Interview: Friday the 13th Artist Extraordinaire, Crash Cunningham

Crash is well known in the Friday the 13th community for creating some of the most screen accurate hockey masks ever seen. His attention to detail on the hockey masks he works on comes from his passion for the Friday the 13th franchise and his ability to express himself creatively through his talent. His passion has guided him to a unique standing among fans of the series as well as his peers in the mask making community. Crash has also had the pleasure of creating unique artwork depicting scenes from the films that were never able to filmed.

I asked Crash if he would like to answer some questions about how his passion for his art and the Friday the 13th franchise and how that helped put him into a position that many fans envy and wish they could live every day.

Interview With Crash

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] You are very well known among the mask making community for making exact replica hockey masks for every Friday the 13th movie in the series. You also have created some great artwork for bonus features on the Deluxe DVD’s for Friday the 13th as well as the Nightmare on Elm Street documentary. Did you always have an artistic talent and what kind of education did you receive to enhance those talents?

[Crash] Thanks. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. My parents still have sketches I did before I even started kindergarten. Thanks to them I had drawings published in a national newspaper when I was 7. As I grew older, if I wasn’t out playing baseball, then chances are I would be in my room drawing. Throughout school I was the kid who always won the “most artistic” awards, poster contests, etc. But my other love was sports, particularly baseball. When I began junior high I started learning more about other aspects of art like sculpting and painting. By the time I was in high school I was sculpting figurines and dabbling in special effects creating gags, simple wounds and Halloween costumes, things of that nature. Later on I knew that I could probably pursue either baseball or art. So I eventually chose art and graduated college with a degree in design.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] While in school, was there any projects or experiences that you were most proud of being apart of?

[Crash] Definitely. I had a great art teacher in high school who was also an awesome sculptor (and former green beret too!) He has produced life-sized bronze statues for malls, parks, libraries, etc. In my junior year he had a project fall into his lap for a sculptural piece for the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Going before the school board, he suggested that 3 of his best students should be involved in the project. He would oversee it and help out of course. They loved the idea and under his guidance, I and two others got the opportunity to be involved in a big way. My high school worked with our schedules and allowed a final class period at the end of the day for us to specifically work on this sculpture. Early on I was given the task at doing the concept sketch which consisted of 3 life-sized figures; a teacher and two students. Each of us had our own specialty. One was a welder, who welded our armatures for the figures, and I shared sculpting duties with the other. By the time we finished high school, 3 other students were brought on board to finish out the piece. During my first year of college, we took the entire sculpture to a bronzing facility to be bronzed. A few weeks later it was installed in the front of the teaching center and still stands there today along with a plaque listing our names. That was the coolest thing I have ever been involved in. And for those two years I learned a tremendous amount about anatomy, structure, aesthetics and the art of sculpting. More so than any book I ever studied. The hands-on approach at that age was very influential and the final accomplishment was my proudest moment I think.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] Was your interest always in the horror genre growing up and what kind of horror movies did you enjoy watching the most?

[Crash] I was lucky enough to grow up in the 80s. I dug everything from Star Wars to superheroes. My first memory of horror was seeing the original Halloween on cable with my dad. I loved being scared, but my dad was good enough to make sure I knew it wasn’t real. I think, later on, the Friday series was really what got me into the horror genre. Of course the 80s was the heyday of the slasher films and it was great. I stuck mainly with the obvious stuff, but we’d rent some of the more obscure titles on VHS from time to time. I can remember seeing The Wizard of Gore and a few of those H.G. Lewis bloodfests along with movies like Silent Night/Deadly Night, Romero’s Dead movies, I Spit on Your Grave, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, etc. One of the coolest things was my parents took my buddy and me to see the original A Nightmare on Elm Street at our local drive-in. It was double-billed with one of those italian zombie flicks. My buddy and I got a big kick out of the zombies stumbling down a hill.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] What about the Friday the 13th series captivated you and made you a fan of the series for as long as it has? What are your favorite and least favorite movies of the franchise?

