Film FX Grant Mason

SMPC’s in-house effects maestro Grant Mason has had a busy few months. He’s found the time to tell us about his work that includes Baby Dawn from the cult film  Trainspotting and Morag The Highland Cow from Fully Booked. He has also designed and built trugmobiles and tree-trunks to Loch Ness monsters, dead bodies washed up on the beach, mask heads for Wiseman Dairies and of course the OSCAR award winning Polish film of Peter and The Wolf.

It’s been all hands on deck at Grant Mason Make-Up Effects ever since the beginning of 1991.  That’s one of things about working in the film and television industry, you never know when the work will come in. It’s either feast or famine, and if everything lands on your doorstep at once, then that’s just the way it is and you have to deal with it. As usual there have been some pretty strange things getting made in my workshop, from kids stuff to what can only be described as X-rated!

In 2001 Grant was in London working on the forthcoming Ridley Scott film Black Hawk Down but even before that it was hectic. One project was the building Trug, the people-carrier for puppets! Trug was built for the Beeb’s forthcoming kids’ series Bits ‘n’Bobs and is a buggy with a personality. He’s basically a huge remote-controlled car, with a designed shape, face and hands, but when you get to making a prototype on this scale you can bet that technical complications will mean a lot of extra time put in on set. He certainly kept myself and props man Tony Steers, who worked with me on the project, busy.

Tony, who worked with him on the animatronic baby from Trainspotting, concentrated on making the mechanical insides of Trug, while  Grant designed and moulded his outer appearance. After we built the Trug, there was the small matter of operating it. Grant or Tony had to be on set to drive the buggy on every day of filming. And what with takes and retakes, it can be a long day on location!

While he was spending most of my time on location, other jobs were coming in, including one that was highly unusual – even by my standards! An Internet marketing company were running a series of ads and wanted me to make them a rather unusual foam latex outfit … what is best euphamised as an eight-foot male appendage!

 Grant has worked on some strange things in my time, from burnt corpses and gallons of fake blood to puppets of laboratory animals with skin conditions, but this probably goes down as the weirdest yet. It certainly lends a new meaning to the phrase ‘odd jobs’.

Speaking of odd jobs, Grant was once again commissioned to make something for the television series Monarch Of The Glen. This time, they wanted a tree trunk. You’re probably asking yourself the exact same question he did … why don’t they just use a real tree? The answer is simple – this was to be the biggest tree in the world! Or so Richard Briers’ character would be attempting to convince people in the programme. Whether it was or not is anybody’s guess, but the point is that he had to make a fake tree trunk which was so big as to suggest that the tree in its entirety would be stupendously huge! First he had to travel to the Highlands where Monarch was filmed and analyse the bark from the types of trees growing there. Then, he cast a sample of the bark and from that made huge sheets of imitation latex bark, which he had to put together to make the mighty trunk. The biggest problem was how to get it out of the workshop when it was finished!

No sooner were the Trug, the tree and the … erm, other thing, out of the way then I had to get started on other jobs. Scottish Television were once again making a screen adaptation of lain Rankine’s Rebus novels, starring John Hannah. Grant made a couple of dead bodies for the pilot episodes, and since you can’t have a murder mystery without corpses, so he was in business again. He seems to spend half his life casting and moulding corpses, using plaster bandages to make a life cast and moulding the sculpt in foam rubber (a process described in detail in a previous issue of Masks & Puppets). Rebus also needed weapons (where there’s a murder there’s also a murder weapon), and he had to make life-like latex replicas of baseball bats and cut-throat razors. All very grizzly, but a job’s a job!

As you can see, it’s been all go – in fact I’ve been so busy I had to turn down work on one of the Harry Potter movies!  Theatre commissions also form an important part of Grant’s work and he has made prosthetic noses for a production of Cyrano, and a life sculpt of Scrooge for the National Theatre of Scotland’s production last Christmas.

The Centre is proud and delighted to have Grant and his collaborators as an artist-in-residence and looks forward to many more years of creative collaboration. See his dedicated website and gallery at: www.grantmasonfx.com

Grant on location : he wishes it to be known that he has
had a haircut since this picture was taken.