The Faces of Fear: Buffy's demon makers.Iimage  Optic Nerve

Vampires, demons, spirits… a host of creatures haunting Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Joe Nazzaro meets the talented men behind the magic

Selected from Starburst #256

One of the major trademarks of the smash supernatural teen thriller Buffy The Vampire Slayer is the menagerie of vampires, demons and other creatures that haunt each episode. Creating those monsters every week on a TV budget and schedule is no small accomplishment, requiring the unique skills of many designers, sculptors, lab technicians and make up artists, all working toward a common goal. Their work falls under the supervision of John Vulich, whose Optic Nerve Studios handles the special make-up FX for Buffy; and Todd McIntosh, whose on-set make-up team can often run up to 20-25 people an episode.

The transformed Oz. Ilustration  Optic NerveThe process of creating a new vampire, demon, etc, begins when Optic Nerve gets the script, which generally gives an indication of what will be required of those creatures.

“The one thing they seem to go for a lot is some kind of theme associated with it,” says Vulich. “They also don’t like to tread the same ground, so every time you see a demon, they want it to have a different look or style, or we might have done a lot of one type of demon in the second season, so in the third season, they want something new. If there’s a description in the script, like if horns are mentioned, or maybe the creature has a certain kind of skin which becomes a plot point, we’ll take that into account.”

After the design has been approved by the show’s producers (including series creator Joss Whedon), it’s a matter of waiting until the right actor is cast, which can sometimes delay the process until literally a few days before shooting.

“Each day we lose is extremely valuable to us,” Vulich insists, “so at a certain point in the game, we’ll start manufacturing pieces, entirely speculating on the size of the person. When we did The Judge for Season Two [Surprise and Innocence], we only had three days left, so we said, ‘Look, we’ve got to start doing something!’ so we used a head that we used frequently on Babylon 5 that we felt was our best generic head.

"We’ve developed certain tricks from doing shows like Babylon 5, so we can hedge our bets on these things, to make them more modular. Once we bring the actor in and cast him, we sculpt the pieces and make the moulds, and I’ll often throw two or three sculptors on different parts of one character just to get it done on time."

  Online feature:
Part 1 of 2
Part 2 here
Also from this issue:
Marina Sirtis on guesting in Voyager, E:FC
Marina Sirtis feature here
If you love Buffy half as much as we do, have you seen our previous features in these back issues of Starburst?
Buffy's other Slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) talks
Starburst #249
Anthony Stewart Head (Giles) on Season 3's surprises
Starburst #248
Seth Green (Oz) interviewed
Starburst #247
James Marsters, the evil vampire Spike, talks
Starburst #246
Mark Metcalf on the Master's return to Sunnydale in season three
Starburst #245
Sarah Michelle Gellar on stardom as Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Starburst #244
Please note: links are to details of each issue. Features are not necessarily on-line

All Buffy images here © Optic Nerve. Feature © Visual Imagination 1999. Not for reproduction
More from this interview here >>>
Read the whole behind-the-scenes Buffy feature (seven fully-illustrated pages) when you get Starburst 256 and win the Season One box set in our phone-in competition (sorry, UK callers only)
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