Rapid Round with the founders of prosthetics powerhouse Odd Studio
Damian Martin and Adam Johansen.
The founders of prosthetics and creature effects house Odd Studio, Adam Johansen and Damian Martin, have worked on everything from 'Farscape' to 'Pacific Rim: Maelstrom'. They talk to Harry Windsor about their partnership.
How did you guys meet?
Adam: We meet in ‘98 on the first season of Farscape. Damian and myself were among the first Aussies to join Jim Henson's crew and the only ones to do all four seasons. It was a fantastic series to work on, with so much creature effects and prosthetic work, and an invaluable experience for all involved, making new aliens and creatures on a weekly basis for four years. We both ended up working on productions like Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones and Revenge of The Sith, the Matrix films and a few others in between Farscape seasons. We worked very well together and complimented each other's work well. It also turned out that we both shared the same love of creature and prosthetic effects and we both had dreams of running our own effects company. After Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith, we decided to form Odd Studio.
Damian: As well as the large films and productions, I was approached about many small projects where I would need to set up a temporary workshop to do the job, then walk away from it, so having a space was becoming a necessity. Farscape was a huge project and a lot of close and enduring friendships were made on that production. Odd Studio had its 13th birthday this October. 13 feels like a significant number for couple of monster movie nerds…
Was it tough at the beginning?
Adam: In the beginning there were five partners at Odd Studio. That was difficult and too top heavy. Five quickly became three. The company started heading in a more specific direction and developed an international reputation for high quality prosthetics, creature effects and character design. The three partners became two and we have remained that way for several years. Although Odd Studio produces all elements of practical effects (model making, costume props etc), the majority of our work is prosthetic and creature/puppet effects related.
Damian: From a business standpoint, staying dynamic and adapting to the market [and] shrinking and growing as required is always tricky, but I think we've managed that well. Adam and I have always worked well together and have a great respect for each other's work. We find it easy to communicate ideas and critique and each other, which I think is really important.
Most challenging gig?
Adam: It's very hard to select one as there are so many projects, large and small, that have been challenging, and for many different reasons. For me, that's part of the reason I love doing this. Personally, co-supervising the creature effects with Conor O'Sullivan on Ridley's Alien: Covenant was very challenging, for the sheer scale and sensitivity of the project to the millions of worldwide Alien fans.
Damian: For me Mad Max: Fury Road would have to be up there. Supervising the prosthetics on the other side of the world on such a large project with some extreme conditions was a daunting task. Fortunately our prosthetic crew and the whole makeup and hair department were great, and Lesley Vanderwalt's wisdom and knowledge of Namibia and George Miller made it a rewarding experience.
Were the undead prosthetics on the new Pirates film difficult to create?
Adam: Obviously at this stage we're not at liberty to discuss our prosthetic work on Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales but it was creatively a very fun project for us. The trailer looks fantastic.
Damian: It's another great franchise to be a part of and our prosthetic team were fantastic. It was also great working with Peter King and Rick Findlater and the makeup and hair team they assembled.
What is Odd working on at the moment, and what have you got coming up?
Adam: We're on Pacific Rim 2, [and] a UK creature feature, and several animatronic characters and puppets for a couple of different [ad] campaigns.
How has the landscape changed since you started the business?
Damian: I think when we first started Odd Studio digital effects were really becoming the go-to option for a lot of productions.
Adam: But there's always been a need for in-camera effects and recently we've really felt like there's a greater desire to have practical creatures on set, even if they'll be augmented or even replaced digitally.
Damian: Also since we started digital design and sculpting has become much more a part of our workflow, especially now that 3D printing and and milling is so much more accessible. The materials and techniques for prosthetic production and application have really developed during the lifetime of Odd and we've always tried to stay up to date. Both of us have always loved to innovate and develop new techniques and materials of our own, including a new life-casting silicone we developed for Barnes Products called Oddbod.
Adam: Last year saw us working more on creature effects and animatronic puppets than [in] previous years. In fact, more of that kind of work than prosthetics. In that respect, it feels a little bit like the landscape has come full circle.