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Welcome to the Spatcave. An interview with a Prop and Special Effects master.

A look into the mind of a prop and special effects creator Spat Oktan whose work has been used in feature films and video games, along with being worn by some of our writers here at Renegade….

Well first off Spat tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m a Special Effects Make-up Artist, Costumer and Prop Maker. Originally from New York City, I recently relocated to Atlanta, Georgia!

How did you get into the world of props and costuming?

I guess it’s really something I’ve always been into. Going back to when I was a kid. In High School I discovered that I could make anything look disgusting (the start of my FX career), and that led to making cool costumes for myself and some friends for Halloweens. Almost all of them involved blood of some sort or another, because it was something I was definitely good at. Later it led to making more Sci-Fi oriented costumes, and ultimately,  it led to making Colonial Marine Armor for me and some friends one Halloween. And the rest… is History!!

What was your first creation?

Hard to say. I guess the first effect I created was a burn on my wrist to get out of a test. The first costumes I made to sell was definitely Marine Armor.

What was your proudest moment?

I guess when Gearbox used my armor for the “Aliens: Colonial Marine” game, and then added me as a character in the game. That’s kind of when you know you’ve made it!

If time and money was no constraint what costume or prop would you make?

I have a huge list of dream costumes I’d like to get to. Some just for me to make and have, and others to offer to other people. I do plan to do an 8 or 9 foot tall Killer Croc from Arkham City soon.

Roughly how long can it take you to produce a finished prop, from concept to final produce?

If it’s something I’ve never made before, it can take a while. The standard rule in this industry is that items can be made – A) Quickly, B) Cheaply, or C) High Quality.  And you can pick any 2 from that list, but not all 3.  So if you want it Fast and Cheap, it wont be Good. But if you want it Good and Fast, it wont be cheap.

If someone was looking into becoming a prop creator, what advice would you give them?

Get a real job! These days, the trend seems to be Pepukura (Japanese paper folded props and costumes), or 3D printing. Both of those take a fraction of the time that it takes for someone like me to hand sculpt or create an item (assuming you have the skills to make those things!). So I think if you really want to start working in the prop industry of the future, you should learn how to design things in 3D on the computer.

What has been your best Con experience?

Wow, there have been so many over the years. I guess getting asked to sit on a “How to make a Zombie” panel with Tom Savini was a highlight. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be sharing a stage with someone I looked up to when I started out in the industry!

Have you ever been mistaken for the wrong costumes? (So people thinking your a Halo Spartan when you where dressed as a Stormtrooper for example)

Of course! Wearing a Colonial Marine costume from Aliens People will often assume its GI Joe,  Starship Troopers or just modern world Army gear. Some people get upset by that stuff, but not every one can know every bit of fandom. I can’t tell you how many costumes at a con I don’t recognise, and I consider myself pretty well versed!

Whats the oddest order you’ve had come to you?

I’m working on it right now! It’s actually kinda top secret and I am on a “Need to Know” basis for it. So once the studio lets me know the details, I can let you know! But its something super secret and awesome that will be coming in July or August!

Marvel or DC?

Amazing Spider-Man all the way. But other than that, more DC. But in actuality, I read a lot more indie stuff than books from the Big Two.

You look like you really enjoy what you do, are there any Cons to prop making?

Prop Making, Costume Marking, FX Make-up, they’re all great careers, but they all suffer from the same flaw. It’s a “Feast or Famine” world. Some months you’re getting more work than you can keep up with, and other months there’s literally NOTHING. None of the stuff I offer is anything that someone NEEDS, so when things get tight, the first thing they skip is the costume. And when it comes to movie work, it’s kind of the same thing. These days, a lot of effects are being done with CGI because it’s “easier” and “cheaper” than doing it “in camera”. So it’s always a fight to convince a director that it’s better to do the effect practically, instead of digitally. And you cut your hands up A LOT.

I would like to thank Spat for his time answering my pestering questions and giving me this insight into his world. If you interested in seeing Spats work directly check out and “like” his Facebook page at Spatcave Facebook or head direcetly to his website www.spatcave.com.

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