervisor from Polar that I was working for, and he was a great guy to work with. When Polar Lights sold, he went on to be a big part of Cultman’s model world, and he has quite a passion for for Sci Fi and physical modeling! My good buddy Dan Platt sculpted the figures for the ship, and he always outdoes himself!!! Awesome likenesses and great postures really finished the model off!!! When the final kit came out, something evil was used instead of these fine sculpts and I can’t tell you why…only because I never heard any explanation!!!!!! Below are pictures of the final pieces all laid out at my desk at Paramount just before I mailed them. Lots of fun and haven’t made a model since!!! The grey pieces are the masters and the white are resin pulls from the molds. Wow, that was a long time ago, and I’m feeling the need to do another one soon.
I just got a note from Martin who so kindly gave credit to all of the team members from the model shop. Even though this is a tribute page it is always good to mention everyone. I so agree,,,Thanks Martin, and here is a copy of his kind email. Also over in my blog role section is the link to Martins webpage.