[Crash] The first Friday I saw was part 3 on its initial HBO run after it left theaters. I can remember running back and forth from the living to my bedroom just to see what was going on with this Jason guy. As cliché as it sounds, I guess I was intrigued by that damn hockey mask. I wanted to see what was underneath it. Growing up, I related to the series on one aspect due to the lake setting. I live in the mountains and we are surrounded by woods, lakes, summer camps . . . the whole deal.

My favorite to this day is still Friday the 13th Part 3. Was it the best? Nah. In my opinion that title is given to The Final Chapter. The first four movies are on the top of my list. Aside from the look and feel of them, I dig the “man in the woods” approach and not really seeing the killer until the final reel. I can enjoy watching and can find redeeming qualities in all of the movies except for Jason X. It is definitely on the bottom of my list. As a matter of fact I think all of the New Line Fridays are my least favorites. There’s something cool about that old Paramount logo with the Manfredini soundtrack playing over it to begin the movie. I don’t care if it’s a comedy or drama from Paramount, but every time I see that logo I think Friday the 13th.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] How did you get into creating replica hockey masks and was it always your intention for your art of creating these masks to grow into what it has become today? What is the Crash Army and is it an extension of your hockey mask making hobby/business?

[Crash] My buddy and I used to sit in my dad’s cabinet shop and paint those awful mass produced hockey masks in the late 80s. We both made one for every movie at the time. And I don’t mean that as a singular incident. We’d do it all the time it seemed. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered this crazy hockey mask hobby via the internet where you could get a mask that actually looked like the one in movies. At that time there were plenty available, as is now, but I never found one that I was completely satisfied with so I decided to paint my own. From that point it took off. Fast. I was bombarded with requests to paint other fan’s masks with the same attention to detail as I had put into my own. It was great. There was like a whole movement in the hobby after that. I never intended to make anything else out of it. I just loved doing them. The Crash Army came about as a way to show some of the different projects I was going to be working on. I don’t really promote or sell myself or my work anywhere. So it was cool to have a little place of my own. Soon it may be merging into a site for my illustration work. Which is my primary goal anyway. I kind of got sidetracked with hockey masks for a few years.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] You create replica hockey masks, it is then widely assumed that you are a huge fan of Friday the 13th. Do you only create material for that franchise or do you create pieces for other film series or subjects?

[Crash] I’ve done pieces for franchises in the horror genre. A few years back I illustrated comic book covers for the Halloween series Halloween: Night Dance. I’m open to anything within the genre. It just so happens that Friday the 13th has been a big part of my work. I have quite a few projects on paper that are totally not related to a hockey mask or a guy named Jason. It’s just finding the time to get to some of them.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] What process do you go through to create your hockey masks? Do you get a rough mask blank or do you receive your blanks trimmed already?

[Crash] Almost every blank I use starts out rough. From there I trim off the excess and drill out the vent holes and the eyes. I do a lot of prep work before I even begin painting. I knock down all the rough edges and lightly scuff the surface. In most cases it really isn’t necessary, but it is noticeable in the final product. After I’m satisfied with the mask itself, I’ll lay down the base coat and start detailing after that. The detail work is usually done in stages and sealed between them. Once the final sealer coat is on and dry, I’ll strap the mask and it’s finished. As anyone who paints these things know, we probably put more work and attention into them than the actual movie props have.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] What’s your favorite part of creating the masks?

[Crash] I enjoy all aspects of working with the masks. But I really like the steps leading up to painting like trimming, drilling and sanding. This is where the mask takes it shape. Literally. If your final product is to be a part 6 mask, then you’d better have those eye holes cut in the correct shape. To me, the eyes are a big factor in how accurate the mask will look in the end.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] Have you ever created hockey masks for anyone associated with the Friday the 13th franchise to sell at conventions or be part their private collections? Do you have any contact with people from the series?

[Crash] Working on the Deluxe Edition DVDs opened up a few lines of communication. I have a few contacts with people associated with the series. Most are casual, but there are a couple or three that I do have listed in my Contact list on my phone. I’ve built hockey masks for A New Beginning director Danny Steinman on a couple of occasions and Richard Brooker owns an early part 3 mask from me. Probably the coolest thing though was having Ted White call me and personally ask me to produce a mask for him. I don’t push my work on anyone, so it was a surprise to answer the phone and hear Ted’s gruff voice on the other line. Along those lines, I also got a phone call from Joe Zito while working on the DVDs. He’s a great guy and even asked if I knew of any additional “missing” or “cut” scenes from his own movie.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] For those fans that do not know, you were lucky enough to work on the Deluxe Edition DVD’s of “The Final Chapter”, “A New Beginning”, “Jason Lives”, “The New Blood” and “Jason Takes Manhattan”. How did you become involved in working on the creative team that worked on the DVD’s?

