Frank Ippolito is something of a practical effects polymath. From starting out with makeup effects and putting in solid work in the lab, he has gradually expanded to running a company and crew with impressive credits and a high standard of work.
Running a busy shop isn’t easy, as it requires one to both know the work intimately and to be able to entrust that work to others as the volume required exceeds the scope of a single person. That is a switch, like when a trot becomes a canter and then a gallop. It isn’t just a simple increase in speed but a different arrangement.
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The switch is risky, and it deserves huge respect. It means stopping being the maker of everything and enabling a group to do that whilst remaining responsible for it all. It means taking care of the job itself, the folks doing it, the building it all takes place in and making sure that it keeps ticking over whilst keeping one eye on the horizon for what is coming next.
Checking out Frank’s IMDb, you’ll see a switch around 2016 as he started working on speciality costumes. This is a big overlap in the practical effects industry as creature and ‘hero’ suits become more sophisticated.
Think of The Umbrella Academy, The Orville, Mandalorian, Westworld, and Stranger Things….these are big hitter shows with a lot of work which, as is often the case when done well, is assumed to be digital. Happens all the time….people assume if it’s realistic or complicated, then it MUST be a visual effect added in post-production.
Looking at the Thingergy INC Instagram, you will see a lot of practical stuff – suits, props, bodies, statues and interactive effects which are real, there on the set and being filmed on camera. Why? Because often it is quicker, cheaper but mainly because it means the cast can interact, respond and perform with something that is actually there.
Material technology and tools have all improved, and the digital benefits of scanning, machining and milling, 3D printing, etching and digital sculpting are part of the practical effect wheelhouse. They can play nicely with the post-production as a result.
Frank started as a freelancer doing the thing; now, he runs a shop and has a well-trusted and reliable workforce at his shop, Thingergy INC. Because of his heavy lifting, now a team of folks get work and get paid, and our chat was an amazing dive into how a workshop is set up and run. This is a great episode to listen to if you are serious about getting work in the industry and want to understand how workshops work.
We particularly appreciate Frank discussing budgets with actual numbers. Not often will folks spell out the costs of making stuff so clearly, but this is SO important. Often, a suitable budget is put together and whittled down until there is no profit or financial gain from an endeavour. It is particularly the case for creative freelancers who are often people pleasers and feel uncomfortable discussing money and defending their costs. (Hint: Just because they say they can’t afford it doesn’t mean you have to work for nothing and do the job! Saying no to something that takes your time and gives nothing in return is often the wisest move.)
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