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Dave Elsey - SciFi Channel US Chat
Conducted on 19th July 2001

From: SciFi US

This chat is with the Jim Henson's Creature Shop's creative supervisor, Dave Elsey. It took place on 19th July.

Moderator: Welcome to tonight's chat with Dave Elsey, creative supervisor of Farscape's Creature Shop.
Moderator: Hello Dave. It's nice to have you here for tonights chat. We have a big room filled with eager scapers who want to ask you many, many questions. Let's get started.
Moderator: But first, Dave, do you have any opening words for our on-line chatters tonight?
Dave Elsey: Hi everybody, Hope you're enjoying the show so far..ga
Moderator: We shall now begin....
Moderator: to : 'Lo, Mr. Elsey! What pre-Farscape job do you credit with preparing you the most for the amazing things you do on Farscape
Dave Elsey: Nothing prepared me for Farscape. No joke! I worked on things like lttle shop of horrors, Alien 3 and Indianna Jones movies but we always had a lot more time to prepare a lot less stuff than Farscape. ga
Moderator: to : Welcome Dave! Thanks for joining us. What was your reaction when you found out that you would be working for Jim Henson Productions?
Dave Elsey: I was veru suprised, I had worked with them in the past on 'The Witches' and had known Brian Henson since 'Little Shop of Horrors' but pretty much everybody knew that I was off doing my own stuff. I had heard of Farscape for about 3 years under different titles and thought it sounded cool... ga
Moderator: to : How many people does it take to operate Pilot?
Dave Elsey: It changes... but it can take up to 6 people. The puppeteers do a really great job, it's hard to describe how difficult it is for everybody to work together to make one performance. Pilot's a pretty cool character for a TV show don't you think? ga
Moderator: to : Thanks for joining us!!! When you design an alien how much is based upon Creature Shop concepts and budget/technology restraints and how much of it is something that was described in a scrpit?
Dave Elsey: Very good question..ga
Dave Elsey: It's almost always led by the script writers in that they will tell me the parametres and the kind of characters they want. However, they rarely intervene with the look of the character and how we're going to do it.
Dave Elsey: I design all the characters myself, sometimes even before there's a finsihed script we have to decide if it's going to be animatronic, make-up, or what we call suit work and then my job really is to make sure that it's as nightmarishly complicated as possible. We do have a set budget per episode however we cheat and steal from other episodes. The hardest thing is trying to find the time to realise my ideas. ga
Moderator: to : Hi Mr. Elsey, glad you could make it. You know that you are the second heart-throb of the Scorpius fans here. We were wondering if the Scorpius make-up is still evolving or are we hallucinating?
Dave Elsey: Yes, another excellent question.
Dave Elsey: I'm extremely proud to be Scorpius's 2nd best heart-throb. I don't think I've ever been anybody's heart-throb before.
Dave Elsey: Yes, his make-up is still evolving. For those of you that don't know, Wayne's make-up is quite unique. It's made of hot flesh which we invented for Scorpius and we're now into hot flesh mark 5. Actually, we constantly tinker with his make-up.
Dave Elsey: Even this morning we actually addd a new wrinkle to it. (Although not literally). But we do mess around with the look between him and the Scorpy-clone, although sometimes the lighting can cover that up.
Bouncer: (if you have questions for Dave Elsey, Creature Shop Evil Genius, send them to the Moderator as a private message)
Dave Elsey: All of Wayne'ss close-ups are usually shot at the end of the day so we'll stick him in at 5 and usually around half-5 at night is when the make up is supposed to look it's best. So, it's a credit to Wayne that he manages to eat 3 meals a day, drink coffee and perform all his other functions without destroying his rubber face. ga
Moderator: to : What kinds of adjustments did you make to the Scorpius of Incubator to show him "in process" and growing up?
Dave Elsey: Well, 1st of all we had to create young Scorpius which was the youngest stage. We cast the kid and tried to show something that it always been a pet theory of mine which is that the Scorpius that we all know and love is by far the best looking than he's ever been in his life. He's basically a failed experiment and child Scorpius's make-up I think showed that.
Dave Elsey: I tried to suggest that his face as we know it today isbasically being almost held together by the Scorpy suit and helmet.
Dave Elsey: Then for the middle stage of young Scorpy, he's kind of half-way through having all the operations that it will take to make him look as he now does.
Dave Elsey: And the technology of his helmet and costume is kind of clunky and old fashioned. I was really pleased with the results, particularly the child version which had a haunted look about it.
Dave Elsey: Especially in my own photographs which I hope you'll see one day. ga
Moderator: to : Dave, was it my imagination or was Rygel actually much bigger after his eating binge in "Meltdown"? If so, how did you manage it? More foam rubber?
