Our business is to bring the incredible to life
What kinds of effects does the Leonardo Cruciano Workshop specialise in ?
Our studio produces special effects for film, advertising and generally for all types of productions. Our designs are based on various techniques such as special makeup, making "puppets" or hyper-realistic reproductions of humans, animals, props and sets as well as spectacular sculptures. In short, we provide all the hardware solutions which are still needed to create the illusion.
How has the advent of 3D digital effects impacted your business ?
In the beginning, it destabilized our business. But times have changed. Today, blending both techniques is the only real guarantee for a successful effect: the better you can blend together conventional special effects with digital technologies, the better you are able to "hide" the "trick".
Of course, CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) techniques can extend or even replace material effects, in whole or in part, but our three-dimensional creations are often needed as a base for creating the images.
What is the role of plastics in the various specialties of your job ?
The use of polymers and composites is the foundation of our business. In Italy, where I work, we can rely on suppliers for makeup, special effects and high-performance designs.
But the most technically-advanced manufacturers nowadays are in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Do you use plastics whose original use was intended for other sectors ?
We are very often faced with new requirements which, at first glance, seem crazy or unrealistic. But our job is to bring the incredible to life! That is why we must constantly seek new solutions for moulding, prosthetics and accessories - like rendering hyper-realistic human skin, for instance.
We therefore test solutions intended for other areas of application, while involving industry in our search for new uses offered by their materials. We use silicone or polyurethane resins for special makeup, epoxy and polyester components for sculpting or surfacing props and sets. Our margin for improvement is great because the combinations are endless!
What are some of the advances and improvements made by manufacturers of specialized products ?
During my career, I've found that technological change was associated with the availability of new plastics. Companies in this sector are increasingly attentive to our needs and have enabled us to use materials which conform to our requirements in terms of safety and low toxicity, but that also allow for rapid prototyping by rapid implementation, and which are adapted to more varied uses.
Have these new polymers definitely replaced the materials used before ?
Yes, for example, the pre-vulcanized latex formerly used in prosthetic makeup was gradually replaced by polycondened silicone resin, which in turn has since been replaced by platinum-based polyadditive gels. This evolution comes directly from advances in the manufacture of surgical implants.
However, I also note that latex and silicone gels coexist very well in our profession, and that very few materials have in fact disappeared completely. The "old" processes are still suited to most potential uses, as long as they are safe and comply with regulations.
What are your greatest artistic influences? And which were your most challenging projects in this regard ?
Those would be the first creations of masters like Stan Winston [the Terminators, the Alien Queen and Predator - Ed], Rick Baker [Greystoke, Mighty Joe Young, Planet of the Apes - Ed] or Jim Henson [Muppet Show, Dark Crystal, The Little Shop of Horrors, Doctor Doolittle - Ed] which are "classics" destined to be constantly reinvented.
But younger and bolder artists, such as those working for Weta Workshop [Lord of the Rings - Ed], which has become extremely successful, are also inspirational role models.
More specifically, I would say that, in general, projects for major productions are the most exciting! But it has to be said that very often, small independent producers provide us with the opportunity to experiment with just as much enthusiasm!