Disqus for Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise




Interview: James Mangrum Shows Jason 'His Unlucky Day'

There are many fans of the Friday the 13th series. Passion runs deep within those fans and some have more than others. That passion is what has led James Mangrum to complete a journey of sorts, one that quite frankly began in childhood and took a better part of a decade to conceive and execute. His passion was to own the definitive Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter Jason Voorhees. Because of this desire, he has now created something so stunningly accurate that I can say it is the best The Final Chapter Jason Voorhees likeness created to date. The bust is now known as “His Unlucky Day”.

Last year, I asked James a number of questions about the history and the process that was necessary to create such a magnificent piece of memorabilia. Along the way you will learn a few things about the make-up of Jason in The Final Chapter that you may not have known before either!

F13 Film Franchise: What made you decide to create a sculpt of Jason from The Final Chapter?

James: Oh man, is that a loaded question. I will try to condense this answer as best as I can. I originally saw The Final Chapter in 85, which is when it came out on VHS I believe. I was still just a small child at the time, and probably far too young to see it, but I became obsessed with the unmasking scene in that movie. From that point on, I would always want to rent that movie over, and over again. That is, until Scream Greats came out not long after. I would pause the scene where Ted White is laughing in the makeup test, frame by frame, and do little drawings of it.

Then years went by, and I all but forgot about my childhood obsession until around 2000 I stumbled upon the huge horror mask and prop collecting community online. Very quickly, my inner “Jason Trekie” began to reemerge. The first thing on my list: find the best Part 4 Jason mask or bust replica out there, and make it mine! Mind you, there were some fantastic replicas and interpretations out there, but they were more interpretation than actual replica it seemed, and I wanted as close a replica as possible. Then, I found out about The Mangler bust, more specifically, the master pull owned by Eric Austin, owner of The Halloween Mask Association. (For those that don’t know, the Mangler was recast off of a film used prop bust of Jason from Part 4, and sold through Fangoria in ‘97. The copy owned by Eric Austin was the sole master pull that was cast to create the production mold, then painted and photographed to promote the run)

It seems odd to me that many months later, after lamenting that I would never own such an amazing piece, Eric put it up on Ebay. I simply refused to lose that auction, and won it by a landslide. I was overjoyed to have such a legendary piece. That is until I began to obsess over the differences between this prop, and the look of Jason in the film. It was at this time that I decided to use the resource I had to try and recreate the look in the film as closely as possible.

F13 Film Franchise: How did you decide to start the process of creating the sculpt? Did you create sketches or use reference shots from the movie?

James: I mainly used reference shots; both still frames and BTS photos. I used images from Crystal Lake Memories, and Grande Illusions Book 2 to name a couple sources. Not to mention, the advantage of having a really great 3d model to reference. In spite of the flaws the Mangler bust had (Recasts in latex shrink rather noticeably, and tend to suffer from some distortion as well as loss of detail. Also, the mouth and neck areas have further distortions due to the way the source prop was pieced together), there were still lots of significant similarities that proved incredibly useful.

It was actually the lack of good clear reference photos that made my task so daunting. The still frames from the film are so dark, and grainy. Most photos of the masks and/or makeup are small and/or low resolution. I really had my work cut out for me.

It became obvious that I would have to search around, and ask the right people to find the references I would need.

F13 Film Franchise: Did you contact anyone from the production of the movie to assist you? How were you able to initiate conversations with these people and how willing were they to help you in your process?

James: I have spoken to a couple of people involved in the creation of Jason’s look. The first person I spoke to was none other than a jet lagged Tom Savini at a nearby convention in ‘07. Savini seemed rather unimpressed with my dilemma at the time, and basically suggested that I simply “make up” the fine details and proportions my reference materials didn’t show. Savini did however share some interesting info on the design of the original Jason sculpture: He said that Jim Kagel (who sculpted the head of Jason for The Final Chapter) was already finished with the initial Jason design when he came on set. He had Kagel continuously resculpt the features of Jason, because he was being paid for his time, rather than his output, and Savini wanted him to get decent pay. This also helps explain why certain features of the stunt masks and the animatronic prop head are different from the makeup on Ted White. The masks and busts used in the film are cast from a wax copy of the sculpt early in the production. The breakdown makeup appliances that Ted White wears are from the final finished sculpture at the end of the production.

For some time after my talk with Savini, I wondered how I could get in contact with Jim Kagel. I would search his name online rather often with no payoff. Then, one search in the spring of ‘09 listed him as an instructor at the Cinema Makeup School in California. I sent an email to the school, and managed to contact Mr. Kagel. The next thing I know, Jim Kagel without question kindly shared his photos of the final finished sculpture. These amazing photos were like the central key piece of some elaborate puzzle that just brought everything together.

Also certainly worth mentioning, is Ryan Bean, who sculpted the highly accurate Part 4 Jason minibust. If my bust is an accurate replica of the makeup, then Ryan’s is an accurate replica of the film used masks and busts. He generously shared the reference material he used to sculpt his minibust, as well as providing critiques to help me with my sculpt. If it wasn’t for Ryan Bean and Jim Kagel, this bust would not be finished.