Dave Elsey: No, he's exactly the same size although, it's funny, I know exactly what you mean, I had thought the same thing, it's just good puppet acting! ga
Moderator: to : hey Dave, welcome to the insanity. In Out of Their Minds, the Halosians were rather reminiscent of the Skekis from Dark Crystal. Was this intentional, a 'nod' to Henson, or just the way it turned out?
Dave Elsey: Another good question
Dave Elsey: Originally in the script, the Halosians were described as 'bird-like' and the first thing that jumped into my head were the Skeksis form the Dark Crystal.
Dave Elsey: One of my best friends in the world is a guy called Lyle Conway who designed the Skeksis and also the plant from the Little Shop of Horrors and at the very beginning of when the creature shop was formed, had basically my job in London.
Dave Elsey: I still think that these were some of the best things the creature shop has ever done.
Dave Elsey: They are a cheeky nod to these characters and I never thought for an instant I'd get away with it!!
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : Hi Dave, great work on the show. If there was one thing you could do with a character that you haven't been allowed to do yet, what would it be?
Dave Elsey: The one thing I would like to do with a character that I haven't been allowed to yet is spend more than 2 weeks building it! Just kidding.
Dave Elsey: No, actually, what I would really like to do, because to be honest, I can do almost anything I want, is to take some of the characters and see them through to the film as this would require a lot more detail than we sometimes can manage.
Dave Elsey: I already have plans for instance for what would happen to all of our main characters should we do the film.
Dave Elsey: Farscape, I hope, already had changed the look of what you can expect creatures to be on TV. If we were to do a film, I would want the characters to raise the level again. ga
Moderator: to : Did any particular creature or makeup job exceed your expectations?
Dave Elsey: Yes. Scorpy, I think, just hits the mark. I think what I tried to do with him was create the most evil character that I'd ever seen on TV. He's the grim reaper, he's the Emperer from Star Wars, he's the SS. And Wayne took what I did and took it a stage further.
Dave Elsey: Also, one of my persona; favourites is Natira. She's cool.
Dave Elsey: When the writer said that they were going to show Scorpy's girl friend, I just went mad!!
Dave Elsey: Then when I met Claudia Karvan, and she told me that her one condition for being on the show was that she got to play a creature, everything just clicked into place. ga
Moderator: to : A small questions on DRDs. Moya's DRDs seem more stable than Talyn's... Were there any fundamental differences in the designs and when are RC DRDs going to be released for fan destruction?
Moderator: Please send any questions you have to the Moderator with /msg Moderator or simply double-click on the Moderator's name in the list of names on the right side of their screen.
Dave Elsey: Talyn's DRDs were designed to look much more war-like, every line on them is there to make them look more agressive. I'm not sure hwat you mean by more stable. I thik they're very similar in the way that they're made. However, the Talyn DRDs have a wider base whxih may mean that when they go over something on the floor that bumps them (Sorry Tim) they might appear to be less stable.
Dave Elsey: As for when they will be coming out as toys, I'm not sure. I certainly have talked to our friends at Toy Vault about the possibilty. I want them to do it as quickly as possible so that I can just buy them off the shelf and have one less headache.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : How did Ben Browder react when he found out he was going to be dressed up like Scorpius in the late season two episodes?
Dave Elsey: Ben loved it!
Dave Elsey: I think it was partly his idea anyway, or at least an extension of one of his ideas. Ben loved make-up and we love making up Ben! He's our hero as well as yours!
Dave Elsey: Season 2 he ended up being the Lon Channey of Farscape and he loves having the chance to not play himself.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : Do your "creatures" actually make it through a season of shooting or do they take a "beating" and have to be replaced from time to time?
Dave Elsey: Yes! Our creatures tend to have a high mortality rate. If the show doesn't get 'em, the creature shop eats its own!
Dave Elsey: This is a budgetry consideration as well as being a great excuse of mine to keep refining and reinventing characters.
Dave Elsey: Sometimes, they come together so fast that they literally jump out of my head and onto screen and they're not necessarily put together the way I'd like them to be.
Dave Elsey: So, when we get a chance to re-imagine, we jump at it.
Dave Elsey: The trouble is, only David Kemper knows which characters he's going to bring back. Damn him!!
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : Was Jool's design inspired by any one "thing or person" Or did you just have create someting that was "human like"?
Dave Elsey: Cush - Is that short of Cush-ing, as in Peter??? My hero??
Moderator: to : No, Cushman
Dave Elsey: Anyway, Jool's conception was interesting. it was kind of a difficult birth. I did a design very early on of what she pretty much turned out to be, except that she had bright red hair.
Dave Elsey: Normally, that would have ended up on the screen, but because of the importance of the character, Andrew Prowse and Tony Winley - the producer - really wanted to get it right.
Dave Elsey: And, they felt that she should be that kind of gingery blond that she appears as most of the time on the show.
