Category Archives: Tremors 2: Aftershocks – The Production Team

Phil Tippett

Phil TippettOne of the foremost practitioners of the art of motion picture special effects, Academy Award-winner, Phil Tippett achieved new heights with his work as “Dinosaur Supervisor” on Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking JURASSIC PARK. Long recognized for his extraordinary design and execution of some of the most memorable creatures in film history, Tippett collaborated on JURASSIC PARK for two years; primarily responsible for two of the film’s more noteworthy creations — the awe-inspiring Tyrannosaurus Rex and the terrifying Velociraptors — Tippett’s work on this film caps nearly two decades of outstanding accomplishments in special visual effects. It also represents the culmination of his lifelong fascination with dinosaurs and paleontology.First inspired by such legendary fantasies as KING KONG and such Ray Harryhausen spectacles as THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, Tippett determined at an early age to follow in Harryhausen’s footsteps. A self taught filmmaker by the age of 13, he became a professional animator of television commercials by the time he was 17. Setting aside his career to attend the University of California at Irvine, Tippett became acquainted with a group of nascent visual effects artists such as Jon Berg and Dennis Muren (who most recently collaborated with Tippett on JURASSIC PARK). It was Muren, in fact, who recommended Tippett to the production team on George Lucas’ STAR WARS, the 1978 film that arguably launched a whole new generation of state-of-the-art, effects- oriented movies.

Having animated the miniature chess match and created miscellaneous space denizens for STAR WARS, Tippett next worked on its sequel, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, employing his skills in stop-motion animation to create the sinister, dinosaur like machines knows as “Imperial Walkers” and the hybrid animals know as “Tauntauns.” By 1983, Tippett was head of the Lucasfilm “creature shop,” designing, developing and constructing a wide variety of aliens for RETURN OF THE JEDI, including the monstrous “Jabba the Hut.” For his work on this final chapter of the STAR WARS trilogy, Tippett was awarded the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, having been nominated the previous year for his creation of “Vermathrax Perjorative,” the mythological winged serpent in the highly acclaimed medieval adventure DRAGONSLAYER.

In 1984, Tippett originated his own project, an experimental short film entitled “Prehistoric Beast.” Shot entirely in his garage, the 10-minute action drama creates life in the late Cretaceous Epoch, some 65 – 70 million years ago. Nearly two years in the making, “Prehistoric Beast,” is entirely populated by prehistoric creatures and represented Tippett’s first foray into the realm of cinematic dinosaurs.

After opening Tippett Studio in Berkeley, California, which employs as many as 75 artists and technicians, Tippett further developed his stop-motion animation techniques with the CBS documentary “Dinosaur!” (1985), which won him an Emmy for Special Effects. He won another Emmy in 1984 for his work on “Ewoks: The Battle for Endor,” a project that reunited him with Lucasfilm and also worked on its successful sequel, “Ewoks: Caravan of Courage,” which was made the following year. Other Lucasfilm projects to which he contributed include HOWARD THE DUCK (1986) and WILLOW (1988), which earned him his third Academy Award nomination.

Tippett Studio worked on animated sequences for GOLDEN CHILD (1987) and GHOSTBUSTERS II (1989). A key contributor to the effects in Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic drama ROBOCOP (1987). Tippett also supervised the special effects on its two sequels ROBOCOP 2 (1990) and for ROBOCOP 3 (1991). In (1992-93), Tippett developed and created a character, “The Garthok,” for the comedy CONEHEADS. The studio also worked developing the main character and creating CG animatics for several key sequences on the Universal picture, DRAGONHEART.

Currently Tippett Studio is collaborating on a Martha Coolidge picture entitled THREE WISHES. The studio is involved in special effects sequences of digitally generated fireworks and creature character development working in both stop-motion and computer animation. In 1995-96 a future project to be embarked upon reunites Tippett with Paul Verhoeven on a to be announced project.

