‘Nightbreed: God Of The Miniatures’ with Julian Parry
Today we have a special treat for you Nightbreed fans out there. Julian Parry of JPVFX Production Services found this paragraph in his diaries, written back in 2003, and was kind enough to send it over and share it with us. This may end up as a a potential book on the industry, so we’ll be sure to update on that as it evolves.
After starting his career with an early uncredited Model Unit work on Octopussy (1983) and a couple other Bond films, he worked in Aliens in 1985, and of course our cult-favorite film, Clive Barker’s Nightbreed in 1989, moving on to have a pretty prolific career, including some classic shows like Farscape (as Supervising Art Director – Jim Henson Productions), Titanic: Blood and Steel (as Visual Effects Supervisor — a fantastic show, recommended) and my personal favorite, Visual Effects Supervisor for the ongoing saga of VIKINGS Seasons 1,2 & 3.
Without further ado, here it is.
“God of the Miniatures” – Clive Barker, “Nightbreed”.
I’d been introduced to Bob Keen MD of Image animation, some years earlier. He said if he ever got a project with model effects he would call me. He was true to his word. Bob had been working with Clive Barker on the very gory Hellraiser series. His next project was a horror fantasy and it was huge, Nightbreed. We had a few pre-production meetings were I meet Mr. Barker. A nice guy, and to look at him wouldn’t put him as the writer and director of those grisly films. He looked like David Cassidy (the 70’s pop singer). We got on, and we started to discuss what visual effects could and couldn’t be done. I would soon find out that Clive’s projects had buckets of imagination but no money. At least one good ingredient was there. ‘Cabal’ had already been released as a paperback in the US and Clive would be taking the screenplay from the book so he still had some latitude to tweak things to budget.
The shoot went along with all the usual film issues, it doesn’t seem to matter how well you plan something there’s always something to trip you up. It’s the ability to be able to take that surprise and work with it. Nightbreed was my first project as Model Unit Supervisor later credited as director. I was twenty four years old. Our Model Unit was very small. Jamie Thomas and Robert Thompson joined me and was one of the reasons the crew was small as they did the work of ten men. The cameramen were two old friends from the Bond films and Aliens unit. Lesley Dear and Harry Oaks. Great guys and from a time when you went to work in a suit, shirt and tie. Harry had spent many years with Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds and its spin-off’s, whilst Les had worked at Bray Studios and its classics. They had selflessly taught me a lot over those years and I was very thankful for their support. I was happy with the results from our unit and so was the production. We kept getting given new shots including second unit footage known as ‘pick ups’ (the term for extra footage required after editing). Nightbreed was part of a six picture deal but sadly the other five never got off the table. It was a shame as even today many people know and love the movie, even if it is a bit strange. The film has become a cult classic.
Clive moved to LA and continued his successful writing and painting career and I believe he still produces.
– Julian Parry
I’ve heard of a three picture deal before: According to an article by Alan Jones in November of 1989 in Cinefantastique, Nightbreed was the first of a planned three-picture deal Barker had with Morgan Creek, Joe Roth’s production company, that included an adaptation of Son of Celluloid and a sequel to Nightbreed. In any case, 3 or 6 picture deal, that would have been something to see. The 90’s were a very prolific and experimental period for movies, especially horror/fantastic entertainment. We got a lot of great movies full of stop-motion, miniatures, glass paintings and practical effects, that I believe still hold up to this day and that represent the best of a craft that has been taken over for the most part by green screens and CGI. However, as movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens show us, props, miniatures and puppet work can still amaze and entertain us alongside computer work. I hope practical effects remain a part of Cinema for a long time.
Here are some more interesting behind the scenes photos taken on set during the production of Nightbreed that Julian Parry has shared in the Occupy Midian group over the years: (click through for full-size)
I also recommend you read Rory Fellowes’ essay The Making of Nightbreed: An Entirely Personal Memoir over at Revelations, for more great insight on the work done at Pinewood Studios by the Animation Department. Rory was the Animation Designer on Nightbreed, here’s a quick excerpt:
The day I arrived in the enormous studio space that Image Animation occupied in the grounds of Pinewood Studios the Production design for Boone’s transformation Animation Department were preparing to design an open-ended number of creature concepts for which I was to storyboard possible scenarios that we would offer to Clive. It was the idea at the start that animation would provide a lot of the interior shots of the Midian labyrinth, the crowd scenes as well as the specific creature sequences, to create the illusion of an underground labyrinth filled with monstrous beasts and their mutant human co-habitants. We were going to create all sorts of monstrous creatures to be shot on miniature sets that Julian Parry’s VFX* department would build.
I always love to hear from the people who work the movie magic; it’s like lifting the veil on the reality of a movie and seeing the scaffolding behind it. For some, this break their immersion, but for me, it makes me love the movies more because of the absolute talent and craft that takes to bring a vision to life.