[Crash] I started a blog site about a year before the the DVDs began production called the Crystal Lake Variety Store, which was a direct reference to the cafe/store appearing in Friday the 13th Part 3. With the site, it was my idea and purpose to portray the world of Friday the 13th as realistically as possible and bring it into the “real” world. So I came up with backstories on characters, places and events associated with the series and built imagery around that to enhance and illustrate them. It was all open to so many possibilities. I created anything I could think of to spin off from the movies like video footage being found of police investigations, newspaper headlines, photos of characters early on in their lives and much, much more. While working on the very early stages of the DVDs, Daniel Farrands and company needed a hockey mask to use during production. It just so happened that I had painted a mask for a client that was working with Daniel. He told Daniel about the site and the next thing I knew I was getting a phone call from him. Being a fan of the series himself, Daniel really liked what I was doing on the site with the characters and backstory, etc. It ran parallel with what the production team was planning to include on the DVDs in “mock”-umentary form. So with this opportunity of becoming part of the production team, I not only got to use things I had previously designed, but I produced numerous other graphics, illustrations, masks and ideas as well. That was the beginning of a great friendship and a great working relationship.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] What did you contribute to the Deluxe DVD Editions and what were you able to obtain from the production of the discs? Specifically, were you privileged enough to have access to the rare behind the scenes photos and slides that were found at the Paramount Studios?

[Crash] We came up with everything from Jason’s medical papers and skull x-rays down to establishing location shots in the Crystal Lake Massacres: Revisited feature. Before coming onboard the production team, I faithfully recreated almost every newspaper clipping briefly seen in the films. But I actually took it a step further and wrote the articles under the headlines. Most of the screen-used clippings had dummy copy filling up the article. I wrote my own as I thought it pertained to the headlines. Some of those wound up being very useful. Pretty much everything I did ended up in the final cut. Some of which the viewer wouldn’t even notice, like the Eye-On News logo for instance. It’s cool that, being a life-long fan of the series, I was able to invent or interject some lore into it.

Being part of the project, I was able to see submitted items that may not have made it onto the discs. I ended receiving 5 DVDs loaded with photos, scans of articles and handwritten notes, shooting schedules, production art, wrap party invitations, and many more things. There are copies of candid photos from people who worked on the films, etc. And a lot of very interesting behind-the-scenes photos from each film in the series that have never been seen in any publication or production. Some of which would surprise fans. One interesting letter comes from a producer addressed to an agent regarding a potential conflict with the production team and an actor. My favorites are behind-the-scenes snapshots showing what appears to be certain wardrobe and costume fittings from Friday the 13th Part 3.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] Have you been contacted about working on other genre movies in terms of special effects on movies in-production or help on other special edition releases of DVD’s?

[Crash] Yes, actually. Most notably I did some work for The Haunting in Connecticut and The Stepfather.

[Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise] What has the experience of making these replica hockey masks and working on the Deluxe DVD Editions the last few years meant to you personally and artisitically? What do you see as your future working within the realm of Friday the 13th?

[Crash] It’s very fulfilling in the sense that I was able to officially contribute to and be a part of something I grew up watching. Even though it’s probably a very small part. It all takes me back to the days of painting cheap hockey masks or constructing a Jason costume for Halloween. And fans STILL do that to this day!

I have a few illustration projects lined-up pertaining to Friday the 13th that I’d like to get out there and I’d eventually love to do something in an official capacity again. I’ve made some contacts and have a couple of interesting ideas that are being batted around right now. Hopefully we’ll see them take light. Until then, I hope to keep sharing this love of the series with fans around the world through my work and the new website/forum we’ve recently established.

I want to thank Crash for taking the time to answer our questions. If you are curious to see more of his work, visit his website, .
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