Alec Gillis

Alec GillisAlec Gillis was born in 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona, and a short time later moved to Orange County, California. By age ten, he was an avid fan of fantasy and science fiction movies. Influenced by films such as PLANET OF THE APES, KING KONG, and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, Alec began making his own amateur movies, and by age thirteen had decided that creating creatures for Hollywood was to be his career.Having spent much of his teen years experimenting and tinkering in his mother’s garage, Alec’s first professional job was on Roger Corman’s low budget space-epic, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980). There he worked with many other talented industry newcomers, most notably director James Cameron (ALIENS, THE ABYSS), and producer Gale Anne Hurd (ALIENS, THE ABYSS, TREMORS). The next eight years were spent first attending U.C.L.A.’s film school, then working for some of the industry’s top names in make-up effects, most notably Stan Winston (ALIENS, LEVIATHAN, ALIEN NATION).

As one of Winston’s closest associates, Alec has the opportunity to hone his skills as a creature designer, sculptor, and supervisor. It was during his years with Winston that Alec met his future business partner, Tom Woodruff, Jr. In 1988, with their mentor’s blessings, Alec and Tom left Stan Winston Studio and formed Amalgamated Dynamics, Incorporated. Dedicated to the high standards of quality they helped set on films like ALIENS, ALIEN NATION, and TERMINATOR, Alec and Tom have most recently shown their expertise on Gale Anne Hurd’s TREMORS (Universal 1990), and the upcoming ALIEN 3 (20th Century Fox).

In addition to managing a successful Make-up and Creature effects studio, Gillis and Woodruff actively develop original scripts, both individually and as a team. The duo strive to incorporate their story and directing skills into their creature effects work, whether it is by contributing script ideas (as in TREMORS and ALIEN 3), or by second unit directing (LEVIATHAN).

To date, the culmination of Gillis and Woodruff’s talents as writers-directors is the screenplay and teaser reel of THE DEMON WITH THREE TALES co-produced, co-written and co-directed by Alec and Tom, the short film was shot on a shoestring budget and demonstrates not only the freshness and originality of the script, but also the team’s ability to design and direct visually stylish projects on a modest budget.

Tom Woodruff Jr.

Tom Woodruff Jr.Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1959, much of Tom’s early interest in movies and monsters was a result of late-night broadcasts of the now-classic Universal monster movies and the stop-motion effects of Ray Harryhausen. Finally seeing one of the PLANET OF THE APES films in a theatre focused his attention on the craft of make-up, while getting his hands on his father’s 8mm home movie camera at 13 years old simultaneously encouraged his interest in filmmaking.While living so far from Hollywood, Tom’s only professional contact was through the mail, writing letters to the artists whose works he admired most, like John Chambers, who created THE PLANET OF THE APES make-ups. Early in high school, he began to crank out his own Super 8 movies, using friends as cast members and saving money for his own camera equipment. Later, in college, Tom was allowed to adapt an independent studies curriculum in Theatre to focus on filmmaking and writing and continued to work on his own make-up creations and filmwork, story ideas, and screenplays.

Tom finally made his move to Los Angeles in 1982. Six months of making the rounds of make-up effects houses finally led to his first paying job, working for a company on a 3-D science fiction film. It was soon followed by working for Tom Burman on BUCKAROO BANZAI and STAR TREK 3. That work, as well as an association with friends already involved, led to Tom’s joining Stan Winston’s team on TERMINATOR. That was the beginning of a five- year period which saw Tom become a key member of the crew under Winston, and had the opportunity to work on such features as ALIENS and TV shows as AMAZING STORIES, and TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

During this time, Tom began wearing the complicated make-up and costumes of the creatures designed at the studio. His physical build and tolerance as well as his ability to perform as an actor led to his portraying the title characters in such movies as ALIEN 3, MONSTER SQUAD, PUMPKINHEAD, and LEVIATHAN, as well as TV’s AMAZING STORIES.

During these years, Tom continued to write, ultimately teaming up with another of Stan’s designer-technicians, Alec Gillis, to co- produce, write, and direct THE DEMON WITH THREE TALES, a promotional piece designed to sell a feature anthology project. As interest was beginning to generate on the DEMON project, Winston was in a position where letting two of his main crew members go would not interfere with his plans. Tom and Alec formed AMALGAMATED DYNAMICS, Inc., primarily as an imposing- sounding source from which to pursue their own make-up and effects projects, but with the intent to use the company as an umbrella under which their own film productions can eventually grow.