Today, it gives me great pleasure to turn this blog over to blog regular, tech consultant, and – most important of all – Stargate fan Ryan “Stitch” Nixon.
Enjoy the Q&A and, tomorrow, I’ll be the one answering your questions in a dedicated mailbag (including a couple of outstanding queries – Das, this means you). So post ’em if you got ’em and, in the meantime, over to Ryan…
Tam Dixon asks: ”I’m excited about Ender’s Game! It’s not being released until later this year though right?”
Answer: Correct, it will not be out in the states till November 1st of this year, the trailer can be seen here…
Tam Dixon asks: “I have a couple of friends that retired from the military (forced out in the downsizing) and they had a devil of a time transitioning into civilian life. One friend was in the Air Force, switched to Marines to fly helicopters. After over 15+ years of flying/mechanics with helicopters, he found a job in home improvement instead of a pilot type job. How did you get involved in “show business?” I’m glad it worked out for you, by the way. ”
Answer: Well I too was forced to retire. I did have my 20 years in so I could retire and was not kicked out. Downsizing has really hurt a lot good careers for a lot men and women! It was tough and the pay cut was pretty bad for me. I struggled for about a year then got phone call one day from old pilot and asked me how would I like chance to work in the F-35, I about dropped the phone! I was only making a third of what I used to and it came on fast! I did a phone interview for BAE Systems (a subcontractor for Lockheed Martin) building the new F-35. That turned into a flight to Ft Worth, TX and 2 and half hour interview with three guys grilling me on my military service and flight gear knowledge. So they start telling me they knew I was experienced, but I’d probably never seen the F-35 gear or know anything about it. I started laughing and they all stopped and stared at me??? I said: ”Well if you wait about two weeks you can see my work on the big screen”. I went on to tell them about Green Lantern and all the research I had to do on the F-35 gear. I had seen a lot of it! “I said I figure if I can FAKE it, I probably can do it for real!”
Two weeks later I get call I have been selected and I am their guy! They were just waiting on funding to hire me… I had even quit my part-time job because they wanted me back in TX for training in a few weeks and in place in FL in less than month and half… ya then the defense budget hit congress and the bottom fell out… No job again! So yes I can relate!
So how did I get started in all this? Well it didn’t happen overnight that’s for sure!… Apollo 13 was a bit of right place – right time. Ron Howard approached the Navy for help and we were only one of three units still flying the H-3 at the time in 1994. Lucky for us the only unit on the west coast and being in San Diego, only few hours south of Hollywood and the shooting of the film. Mr. Howard was a stickler for the details so I was ordered to find all kinds of goodies. I spent hours hunting down old gear from the 60′s and 70′s not used anymore. Was not an easy task. We also were in the middle of transitioning to NEW helmets in the Navy for the pilots. So everyone in the film had to go back to their old helmets which for most part we had torn down for parts and thrown into a storage locker, I never threw anything out and that was one day we got lucky! I remember the night before one shoot it was 5pm, we all were getting ready go home and we got word that EVERY helmet in film had to have new logos to read the actual unit that picked up the astronauts back in April of 1970. It was a long night to say the least! Once in a lifetime, right? Or so I thought! =)
Flash forward 16 years! I was 6 months from retiring and was starting to let my guys run the show. I would sit back and just make sure they didn’t screw up anything major! It was January of 2010 and Ijust got in from morning PT and my MMCO walks in with three guys in shorts, polo shirts and ball caps with cameras… Average looking guys. I figured some pilots brother was in town and wanted what we call a “dog and pony show” – show them around, dazzle them with cool stuff and back to work. He introduces me to them and says “If you need to know about flight gear here is your guy. He is one of the best and is retiring in 6 months we will miss him” and walks out…
I’m still puzzled but I tried to help them. I could tell by their questions they didn’t have a clue about flight equipment. I was asking what was this for? They were being very vague… They only said they were working on a project… I became concerned about safety issues if they were trying to really fly, but then they told me it was for a movie! I said WOW I LOVE MOVIES! Then proceeded to tell them I did prop and costuming as a hobby with my wife and walked them over to my cork board with two 4×6 pics of me and the wife in full Stargate gear of course!
What I didn’t know was I had the PROP MASTER fresh off the set from TRANSFORMERS and he and his boys were standing in my shop and I just said the magic words! PROPS! He raised an eye and asked for my info and they were gone in a flash! My guys were all excited and kept saying how perfect of a job that would be for me. I never thought I’d hear another word! That was a Tuesday. 2 hours later my OUTLOOK goes off and they ask if I could come in Sat morning for an interview? So time to get educated on Green Lantern and Hal Jordan! I read and looked up everything I could find. I even went to Best Buy and bought Green Lantern: First Flight, the animated movie went right home and watched it!
With some good advice from one of my pilots, I typed up a resume with all my military skills and as he put it “that costume stuff you do” and was off to downtown New Orleans. After a non-disclosure agreement and a peek at the story board, I was introduced to all the big wigs. The 2nd asst director came by and my boss introduced me and handed her my resume. She looked up and said “Where in the world did you find him?” Hire him, whatever it takes!
g-force writes: ”Question for Ryan: In your role as consultant, what exactly do you do? And, do you have input through the whole process, or just at the beginning?”
