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The Formative Years
I was born in Pensacola Florida in late1960. My family moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1964, and I joined them because I was too young to make it on my own. It was there that my damaged brain would begin to form its course.

I was always a big fan of horror films. One of my earliest memories is of me as a young child, bouncing up and down on our couch, shouting “Monster, Monster!” as a giant sea creature destroyed a ship on the TV. I remember how my father used to bring home Aurora monster model kits to us and we would build and paint them together. In kindergarten, the other kids would finger paint flowers, suns, and houses. I would paint dinosaurs, skeletons, and bats. Soon I would attend Zachary Taylor Elementary School in Louisville, Ky. It was the 60’s. The Vietnam War was in full swing. People were preaching peace and love. I just wanted everything monsters. I drew them in my classes on my notebooks as teachers in “cat eyed” glasses taught us the basics under bee hived hairdos. Their faces would fill with disgust as they’d see my latest masterpiece of a giant preying mantis, terrorizing a burning city. So off to the counselor’s office I’d go; little book satchel in hand, filled with my latest creations. “Mr. Johnson. Why are you so obsessed with monsters?” she’d ask. I’d just smile and shrug my shoulders. What was there to say? I just loved to create monsters. I definitely had the bug and it would not go away.

Years later we moved to Augusta, GA. My seventh grade was an interesting year. My parents wanted to send me to a private school and by accident; I spent the school year at a Pentecostal academy. Now I have been a Christian most of my life, but a school of holy rollers is not exactly the place for a kid that just wanted to make monsters. There I had to pretty much teach myself art. There was no art program, for some reason my parents had banned me from monster models, but luckily I still had shows like Night Gallery and Kolchak to keep me fueled with terror. Several years passed and I was now in a public school. There my life would change forever.

It happened in the summer of 1975. One word… Jaws. My dad had got me the book and I ate it up as fast as the shark did that little Kitner boy. I remember seeing the posters and ads for the movie for several long weeks before it finally came out. Finally the day arrived and my parents, my sister, and I made the trip to downtown Augusta to the Imperial theatre. It was one of those old movie houses with the balconies and the floors covered in old sodas that had turned to some sort of toxic sludge. After a long wait the lights dimmed and that now famous theme filled the auditorium. Soon I was transported to a new level of terror unlike any other. I remember how the people literally jumped out of their seats and I just sat in a rain of popcorn, listening to a symphony of screams and grinning from ear to ear. It was pure magic. I had never seen anything like it. When Ben Gardener’s head popped out of that boat, a light went off in my skull; I must create my first fake head. So after a visit to a wax museum, I thought that it would be cool to create a wax head. Being a child of the sixties and having an older sister who was into that whole scene, I had learned a little about candle making. It seems that making candles from pouring colored wax into sand was rather popular at that time. Well I thought, “Hey wax is wax. Candles… severed heads. It’s all close enough.” So off I went. I got a Styrofoam wig form, some crayons, some paraffin wax, and some stuffed animal eyes. I thought that you would actually sculpt with the wax and knew nothing about mold making or advance techniques at that time. After many hours and several burns, I fashioned a crude head that I was really proud of at the time. I first tested it out by putting it out in our carport to try to scare the garbage men. I waited like a spider on its web, looking for its next prey. Soon the truck came and I eagerly awaited a response. Nothing. Rats, I must find another audience! So off to school with this thing. I put it in one of the lab sinks and waited for my science teacher. Soon he came in and was talking to the class when he glanced down into the sink. Got him! He soon started to laugh and told me that he thought that it was a good job. (It’s a wonder that I did not get sent back to the Pentecostal school after that.) He was totally cool with it and I had temporarily become popular for a day. Being a shy kid, it was a big boost for me.

So soon I went on to high school and finally I’d have art classes again. It would be great to learn more about art techniques! Well the art programs in Louisville had been much more advanced than Augusta’s, so as a result, my art teacher had me spend my high school years in the library, doing whatever I wanted. At least I could draw monsters again and when it came time for me to do a book report for English; I read the Amityville Horror and did illustrations from the book. Now my English class was full of some of the most popular kids and housed about 40% of the girls that I had crushes on. This was my chance to shine. I stepped up in front of the class and began to tell the horrifying true story of that evil house in Amityville. I pulled out my best material and took no prisoners. Never had I had so many people so captivated. After it was over, everyone wanted to talk to me about the book. I was able to talk to girls that I normally would have just turned red and stuttered from being in the same room with. I remembered how the next day, the queen of my crushes came up and told me that I had scared her so bad that she couldn’t sleep that night. She was up all night thinking about me instead of it being the other way around! Sure words like creepy were used, but hey, who was listening to that part. Soon was to come another major event in my life that would lead me to the effects world.

