Alec Gillis. It may not be a household name, but I guarantee you know his work. If you have seen any of the Alien films from Alien 3 on, if you’ve seen Death Becomes Her starring Bruce Willis and Meryl Streep, if you have seen Mortal Kombat or Point Break, you have seen his work. He and his company, Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc., are masters in the field of practical special effects.
Recently, he directed his first feature film, Harbinger Down (read my review of the film here), and I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with Mr. Gillis.
I drew on my entire skill set for this. Directing is not unlike what I normally do, but certainly being in charge of the entire production meant that there was NO downtime.
Absolutely! This film originated as a Kickstarter project with the promise to pledgers that this would be an homage to THE THING and ALIEN. I wanted the film to embody what we love about the 80’s sci-fi/horror films. The point was not to reinvent or spoof. Just a loving look back at the 2 greats sci-fi/horror films of that era. It’s cinematic comfort food. Movie meat loaf.
Yes, much of our work was replaced by CGI. When we saw how heartbroken the fans were we decided to give them a voice in the matter through Kickstarter. HARBINGER DOWN was our assignment from the fans and KS pledgers.
Fans like you have been vocal on the internet for a long time. But that has not led to a drop in business for big CGI centered films, so naturally, studios have not listened. Why should they care if there’s no affect on their profits? However, when big directors like JJ Abrams echoes the fan’s love of Practical FX, studios perk up and start to tow his line. The survival of PFX requires fan involvement but also ‘hero’ directors like Abrams, Del Toro and Favreau. We did our small part with HARBINGER DOWN.
There are standouts like TREMORS, STARSHIP TROOPERS, DEATH BECOMES HER, JUMANJI. But it’s always great to hear the movies other people love. I can’t tell you how many people are smitten by the presidents masks we made for POINT BREAK!
I very much want to direct soon! I have several scripts waiting in the wings. It’s always a matter of finding that funding. When I do get the next chance, it’ll be more forward looking than HD, but still loaded with PFX!
I would consider it. I’m proud that we were so diligent about getting prizes out in a timely way. We got a lot of great responses on the management of the campaign, so I think the pledgers were happy. Anyone contemplating a KS campaign needs to be aware that it is a TON of work! Ours has been a 3 year process with almost 10,000 individual prizes to dole out. Many well-intended KS campaigns fall apart due to the inability to organize the whole affair. Having said that, I love the direct fan interaction that gave me the ability to get a movie made!
It’s two-sided coin. Folks who were on board with our KS mission statement from the beginning love it. Some folks coming into it without knowledge of its origins may not love it so much. We have gotten some really bad reviews and some incredibly positive reviews. They say things ranging from “Gillis is a genius!” to “Gillis should get out of the business!”. Some people see it as a love letter to a bygone age, others think its hackneyed and unoriginal. I guess one man’s ‘homage’ is another man’s ‘ripoff’. Having said all that, it is renting and selling well, so perhaps it’ll open doors for more PFX based films. I hope so.
As a kid I loved the original KING KONG and PLANET OF THE APES. The classic Universal monster movies were terrific. But really probably the work of Ray Harryhausen inspired me the most. Though he did not direct he was the indie auteur behind his films. Amazing artist and filmmaker.