When did you get involved with special effects?
I guess initially it was when I was a kid. I hated horror movies, but when I finally accepted that it was all fake, I started playing around with blood and latex in High School just to scare my stepmother! I did some makeup in college for student films, but moved away from it for a bunch of years until falling back in by getting hired to do makeup on a zombie movie! And I really had no idea what I was doing!
Did that lead directly into prop making?
Pretty much. I was always good at making things, and working in low budget film, you end up having to create a lot of things from scratch. Add to that a love of Star Wars and cosplay, it all blended together.
Do you work more with the film community or the cosplay world? Are you finding those worlds intersecting often in Georgia?
When I lived in NY it was probably a 50/50 split. Since I moved to Atlanta it’s definitely slid over and cosplay has kind of taken over. Atlanta is an amazing place for both, and I know a lot of people who also straddle the two worlds.
What services do SpatCave Studios offer?
The main business is FX makeup. That’s everything from basic wound simulation to creature makeup and appliances and even monster suits. Everything custom made. Over the years, seeing that some of the films I was working on were using crappy police uniforms and toy guns painted black, we started collecting high-quality Police and SWAT uniforms with all the accessories. And we rent those out for film use. We also have an extensive collection of prop weapons; guns, knives, bats, pipes. All safe to use, but that look great on film! And we can also custom make other kinds of props and costumes. Sci-fi armor and helmets, ray guns, anything you need!
And on the side, we also dabble in making replica costumes and props from major films for fans. Occasionally, we also make replicas for major studios who need them. We recently made Colonial Marine armor from the movie Aliens for Universal Studios to use in their AvP attraction, and for Sony and Gearbox to use in their Aliens: Colonial Marines video game.
How did you get involved with the Bad Kids films (“Bad Kids Go to Hell” & “Bad Kids of Crestview Academy”)?
A few years ago I was the Convention Coordinator for the Wizard World conventions. While there I met Barry Wernick and Matt Spradlin, the writers of the Bad Kids comic book when they booked a table at a Wizard show to promote it. After a few shows we became friends and when they found out that I was a makeup artist, they told me that they were going to turn Bad Kids Go To Hell into a movie and would hire me to do the makeup. Of course, I assumed it was a pipe dream and would never happen. But they shocked me and actually did it! And they even got Ben Browder and Judd Nelson to star in it!
A few years after that they called and brought me back in to work on the sequel, “Bad Kids of Crestview Academy”, starring Gina Gershon, Sean Astin, Ben Browder and Drake Bell. And this one had a ton more gore in it for me to play with! And I even had cameos in each film. In the first, I play a SWAT officer (and I supplied the uniforms), and in the second I play an inmate in the insane asylum!
Not only did you do special effects and wardrobe, but you played a Psych Ward Patient. How fun were those sets?
The original plan was for all of the crew members who weren’t needed on set to play inmates in the asylum scene. And since there wasn’t any blood needed, I jumped in. I was in an open back hospital gown and hospital pants. But I didn’t realize that the pants were so long that they were getting under my feet as I walked, which was causing them to droop down a bit at the waist. Which resulted in my character being named “Ass Crack Man”. Watch that scene at your own risk.
Coolest or most difficult special effect?
We did a film called “Last Round” a couple of years ago. And they needed an Alien creature suit and we only had one-week notice. That normally wouldn’t be too horrible, but we also had to plan out and order all the materials to make it! Thankfully, the day of filming didn’t start until 6pm. They were shooting from 6pm-6am. So, we had one extra day to actually finish the suit. We were literally pouring foam latex that morning and hoping it would cure in time. We had no time to test anything, so had to glue the actor into the suit and warned him that it was not coming off until 6am. We named the creature Buttons. He actually took naps wearing it when he had a break!
Coolest or most difficult props?
The hardest thing to do is to make a prop that replicates a real item, but with some different property. For a movie called “The Creek,” we had to make a prop axe with a broken handle that would be seen throughout the film stuck into a tree stump. At the end, an actor falls onto the broken handle, impaling himself. So, we had to make a pretty solid axe that would sit on set and not move, a rubber version for the actor to fall on safely, and a cut in half version that would stick out of the actor’s chest! And they all had to match, and look like a real axe, not like foam or plastic or rubber!
