Tuesday, August 6, 2013

5 Questions with Ken Decker of Composite Effects, LLC

Boris the Creature, sans the 2x Oscar winner

This past weekend, Universal's 2 Guns opened as the #1 movie in America. During the film's pivotal bank robbery scene, the audience is introduced to Pickles and Boris... the masked aliases of stars Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. One look, and I had to write myself the following note, "Get one of those masks!" Lucky for me, I was able to get in touch with Ken Decker, co-owner and manager of CFX Composite Effects, the company responsible for Pickles the Clown, Boris the Creature and dozens of other amazing characters. He was kind enough to answer our 5 Questions...

1. Ken, congratulations on stealing the show in 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Have you had a chance to see Pickles and Boris on the big screen yet; and if so, were you gushing with pride when they appeared?

Decker: We got a good chunk of the CFX crew together to go see 2 GUNS. I think all of us geeked out a little when we spotted them in a background shot.

2. Your company has done work on dozens of big name motion pictures (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Final Destination, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) Can you describe the process of dealing with the studio/effects department? Do you enjoy it?

Decker: We work with film productions on a number of different levels. Most commonly, we deal with the prop master on set who is usually a local guy that we have done a lot of work for in the past. He'll give us a call and say, "I've got this gun that I need to hit an actor with: Can you make a mold of it and cast a few in soft foam? I need it in 3 days." Occasionally we'll work with multiple departments in a production from Special Effects, Set Dressing, Props, even some Craft Services. Mostly, it just depends of who needs what. As a full service prop fabrication shop, we like to tell people the only two things that limit us is physics and the budget.

3. Details. Details. How long have you been in business? How many employees do you have working with you on a regular basis, and what's your #1 seller?

Decker: I've been in the business a little more than a decade. Our shop employs 22 full-time employees and three seasonal helpers. The number one best seller at the moment is our Horseman of Pestilence mask. 

4. There are so many famous masks in Hollywood history (Michael Meyers, Darth Vader, Guy Fawkes, even Zorro) what's your personal favorite; and can you settle a debate between me and one of my buddies... Does Batman's cowl officially count as a mask?

Decker: My personal favorite has always been Batman. LOL... and yes, it counts as a mask.

5. You have an incredible inventory of hyper-realistic masks. Which ones are you most proud of? I love Deep Spawn!

Decker: As you know, our "human" masks are very realistic... So much so, that we know of at least one kid who has used his old man mask to buy beer. And of course, there are instances of people using the masks to rob banks (there have been nine confirmed cases so far) but hands down, the most rewarding tribute to the realism of our product has been from the burn survivor community. When we came out with the real people masks, we started getting calls from people who said that because of our masks, they were able to go out to the mall for the first time with out drawing stares, or even something so simple as going out to the mailbox and checking the mail during the day. 

Seeing the need here, we actually built a sister company called Dermal Synthetics to cater to those customers who have needs that go beyond entertainment. In fact, we can even go to a customer with portable 3-D scanning equipment,  and take a virtual mold of their face in about 10 minutes... then print their head back at the shop on our 3-D printer. From there, we can look at photos of the person prior to their accident and reconstruct their former appearance to give a seamless and very comfortable fit. This aspect of our company is hands down the most rewarding facet of what we do.