Ryan Nicholson has a multitude of accomplishments in the horror genre from his decades worth of amazing FX creations to his take no prisoners in your face directorial style, he is truly a force to be reckoned with. When Ryan was announced as the makeup FX designer for the BLOOD FEAST remake the film immediately made it onto my must see list. After viewing the film I can honestly tell you that the work Ryan and his wife, Megan have done will please the gore hounds and have the weaker stomach crowd reaching for the barf bags. Ryan was gracious enough to speak with me regarding his work on the film as well as some priceless advice for those who desire to enter the world of Makeup FX.
Terror Time: Hi Ryan, and congratulations on Blood Feast. Amazing work that you pulled off. The H.G. Lewis original is obviously a fan favorite for gore fans. Did you have any reservations about taking the FX reigns on the remake?
Ryan Nicholson: I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to meet the original “Blood Feast” because the FX were so amazingly original and creative. But the script of the remake gave me the opportunity to create some original kills. I am a huge HG Lewis fan. I hope he likes what I created!
TT: The film allows for a full array of practical FX and lingers on the carnage instead of the quick cut away that horror fans have been accustomed to as of late. How much lead time did you and your team have to craft all of the work?
RN: It was my wife Megan Nicholson and I that did it all. Our great friend passed away back home when we were a couple of days into shooting. It was very difficult for my wife as they were longtime friends. But she really did an amazing job with the FX. The timing was just very tough. I had read the script in Canada and really planned exactly what to bring to Germany to get it down. I didn’t have much time but the great cast and crew really support the gags. The director Marcel Walz is a very great friend of mine and he is so amazing at working with me on getting the FX top notch.
TT: That’s always a help when the director knows how to shoot an FX setup. Between your work and the work of Marcus Koch the two of you seem to have the prosthetic penis market cornered. What is the secret to making a believable penile prosthetic?
RN: Ha ha ha! Great question. When I did “Scary Movie” my shop had to make a few penis rigs for Shawn Wayans. A great artist, Mike Fields, actually sculpted the penis and it looked real, very real!! This was a big budget flick as opposed to the low to no budget flicks where I just take a cup and dip my own wiener in some alginate and pour gelatin in that mold. Now I never say it’s my own.
TT: Ha ha ha. You’ve directed some great no holds barred genre films over the years. Have you found that helps or hinders you when handling FX for someone else’s film?
RN: I love it. I think it’s great to work for another fan of horror. I did DEAD RISING 1 and 2. Both great directors and really were involved in our effects. When I do my own films, I strictly focus on the direction and my wife handles all the effects. Also, Michelle Grady, she did amazing FX on my flicks “GUTTERBALLS” and “HANGER“. So damn great! I have had 6 months off due to an illness but my wife of course has continued to handle FX for anything. She’s a Union member now which is great!! She’s working on SUPER GIRL right now.
TT: There’s so much to admire FX wise in Blood Feast. Was there anything in the script that time and budget didn’t allow for?
RN: BLOOD FEAST went all out for FX. I had worked with Marcel on two additional movies that had less budgets. But man o man, if we needed this or that, the team bought it. It was good for us. We were provided funds for everything to be silicone and kick ass. The producers were amazing. Emsch Cutter is an amazing producer. He helped us out so fantastically on Blood Feast.
TT: It was a great cast as well. Caroline Williams raved about your work when I talked to her calling the FX very Savini-esque. What was the experience like working with Caroline Williams and Robert Rusler who both have previous horror roots?
RN: Working with those two were a dream. I have worked with Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Jon Voight, etc… but let me tell you, Caroline is so amazing and kind. She is one of the greatest. Her work on TCM 2 is some of the best acting ever. Robert was so fun to work with too simply because he’s a cool dude. A great dude. I am a big fan of both and always have been. Jon Voight is a great friend of mine. I did 3 movies with him. RUNAWAY TRAIN and DELIVERANCE are two of the best movies ever made. One of the best times of my life was going with Jon to Rome, Italy to do his Pope makeups. I did a few stages.But Christopher Lee was also on the movie. Wow talk about a time of your life.
TT: Amen on Deliverance. One of my favorites as well. Another film that you and Caroline both have ties to is The Profane Exhibit. Is there any good news regarding the film that you can let us in on?
RN: Oh man. I know nothing about the release of the film and when/if it will ever come out. Which is sad because my film in it is one of my best ever. Danny Ellis absolutely kicked so much ass in it. I have done another three features with Danny starring. He’s so good. He’s in the new American Guinea Pig Blood Shock film that’s out now. As for other directors in Profane, there are great ones I am a huge fan of. I wish it had come out. It saddens me. Monique Parent was the female star in my flick on Profane Exhibit. She was so good too.
TT: Wow. That makes me want to see it even more. Danny is fantastic in AGP: Blood Shock. Hopefully one day the world will see it. If you were given the reigns of a film to remake what would it be and why?
RN: I want to and still may remake Three on a Meathook. But slightly different. 3 short films with a wraparound that ties them together. The plan is floating around me. We will see. Very soon I am filming the final Gutterballs 2 scenes I need. There was a version made but it totally changed and is moving in the right direction.
TT: That would be a great film to see remade and I’m glad to hear Gutterballs 2 is close to completion. You’ve been very successful in your career in moving between large scale projects and blood, sweat, and tears indie horror. With a new generation of FX artists coming into the business what advice would you give them on having a successful career in both worlds?
RN: My advice to an FX artist just starting up would be to go get hired at a local FX shop. Yes, you’ll start be cleaning plaster buckets and ripping up plaster bandages for head casts but you’ll move up. You’ll get into sculpting, applying prosthetic’s, etc. A shop is the way to go. Where I live in Vancouver, Canada, there’s four FX studios here. Big ones. You may have to travel to a big film city but let me tell you, it’s worth it. It brings you on board and then the FX world is yours.
TT: Fantastic advice. Where can people go online to follow you and order your films?
RN: My company Plotdigger Films is on Facebook. As well as my personal site, which is actually called Plotdigger. There will be a website back up to order movies, shirts, etc…by the end of September. I’m fixing it all now.
TT: Great. Thank you Ryan for the time and discussion today and I can’t wait for the horror world to see Blood Feast and the other projects that you have in the works.
RN: Thank you sir!
BLOOD FEAST screens at FRIGHT FEST.
Follow Ryan on TWITTER
Follow Brad on TWITTER