CELEBRITY INTERVIEW: Special Effects Artist and Author Steve Neill
Just recently I did a MONSTROUS MASK REVIEW on one of artist Steve Neill’s Alien Gray. As promised, here is the interview Steve was nice enough to do with me. I hope you enjoy it!
David: Growing up, what were your favorite movies?
Steve: Day the Earth Stood Still. Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers. First Men in the Moon. Quatermass and the Pit. 2001: A Space Odyssey. THX 1138 to name a few.
David: Was there one movie more than any that influenced you into doing what you do?
Steve: Yes. 2001! It changed my life and set me on my career path. Little did I know I’d become friends with Gary Lockwood later in life. We talk often and I feel an even deeper connection to my mentor Stanley Kubrick and 2001. I even had Dan Richter to the studio for a podcast with Gary. Dan put on the Moon watcher mask for the first time in over 50 years
David: I first became aware of you in the 1980s because of your alien masks and artwork. I have always wanted to know, did you ever have your own encounter that influenced this? If yes, would you be willing to share the details?
Steve: Yes. More than once. In fact I wrote a book about it and a movie by the same name called, “But Something is There”. Although I’ve had these experiences I tend to be objective about them as much as possible. I don’t know if this is aliens. All I know is this, it’s a phenomenon of nature natural to our world. In the film and the book I talk about what I do know, not believe. I only report my experience and I don’t offer conjecture or theories. The film is now free to view here: https://vimeo.com/284193410 and the book is here: https://www.amazon.com/But-Something-There-Steve-Neill-ebook/dp/B075BM67LG/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=but+something+is+there&qid=1615739509&sr=8-1
David: What are your thoughts on the UFO/alien phenomenon?
Steve: My thoughts are this and simply this. Our civilization is very young in cosmic calendar terms. We have been here but a blink of an eye. Yet we are detecting nearby planets that can support life as ours have at breakneck speed. We are also working on propulsion that will in years to come allow us to leave this planet and visit other worlds. There has been billions of years for other civilizations to do the same. I ask people in light of that knowledge, “Do you really think we have never been detected and visited before?”
David: What was the first major project you worked on? How did it come about?
Steve: Star Trek the Motion Picture and to this day it’s my fondest memory of my long career. I met Gene Rodenberry early on in my career at sci-fi conventions. I was selling Vulcan ear prosthetics that got his and Majel’s attention. Couple that with my friendship with Fred Philips and Fred called me one day to work on the movie. My first task was to make Spock’s ears. A highlight of my career.
David: What are some of the movies you worked on?
Steve: IMDB has most if not all of them. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0624759/ I worked on so many they didn’t list them all. And if you didn’t get credit on the film they won’t list it. The film I get the most attention for out of all of them is Ghost Busters, second, Laser Blast. I did the makeup Laser Blast on the show, Ve Neill worked with me on it and got her start in her amazing career on this film. I also played the alien in the beginning and made the gun and alien props. It was a lot of fun.
David: Out of all of the films you have worked on, what was your favorite and why?
Steve: Star Trek. Why? Because Star Trek is our hopeful future where we drop our differences, come together as one, and explore the universe. After all there is only one race, the human race, homo sapiens. Cultural differences need to come to an end if we will ever as a civilization meet the challenge of exploring space. In my conversations with Gene it was apparent that he created Star Trek for that purpose. After being a B-17 pilot in WW2 he wanted something better for us than war and hate. Star Trek represents this vision of our future.
David: How has the pandemic affected you and your business?
Steve: Not at all. In fact it thrived even more and I’m very grateful to my fans and supporters.
David: Tell us more about your shop. When you are not working on films, what kind of things do you do there?
Steve: Mary Cacciapaglia and I started SNG Studio in 2013. It has thrived for nearly 8 years. We have made things such as the TOS Enterprise on a very large scale for collectors and museums. We have done several projects with my friend Adam Savage. Made a line of masks and props from films. A lot of them are Star Trek. I build a lot of model rockets, airplanes and other RC models and fly them. Currently we are starting a Wright Flyer from 1903 for Adam Savage. In the past, a large model of the Hilton Space Station from 2001, the Star Child and even Moon Watcher himself which Adam has featured on tested and worn incognito at Comic con.https://www.tested.com/making/790845-adam-savage-incognito-2001-space-odysseys-moonwatcher/
It just never stops. We produce a weekly TV show and put out a weekly newsletter showing behind the scenes all the things we do at the studio. One of my favorites is an over 6 foot tall Iron Giant. I so love that film and character I built one for the Studio. He’s the first thing you see when you enter our studio.
David: Was there any project that you worked on that you were disappointed by? Perhaps through budget restraints or the way your stuff was filmed?
Steve: Yes. The Day Time Ended. Written and produced by myself, they pretty much butchered the film starting with the script and ending with it’s tacky title. Originally it was called Vortex. And the story made more sense. They removed much of the story that explained what was happening with the family and filled it with effects. Despite all of that, the film is still loved to this day. I guess it could have been worse.
Currently we are in production on the second episode of “But Something is There”. It’s going to be a wild ride. SNG Studio funds these films so we don’t have to work with bean counters anymore who call the shots. This is just art on film and we have the reins now. The episode is called “The Dreamtime”.
Again, I cannot thank Steve enough for taking to time to do this interview. Don’t forget to read my other CELEBRITY INTERVIEW entries!