Answer: I was there originally to just advise and to tell them what to buy, how to make it look and what looked correct or how stuff should appear on camera. I was just hired originally as a prop consultant, then I was working on the actual props, fixing them once they saw my skills and they had 100 other things to do. He just turned me loose and I was like a kid in a candy store!
So there I was on set my first big day. I walk into this fake locker room and it’s a mess to be honest. My boss said this doesn’t look like your shop does it? Nope, I said, give me 30 mins, and he left… I started moving stuff and changed a lot of it.. re-hung every garment and moved stuff all around. He came back and loved it, told me stay put. Next thing, Martin Campbell the director of the entire film is standing there and shaking my hand for first time. My boss is such a pro and the nicest guy in world. I love working for this man… So I am standing in the room. He shakes my hand and says looks great! Not all of the set guys knew who I was or why I was there. I always felt I was in the way or steppin over cords and trying to stay out the way! First day for me I worked from 3PM till 4AM. We all were exhausted and I had just gotten back from a trip and was still jet lagged.
A few weeks later I got loaned out to help the costume department with some the flight clothing issues and found myself working for Ngila Dickson academy award winning costume designer for Lord of the Rings. We got into some “discussions”, after all who was I to her? some military meat head… Holy crap and I have to tell her she is doing it wrong? YIKES… She didn’t always like that, but she did listen and I would just offer my advice and how it should be, but it was always her choice. In the end, she did take my advice about 75% of the time, but it was her movie and it was also Hollywood. Everything did not have to be perfect! She hated it when, in the end, what I said from start looked better, but I had been working with that stuff for 20 years and she started to respect that.
Then, set designers needed my help for staging and how some the aviation rooms should look. Some of the AD’s then wanted me to work with the extras and teach them what to do on camera since I had worked around planes for 20 years… What should they be doing? they always ask me…
Also, for the flight sequences I helped the pilots who were from my unit as well. I knew them well… They would assist in directing Ryan and Blake on flying and I would make sure the gear looked correct for every shot. I even had to ask Martin to CUT a couple time because of a missed chin strap or something dumb, but they always did it and would re-set!
When we did the ejection shot I had just walked Ryan from his trailer and we talking about the shot. I was trying to remind him of what he was about to do and all we had taught him over past few weeks. I had no idea what I was about to walk into! I thought was just going to be a normal day. Martin the director walks up to Ryan and starts to tell him what we are doing. He looks over says “Yeah Ryan told me on way over!” I was like “Oooh crap…” “Oooj, ok. T hat’s good,” he says… So next, Martin walks over to me and says “Ok mate, how should we shoot this?” I looked at my boss and was asking why the director was talking to me? I could only reply: “Isn’t that your job, sir?” LOL He got a good laugh and said: “Well this is why you’re here. How should we do this?” I was in shock and the entire crew is looking at me like “Who is this guy?” I could only reply: “Lots of wind?”
Next, Martin is barking orders, the crew is running around and I am freaking out. Next, he wants me in his chair behind the camera and watching all of Ryan’s shots. So we did one take and it was just off— Ryan wasn’t shaking up enough for just punching out of a $143 million dollar airplane, Martin goes over and pulls me with him to give Ryan a pep talk! What most did not know was that Ryan had a skydiving mishap years prior and it scared the crap outta him and he swore never to doit again! http://www.digitalspy.com/celebrity/news/a325707/ryan-reynolds-nearly-died-during-skydive.html It had come up one day when talking with him and I asked him: “Don’t you ask an actor to use real events to get in mind set when acting? “Yeah, totally,” he said. So the whole time I’m thinking about this… After Martin gave his pep talk and as we walked away I looked at Ryan and under my breath so only he could hear me said one word! “Skydiving” and winked… He got a huge grin and “Yeah yeah… I got it!” Second take… ACTION! and CUT… Martin looks at me and say “Well?” I said; “1000 times better!”, Martin shouts out “I totally agree. Lets shoot it again!” Six takes later the bell rings, Martin shakes my hand thanks me and tells me he will see me later! Ryan walks over, puts his hand on my shoulder and says: “Thanks! I needed that!” Then my boss walks up with a huge grin. “Nice job!”
I just directed a scene in my first Hollywood film. Holy crap. I needed to sit down! I was shaking… Later I was talking to one of the prop gals that came on later in the film while were shooting two units and needed more manpower. She asked me how many movies I had done. I laughed saying: “Oooooh, counting this one? Two…”. Her jaw hits the ground. She asked: “You’re getting paid, right?” I laughed… “Yes”. Then she starts telling me how many years she had to work for free as an intern just to get close to a movie of this size. I wasn’t sure if she was just mad or jealous but she made sure to tell me how lucky I was. And I knew it!
