FX shops burgeoning
as production work in Canada has grown over the last two decades, the number of special effects companies has been keeping pace. From a handful of fx houses working in the early 1980s, the business has grown in leaps and bounds....
as production work in Canada has grown over the last two decades, the number of special effects companies has been keeping pace. From a handful of fx houses working in the early 1980s, the business has grown in leaps and bounds. The 1999 Ontario Animation and F/X Directory lists nearly 30 companies under the heading ‘Physical Effects Companies’ in that province alone.
While compiling a comprehensive listing of all Canada’s special effects houses would be a project too broad in scope to fit within the limited space here, we submit for your consideration a sketch of some of the nation’s top shops and a rundown of recent projects:
brock Jolliffe Production Services was established by Brock Jolliffe in 1977 and has carved out its niche in the Canadian special effects market by creating on-set physical effects for such films as Darkman ii and iii and series such as La Femme Nikita and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
bfx specializes in pyrotechnics, fx prop building and electro-mechanical rigging. Jolliffe and company are currently working on the four new Robocop films being shot in Toronto, which will be released theatrically abroad and domestically on home video and pay-tv.
Another thrust of bfx’s work has been through an assortment of disaster films. Jolliffe says a lot of care must be taken when depicting an actual disaster.
‘Any disaster movie is very labor-intensive,’ he says. ‘There is always stuff falling, breaking, exploding or flooding. We are usually quite busy in that respect. We are always dumping debris on people and breaking things in half.’
toronto special effects house Jjamb Productions is currently working on u.s. feature X-Men, based on the wildly popular comic book franchise of the same title. Although things are very hush-hush as to what is happening behind the closed doors of the Toronto set, Jjamb’s Monica Babic says the company has put together some miniatures, exteriors and interiors for the big-budget project.
Jjamb specializes in creating electro-mechanical props as well as animatronics, model-making and stop-motion puppets for a large number of productions each year. Babic says Jjamb will be working on miniature spaceships or components of them for the feature Jason X, as well as continuing work on series Psi Factor, La Femme Nikita and Earth: Final Conflict.
Jjamb works closely with cgi companies such as C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures, for which it did a miniature effect for The Big Hit. For a scene in which star Mark Wahlberg flies out a fiery window, c.o.r.e. ‘took the stuff that we shot and modified it a bit. They added chairs and elements that we didn’t even have and, of course, Mark Wahlberg, right in the middle of it. It’s pretty seamless,’ says Babic.
jason Board says his first crack at doing special effects dates back to the early ’80s, a long time before he incorporated his own effects house, Global Effects, in 1994. Doing much of its work through i.a.t.s.e., the Toronto-based shop is known for its large-scale pyrotechnic effects and on-set physical effects on a host of projects. It also specializes in aerial rigging, mechanical rigs and animatronics, and is also fully licensed to create fuel effects.
Some recent Global credits include Norman Jewison’s The Hurricane, The Corrupter and The Santa Clause. One of the upcoming projects for Global is Jason X, the newest installment of the Friday the 13th series, which will see everyone’s favorite masked maniac, Jason, terrorizing our great, great grandchildren’s grandchildren, 400 years in the future.
‘It’s sort of a culmination of a number of different concepts,’ says Board. ‘It’s a bit Terminator, a bit Alien and a bit slasher movie all wrapped into one. It’s pretty fun that way.’
Board and the folks at Global will be serving Jason by creating his physical effects, pyro, special props and the mechanical systems for the film. Global will also be working closely with the cgi and creature artists to make sure Jason can effectively wreak the havoc only Jason can wreak.
Backbone Special Effects
toronto’s Backbone Special Effects was established in 1997 by partners Jason Ehl and Dayo Brown. The partners have put together a shop fluent in model-making, electro-mechanical devices, miniature construction and exotic weapon construction.
The latter has been utilized quite a bit by the producers of the four new Robocop films being shot in Toronto. According to Ehl, Backbone has been responsible for putting together the hero props, battle armor costumes (other than Robocop’s) and supplying a fancy arsenal for the cast to play with. Robocop has been keeping the effects shop very busy of late.