F13 Film Franchise: Did you have any previous experience in creating a sculpt like this? How long did this sculpt take to complete?

James: I haven’t sculpted anything quite like this before. This is my first real attempt at sculpting an accurate replica, and easily the most challenging sculpt I have ever worked on.

As far as how long this took… WAY too long! I began sculpting this at the end of ‘06, then hit the proverbial wall and stopped working on it before the spring of ‘07. The sculpt sat for 2 years until I got lots of valuable help from Ryan, and then Mr. Kagel. I finally finished the sculpt at the end of last year.

F13 Film Franchise: What type of materials did you have to gather in order to take on this process?

James: I began with a solid stone armature head cast to build my clay onto. This was a HUGE mistake on my part, and one of the first in several lessons of what not to do to make an accurate 1:1 replica bust. Don’t get me wrong, life sized armature heads are great for sculpting masks, just not a 1:1 replica. I spent way too much time removing already sculpted pieces of the cranium, neck, and ears so I could chisel away the stone underneath to get proportions to match.

The clay I used was Roma Plastilina, an oil based clay with sulfur. From now on I’ll probably avoid sulfur clays, and go with Chavant NSP for an oil clay.

As I went on, I gradually built up a pretty decent arsenal of sculpting tools. From boxwood tools, to wire loop tools, to dental tools, sponges, brushes, scrapers, and calipers, my large tackle box is almost to capacity.

F13 Film Franchise: What is the process in creating a sculpt like this one for Jason? Specifically, can you list out the steps in the molding and sculpting process?

James: Well, to start out, I want to rough out the proportions. I want to make sure everything lines up proportionately to the subject before most of the details are worked in. This takes a little bit of focusing in on the way certain forms features line up with others, as well as stepping back to look at the big picture. I constantly want to keep moving on this step, changing angles, and matching up different views until the proportions match the subjects.

At this point, I begin to rough in more general details, and this piece had detail in spades. With all the lines, furrows, and scars that I wanted to match, it provided a very jigsaw puzzle-like challenge. This step was much like a refinement of the previous step, as the multitude of lines and detail helped me further improve my proportions to match the original design.

Once all these more general lines came together to my liking, I gradually began to refine this detail, and make it more organic. I smooth down rough areas, and add in finer lines, textures, and pores. I gradually keep refining and fixing where necessary, always remaining mindful of my subject until I decide it’s finished.

I also like to snap pictures of my WIP, matching the pics I take to angles of my reference shots to better see what I need to adjust. I do this throughout the whole sculpting process.

As for the molding… whew, there are a lot of steps depending on what you are trying to do. I’ll just give the short hand version for now: I used a brush on tin silicone, and applied it in layers until it was at around at least a quarter inch thick. I built up an inch thick cut seam along the back of the head. Then, when the silicone is fully cured, I built up a dividing wall out of clay. I brushed petroleum jelly (very hard to clean by the way)on the silicone and front half of the dividing wall before building up the front half of my shell mold (I used plasti-paste by smooth on to make the 2 part shell). Once the front half was cured, I removed the dividing wall, applied petroleum jelly and tin foil to the flange of the finished half of the shell. Then, with the tin foil dividing the front half, I built up the back half of the shell. Once cured, I carefully pry the two halves apart, removed them from the silicone mold, cut the seam along the back, and carefully peeled the silicone from the sculpture (which my sculpt unfortunately did not survive demolding for reasons that I now fully understand, lesson learned) I then put all the pieces back together, blending the cut seam until it disappears.

For more on silicone molding; check out smooth-on, BITY Mold supply, and the FX Lab to name just a couple helpful resources.

F13 Film Franchise: When the sculpt was completed to your liking, what plans did you have for your sculpt? Were you planning on producing busts and/or masks for sale?

James: The plan for now is to produce high quality translucent resin display busts. I am starting with an initial run of 13 busts with the intention of more runs to follow. I chose resin over latex, because resin is a far more suitable (more durable, longer lasting) medium for display. This does not mean that other mediums are out of the question. In fact, provided things prove successful with the resin pieces, I have ideas for this replica in the future that involve other mediums. Stay tuned…

F13 Film Franchise: Did you have to take on investors to mass produce the product?

James: I was fortunate to have friends and family that were willing to lend financial support to this silly little pipe dream of mine. Not to mention lots of my own hard earned money that was fed into this long arduous labor of love. With all the positive response, and support I have received from collectors and Jason fans, I am confident that I can get and give back what was put into this little project of mine.

F13 Film Franchise: In the end, was all of the work and money spent worth the experience?

James: It’s still far from the end, but this has been a great experience so far! I have learned quite a bit through all the time and hard work that went into this. I think this will be the start of a whole new path for me. I look forward to seeing where this will take me!

If you are interested in seeing more images involving the process of creating this bust or to see more photos of the finished product visit http://www.pareidoliaproductions.com/.

I would really like to thank James Mangrum for taking the time out of a very busy schedule to answer our questions. Also, I would like to thank him for giving the fans of the series not only a little behind the scenes insight into the The Final Chapter, but a fantastic look at what it takes to bring one of these pieces to life!
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