Geoff Binns-Calvey - YOUR special effects guy!  Special effects  Sculpture

Where did you start your special effects endeavors?

   I started back in Cleveland, when I was a 24 year old carpenter- I saw an old high school friend, who was now a photographer, looking harried, pushing a cart through a lumberyard. I asked what he was making.
  "A set," he said. "Hey, do you want to build it for me?"
  I said, "Love to, but I have no idea what that involves."
 "Two windows in an eight foot wall. And it only needs to stand up for six hours."
  "I can do that," I said. And not long after, I was his studio manager, rigger, and effects guy.
What was your first rigged contraption?
  When I was six or seven,  using bits of wire, springs, and scraps from the garage, I made all the doors on my father's old work car pop open when he opened the driver's door. The trunk as well!

Do you work more with photographers or in video? 
  I started out with photographers, then got into TV commercials. But now I'm getting more work with still photographers again. The money's the same, and the pace is a little less frantic, so I enjoy it. And I've got a lot of the more complex equipment and tools from video shoots, which I can bring to still shoots.

  For your over sized props like OfficeMax, what were they made of?
      The Office Max props were a combination of MDF (medium density fiberboard), urethane foam, Bondo, fiberglass, and metal. The giant sheet of paper was just a piece of .016" polystyrene plastic. The giant Dorito was upholstery foam, a two part pourable soft urethane foam, and pigments. Oh, and bits of cut out tissue paper, for the "spice flakes".

What’s your favorite rig you have made?
   Hmm... recently, I rigged up a laser guided high powered baseball cannon. I went down to Cincinnati, and spent the day shooting 120 mph baseballs into pinatas full of guacamole and nacho cheese dip, for a Pepto Bismol commercial. They just blew apart. That was a pretty great day! (Video here- save time, and skip to the 1:00 mark)

What’s your favorite prop you have made?
    A recent favorite was a giant piggy bank, mounted on a mechanical bull rig. That was a couple of weeks of carving, sanding, and painting with my good friend Martha Schrik. The spot, and the pig, came out great!
   What do people come to you most often for?
     I've been getting a lot of beverage work, recently- bottle dressing, ice, frost, and pours. And I do a lot of grill and flame shots, although it's not the majority of my work. I've got a whole range of equipment for that, with a "cracker fogger" to make room temperature steam or smoke, a set of very nice acrylic "hot coals", and a great, controllable flame rig for grills. And I sometimes make custom grills to match the layout, welding up the grill rods on site, and cutting up the backyard grills as needed to get lights underneath.
Your work is so specific, does your work come word of mouth or do you market yourself to potential clients?
   Mostly word of mouth. A lot of recommendations come from the food stylists. When they see a layout with flames, steam, smoke, pours, splashes, or anything tricky, they'll often say to the photographer, "You know who'd make this all go smoother? Geoff." I owe the stylists big time!
Did sculptures come before or after your special effects work? 
   About the same time, starting years ago. I was fascinated with prosthetic makeup effects, and got into life cast sculpture that way. Although I don't do that sort of f/x makeup work- it's very skilled and specialized- I use a lot of the same sculpting materials and methods in prop making and rigging.
What’s your favorite medium you’ve worked in sculpting?
  I've been doing some vacuum formed pieces over life casts, that are really interesting. You can get the feeling of draped wet silk, with the color and texture of corroded copper.
Photo credits:
  Giant Dorito, Ink/Paper/Scissors; Geoff Binns-Calvey
  Foam Pizza Painting, Pig and Martha; Amy Binns-Calvey
  Standing by Giant Pig; Martha Schrik
  Welding the Grill; Justin Paris