Morb-X puts the ‘special’ in movie effects
Morb-X, a special effects company in Grass Valley that is run by two brothers, Eric Fox and Brian Power, creates effects for movies, commercials music videos, and toy prototypes.
Four years ago, Fox, his wife and three kids came to Nevada County on a visit and realized it was the perfect place to raise a family. He soon started getting a handle on the Sacramento, Bay Area and all of Northern California film communities while Power continued to handle Southern California business. They both feel their studio has a lot of offer the local art community in terms of business, employment and creativity, so here’s their story in a Q&A format.
Q: Who is Morb-X?
A: Morb-X was founded in the early 1990s by us. We grew up on the streets of Southern California, breaking into the world of special effects at very young ages, devoting our entire lives to perfecting our craft.
While other kids were hanging out and going to haunted houses or to the movies, we were practically living in the shop, running the haunted houses and working on movies (not as glamorous as it may sound). We were always into horror films and grew up on zombie movies and “The Twilight Zone.”
We first started by just really being into art, and since we were into monsters, that is what we liked to draw and sculpt. As kids, we would sneak into our mom’s makeup and see what we could come up with, same with household items – like almost killing each other by pouring plaster on our faces.
But throughout the years and after reading everything we could on our craft, looking to the greats like Dick Smith and Rick Baker, we took on jobs at the local costume stores and worked for supplies. That’s how we met our first paying client. We used to practice our craft by playing practical jokes on our friends and neighbors, by dressing up at night like we had been hit by a car and lying on the street corner until a crowd came, as well as practical jokes in school with the use of fake blood and sharp things. A fake finger goes over good in a wood shop or foods class (not recommended behavior, admit the brothers).
Q: What does Morb-X do?
A: Morb-X has been specializing in everything from bullet hits, masks, full-body creature suits, fully animatronic puppets, custom art pieces, set design, custom furniture, makeup for stage shows and CD cover art. We provide local film makers and musicians with access to high quality visual effects locally, as well as the opportunity for local artists who are interested in getting into the business.
Q: What is some of the work you’ve done?
A: We have done many movies, ranging from low-budget student films to feature films and DVD releases that can be purchased via the Internet/YouTube. Major films include “Space Truckers,” “Progeny” and “Real Killers.”
We’ve worked closely with great friend and mentor Screaming Mad George, who is responsible for many of cinema’s most disturbing images, such as “Poltergeist II” and “Nightmare on Elm Street 4.” For many years we’ve collaborated on many projects, as well as running our own jobs.
Some of our projects include:
• “The 11th Day” (a World War II documentary on the battle of Crete), which gained worldwide recognition and for which we did miscellaneous makeup effects, bullet hits, battle wounds. See http://www.crete1941.com.
• “Sounds” (filmed mostly in Auburn by local film director Ryan Humphries). We created alien egg sacs and built and designed alien creatures. Go online to http://www.soundsthemovie.com.
• “From Beneath,” our first breakthrough in the Asian horror market, done through the Asian film company Quest Beyond Films. We made prosthetic makeup effects, as well as a fetus puppet.
• “Homeworld X” (coming to DVD later this year, a sci-fi horror feature). We did alien creature design and fabrication (www.homeworldx.com).
• “The Pillow Case” (Bay Area short which gained lots of film festival recognition, directed by Maggie Simpson). We did miscellaneous blood and gore effects for a 1940s’ slumber party gone bad.
We’ve worked on some interesting commercials, which include:
• working with George Romero, famous horror writer/director for “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead” and all the great zombie classics of the 1980s and on the “Resident Evil II” video game commercial. It was a real honor to work with him.
• building a giant 18-feet-tall praying mantis to block shots from Kobe Bryant for an Adidas shoe commercial.
• creating a medusa head rig, as well as other fantasy creatures, for a Showtime-branding commercial.
• making a bunch of large, green monsters playing soccer for the Puma Cellerator shoe in the Cellerator Man advertising campaign.
• building two animatronic deer puppets rocking out while driving in car down a lone isolated road (much like many of ours) for a Bay Area auto collision company, where they struck a naked man running across the street and joked about it. Called “Naked Deer,” it got lots of great exposure in the Bay Area.
We’ve done some theater work for the Sacaramento Music Theatre on its summer production of “Beauty and the Beast.” We supplied prosthetic makeup appliances for the character of the beast.
Currently, we’re working on a children’s show for a Los Angeles production company, Orange Cow/Waters Production, called “Pretty Decent Planet.” We are fabricating alien puppets to be used for the main characters.
During the past 14 years, we have made countless effects for more than 30 films, many commercials and music videos. We’ve also done CD cover art, toy prototyping and custom art pieces.
Q: Are you working on any local projects?
A: Now we’re location-scouting locally for a feature film based on a famous serial killer (identity classified at this time) for Dark Mansion Films and Director Brian Brooks. We are also working with local musicians, hard rock band Blackweed, and Chris “Cutman” Chapman, local DJ and super beat maker.
We’re collaborating with local artist Todd Andrews (TASCO), known for the “gentle giant” at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. We are also collaborating with him on many upcoming and current projects, from film to sculpture.
We are currently involved in the editing process of a horror comedy short film, “Meet the Karkers,” which Todd directed. We worked together to create the visual effects. He has been a great inspiration to us; he and his wife, Kathy, have been like new, adoptive parents. Not only is it an honor to work with such a great talent, but they are just great people to boot, and we look forward to working with him on many projects to come.
Q: What’s next?
A: Nevada County is a very beautiful, magical place for film. With Nevada County’s booming art community, a business of this origin should have no problem finding the artistic talent needed for an art studio of this caliber. We’re looking for a warehouse and sponsors. With the warehouse in sight, soon we will be able to promote ourselves to some of the bigger films and bring more film jobs to our area.
As well as a studio location, we are currently seeking interns, local film makers, sponsors, equipment and props for upcoming projects. For example, we are looking for medical/mortuary equipment (the older the better). We are lucky to have found local artist Kevin Cartzdafner, as well as newcomers to the crew, Dave Martinelli and Amber Hadfield. We are fortunate to find talented artists to dedicate time, and we appreciate their dedication.
Morb-X is committed to providing as much as possible to the local artistic community. We’ve been lurking in the underground for more than 14 years, fine-tuning talents, just watching and waiting for that perfect time to emerge. And we’re here to tell you, now is that time – the time for Morb-X to creep into mainstream films and change practical makeup effects forever.
Q: How so?
A: With cutting-edge effects, by combining practical effects with CGI computer effects instead of one or the other, as well as air-powered bullet hits instead of squibs (explosives that are strapped onto an actor with a blood pack).
Q: Any final comments?
A: (Eric) In closing, this has not been an easy road. The entertainment and film industry has its highs and lows, and with it comes sacrifice. I have been very fortunate to have such a supportive circle of family and friends. My wife, Sheri, has been totally supportive and been my constant partner for the last 10 years. She has helped in all areas, from the administrative aspect to the hard work and makeup on set, along with her own career. This is very much a family business, as my kids have even helped with little things and been able to star in some of them. Anyone who gets into the entertainment industry for the glitz and glam of the job is in for a letdown. The industry is not founded on what you see on the E channel but by starving artists up late in front of their computers or in the studio at 3 a.m., covered in paint and plaster, getting ready for a film shoot later that day. There have been many ups and downs, but each step is a step to success. This is not the industry to get in to chase the money; you need to chase the dream.
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