An Interview with Neil Stevens and Gary Rogers by Dean Sills
This month at UK Horror Scene we have a double interview with Neil Stevens and Gary Rogers. The two of them have worked together on a number of projects. Neil is a superb special effects make-up artist and Gary is a talented director.
Hi guys, welcome to UKHS and thank you for your time.
UKHS – Neil, how did you get into special effects make-up and what’s it like being a special effects make-up artist?
Neil – I’ve been interested in special effects every since going on a visit to Granada Studios when I was at school in the 80’s. We were shown the make-up room and a make-up artist gave me a fake congealed blood scab. After that I was hooked. I found some liquid latex in a shop and the other kids in my class would pay me a pound to do fake cuts
complete with stitches on them. It is a great feeling as an artist to create effects for our films that will get a reaction from people.
UKHS – Gary, how did you get into filmmaking and why horror?
Gary – I had a fascination with film and film making right back from an early age after seeing Star Wars at the Cinema. I watched a ‘Making of Star Wars’ program on TV and seeing the models being blown up running down fishing wires just fascinated me and I knew from that point I wanted to be working in films. Then in my early teens I saw Alien. That was a real turning point for the genre I loved! So how did I eventually get into filmmaking? I knew I needed to find like-minded people to get involved and make films. I stumbled across ‘Meetup’ and searched for filmmakers, which led me to Eugene. Eugene was passionate about writing so we started playing with ideas for filming.
Mine and Neil’s real break through was working on Bigger and Badder, the film that I first met Neil. Neil was already involved and through a mutual friend Steve Bosworth I was asked to shoot it as I had just brought the Sony FS100 which I convinced them was better than the Canon DSLR they was going to use! Bigger and Badder is a great horror and I guess this just paved the way for myself and Neil to do horror as Neil is an amazing sculptor and effects makeup artist.
Neil – Gary and I first met filming on Bigger and Badder. His passion for film making was evident from the get-go. After such a great experience with working on Bigger and Badder we decided to start making our own films from that point. We have the same taste in films so we are on the same page with what we want to put on screen. We love practical effects and we’ll always push to make sure that we can achieve our effects in the real world. Gary is like any other artist except his brush is the camera and he uses that to create amazing shots.
UKHS – Gary, what’s your favourite Horror film?
Gary – As for favourite horror film, there are many, but it has to be Alien. I have so much respect for this film. Firstly it is real art! Ridley Scott is an artist and a master of light and Alien never seems to age or look dated. Even though I look at the chunky 70’s switches on the consoles it still looks functional even today. There has been so many Alien film clones since then and none ever come close to creating the atmosphere that Ridley Scott did all those years ago! I have to mention John Carpenters ‘The Thing’ though….. I love that film, scary as hell! I love the fact it’s all practical effects and even though looking a little dated today I am 100% sold on practical effects rather than CGI.
Neil – My involvement with Crying Wolf and Cute Little Buggers came about after the director Tony Jopia saw me doing a demo at a horror convention in 2013 called Scardiff. We got talking and when they wanted to film some additional footage for both of the films they got in touch with me to do the make-up. I think I worked for about 12 hours on each film. It was a great experience, one which taught me a lot. I’m really looking forward to seeing both films finished and the reactions to the effects. I think people will have positive reactions to both films but especially Cute Little Buggers. I can’t think of anything like it that I’ve ever seen.
UKHS – Gary, what lessons has your career in filmmaking taught you so far?
Gary – There has been so many lessons along the way. Firstly it’s hard! Getting a project off the ground is hard especially getting people together at the same time. Trust has been an issue too. Everyone we work with currently I trust 100% which hasn’t always been the case. The ‘indie’ and ‘low budget’ filmmaking community is a strange place! I have seen so many arguments between people over what are really insignificant projects; you would think they were major Hollywood projects costing millions.
But at the end of the day I would say just go with an idea and shoot it. Don’t talk about doing things, actually make a date to go shoot stuff. Digital is cheaper than film! If it doesn’t look right shoot it again. You can only improve and grow as a filmmaker by practicing. We have pledged this year to shoot several projects, some big, some small all with the aim of improving what we do!
UKHS – Neil, what’s been your greatest achievement as a makeup artist and how long does the process of using prosthetic sculpting, molding and casting techniques take to create advanced cosmetic effects on each project?
Neil – Best achievement so far, I think make-up wise it is going to be Cute Little Buggers. I got to do some unique character make-ups on that film which took me away from the usual gore type make-ups I’ve done so far. As far as our best film achievement, it has to be Chestwyrm. We got into the Top 50 out of about 300 entries Worldwide, which for only our second film I think was pretty good. As far as the overall process of creating effects goes it really depends what the effect is. It can take a couple of hours to do a piece start to finish or several days.
UKHS – Gary, what do you love most about working with Neil and how many films have you worked on together?
Gary – Meeting Neil was quite a turning point. The reason we hit it off is that we both want the same thing, to make films. Just when you think you know what Neil is capable of he produces a new sculpt that blows everything else
before it out the water, he is full of surprises! Also when it comes to the scripts he will come out with a suggestion that turns the story on it’s head and makes everyone go ‘OMG why didn’t we think of that’! He’s a great ideas man! To date we have worked on 4 main films together, Bigger and Badder, Six Seconds To Die, Chestwyrm, Peter Crombie Teenage Zombie.
Neil – Deserted Road Productions have some really exciting projects in the works including the second horror film I’ve written called George which will hopefully build on the success we have had with 6 Seconds To Die and Chestwyrm. I really don’t want to give too much away and spoil the surprise but to say George is a cross between Norman Bates and Mr Bean is probably the best way to explain him. We always like to add a little twist and keep people guessing with our films and I think George will continue that approach. Hopefully we will have George ready to release by the end of the summer and we’ll make sure UK Horror Scene are one of the first to see it.
Gary – Yes we have a few! As for horror we have started working on a short written by Neil called George. While not going into great detail there will be some amazing acting and just a little bloodshed! We are currently talking about two larger horror projects but really are just ideas for development at the moment and while not a horror project we are currently filming a hard hitting gritty drama called Consequence, a story revolving around the world of drugs and what consequences are unleashed for those involved…. Exciting times for all of us!
UKHS- Thanks guys and good luck with ‘George’ and ‘Consequence’. Keep up the great work!
For more info on Gary & Neil and their projects please check the links below.