I had a core group of friends that I hung out with. I didn’t have a driver’s license and I was too shy to ask anyone out, so I just resided myself to going with my group to go bowling, Young Life, football games, or movies. Well in 1978, a movie came to the theatre. It was not a big budget extravaganza but looked interesting. So one night, my friends all got together to go see a little movie called “Halloween”. As we waited to get in, we stood in the lobby and listened to the sounds of screams coming from the auditorium. It was like being at an amusement park where you can hear the patrons on the roller coasters shrieking as they went by. Soon it was our time. So we all huddled together and filed into our seats. There was a particular girl that I really liked a lot and it just so happened that she sat next to me. Let’s just say that was the best movie going experience of my entire life. Not since “Jaws”, had I gotten so scared in a movie. The best part was that I left the theatre with my Windy Gap jersey all stretched out of shape from the girl that I liked, holding onto me. I had to be a part of something like that.

It was not long after that that I started working on super 8 movies at Young Life. It was there that I was to do my first prosthetic make up. I had heard of foam latex appliances and I wanted to do some for Halloween. Now I still had not learned about molding, so I took pieces of upholstery foam and cut them into shapes. I then glued them to my face and covered that in latex rubber, tissues, and white clown make up. Being a novice to the make up world, I had no idea as to what that would do to adolescent skin. So off I went merrily to our Young Life meeting, dressed as a ghoul. I spent the whole night in this make shift cocoon of rubber and I won a fifteen dollar gift certificate to Awanita valley. I was thrilled until I got home and took the make up off, revealing raw skin and zits as an additional prize for my hard labor.

