Thank you, Margaret for talking about your job on set with me.
What is your job on set:
I create Special Effects for film. Special Effects covers atmosphere, action, and stunts. We create rain, haze, smoke, snow, wind, explosions, breakaway elements, car crashes and feats of physics. We work closely with stunts, wardrobe, and the Director of Photography creating atmosphere and events that drive the story forward. When there is a fight, a car chase, a gunshot or a cloud of fog – there are men and women behind the scenes managing the conditions of the environment and embedding devices into the action. Sometimes those devices are actuated on cue to simulate real world events or actions of the actors that make it appear that they are doing it themselves.
How long are you working for Chicago PD/MED/Fire?
I worked on Chicago PD Season 2-5 and then came back Season 9.
When are you usually on set in the morning?
I usually work in the shop building effects. I am a welder and fabricator as well as a licensed pyrotechnician and flame operator. We design and build effects in the shop and test them before taking them to set to shoot that scene.
How long do you work on a production day?
Most of our days are 12 hour days.
How many days are you on set per week?
I am on set when there are effects in the scene, and in the shop planning when there are not. This varies based upon the script. What do you like most about your job?
I like to solve puzzles and build clever rigs that work on cue. I am thrilled to use all of my art skills to create different things every day.
What’s the worst thing about your job?
When its is extreme weather and the show must go on we tackle some of the most difficult logistics to set up and operate our effects. Sometimes this requires moving extremely heavy equipment into place on unpredictable terrain in hostile weather under time and budget constraints. Safety and self care become extremely important in these conditions and the stress level can work against it.
Other people should learn this job, because…
Skilled FX technicians are difficult to find.
Funniest Person on set?
We had an AD named Tommy Burke who had a rap he would repeat every shot – „okay – pictures up lock it up roll sound quiet on the set…“ – it went on like a single sentence all the way through action – he was hilarious