I am still in shock. I did so much and I still didn’t make the credits. I should have been listed as UCAV Operator #3. I guess after the the military and the DoD gave them thumbs down on the original script and said no to helping them, they got nervous about me working on film and still being active duty, afraid they would get in trouble. They practically hid me under the carpet. I reminded them that I was retiring and no one cared. It was all run through my chain of command and didn’t interfere with my duties. Those were disappearing fast. I was pretty much done. I do have to thank my chain of command and the support they gave me until I was on terminal leave and started working full time on set. I was getting ready to move and they even asked me to stay on longer so I had to push my move date back to work on the film longer. Bummer right? =)
So yeah, g-force I had some input you could say. What a ride it’s been! Seriously, I feel very fortunate for all the opportunities I have been given and honestly would love to work for Alex and Stephen Kendrick from Sherwood Pictures on a faith based film if ever given the chance! I love their work and would love a chance to use my talents on a movie like that!
JeffW asks: “For Ryan, my daughter is a big fan of the John Stewart Green Lantern. Was there any thought given to basing the movie on other Green Lanterns, or was it always Hal Jordan?”
Answer: Jeff, as far as I have read there were a few versions of the script, but they ALL were based on Hal Jordan. I recently was talking with a friend and my own opinion is if we see a Green Lantern 2 and it is NOT Ryan Reynolds, I think we may see a part 2 as John Stewart or Guy Gardner, but that is just my take on it.
stargateatlantisseasonsix asks “Hey, “Stitch”, long time since we talked last after Propworx’s first live Stargate Auction in Seattle; my mom says ‘Hi.”…anyways, other than Stargate, what other series are you affiliated with doing fan costuming for? STAR WARS? Star Trek? BSG? etc.”
Answer: Well as “baterista9″ so helpfully pointed out LOL I am member of the Rebel Legion- Star Wars costume group, still working on 501st membership, cannot decide what costume I want to do. You can see a couple of my costumes here if you scroll down and click on the pics… http://www.rebellegion.com/forum/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=5506
I do want to do Mando Merc Mandalorian type costume with a color shift paint. Like in this thread by “Corbin Dane” http://mercs.firespray.net/forum/index.php?topic=62386.0 So hopefully some day in the near future with time and money allowing me to do so I can get started.
I never got into the BSG costuming. My wife helped with some the uniforms and they came out great for some close friends of ours, but she was so burnt out after making them and I never had the heart to even ask… I did enjoy Blood and Chrome!
The wife (Katie) and I have done a lot random things as well. A few Harry Potter based things. She made me a Quidditch robe for my Bulgaria Quidditch for the book release in 2007. I even got the opportunity to choke Professor Umbridge …We did the first Hunger Games movie costumes for the premiere in our local town, got some looks for sure, even made the local paper AGAIN. At least I have stayed out of the police blotter! =)
Mike A. asks: “Ryan, what item do you have, from the SG franchise, is your absolute favorite? It can be real(show used), or a recreation/copy. Is it something you bought at that auction or subsequent auctions? Is it something you’ve made or were given? Or if you can’t nail it down to one, what items are your favorite? Are you working on any current/new reproduction SG props? I saw people on the SFH forum were working on a SGA ARG, but I haven’t checked their progress in many months. I remember seeing and handling those AND the “staple gun” Replictaor Neutralizers at the auction. Man, those were cool!!!”
Answer: Wow, I don’t even have a list with everything I have. I bought as much as I could afford from all three auctions and got some great pieces and costumes. I have a small chunk of the SGA gate, an SGA Life Signs Detector, and SGA GDO. I bought vests from ALL three shows to help me with my recreation for my website. We pride ourselves on replicating what the production department and Val Halverson’s people did over the years! I hope to interview her one day for my blog…
I have started collecting Indian Jones replica props and I do have a nice hat and even a jacket made by the same company! So far I have a replica of Sir Richard’s shield from The Last Crusade and a nice casting of the Holly Grail! I would have to say two of my favorite pieces are my HOMEWORLD COMMAND sign from SGU and as many of you may not know… because of Stargate my wife and I met… So it will always hold the biggest part in our hearts. Katie LOVES doing Vala and has created her own blog as Joe has seen a few times. http://becomingvala.com/ As a couple of you may know from the auction I even bought her Vala’s real throne from “The Powers That Be”. How many husbands can say they purchased a throne for their wife? =)
So that December, she ran out to the storage unit where I had hid it and framed up the COA and placed it under the tree Christmas morning and like a true costumer in 20 degree weather donned her Quetesh costume she made years prior! Yes, even her Harley Boots are screen accurate!
However, wrapping this post up I must say we love doing charity events when we can. It’s so fun when the kids think you’re real. One event we attended was at the Baton Rouge Zoo. I think it was called “Light the Night”. This was a special event for terminally ill children and their families. So halfway through the night this mother comes up to me almost balling and thanks me for making her child smile for the first time in like 9 months. Its was all I could do to hold it together. As she walked away, I stood there as tears began to run down my face. You walk 5 steps and pose for another picture. My wife and I often have talked about how maybe we are in some family’s scrapbook or in frame on a mantel in their home and maybe that is the last picture of someone’s child smiling they have to keep. Some of these kids are so brave it breaks your heart! Yes, it’s a blast to run around and act like a kid or be someone else for the day, but it’s days like those that make all the cost and hard work totally worth it and it can be so rewarding too!