Dave Elsey: I resisted for a while until David Kemper stepped in, angel that he is, and creative genius, and said, hey why don't we make her have the ability to change her hair colour whenever she has a mood swing.
Dave Elsey: And so everybody was happy!!
Dave Elsey: I should say by the way that much of the credit for Jool should go to Jen Lamphee, head of make-up, who actaully applies the make-up on a day to day basis.
Dave Elsey: My involvment is actually quite small with this character, we just hand over the appliances and I trust her implicitly to make any changes she may want to.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: This is actually a question which I was thinking about myself. Let's see how much you are allowed to tell us.
Moderator: to : Will we ever see more Hynerians ? Would the Season 4 budget be big enough ?
Dave Elsey: You guys are so cool....
Dave Elsey: I'd love to see more Hynerians.
Dave Elsey: And maybe, should the budget allow, David will find a way to do it.
Dave Elsey: The original Rygel took about 9 months to build and is very complicated.
Dave Elsey: We'd have to be very clever to make one in the time we're allowed but you never know.....ga
Moderator: 9 months. I thought he was a Hynerian, not a human.
Moderator: A personal, but yet demanding question for you Dave...
Moderator: ceallaig> to : Good evening, Mr. Elsey, boxers or briefs?
Dave Elsey: I wear Ben's old briefs!!!!
Dave Elsey: They are a suprisingly good fit!! And attractive too!
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: Mr. Esley has agreed to continue with us for another half-hour. So send those questions in to me, the moderator.
Moderator: Please send any questions you have to the Moderator with /msg Moderator or simply double-click on the Moderator's name in the list of names on the right side of their screen.
Moderator: to : Mr. Elsey, thank you for being here, you are such an asset to Farscape! You have exquisite sartorial taste, as evidenced by Scorpius' stunning costume. We've seen his 'teen look' now, very nice too! Have you any plans for future costumes for him?
Dave Elsey: Having thr Scorpy-clone opens up all kinds of possibilities.
Dave Elsey: I have lots of very strange ideas about Scorpius as does Wayne!
Dave Elsey: And perhaps we can find some way of weaving them in as successfully as the cooling rod idea.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : What is your absolute favorite creation? And if it's different, what's your favorite in Farscape?
Dave Elsey: Cool question.
Dave Elsey: I have many many favourite creatures.
Dave Elsey: I love most of Rick Baker's work as well as Dick Smith's, of course.
Dave Elsey: American Warewolf In London, The Thing, The Creature From The Black Lagoon...
Dave Elsey: Lots of the stuff in Men In Black.
Dave Elsey: I can't wait to see the new Planet of the Apes film, which I'm sure Rick will win his 7th Oscar for.
Dave Elsey: One day, I'd like the opportunity to lose an Oscar to Rick Baker! Possibly for Farscape.
Dave Elsey: As I said before, of my own creations, I'm very fond of Scorpy and Natira.
Dave Elsey: But there are some characters that I've created this season that you haven't see yet that are going to knock you socks off!!!! I hope.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: Naming all those great films and the man himself, Rick Baker, what or who has been the greatest influence on your creations of the Farscape creatures?
Dave Elsey: God, these are VERY good questions.
Dave Elsey: I'd have to say that my favourite influence would be Rick Baker.
Dave Elsey: However, going back to my original forst interests in this kind of work, nobody influenced me more than Dick Smith who has been very encouranging to myeslf and Colin Ware, my partner in crime on Farscape.
Dave Elsey: I happen to know Dick is a fan of our work.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : Dave - apart from thinking up new ways to torture actors - what do you do on your time off?
Dave Elsey: Before Farscape, I never used to have any time off.
Dave Elsey: But because we don't shoot on weekends, I've had to find things to do.
Dave Elsey: Unfortunately, the best thing I've managed to find to do in my spare time is think about Farscape!!!
Dave Elsey: And check out what everybody else is doing on film and on TV.
Dave Elsey: What do you do when your hobby is also your job??!!
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : I'd love to see a film on a behind the scenes Farscape about the creature shop, you think that would happen? With bloopers!
Dave Elsey: Yes, behind the scenes on Farscape would be great!!!
Dave Elsey: I have lots of great stuff saved up on video.
Dave Elsey: That would be great to see.
Dave Elsey: And many things that have never made it to screen.
Dave Elsey: I'd very much like to do a commentary on DVD.
Dave Elsey: Or, a creature shop book, what do you think???
Moderator: I think they would love it.
Dave Elsey: Cool, could happen. The Art of Farscape - sounds good!
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : In episodes like "Premiere" and "Til The Blood Runs Clear", there have been some interesting looking characters lurking in the background - do you have names for them?
Dave Elsey: Yes.
Dave Elsey: Most of those characters were thrown together in Season 1 in about 2 or 3 days which was at the hight of my 'how the hell am I going to do this show' panic.
