When most people think of a movie their first thoughts are that of the actors or the director, but special effects artists are the backbone of any great film. Special effects master, storyboard and concept artist, and comic book creator Michael Broom took the time to answer a few questions about his career and the creatures he has created.
You might not know it, but you have seen Broom’s creations many times. He has worked on a number films including The Mist, The Cabin in the Woods, The Thing (2011), The Crazies, Jennifer’s Body, Predators, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, R.I.P.D, and Lost Boys: The Tribe, as well as series like AMC’s mega hit The Walking Dead, and MTV’s Teen Wolf.
Horror Fuel: “What got you interested in Special effects, makeup, and creature design?”
Broom: “I grew up in the heyday of the Monster Renaissance. Star Wars, Alien, JAWS all came about around the same time. Couple that with TV showings of movies like ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘King Kong’, and you have a recipe for the corruption of a young influential mind.
I was always drawing, and liked imagining worlds outside my own. I started seeing a few ‘behind the scenes’-type books that showed concept art of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and had a few other books with grainy, black-and-white pictures of Lon Chaney and Jack Pierce applying makeup to some of my favorite monsters. I guess that’s where it all started…”
Horror Fuel: “How did you get your start in special fx?”
Broom: “I was actually in Florida, working at Walt Disney World and doing small independent comic jobs when I got the opportunity to come out to L.A. for one of my first gigs. I airbrushed a 20-foot tall Styrofoam replica of the PARAMOUNT mountain logo for a convention, and after that, started to get little gigs here and there on low-budgeted films. In the beginning, I did a lot of things; sculpting, painting, running foam, even wearing the occasional monster makeup for projects. Then I transitioned into just doing conceptual art.”
Horror Fuel: “Wow.”
Horror Fuel: “Can you explain to our readers your role as a concept artist?”
Broom: “A big part of what I do is to present options for the director and producer. Once a script (or sometimes just an idea) is rolling, the next thing is to help develop what the characters and creatures look like. I have contributed maquette sculptures (both in clay and in digital form), storyboards to help work out a scene, sketches and paintings to work out what things need to look like. It’s a lot easier (and less expensive) to work out ideas on paper than when you have a film crew standing by.”
Horror Fuel: “That makes a lot of sense.”
Horror Fuel: “Where do you find your inspiration for creating creatures and makeup?”
Broom: “Literally, Everywhere. I am always looking at art, film, and nature to inspire ideas. I listen to a lot of music, i read a LOT. Inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time. Some of my best ideas have come when my mind is at rest and I’m just getting to sleep or just in that phase being sleeping and waking up.
Sometimes there’s a pre-conceived idea or a pre-established character, but I get told often to “Just come up with some thumbnails” and show a variation of ideas.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s an artist’s answer if I’ve heard one.”
Horror Fuel: “What was it like working on the The Mist? I love that movie.”
Broom: “That was actually my first job for KNB EFX, and it was totally great. Greg (Nicotero) always is great to work with and loves making cool monsters. It was so much fun to just come up with weird creatures and try and develop something new. Many, many sketches were done for that one.”
Horror Fuel: “There are so many delightfully disturbing creatures in The Mist.”
Horror Fuel: “Can you tell us about your work on The Walking Dead?”
Broom: “Working at KNB, it’s one of our big shows. I came on about season 4(?) Greg usually directs a few episodes and he almost always has me storyboard out a scene or two to help bring his vision to life. There usually is a gore gag here or there that we might design out early on as well…
I have even done a few set designs for the show, (sometimes in Zbrush to show a 3D version) to help builders and production designers.”‘
Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome. The special effects are fantastic on The Walking Dead. I’m a big fan.”
In case you are wondering what “Zbrush” is, it is “a digital sculpting and painting program that has revolutionized the 3D industry with it’s powerful features and intuitive workflows. Built within an elegant interface”, according to Pixologic.com.
Storyboard from the supermarket scene from season 4 episode 1
Horror Fuel: “You worked on the genre hit The Cabin in the Woods, what did you do on the film?
Broom: “I did. I was on that show for about 5 months or so, for the lovely David Anderson at AFX. The script called for a whole slew of monsters (many of which are tragically never seen), and it was a lot of fun to just come up with crazy ideas. There’s a phone book-sized collection of my sketches for that show. I also storyboarded quite a few gags for people getting killed/injured, just to break down how the effect would work. That was a fun one!”
Creature designed by Broom and David Leroy Anderson
Horror Fuel: “Did you help create the Predator costume for Predators?”
Broom: “Largely, my contributions on that film were to their helmets. The bone jaw and tusks helmet elements were inspired by some of my sketches. I did, however, contribute a bit more to the Predator armor and weapons in ‘AVP: Requiem’.”
Horror Fuel: “Is it true that you designed the mask for The Final Girls?”
Broom: “I did do quite a few concepts for that fun little movie. There was a very distinct direction from the Producers concerning the ‘totem pole’-type theme, (which I found to be a very unique take). I created a number of variations based on their reference and did a few Zbrush versions as well.”
Horror Fuel: “That was a great movie.”
Horror Fuel: “Can you tell us about your involvement with Bubba the Redneck Werewolf and will you be working on the upcoming sequel?”
Broom: “I originally did pages for Mitch about 20 years ago, back in the old indie comic days, but I (sadly) didn’t really get to contribute much to the film. Hopefully I will get to do some on the next one!”
Horror Fuel: “I’ll see you there. I will be making a cameo in the sequel.”
Bound in Darkness #1 – The first appearance of Bubba the Redneck Werewolf
Horror Fuel: “Do you have a favorite creature that you have brought to life?”
Broom: “Hmmm, that is a tough one…. I DO really have a soft spot for those spiders in ‘The Mist’, but that ‘Babyface’ mask from ‘Hills Run Red’ got such a great following that he is up there as well.
I was on that from the initial EARLY promotional trailer we made to help get the project made. (I storyboarded and even worked on set for it.”
Spiders in The Mist
“Babyface” from the ‘Hills Run Red’
Horror Fuel: “What is your favorite horror movie and why?”
Broom: “Whew, another tough one. Too many to name, but ‘Alien’, Anything John Carpenter, ‘The Beyond’ and ‘Psycho’ are all pretty close to the top of my list.”
Horror Fuel: “All of those are truly great films.”
Horror Fuel: “I hear that you are working on a new comic, is there anything you can tell us about it?”
Broom: “Yes! I am returning to the art form after a long absence. The story was/is envisioned as a film, but I decided (with all of the design and illustration work) it might be better to translate my idea in a graphic novel.
It’s inspired by films like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Alien, involving an expansive world. I spent about two years sculpting figures in Zbrush and digitally painting shots for it, it has been a lot of fun! I’m just putting the final touches on it now… “
Horror Fuel: What’s it called?”
Horror Fuel: “I can’t wait to see it!”
Michael Broom has worked on so many fantastic films and series. It was an honor to learn more about his accomplishments, projects and the incredible creatures he has created. Be sure to follow Broom on Facebook, Instagram, and visit his website for updates on his projects, art, comic and more. Keep an eye out films and series he’s currently working and new releases featuring his concepts, including Jeepers Creepers III.