When I first started hitting science fiction conventions, back in high school, one thing I fell in love with was the replicas of props and costumes that I saw offered at vendor tables, and being worn by attendees. This started a trend of me saving up my allowance and chore money to buy a new garage kit every year, starting with the cricket phaser from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and moving on to pieces like the phasers from Star Trek III and Star Trek V, or the phaser rifle from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Through a bit of trial and error, and poor instructions from many of the dealers, my father and I were able to get a lot of these built, and while they weren’t great, I was proud of them.
Fast forward to the summer of 2000, when I moved to Southern California on my first attempt of living out there. I was struggling, looking for work, after GameStop backed out on giving me a job, and I happened to see a job offer on the Replica Prop Forum, looking for people with experience working with resin replicas. At the urging of my partner at the time, I sent an email for more information. It was a practical effects studio, that was testing the prop replica waters, and they had me come in for an interview.
The place where I had the interview was called Steve Johnson’s XFX, Inc. Not knowing much about behind the scenes in movies, I honestly had no idea who the guy was, despite friends freaking out that I was going to visit his shop, and interview for a position there. I walked in, and was immediately blown away by the Slimer sculpture hanging from the ceiling of his lobby. Not only was that there as the centerpiece, there was a display of the Puttermans (of the Duracell commercials), characters from Virus, and maybe more, but that’s what I remember. I received a tour of the facilities from the gentleman who was hiring, and I saw so much stuff I remembered from growing up, as well as pieces I didn’t recognize, like topiaries from The Shining telelvision movie.
Somehow, I managed to score the position. I was hired for a job that involved casting and cleaning resin Battlestar Galactica blasters for a license holder (link to an example), but it was September and that job wasn’t supposed to start until November. So, knowing I was in rough shape, they were kind enough to bring me on early, and started me working in the “archives”, which was a fancy way to say “large storage unit”. Over the next month or so, I helped organize pieces from film and television, pick up molds, and build bases to display suits from Bicentennial Man and Virus. Through all of this, I started to pick up on new skills with routers and table saws, all while my supervisor swore that I was going to cut off a finger. Or, in the case of the picture above, he thought I was going to shave the face off of a suit that was worth more than I was! While this was fun, I ended up being called up to the main shop after a few weeks, to work on some foam latex suits for some new comic show heading to Fox…