Of days gone by

My friend Stewart has an incredibly cool collection of science fiction memorabilia that he displays over at Roadmonster.org. Poring over the goodies in his collection has me fondly remembering a past brush with celebrity as well as some projects that I’ve worked on and possible directions that my life may have taken.

Many years ago, I watched a movie called FX starring Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy. I was completely captivated by the concept of being a special effects technician and working in the film industry. I watched the movie countless times and loved every minute of it. However true to life the movie may or may not have been, it represented to me how fantastic it would be to create special effects for a living. Having no idea how to go about getting started in an industry like that, I abandoned the idea and chose a path designing and installing electronics systems in the security industry. I had absolutely no regrets what so ever as I’ve never found a more enjoyable line of work.

Fast forward a few years and I learned that FX2 was just about to be released and I was pretty excited. To add to my enjoyment, my business partner booked me on a job putting together a custom security installation in a large mobile workshop/office vehicle owned by a friend of his who ran a special effects company. I soon learned that the owner of the truck was none other than Neil Trifunovich. I didn’t know who he was until I got on site and discovered him to be an experienced effects technician who had been responsible for designing effects in many of my favourite films of the time, including FX and the upcoming FX2. Working around this man for several days felt, to me, like meeting a hero or favourite celebrity and I felt compelled to speak to him about his work at every opportunity. I feel certain that I made a complete nuisance of myself but I couldn’t help it. I was absolutely in awe of the man and occasionally gaze fondly upon the photos I took of Mr. Trufunovich’s truck and some of the props he had laying around. I even considered asking for an internship or a part time job to learn whatever I could from him. In the end I believe that I made the correct choice by staying with my career but I always wondered “What If?”.

Leaping ahead in time a little further and I finally got to test my skills. While working in the Technical/Engineering department for a prominent manufacturer of security electronics, I received a call from our Marketing Department wanting to know if I could work with a film crew who were looking to use some of our products in a movie. The producer faxed over 3 pages of script from a film they were working on called “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle”. Needless to say, I dropped everything to help in any way that I could. The producer indicated that in one scene Kumar steals a security pass from his father to break into the pharmacy of the hospital where he worked. The film required some manner of access control system for Kumar to swipe his card through. The catch was that the site where the scene was being filmed would not allow any modifications to be made to the building. The item to be installed couldn’t have any power or data wires running to it. Essentially they wanted an entirely self contained card reader that could be stuck on the wall with double-sided tape. Any similarity that the final product bore to a working access control reader was only physical as I wound up gutting one of our standard products and making a battery powered device that simply beeped and flashed a light when the card was passed through it. Once the case was reassembled, it looked very much like the real deal. I didn’t care that it wasn’t actually a card reader anymore as long as it did what the film required and I got to help. I tried to convince the production company to let me keep the card reader after filming was over but they didn’t like the idea and said that they couldn’t give back the reader. That’s as close as I’ve ever come to owning actual movie memorabilia.

The day I brought home a DVD copy of “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” I couldn’t wait to sit down and sift through that scene frame by frame so that I could spot the card reader as well as the poster advertising the company that I worked for that the producer said might be on Kumar’s bedroom wall. It seems that both the poster as well as the card reader scene were cut from the movie and my work was all for naught but at the very least I can say that I finally designed a working prop for a film and I managed to get some pictures of the horrible mess that I made of the inside of a card reader in the name of cinema.

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