Dave Elsey: I actually woke up, I remember, at about 4am with a plan. I said I'm going to make 10 aliens today. And I did.
Dave Elsey: However, I never want to have to do that again, ever!!
Dave Elsey: One of the characters we see again and again 'cause she's kind of cool looking is one that we call "fish-girl".
Dave Elsey: And one day, I want to do the ultimate fish-girl version as a character on Farscape. Are you reading this David???
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : Dave: What lessons have you learned from the first three seasons of Farscape to make your job easier?
Dave Elsey: Never to blindly accept a TV show with the Bold statement of 'Let's do some stuff that's never been seen before' again.
Dave Elsey: No seriously, we've found many many ways to cut corners on Farscape.
Dave Elsey: One of the best ideas we've ever had was to take on some of the creatre sotumes oursleves as it means that we can literally engineer the muscle suits and costumes as one.
Dave Elsey: We're also able to use creature technology to create many of the materials that the costumes are made out of which gives them a more alien look.
Dave Elsey: Having control over them is the best way to keep a certain look to the characters.
Dave Elsey: In the past, on films like Alien 3, to create the Aliens, we would spend maybe a year in pre-production.
Dave Elsey: Worrying about every little detail.
Dave Elsey: This seems luxurious to me now. I don't have any fear of any project after this.
Dave Elsey: To be honest, I'm as proud of some of the characters on Farscape as I have been as any other creatures built in my career.
Dave Elsey: This doesn't mean I don't want to have more time though.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : Do you ever accept ideas for the show from viewers?
Dave Elsey: YES. ABSOLUTELY. LET ME HAVE 'EM. I promise you I will find a way to sue them!
Dave Elsey: I would also love to see any fellow creature geeks' work, especially if it's influenced of copied from our show.
Dave Elsey: I'm only sorry I won't be at this year's convention to see what everybody's come up with. Boo-hoo.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: We will conclude in about 10 minutes, so submit those questions to me.
Moderator: to : It sounds like there are critters or aliens in upcoming episodes of which you are particularly proud ... any episode we *must not* miss?
Moderator: Just a heads up for you Dave. In the states we are currently up to episode 13 "Scratch 'N' Sniff", which will air tomorrow evening.
Dave Elsey: So sorry, that was a typo - should have read "find a way to USE them" not sue them. Sorry!!
Dave Elsey: Kabbah is pretty cool in Scratch 'n' Sniff.
Dave Elsey: He's a very good puppet and is capable of much more than we showed in the episode.
Dave Elsey: Maybe he could come back.
Dave Elsey: Also, I think you will enjoy Rowan Woods's episode (Ep. 317 coming up soon-ish)
Dave Elsey: This was epic for us. And without giving anything away, has the most unique character I think I've ever seen.
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: to : Are there any movies in the works that will incorporate any of your talent?
Dave Elsey: Every year I spend on Farscape, I seem to get more and more movie offers.
Dave Elsey: You probably read in Cinefantastique that we were in talks with Rick McCullam about Star Wars - Episode 2.
Dave Elsey: However, I would not have been able to take this on in the time that I had between seasons of Farscape.
Dave Elsey: I currently have 4 movies that I've been offered or have been in talks about.
Dave Elsey: One of which has as many make-ups in it as Planet of the Apes.
Dave Elsey: However, the same applies at the moment. I am totally committed to Farscape!!
Dave Elsey: ga
Moderator: And the last question for the night is...
Moderator: to : Dave, what's the weirdest thing you've ever been asked to do, for Farscape?
Dave Elsey: The weirdest thing I've ever been asked to do for Farscape, that's a good one...
Dave Elsey: Pretty much everything David Kemper ever asks me to do is weird!!
Dave Elsey: And often, I'm able to top his ideas with my own weirdness!
Dave Elsey: When we were designing Namtar, they were concerned, as it was the early days of Farscape, that we were going too far.
Dave Elsey: At one point somebody said 'Look, it can just be a man in a lab-coat, and we'll be happy'
Dave Elsey: In other words, it was suggested that I not try so hard to impress.
Dave Elsey: That was pretty weird and I think that that idea has now gone away!
Dave Elsey: Hee-hee!
Dave Elsey: Thanks so much for all the fantastic questions and for watching the show.
Dave Elsey: I hope you continue to enjoy what we do. Cheerio!
Moderator: Thank you Dave for coming tonight.
Moderator: Be sure to join us at the same time next week -- Thursday at 9pm ET/6pm PT -- for our second annual Farscape Wrap Day chat. It'll be the last day of shooting for season 3, and we'll chat with anyone who wants to drop by!
Moderator: Also, be sure to tune in Friday, July 20 for an all-new episode of Farscape - "Scratch 'N' Sniff."
Moderator: I will make the the room unmoderated now.
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