SFX maestro Paul While talks ‘Fanged Up’

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Tell us about your initial reaction to being approached to work on Fanged Up?

Very little was given to me at first when I was approached by co-writer Dan Palmer, but was later thrilled to find out that Christian James was directing as I am a fan of his last horror feature called ‘Stalled’.

I’ve known Dan for years, and enjoyed working with him on previous films ‘My Bloody Banjo’ and ‘The Package’, so I more or less jumped at the chance to work with them both before the script was given to me. It was only when I got in contact with the Line Producer that I learnt about what Fanged Up is and the work that was required; which perked my interests to work on the film even further.

Looking at the script and characters what did you feel would be the biggest challenge for you?

When I read the script, the biggest challenge was to produce the sheer amount of special effects and character creations in the time frame given by myself. Granted it was the production team’s first all-practical FX horror feature, there were a lot of ambitious special effects that Dan had written in that required more time, budget and definitely more crew members needed.

Emma Croft came on board to take over the character make-up designs, Dave Fox handled the Vampire prosthetic appliances, Sam Tansey on makeup application and Hamish Macleod handled the pyrotechnic special effects.  Expanding the team gave me breathing space to complete the more complex practical make-up FX, gore gags and puppetry scenes in the film on schedule.

On paper (spoilers ahead), the biggest special effect challenge was a scene involving an inmate getting stuck halfway through a torso of a shotgun blasted vampire – all practical and without any CGI. It was also quite tricky because the set space was quite small to work with and there was no time to rehearse it, but I think it worked out well in the end.

Were there any films you used as references for any of the characters makeup?

Director Christian James was very involved in the vampire look and used films such as ‘Salem’s Lot’, ‘The Lost Boys’ and ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ as references. He wanted the prisoners and guards to have very prominent eyes, brow & teeth, but the head vampire to look more subtle and traditional like in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I also remember Christian pointing out a specific makeup in the dream sequence from ‘An American Werewolf in London’ and directing us how he wanted the eyes and sharp teeth to be as striking as it was on David Naughton’s character in that film.

When seeing the finished film, how did it compare to your vision for your special effects?

On the whole, I felt the final cut mostly met how I initially visioned the special effects on screen. Of course it’s up to Christian on what shots work and how they are edited, but most were kept in line of how I saw it on paper. Would I do things differently? Sure. I think this film really needed more time & budget to nail down my vision with extra punch, but for what we have in the finished film works just fine and is still incredibly bloody.

There was also numerous makeup effects sadly scrapped on its scheduled day of shooting. I created a really nice gory face rip make-up on actor Stephen Marcus, but unfortunately there was no time to shoot it (as they were already behind schedule), with the result being an off screen attack instead. On another scene, I created a stabbed eye prosthetic appliance that pumps out gooey pus, but with no application time we had to settle for a more simplistic stomach stab.

I was most proud of how the big finale special effect looked in the finished film with actor Steven Berkoff. We had a Second Unit team this time round, so I made sure we got several takes in and capture as much detail as we can for the edit. It’s certainly a special effect that matched my vision and one that most people talk about in Fanged Up.

This looks like it was a lot of fun to film, how was it for you?

It was no doubt a challenging and gruelling film to work on, but certainly rewarding to turnaround what we had achieved in the time we had. The location of a real historic disused prison (HM Prison Kingston in Portsmouth) was absolutely fantastic and a sight to behold, which made the shoot that much more exciting.

I had a great working relationship with the cast & crew, so it was a lot of fun even at the toughest of times when we’re so cold, tired and caked in blood. Oh so much blood!

You have worked on quite a few short horror film projects, what attracts you to the genre?

To me, horror is an exciting, thrilling and entertaining genre, all sandwiched together like an addictive high that you want to experience over again. I love all things Monsters, demons, ghosts, fantasy creatures and their imaginary worlds that a story creates. It’s super cool! Genre filmmakers from  David Cronenberg to John Carpenter, James Wan to Guillermo del Toro are a small number who I look up to and would be a dream to work with.

What are you working on currently or in the near future?

Unfortunately I cannot say the name, but I am working on a big budget Disney production for 2019!

Fanged Up is out now on DVD in HMV & ASDA stores.

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