How fun was writing & directing “Jedi House”?
Back in the early 2K’s, Star Wars fan films were all the rage. One day, we were talking about Star Wars and about how the Jedi Academy is basically a school. And the Jedi are students and they must live there in a dorm of some sort. Then we thought about what it would be like if there were fraternities at the Jedi Academy, and then decided to mash up Animal House with Star Wars, and Jedi House was born! It was my first time editing or doing any of that other stuff behind the camera. It’s a lot more work than people think! But the film came out pretty good and we decided to get it shown on the Star Wars fan film awards that Lucasfilm and Atom Films were running at the time. We sent it in and they banned us! They said it was too dirty to be shown! It took a while, but we finally got someone from The Force.Net to watch it and he loved it!
How cool is it being in a video game?
When Aliens: Colonial Marines needed armor to scan for the game, they contacted us. And later, they asked about having some armor custom made to match the new types of armor that the characters were wearing in the game. They also contacted a lot of local fans who owned their own armor and invited them to be motion captured for the game. As a thank you, they named those NPC’s in the game after the actual fans who helped out. So, after helping make all the gear for the game I was kind of hoping there would be a Spat NPC in there somewhere. After the game came out, I looked around in the game but never found me. I was sad. One day I asked my contact how come I never got added to the game, and he told me they didn’t add me to the main game, but that I was in the DLC content that had just come out. He told me to pop the game in and put it in co-op mode. I did. He told me to turn and look at the other player. I did, and it was me! So if you play the game in co-op mode, you’re playing as me!
How have your experiences been at conventions? Any crazy requests?
I only recently started getting a table at conventions and offering to do makeup for people. In the past, I would just show up and do makeup demo panels. But the table work is really where you get to meet people. The strangest requests I get are young kids who come up and ask me to give them a black eye so they can scare their parents! Ahhh… I know that feeling!
Just read an article the other day that the Hartsfield Jackson Airport has confiscated so many Negan bats from fans. What percentage of those do you think you are responsible for?
Really??!?!?! That’s crazy! Do people try to bring them on in their carry on bags?
I’ve started making them out of rubber bats with twine barbed wire. They’re safe, and soft and can’t really hurt anyone. I offer them in clean mode, or covered in blood. I now like to add chunks of latex to make it look like there’s some skin stuck in there. And if I want to be really gross, I glue some tufts of hair to the latex. It’s pretty gruesome!
Where can we catch the issue of you in “Adventures of a Comic-Con Girl” and how did that come about?
Adventures of a Comic-Con Girl is a comic book that came out a few years ago. Written by Dana Braziel-Solovy and Matt Spradlin (who also wrote and directed Bad Kids Go To Hell). It’s about a girl at comic-con trying to the cosplay contest when she gets sidetracked by the evil Convention Coordinator named Spat! It’s a great series of books. I think there was 4 of them. And they’re on Amazon. Matt and Dana told me that they couldn’t think of anyone else who would fit the bill as the con guy running around the show. Dana actually used to be one of my volunteers when I ran shows. I saw it as a high honor!
How long have you been involved with the Atlanta Ghostbusters?
Being that I make costumes for a living, you would assume that I have a collection of costumes that I can wear anytime needed. But, in reality, I’m like the shoemaker who has no shoes. Any costumes I do make end up being either heavy armor type costumes, or heavy (and sweaty) creature suits. So I decided to create a costume that was easy to wear and that I wouldn’t die from the heat of wearing it. So I put together a very basic Ghostbuster costume. Just the jumpsuit and accessories. I decided to skip the Proton Pack because all the ones I’ve seen weigh 40+ pounds. I wore my “casual Ghostbuster” outfit to a costume event here in Georgia and suddenly had members of both the Georgia Ghostbusters and the Atlanta Ghostbusters sending me invites and giving me cool swag shoulder patches! Later, a friend of mine sent me a raw Proton Pack shell, and I 3D printed all the extra parts for it and ended up making myself a Pack that only weighed about 10 pounds. That, I’ll wear!
What’s your favorite character to be in the DragonCon parade & how long does it typically take to walk the entirety of it?
