Exclusive: Behind the scenes of Fringe

Joe Nazzaro takes us through the paranormal world of Fringe with Mastersfx.

Crumbling ash men, other-dimensional shape-shifters, mutants, monsters and lots of corpses; it’s all in a night’s work for the team at Mastersfx. The versatile make-up/practical effects company has worked on everything from Dark Skies to Six Feet Under, so when the producers of Fringe were looking for a new company to take over the practical effects for season two following its move from New York to Vancouver, it made perfect sense to approach MFX with the job.

According to company founder Todd Masters, “I started to hear rumours last summer that the show was heading to Vancouver where we have a second studio, so I was curious if there was some way I could get our name in, but all of a sudden they started calling us. We’re kind of designed to take on crazy projects, because it’s what we do and we’re used to it by now. You just have to be set up like that, so if you’re not ready for The Tales From The Crypt school of filmmaking, you’re going to get slammed. But even with that experience, it’s still been quite a challenge.”

While Masters oversees production of Fringe and a number of other projects from the company’s Vancouver facility, producer Dan Rebert covers their LA-based productions including the current season of True Blood. “We support each other on a variety of projects,” says Masters, “and operate as one company which we are, but it’s also nice to have the resources of two groups of talent when everything is happening at the same time.

“Sometimes it’s just nice to have different people’s perspectives on things. I’ve noticed that there is a particular look that has developed in each region, so it’s nice to mix it up at times and send designs back and forth.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, having a few decades of experience working in genre television was immensely useful in terms of dealing with the pressurised demands of Fringe. “They really do expect us to turns things around in a week,” Masters elaborates, “maybe a little more in some larger cases but you don’t prep a new script until the previous show is shooting, so that generally doesn’t give you more than a week. You’ve really got to move, so when we started talking to them over the summer, they started suggesting that there was going to be a lot to do but you never know until you actually see the scripts.

“Fortunately, we had two good teams ready to go. We had just finished Sanctuary and were working on True Blood and a couple of other things so were pretty much done with that particular style of work. Every show has its own little canvas that you have to remain within and our team was now ready for some new challenges. Fortunately, everybody really dove in and while there have been some really busy days and nights and weekends, everybody has been really great to work with.”

Next: Mole men and earthlings.