Mastersfx Celebrates Toronto Studio’s Third Year With Unique New Film and TV Character Effects
It’s turning out to be an amazing year for Canadian movie titles as an award-winning Canadian character FX team continues to add glamour and realism to movie titles—drawing large audience towards the big screen.
Now celebrating its third year in operation in Toronto, MastersFX Studio has provided massive support to popular film and TV titles in the Canadian movie industry. Some of their major titles include the amazing character effects work on The Handmaid’s Tale, The Expanse and Umbrella Academy, all receiving rave reviews.
The creative team at MastersFX work tirelessly for hundreds of hit feature films, commercials and TV shows, producing a unique blend of practical, digital makeup and special FX, animatronics and prosthetics, through a rigorous process called “dMFX”.
Currently filming its third season, The Handmaid’s Tale has become a big hit partly due to the massive contributions by the Toronto special effects studio. The third season of the critically acclaimed Hulu TV series is set to premier in June and the MastersFX Studio has provided outstanding gruesome makeup effects since the inception of the series. The TV show which brings to life the intriguing world of Gilead, features pregnancies, graphic surgical procedures, artificial bodies and babies amongst other things.
The Toronto character and makeup FX studio created all of these special effects and in addition to that, Zane Knisley, the lead makeup effects artist, has led the prosthetics design for each episode of the TV series, putting in a lot of work into ensuring the effects look as life-like as possible.
The Handmaid's Tale was adopted from the dystopian novel of the same title by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The book which was originally published in 1985 was set in a near-future New England, where the United States government has been overthrown by a totalitarian state resembling a theonomy.
Just like the TV adaptation, the novel focuses on the journey of Offred, the handmaid—her name a derivative of the possessive form of "of Fred”, since handmaids in the story were prohibited from using their birth names and must follow the male or master whom they serve.
The story explores themes of women condemned to subjugation in a patriarchal society where the fertile women are forcefully raped, impregnated and forced to give up their babies to the political ruling class. It also covers the various ways by which these women fight to gain individualism and independence.
Actress Elisabeth Moss compared the brutal regime depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale to that of Donald Trump’s government, remarking that “America is losing the principles it was founded upon.”
Moss said in an interview published by the Daily Beast, that she couldn’t help but notice the striking similarities between Donald Trump’s America and the dystopian society shown in the hit Hulu series.
“We went to D.C. and shot at the Lincoln Memorial, and I find it incredibly moving what Lincoln stood for, what’s written on the walls, what those monuments stand for,” she said.
“The principles that this country was built on are important and we’re losing them — and perhaps we’ve already lost them. You feel a sense of responsibility and you feel honoured telling this story at this time.”
She further noted that Trump’s mode of ruling the country is a total deviation from the normalcy America is notable for.
“When you’re kneeling on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial, you’re looking at where Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, you’re in the outfit of complete lack of freedom, and your president is a few blocks away arguing about putting up a wall,” she continued.
“You can’t help but feel that you have the responsibility to tell this story, and I feel honoured to be able to express what I think, what I feel, and what a lot of other people feel through what I love doing. For me, it’s an unfortunate thing. I wish this was crazy, and I wish ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ was insane ‘Game of Thrones’ s– and pure fantasy. I wish that were true. But it’s not.”
Just like The Handmaid’s Tale, MastersFX were responsible for creating the memorable tattoo designs and prosthetic effects seen on main cast of the hit science fiction series, The Expanse—especially on the “Belters” and “Extreme Belters.” With an audience and tomatometer score of 94 percent and 77 percent respectively on Rotten Tomatoes, the TV show is based on the series of novels by James S.A.Corey.
The story is in the space opera, 200 years in a future where humanity has been colonized by the solar system, which is divided and on the brink of war. Though already in its fourth season, the first season of the show centres around the search for Julie Mao (Florence Faivre), the high-society daughter of one of Earth's most influential businessmen. She then decided to start a new life in the AsteroidBelt after cutting ties with her father’s wealth and support.
There she worked endlessly for the improvement of the disenfranchised "belters"right up until the day of her disappearance. The story then goes on a rollercoaster of suspense and drama in a bid to find her and unravel several mysteries.
Due to the show’s heavy reliance on special effects, MastersFX studio created the customized burn design for Commander Klaes Ashford—played by actor David Strathairn—and also contributed to the life-like battle scenes in the show, by replicating wounds of various healing stages, scars and mutilations.
Additionally, the brand-new Netflix series The Umbrella Academyabout a "dysfunctional family of superheroes” received special touches from the creative team at the Toronto based character and makeup FX studio.Kyle Glencross, a veteran makeup effects artist and team member at MastersFX, sculpted and painted the Hazel and Cha Cha masks worn by Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige for the new show. The team implored their creative genius in the various character scars, wounds, gruesome prosthetics and Domino masks worn by the series’ young cast of superheroes—all of which were given the green light by the show’s creator, Steve Blackman.
MasterFX Studio has provided massive support and implemented numerous innovations into several other movie titles with supervisor Zane Knisely—an innovative makeup effects artist with over 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry.
“Ever since we opened three years ago, it seems like we’ve consistently been on a growth spurt. We had tomove into a new, larger space last year, in fact. Our new space is bustling, and bursting at the seams, with incredible new monsters and fake body parts,” he said.
“Zane is an amazing artist -- we’ve been working together even before creating the Toronto Studio,” added MastersFX President and Founder Todd Masters. “Zane mentioned to me a few years ago that we need to build a space in Toronto, so we started talking and costing out the idea. Then, nearly at the same time, a producer on a series we were developing also told us we needed to set up a shop there.Zane was exactly right!”
As they continue to grow as a business, other recent projects benefiting from the remarkable FX contributions of the MastersFX/Toronto Studio include the remake of David Cronenberg’s horror classic Rabid, from the Soska sisters.
Set for a late 2019 release, Knisely said, “Todd and his Vancouver team typically work on the Soskas’ film projects, so when he called me and told me that we’d be involved with Rabid from Toronto, I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t kidding.”
“It was wonderful to reunite with Todd and MastersFX on our remake of Rabid, given it was our return to body horror,” the film’s Writers and Directors Jen & Sylvia Soska said. “This was our first time working with Todd’s Toronto Studio, and Zane and the other artists based there simply blew us away with their original, innovative, and totally unforgettable effects. We simply cannot wait to unleash Rabid later this year!”
The MasterFXStudio has contributed to popular projects including The Magicians, Netflix’s The Order, The Flash, Tales from the Crypt, The Good Doctor,Fringe, What We Do in the Shadows, This is Us,True Blood and many others. Some of their upcoming film credits are Sonic the Hedgehog, Rabid, Child’s Play, The Perfection, and Disney’s Timmy Failure.