I am sure you will agree that Toetag EFX create some of the sickest, most realistic special effects seen in the history of cinema. Nothing manages to turn the stomach quite like the work of Jerami Cruise, his amazing talent give his work an incredibly realistic and sickening look like no other. Amazingly, he agreed to answer some questions for Doctor Carnage's World of Horror, so what follows is the complete interview for you all to enjoy. So without further blabbering from yours truly, here we go.
D.C:- What first attracted you to the artistry of movie special effects?
J.C:- I've always been into movies. I guess what first sparked my interest in special effects was The Wizard of Oz. When I was a kid and saw the wicked witch for the first time, I think that's when my path to the dark side started. Like most budding special effects artists I watched horror movies constantly, the more blood and gore the better. At 13 I was working at a haunted house acting and doing make up. I worked on haunted houses almost every year until I was 24. As much as I was into horror movies and special effects I never considered it as a career, just a fun hobby. I started the fall semester at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh majoring in graphic design. I wanted to draw horror comic books. I did that for almost a year. Two of my roommates were studying special effects. I hated what I was doing especially because I was seeing all the cool stuff my roommates were bringing home. I started doing some of their homework for them because it looked like fun. So I changed my major to special effects and never looked back.
Your effects never seem over the top to the point of not being believable. Is the realism you bring with your art as important as creating a seamless special effect?
I'm all about the realism. When designing my effects I try to do it with little to no camera cuts. If the audience sees a crazy death scene all in one shot it makes them question what they are seeing. I want the audience to feel the pain of the effect; I want them to feel as if it were happening to them. If it's all in one shot it's hard to take your eyes off the screen and in my opinion makes for a better viewing experience. As for creating a seamless effect, I'm kind of a perfectionist so I do my very best on everything I do to make a seamless effect.
Do you do any kind of research when creating effects, such as reading medical textbooks, looking at anatomy diagrams etc?
I've always been fascinated with what goes on under the skin. I have studied anatomy for years. I collect anatomy charts and skeletal diagrams. I have an extremely macabre library of books and pictures of real trauma and dead bodies. I even have an instructional DVD on how to perform an autopsy and embalming. I want the work that I do to to look as real as I possibly can make it. I need to know what color the layers of fat and tissue under the skin look like to make the audience believe what they are seeing.
How do you feel about the use of CGI in genre films?
I'm not a fan of most CGI in movies. It seems like a copout. If it can be done practically on set, then it should be. I think if you use them both to pull off something that can't be done fully practical, but would look totally fake if done fully digital is the way to go. There are always exceptions to the rule. A.I. is a good example of using practical effects and CGI to pull of a really cool makeup effect.
How do you prepare for working on a movie?
That depends on the project but everything always starts with research. Figuring out what kind of movie it is, what kind of effects we are going to be building. The last film I did special effects for, Schism (not yet released but hopefully will be soon), I did a series of bloody paintings just to get my creative juices flowing.
You directed a few of the segments in Murder Collection Vol:1. Do you have any plans to direct your own feature length movie?
Yes I directed five of the segments for MCV1, I won the goriest scene of 2009 from Rue Morgue magazine with the 'Autopsy' segment. That was pretty cool. I love directing, and yes I plan on directing my own features very soon. I have a few scripts in the works right now that I plan on directing. As for right now I just directed, shot and edited a ten-minute short film called 'INSOMNIAC' starring Danielle Inks who also starred in TOETAG's 'Maskhead'. 'INSOMNIAC' is a part of the JABB Pictures DVD release The Collective Vol 6. It just premiered at the Days of the Dead convention in Indianapolis on July 6th and is available for sale on DVD in the TOETAG webstore and at JABB Pictures. I am also getting ready to direct a documentary called LATEX AUTOPSY. I have countless hours of behind the scenes and making of footage from every drop of blood I ever spilled on every movie I made that no one has ever seen before. I am compiling all this footage along with conceptual artwork and effect designs to bring together a retrospective of TOETAG EFX. It's a chance to take the fans into our world of low budget underground independent filmmaking. Show how we did what we did with no money no crew and no time. Should be lots of bloody fun.
Who do you look up to in the effects industry?
I'm a fan of 80's splatter films, so when I was getting into this stuff Savini was god. I learned alot from his books. Dick Smith's work on The Exorcist had a huge influence on me. Gianetto De Rossi worked on some of my favorite films, City of the Living Dead, Fulci's Zombie. Lucio Fulci is probably my favorite director so his films are very inspirational to me. Rob Bottin, Steve Johnson, Richard Taylor, Greg Nicotero, the list goes on and on. John Waters films also. When I first watched Pink Flamingos I knew I had to be a filmmaker. I thought if there were films like that out there I needed to be doing it too.
How difficult was it creating the effects for both August Underground Mordum and Penance considering they had to be done in camera, and with very little set up time?
It was extremely difficult, but a welcomed challenge. The August Underground films are supposed to be real, the personal home video of serial killers. What they wanted to see was the killers looking back on what they had done as the audience sees it. Most special effects are shot the same way; you see the knife up in the air then cut away, then cut back to the effect. In the AU series, I didn't want any camera cuts. I wanted to see the knife cutting the flesh, blood spraying from the wound, guts pulled out all in the same camera shot. Doing it this way offers a lot of design challenges. Most of the time I would be hiding in the set somewhere curled in the fetal position on the floor ready to pop up and do my thing when it was time to. We carefully timed and choreographed every shot so you wouldn't see me in the scene when I was up and operating the effects I built. We used things like key words to let me know the camera was looking away from the effect so I could jump up, pull of the effect then hide again. Everything was going on all at the same time so we really had to be on our toes shooting those movies. I actually designed and shot a quick August Underground style kill scene for the upcoming AU Trilogy box set that demonstrates how the death scenes were designed and shot for the AU series. We also performed it live in front of an audience at a film festival in Breda, Holland which was awesome.
What do you think is the greatest effect you have created?
That's hard to say. I have many favorites and could never pick just one. Becky's ax death in The Redsin Tower is simply brutal, the chainsaw to the face in Murder Set Pieces is bloody beautiful, the compound fractured arm in Maskhead is painful as hell to watch and the girl being dismembered on the rack for Theater Bizarre are probably my best kills.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get started in the effects world?
Practice your craft. Every time I do something I am learning and getting better at what I do so do it all the time. If your just hanging out watching TV pick up some clay and sculpt or paint something. I am always doing something. One of the first things my teacher said to me was you have to eat, sleep and breathe special effects if you're going to make it. That's pretty much what I have done since then.
Is there anything else you would like to say to any of your many fans out there?
Keep spreading the TOETAG sickness. It is fucking awesome that there are people out there that want to see the same crazy ass shit that I want to see, and those are the movies I want to make. So thank you to all the sick fucks out there that allow me to do what I do best, Kill. Thank you so much for this Dani! I guess the only thing left is to remind all the independent filmmakers here in LA that TOETAG EFX has relocated from Pittsburgh to LA. Anyone needing or wanting my style of nasty realistic effects just let me know. I am always ready to kill.
Many thanks to Jerami Cruise for taking the time to answer these questions.
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