Soon I would graduate and that summer, I was anxiously awaiting another film release. This time it was “Alien”. As my friends and I were standing in line to get in, a guy in a motorcycle helmet came up next to us. Somehow, we got to talking about special effects. At that time, I was really into building dioramas and had entered into several competitions, winning awards for my gory little war scenes.( I was the “Saving Private Ryan” of the diorama builders.) Anyway, this guy was telling us that he was tied in with Ken Sanders, a pretty well known amateur film maker in Augusta. There had been articles about his cinematic endeavors in the paper and we all knew who he was. If you wanted to get into amateur film making, he was the guy to see. So he was about to start a new movie and he would be needing some miniatures and make up effects. My friends and I wanted to do it and we had a meeting with Ken. Well Ken’s level of film making was way above anything that I had ever done. He actually had a budget! Soon we would get to work on “Rebirth of a Nation”, a story about a modern civil war with Moses like overtones. My friends Ernie, Mike, and I would handle miniature and make up effects. We had just seen “Dawn of the Dead” and we wanted to try out some gore and one dark night we got our chance. Mike and I were playing assassins and were to be killed off by the hero and we chose gory, “Dawn of the Dead” inspired methods. So the scene starts off with us chasing the hero out of his house. First off we had to chase him down a flight of stairs. Now this was the late seventies and fashion dictated high heels on men’s shoes. So here I go, trying to look tough, which is not easy for a skinny kid with a fro. As I descended down the stairs in hot pursuit, let’s just say that it wasn’t too graceful. After stumbling several times, our chase leads outside the house. Well part of the action takes place out in a parking lot. For this scene, we went to a different location. Well to simplify matters I wore my running clothes under my regular clothes so that I could quickly change wardrobe. Ken led us to our location and we parked our cars. It was the parking lot of a gay bar. Now, due to me being so shy around girls and the fact that I was so small framed, people loved to question my sexual orientation. It was something that I was very sensitive about. So now here I was, standing in the parking lot of the biggest gay bar in Augusta, wearing just a pair of satin running shorts and a fish net shirt. I about died. If anyone that I had gone to high school with had seen me, the rumors would never end. So quickly I put on my assassin outfit and got my fake gun and our chase continued. The drama would end in a gravel parking lot, where we would do battle with the hero. Again, keep in mind that I was wearing these shoes with heels. So here I come at full speed and when I hit the gravel, my legs stopped, but my feet kept going. Wham! I land flat on my back. After the stairs incident, it was like he was being chased by the Keystone Cops. So we get into a fight and he is supposed to bust my head in with the claw end of a hammer. Well we needed to pull it off somehow. We did not have a prop hammer. I did not know how to make a real enough fake head, so we did the next best thing. Time to break out the old trusty wig form. We put a wig on it with a condom filled with blood under it. We then put a stocking over that like I was wearing on my head and put my jacket on the form. It looked really cheesy as he brought the hammer down onto the cheap replica of my head. The claw of the weapon got hooked in the stocking and almost pulled it and the wig off. We couldn’t do anymore takes, due to the fact that we were shooting this on film. I was pretty disheartened. We then moved on to Mike’s death. We had made a bleeding screwdriver out of a magic maker and a spray paint straw. The hero was to jam the fake point into Mike’s neck, which would then retract and the blood would come out. When we went to shoot it, it actually worked. At last a successful effect! Several days later, we got to see the footage. The screwdriver shot was obscured by the angle and the lighting. Now came the head bash. I wanted to watch it through my hands over my eyes, but I braved it out. It was really gruesome. When the claw caught the stocking, it looked like a bloody part of the skull was getting pulled up. It was beautiful! And so my career as a make up effects artist had begun.
I would go onto shoot one more film with Ken before we went off to separate colleges. I attended the University of Georgia, for 3 years and was majoring in Graphic design. It was a deciding point for me. I had planned to go into medical illustration but my heart was really into the whole film scene. I loved the effects and writing horror stories too much, so I decided to put out word that I was up for helping out on any productions in the film school and I did work on a few. Then one day a friend had me meet up with someone who was planning on shooting a 16 mm feature. They needed a make up artist and I agreed to do it. For the next 3 years, I worked on this project off and on, while I did my studies. It was a great experience for me, but not very challenging. I was also spending extremely long hours in the graphics department during this time. One day I had a revelation….well sort of. It was more like burn out. I decided that a career in graphics was not the life for me. At least not at that time. We had to do everything by hand and did not have computers. Of course that has all changed now and I don’t mind it so bad, but at the time, I decided that I wanted to give the film business a shot when I got out. So upon graduation; I made my move.
For 2 years, I worked at an art store at the local mall. I had moved back in with my parents and was feeling a total lack of direction as what to do next and was feeling a bit like a loser. I did get a job on another 16mm movie. This one was a horror movie, but I use that term loosely. I did get a chance to make some monsters and to do some gore, but it was a really bad movie. So I just made myself comfortable as I could in my retail job and tried to plan how to advance my career. It was the 80’s and horror films were getting made all the time. Surely I could find a job on one of them. Ken Sanders had put me in contact with Tony Gardener, who was working with Rick Baker. I had been writing him for several years and decided to go out to LA and see Ken and meet with him as well. While I was out there, I got to meet Greg Cannom and he recommended that I check into Dick Smith’s course in advanced make up. When I met up with Tony, who had recently done “Return of the Living Dead”, he also recommended that I take the course. So when I got back, I sent some work to Dick. It was where I wanted to go with my life and I knew that if I got in, it would be a part of something that would change my life. After, a little wait, I finally got the letter. I was a nervous wreck, opening that letter. He told me that my work had a long way to go but it did show promise. So I had squeaked in, but I was in! The course filled in a lot of gaps for me and things were really coming together. I got listed in the Georgia Film Resource book and hoped to get some calls from that. I’ll never forget the day that I was called to the back for a phone call. It was Bruce Campbell! They were about to start “Evil Dead 2” and they were looking for some effects for it. Unfortunately, they were mechanical and not make up effects. I explained to him nervously that I was a make up effects artist and not a mechanical effects man. He nicely told me that they had already gotten their make up effects guys and we talked for a few more moments and said our goodbyes. I was disappointed, but it was BRUCE CAMPBELL! That was so cool.
Several months later, Ken Sanders called me. He wanted to try to get a horror project off the ground. He had planned to film a commercial for it for him to show investors and he wanted me to come out to California to work on the shoot. So I packed my bags and planned to go out there for a week. Right before I went, I got a call about a horror film that was going to be shot in the fall. So with my portfolio in hand, I met with the producer and the director at a Cracker Barrel. There I sat with sweaty palms, showing my work and munching on greasy bacon. They looked through my works and then told me that I had the job. I would be doing the make up effects for “Sleepaway Camps 2 & 3”. I walked out of that restaurant with the nasty bacon battling the butterflies in my stomach and a huge grin on my face. I was on my way.
My trip to California for “Blood Salvage” was filled with the excitement that I would be going to work on a professional horror film when I got back. While I was there, I was getting dragged through mud and covered in blood, just like my other experiences on Ken’s super 8 movies. One day Tucker, the director, and I were talking about my nickname that I got in college, “Bill the Cat”. He looked at my bloody condition and said, “They should call you Bill the Splat”. I laughed and it stuck. When I got home, word of my new nickname spread and soon it became just Splat.

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Sleepaway Camp Sequels

 

 

me and first fake head

Me with my first fake head

 

 

 

 

my first prosthetic

My first prosthetic. I did this for a Young Life Halloween party

 

 

 

 

college

Me in college during the 80's

 

 

 

old age

Me in old age prosthetics. This was done in college.

 

 

 

Earl and I

Me doing make up on the late Earl Ramsey for a film in college.

 

 

 

Me on evil in the Woods

Me on set on "Evil In The Woods" in 1985

 

 

 

Tony and I

Tony Gardener and I in 1986

 

 

 

ken and I

Ken Sanders and I joking around

 

 

 

Chrisie and I at work
Christina and I when we were first dating back a the Arts and Crafts store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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