I’ve been attending the parade since it started and usually only attend every other one now. I usually march with the Colonial Marines, but I recently marched with the Ghostbusters. I’ve often thought about marching in a cool creature suit, but I just don’t know if I would survive the Atlanta heat for a walk like that! It’s about 2 hours of standing around waiting before it starts and then probably close to an hour of walking (because of how slow you walk and the constant stops). But it is great seeing all those fans out there loving seeing all the people in costume!
I was fanatical about Wizard magazine growing up. How crazy was it coordinating Wizard World Con? A lot of juggling I bet.
Being a guy who was putting together small cons, getting the call to work at Wizard back in 2010 was like being called up to the majors! Though very quickly I realized that I would be doing almost everything to put the shows together! Working on a normal, annual convention, you have months to make everything perfect, but when you’re working on 9 shows per year and each one is bigger than the last, it gets pretty insane. But I wouldn’t trade those 2 years for anything. I met so many amazing people, traveled all over the US and into Canada, and organized events that made so many people happy. And got lots of cool swag from the artists and celebrity guests attending the show!
How cool was it being a part of “The Walking Dead Experience”?
In a word, amazing. When I first moved to Atlanta, I didn’t have any “ins” in the makeup world and a guy I met at a Horror Con down here called me and asked if I wanted to help out with some makeup for a zombie obstacle course. Jason (or J-Sin as he called himself back then) said it would be a bunch of artists making zombies. Little did I know, but it was for an event called “The Walking Dead Escape”. A live action zombie obstacle course! 16 makeup artists worked all day and popped out over 400 zombies for the event. At the time, I believe it was more than they had ever even done for the show. It was exhausting, but I made a ton of new makeup friends, and got a paycheck from KnBFX! The company that provides the FX makeup for The Walking Dead!
A while later, someone showed me a Facebook post by Tate Steinsiek (of Face-Off fame) who was looking for artists in Atlanta to make zombies. I sent in some pics of my work and next thing I know, I’m working on “The Walking Dead Experience“. Another live action Walking Dead event, but this one is more like a haunted house meets an escape room. We did the makeup for the security camera that will play during The Walking Dead Experience the event that day. I got to work with Tate and another Face-Off alum, Roy Wooley. A few weeks later I got called in and offered the spot as one of the lead makeup artists for the event, which took place at the Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta. After the show, they moved the event to another location in Atlanta and I was put in charge of all the makeup and for the next month or so I was just making zombies all day! I had an amazing team of helpers and assistants (couldn’t do it without them!), and we just made zombies as fast as they walked in the door! Not only was it an amazing experience, but it was a great learning experience. I can now do a full zombie makeup in under 10 minutes! I still haven’t ever worked on the show itself, that’s still a dream of mine. Maybe one day…
I know you are a fan of Star Wars, are you surprised at how often it has been sprinkled into your career?
I’ve been incredibly lucky over the years. Being a HUGE Star Wars fan my whole life, I ended up meeting almost all of my childhood idols over the years and have befriended many of them. I may have started out as a fanboy to some, but I remember the day we filmed my scene as a SWAT officer for Bad Kids Go To Hell, Richard LeParmentier (Admiral Motti from Star Wars) showed up on set and made a comment about how the tables have turned and that he was now a fan of mine. It was a pivotal moment. After my brush with fan films (Jedi House), I decided to create something original and made “The Adventures of Captain Bucky and His Space Marshals in Outer Space“. It was a 1940’s style sci-fi serial, and I got Richard to play the President of Earth in the first episode, and managed to talk Paul Blake (Greedo from Star Wars) to appear as the Vice President. I also got Paul to tell Captain Bucky “whatever you do, don’t shoot first”. We only ever finished one episode, but it’s pretty wacky!
So, yeah, Star Wars is all over my life, whether I like it or not! And with Disney announcing that they’ll be filming Episode IX here in Atlanta, I may have to call in every favor ever in the hopes of getting a day on set to do makeup! Fingers crossed!
What’s next for you?
In my spare time, I still run some comic conventions, and my next one is NY WinterCon in NYC December 1-3. Other than that, I have a few conventions where I’ll be a guest (MomoCon in Atlanta, ConCarolinas in North Carolina). Still making props and costumes for fans, and always looking for some movies that want me to show up and cover people in blood!
Spat’s work on actor William Sadler in “Last Day of Summer“