TALES FROM ILM: INNERSPACE, PART 1

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    Ok kids, so here is my first post on my new blog. Not sure what it’s going to be like, but it should be interesting.

    I had a long, involved career at ILM. I came out to Northern California from Georgia when I was 20 years old, and had the brilliant plan to hang around Marin County until someone at ILM offered me a job. Luckily, the plan worked! The full tale of getting the job at ILM will spool out another time.

    “Innerspace”, directed by Joe Dante with ILM effects supervised by Dennis Muren, was one of my all time favorite productions to work on. I had been working in the ILM Creature/Model shop for about a year when “Innerspace” came around, and I was wrapping up work on the whales for “Star Trek IV”.

    I started on the show working with Larry Tan making ‘fat cells’ for one of the first scenes to go into production. Tuck has been inadvertently injected into Jack’s ass, and we needed to create a view out of Tuck’s pod to represent the world between skin and fat. This involved filling balloons with a mixture of food coloring and and lemon Jello, collecting a big pile of these balloons and walking across the parking lot to the end of “Cookie Bay” (yet another long story….) and dumping them into the Cloud Tank (this was the original cloud tank used in Close Encounters at Furture General). Larry would then swish the water around in the tank and the high-speed camera would start up sounding like a sewing machine, and after playing around in this muck for a few weeks we got the shot. The mess in the tank took a little while longer to clean up!

    Dennis was really interested in getting as much FX “in camera” as he could, and wanted to avoid process shots for much of the “Tuck’s Pod” interior dialog scene. Therefore, modeller Claudia Mullaly was tasked with creating an endless rolling canvas for use outside the windows for traveling shots. This was about a 20′ by 6 foot canvas stretched between two rollers in an endless loop. Claudia then spent a couple of days channeling Jackson Pollock with urethane foam and paint to make a disgustingly bloody, oozing background we called “The River of Liver”. Worked like a charm tho! All of the pod interiors with Dennis Quaid were filmed on the Main Stage at ILM, and were the first principal photography for a film that I got to hang around on.

    I helped out Claudia on another shot for the film. When Tuck is first inadvertantly injected into Jack’s butt, there is a POV shot showing Tuck’s view of the injection- flying out the needle, thru the skin, past hair follicles and into the fat. I had already worked a full day making blood cells, but they were planning to shoot this overnight on the Dykstraflex and I did not want to miss out on a chance to hang around while the shot motion control. Claudia was at a table in the downtown model shop, painting yellow balloons with veins and twisting foam into strange shapes. Turns out we were to build up this “set” on stage while Pete Kozachik worked out the camera move. The move was pretty simple, just a straight shot down the track, so once the move was programmed Pete moved to the last position on track and Claudia and I started building the set to camera. Everything was hung off of C-Stands and positioned so that each level fit right around the camera lens and also served to block everything else we did not want to see. This took hours, especially when the heat of the lights would pop the balloons (fat cells). Finally, around 4 am everything was in place. Pete started the camera running forward, one frame at a time with a long exposure to add motion blur. Every foot or so it would have to stop and let Claudia and I pull the C-stands out so that the camera could keep moving forward.  I think we wrapped around 5 am, and I walked to my apartment on Canal St. and slept for a few hours. I think the footage got back from Monaco later that day and Dennis finaled it. One shot wonder!

    Next time: The Artery Raceway!!!

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