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The Patriot
About a year or so later, I was to land the biggest job in my career to date. Centropolis/ Columbia pictures were filming a movie in South Carolina, called “The Patriot”. It was going to be a revolutionary war film, starring Mel Gibson. I decided to send in a resume and some pictures, but usually that leads nowhere. (It’s probably like the warehouse at the end of “Riders of the Lost Ark”) So anyway, I get a call from Yves DeBono, who I knew from “In Dreams”, wanting to know if I’d like to do make up effects coordinated with his special effects dept. I jumped at the chance. I came up and interviewed with Rolland Emmerich and landed the job. I contacted my friends and fellow artists, Bruce Larsen, Corey Castellano, and Brent Conley and we headed out to South Carolina. (Funny thing is that we were working on the film for quite a few weeks, when I get a call from my wife saying that production had called and wanted me to know that they would keep my resume on file in case they needed anything. They had no clue that I had already been on the film for a while) So, we set up in an old bra factory where we were among the special effects, molding, and construction departments. It was amazing to see the things being created by the other departments. (As you might be able to tell, I have never lost my child like sense of awe over the whole process of creating a film and the amazing talent behind that creation.) So here we are set up in a little corner in a boxlike room creating gory delights of an era gone by. Bruce was in charge of creating the horses that would house the mechanics created by Yves’ amazing team. Corey and I created many human make up effects and bodies with Brent helping on both sides. (We had Leigh Ann Yandle and Billy Messina come fill in for a few weeks) After about a month of prepro, filming began and I had Corey cover set, Leigh Ann eventually went over to the make up department, and I floated to wherever I felt the fires were the hottest. There was just something surreal about being out in the fields in the mornings and seeing the huge cannons and men in uniforms practicing in the morning light that will be one of my most awe inspired memories.
I ended up spending a lot of time on second unit, where I got to know Peter Winther, who was directing second unit and was one of the producers. Peter is a great guy and I really, really loved working with him. Sometimes they would throw curveballs at us and we would have to scramble, but that was part of what made it so fun. Another cool thing was the fact that Chris Cooper was on the project and I got to spend more time with him without me watching him like a hawk and the discomfort one gets from having someone watching your every move. I really enjoyed just sitting around and talking with him and can’t say enough good things about his professionalism and him as a person. Anyway, I remember a scene where we had created a George Washington make up (most of it was cut from the film) and I was watching the make up like Elmer Fudd following Buggs Bunny and Chris looked over and smiled at Terry (Washington) and says, “See how I felt”. My caution did pay off however during that scene. Yves’ guys had set up explosions around that had piles of peat moss on top to create dirt and debris and make the explosions more grandiose and real. Well we were standing around talking and for some reason; no one told us that they were rolling down below. Suddenly the explosions started going off and a huge cloud of peat came rolling our way. Mel Gibson disappeared in the cloud and I ran over to Terry and threw my raincoat over his head to protect the make up. I felt a bit like the first secret service agent in American history protecting George Washington. The sad thing it that little of that scene made it into the film, but it was cool none the less.
There were so many cool moments on that film that it is hard to go into too much, otherwise I will have written my first novel. Some other highlights were making drums of fake blood for a bloody river scene, working with the amputees and seeing how they had overcome such tragedies in their lives, watching a hurricane barely miss us and our possible evacuation, being around Yves guys and them making bombs for the film, spontaneous evening trips to the local theatres to see the latest releases and having some of our films stars sitting there as well, my wife chasing a giant snake, and the Halloween party. Ah yes the Halloween party. Peter asked us to decorate the hall that they had rented, so my crew went in with a nice selection of gruesome goodies and fixed up several rooms. Bruce Larsen had brought up this giant monster suit that he had made and wore that and it was hilarious to see this 8 or 9 foot tall red monster on the dance floor doing his thing. I’m not really into parties, but we had a blast that night. I still have my video of that night filed away.
Bruce, Brent, Corey and I shared an apartment for the duration of the shoot. It was a lot like being back in college again, but with video games. We’d come home hose the blood off, and sit down and shed more of each other’s blood on Brent’s Nintendo 64. After 4 months of being away from our families, we said goodbye to Rock Hill, South Carolina and went home. I love the guys that I was with, but boy was it great to get home.

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Eight Legged Freaks

 

 

Washington and I
George Washington (Terry Laymen) and I on the set of "The Patriot"
Brent takes break
Brent relaxes on prop body
Bruce and Horse
Bruce with a mechanical horse
phil and I
Phil Fravel and I tote off a body
Bruce and Chris
Bruce with Chris Cooper
Yves and I
Yves and I at Halloween party
patriot crew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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