Chatting with “FaceOff” Judge Glenn Hetrick of Alchemy Studios
The world of special effects has changed. As consumers, we have higher expectations of how things should appear on the screen. If we can’t suspend our disbelief, the entire effort is wasted. One of the people committed to creating amazing, modern special effects is Glenn Hetrick, owner of newly launched Alchemy Studios. You might not recognize his name, but you know his. He’s the creative mind who brought to life smash hits like The Hunger Games and Marvel’s Agents of Shield.
“Today, with high definition, everything has to be ultra-realistic,” Hetrick said. “HD filming has pushed the boundaries to create new techniques far and beyond. It has to be so realistic there is no disbelief from the audience. If the audience questions something, it affects the sale.”
“It can’t seem cheesy or faux looking,” he said. “That’s why we employ things like silicone that are much harder to work with since it’s translucent. These techniques are far more complex but are necessary for the resolution of film that we work in today.”
Hetrick’s portfolio consists of everything from fantastical monsters to human anatomy for crime shows like CSI.
“Forensic stuff is really difficult because everyone knows what a human body looks like,” Hetrick said. “Your anatomical accuracy must be spot on. This translates into the creature world too. There has to be a level of believability.”
This is the same advice and critiques Hetrick gives on the show “FaceOff” where he serves as a judge. Many contestants fall to the bottom and are ultimately sent home when their anatomy fails to be believable.
“The structure that we’re asking them to work in works wonderfully for television, but it’s not the same that you would do in a studio,” said Hetrick. “I’m artistically renewed every week. I can’t believe I get to work and see the concept to finished product in two days. You’re reinvigorated constantly by their passion and commitment.”
As a judge for all nine seasons, Hetrick has seen his share of true success stories. One of his favorite characters was Tate and Miranda’s pumpkin jack-o-lantern scarecrow.
While the experience of being a judge on FaceOff is amazing, Hetrick is very happy with the unintended effect it’s had on families and children.
“Families are watching the show together,” he said. “It’s hard for adults to engage and connect with what’s out there for younger viewers and we straddle the gap very efficiently. Families enjoy watching the show together.… Our show is a gateway for them to put down their phones for 30 seconds… It’s so good for their minds and their souls and to start growing and learning expression through art. I could not have hoped for a better impact [from] the show and we are so blessed.”
“Our ultimate goal is that we are magicians,” he said. “We allow the audience to live out their conscious fears. It’s very magical that you are conveying these complex concepts that start in the minds of the writers and producers and using their visions to use the make up with the performance of the actors underneath it and make the audience feel as though they live through it. If it seems like a guy in makeup, it’s like seeing how the magic trick works on stage.”
Today, it’s not uncommon for creative artists to take direction from multiple people who focus on certain aspects of a character, sometimes creating conflict for the artists.
“It’s not uncommon for four or five production companies to be involved and the days of the directors having the final say are gone,” Hetrick said. “There’s very much a creation by committee. Things that work are when a production team has managed to get to the same place with a shared vision… There’s no me, it’s us. We’re really forward thinking and we’re integrating technologies. Neville is very much on the cutting edge of 3D printing. Alchemy Studios is really about combining so many elements to transform reality. I look for it to be the standard in 5-10 years. We love being out there to blaze the path.”
Outside of Alchemy Studios and FaceOff, Hetrick attends horror conventions and has several big projects in the works. While he can’t reveal many details, there’s also an haunted attraction project in the works for his hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that he describes as “unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.”
Story by Hayley Lynn Martin for Pennsylvania Bridges