‘We’ve been working on that for six months,’ says Ehl. ‘It’s probably the longest project we’ve worked on. It’s been a good project to be on, but I think everybody is ready for a vacation.’
Other Backbone credits include the feature Three to Tango and the Total Recall 2070 series.
in business since 1991, PacificWest Special Effects specializes in physical/mechanical effects. Headed by president Tony Lazarowich, the shop covers a full range of services including pyrotechnics, mechanical and atmospheric effects, rigging and flying.
Located in Burnaby, b.c., PacificWest consists of a 6,000-square-foot shop and a 33-foot mobile on-set shop.
Current productions include the series Hollywood Off-Ramp and mow Sanctimony.
Recent jobs include work on the Warner Bros. feature Romeo Must Die, Showtime movie Frankie and Hazel and mow In the Name of the People.
burnaby, b.c.-based International spfx is a fully equipped special effects rental house servicing the motion picture industry since 1986.
The company specializes in atmospheric and pyrotechnic effects, rigging and flying, fire, explosives and water work.
International is housed in a new 18,000-square-foot warehouse and fabrication facility, which has full state-of-the-art welding, machining and fabricating equipment.
International’s credits include Dudley Do-Right, Johnny Mnemonic, Jumanji, Rambo iii and Sliders.
intrigue Productions was founded in 1982 by Louis Craig, following successful stints working on The Fly, The Hotel New Hampshire and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America.
Today, Intrigue offers complete mechanical effects services from its 10,000-square-foot Montreal facility, which includes a machine shop, tig and mig welding, carpentry, mold-making and even a sewing shop.
Specialties include pyrotechnics, atmospheric effects, hydraulic and pneumatic design and fabrication, and general rigging.
Recent projects include Battlefield Earth and Art of War. Intrigue was also involved in the fx creations for the series The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne.
Stefaniuk FX Studio
stefaniuk FX Studio, specializing in creature design, prosthetics, animatronics, prop building, puppets and puppeteers, was formed in 1989 by Ron Stefaniuk and Pam Mingo.
The 9,000-square-foot Toronto facility includes shop, showroom, design studio, wardrobe room, makeup room and paint booth.
Stefaniuk, who earned his reputation creating the monsters for the series Goosebumps, more recently created a pair of animatronic lobsters which burst out of a man’s stomach for a spot for Zantac.
Thomas Special Effects
thomas Special Effects was founded in the mid-1970s by John and Betty Thomas. Specializing in pyrotechnics, atmospheric, hydraulic and pneumatic design and fabrication, and general rigging, Thomas is housed in a 20,000-square-foot Vancouver complex, which consists of a full-service practical effects studio plus a green/blue screen stage to facilitate live-action, motion-control shooting.
Sending its trailers worldwide, Thomas has garnered an international reputation for its practical effects. Projects include Ace Ventura Goes To Africa, Lake Placid, The 13th Warrior and Seven Years in Tibet.
cineffects, headed by Ryal Cosgrove, specializes in design, fabrication and application of special effects and stunt rigging. The studio is located in south west Montreal in a 10,000-square-foot facility.
Services include explosives, sugar glass, smoke machines and specialized weapons.
Projects include Back To Sherwood, Anne of Green Gables, Big Wolf on Campus, Soldier of Fortune, Operation Tango, Lassie ii and Student Bodies.
Paul Jones Effects Studio
with 13 years of experience, Paul Jones Effects Studio, a special makeup and effects company, specializes in prosthetics, animatronics and creature effects.
From its downtown Toronto workshop, the Paul Jones crew recently worked on Ginger Snaps and Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict i, ii and iii. Earlier, the company completed effects for Bride of Chucky, The Corruptor and Top of the Food Chain.
Keillor Film Industries
keillor Film Industries provides creative solutions for special effects and prop building for film, television and advertising.
Specialized services include mold-making, tabletop models, rigs, hydraulics and pneumatics. Complete facilities are available for wood, metal and plastics.
Recent projects include Skulls, The Famous Jett Jackson, Guilty Hearts, Jason x and a number of commercials.