Bryan began his career as a sculptor in 1984, working on many horror films such as the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Jumanji, Mortal Kombat, Underworld 2 and The Cave and Backwater. His TV work includes Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, Love and Curses and the new Sci-Fi Channel special Monsters of the UFO.
He then spent five years as a staff sculptor at Mattel Toys working on such classic brands as Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Disney products.
In 2002, Bryan opened Arkham Studios and began to create occult and literary figures including such people as Anton Lavey and more recently H.P. Lovecraft. I caught up with Bryan to find out a little more about what inspires him and how he got to be involved in the world of film and TV.
Words: Katie Doherty
So tell me, what are your first memories of discovering the world of horror?
When I was a kid, there were only 13 television stations and a few of them would show the old black and white Universal horror films every weekend, so there was ALWAYS an excellent education for horror. Also, the legendary Aurora Models were in full swing then, so it was a great time for a monster obsessed kid to grow up in. Pop culture REALLY was good to so many impressionable kids then. Along came the late seventies with now classic horror films like Dawn of the Dead and Fangoria magazine and man! I was hooked!
You have made some amazing pieces, how did you discover that sculpting would ultimately become your livelihood?
Well, as I mentioned, the great monsters of the Aurora plastics company were such an influence, but I never figured out the mechanics of how to sculpt something without the clay falling apart, so I drew instead. Keep in mind that those were the days before many TV shows and books would tell you HOW a clay figure was created, so to me that world simply didn’t exist. It wasn’t until the eighties came along that the garage kit hobby sort of happened, which was started by the Japanese. Garage kits were simply that: a sculptor would create a clay figure of a favorite movie monster in their garage, mold it and pump out as many resin copies as they could, stick the resin pieces in a zip-loc baggie and go down to the local hobby shop and ask the owner if they would sell them. Once the hobby caught on, it exploded almost overnight. It was a great time of learning, making new friends and really pushing your own art level and skill. I’m extremely fortunate in that
my drive to succeed, throw away my ego and be willing to learn from anyone that I could helped me to establish a career in the toy and consumer product world. I was a staff sculptor at Mattel Toys for many years and sculpted more Barbie shoes and Buzz Lightyear figures that I care to remember! The face of that business has changed, though and most toys are created in computer programs like Z-Brush and Maya these days. Very little is done by hand anymore.
As a fan of the franchise tell me how you got involved in working on A Nightmare on Elm Street?
Before I got into the toy business I was working on many, many horror films in my twenties. Back then you could make a living, but barely. It really depended on what FX shop you were able to find work at, or where you were willing to kiss ass or to be involved in the drug and party scene. Always being VERY anti-drug, it seemed to me that there was a LOT of that going on at the time and I never fit into that crowd. Didn’t want to, so I didn’t work as much as the guys who were willing to sacrifice their integrity to get jobs. Ah, youth……….anyway, yeah. I worked on a lot of horror films with numbers after the title and after a while that got really stale and old to me. I knew I was making rubber monsters for a living ,not finding the cure for cancer, but the showcase for all your hard work seemed really low end, so I was looking for a way out. That was when the toy thing started happening for me. To answer your question, an art director for the old
Tales from the Darkside show that I worked on called me up and said “Hey! we need 200 skeletons for the new Freddy movie! Can you knock ’em out? You’re workshop will be right across the street from the LA County Jail!” As the Wizard of Oz said…..”Times being what they were, I took the job.”
Well, I think an interest in the occult might go hand in hand with an interest in horror, so I read lots of books on Crowley and LaVey and immediately recognized them for the carnies and showmen that they were. Some would say charlatans, but to me a charlatan is someone without a sense of humor. Crowley came off more like a druggie and a trust fund brat, but I liked LaVey and his philosophy. That interest led to my ten year involvement with the Church of Satan which I recently distanced myself from. In the ten years that I was involved with it, I can truly say that I did my best to raise the bar for that organization, especially creating and producing the Satanic High Mass held on 6/6/06. It was the largest gathering of Satanists in the world. It’s never happened before and I highly doubt it will ever happen again. How do I know this? It’s HARD WORK, that’s why. I’m driven in ways that most others aren’t. LaVey’s whole basis for his philosophy was to foster “real world accomplishment”. Very few people seem to grasp this concept and put it into action.
I’m still very much into the occult and the study of the subject. It’s fascinating reading and my library is growing every week with old, forgotten tomes. Many objets de’ arte in my home are of an occult nature, mostly my own work. A current study is Satan himself, or at least a very Miltonian Satan. I’m inspired by the depictions of Satan in the works of Gustav Dore’ and many others. The Dore Bible and his illustrated “The Inferno” is wonderful reference if you’re interested in the Devil. Another influence is the guidance of my mentor Kenneth Anger, who has graciously given me countless books and photographs of other artist’s renditions of the Devil and specifically Lucifer. So much so that I incorporated Anger’s face into a recent bust of Lucifer that I created. He’s been a true friend and like a father to me. He’s the real deal all the way and I’m extremely fortunate to count him as a treasured friend.
H.P Lovecraft has obviously been a huge influence in your work, tell me, how did you come across his works and what is it about his work that inspires you?
Well, like many, I encountered Lovecraft as a teen in dusty old paperbacks, but his work hadn’t really been a part of modern culture like it is today. Once I saw films based on his work, it really opened up a whole cottage industry for many others to become artists, writers, sculptors, et al to use his life and work as an influence. I’m no exception as many pieces that I sculpt are based on his work. I even made a film based on his story “Cool Air” and am quite proud of it. It’s always VERY flattering when strangers write or approach me at film festivals and say that it’s one of the most faithful adaptations of his work that they’ve seen. The success of “Cool Air” just helped me secure financing for my next Lovecraft film, although i can’t announce it yet. Needless to say, we shoot in may, 2014 and it’s the story you’ve been waiting for. 😉
We can’t do an interview without mentioning the HP Lovecraft bust. Why did you decide this had to happen?
The HP Lovecraft bronze bust happened out of hardship. I had just bought my first home and was counting on three toy sculpting jobs. They all fell through in the same week that I closed escrow so I needed to figure something out fast. I thought I’d like to try my hand at a lifesize bust, but had never done a bronze bust before. None of it happened overnight and it took a long time to simply find a location in Providence, Rhode Island that would take it. No one wanted it. I called Jovanka Vuckovic, who I had known for a long time and she was really the genius behind securing the funding for it through the Kickstarter funding platform. Once Jovanka had laid out the business strategy for the project, we were off and running and worked from the USA and Canada for six months, often putting in 18 hour days. So many gracious folks helped to fund the project including film industry giants Guillermo del Toro, Frank Darabont, Stuart Gordon and many others. I am
beyond humbled at the generosity of so many wonderful people and it’s a kindness that I never take for granted. I blubbered like a baby at the unveiling and it was easily one of the greatest moments of my life. The real accomplishment came when the project team and I were able to make a sizeable donation in Lovecraft’s name to the Children’s Literacy Program in the Providence Community Library system.
And finally, what are your upcoming plans that you can share with our readers?
Sure thing. Right now I’m finishing writing the script for my next film and just got back from a location scout in Boston Harbor. It’s a Lovecraft story and we’ll be shooting next May. It’s a period piece and one of his most well known stories. Sometimes I wake up wondering when this dream come true will end, but it doesn’t seem to be. I’m not dumb enough to question it.