Prosthetic expert Calum Macdonald aims to bring fear to Edinburgh
Walking into the Gibbet FX studio is like walking straight onto the set of a fantasy film.
Amongst the clutter of alien heads, jars with prosthetic brains and handmade animal skeletons, there are sci-fi guns which defy description and, looking at the wall, there’s the menacing severed head of a Shetland Trow staring back.
In the middle, leaning over a stool with a bottle of fake blood in hand stands Calum MacDonald, owner of the studio and prosthetics expert faced with the challenge of creating a member of the undead from scratch.
The 44-year-old has finally branched out from the living room of his Dunblane home – where he says it was not uncommon to trip over a severed head or two – to open a studio in St Margaret’s house at Meadowbank.
And now Calum, who has more than 20 years of experience in the prop design and film prosthetics industry, is hoping to pass on his expertise to the next generation of special-effects enthusiasts through a series of courses designed to teach students the intricacies of the craft.
“These are not academic courses, there’s no certificate or qualification at the end of it,” he says.
“Not everyone can afford to go to university and do a degree in prop-design or prosthetics, so these courses are for people who have a passion for film or who want to broaden their range of skills on a set.
“I’ve worked on low-budget productions where you really have to be at your best to make sure what you’re creating looks realistic.
“It’s your passion for your work and belief in your abilities that get you through projects like that.”
Despite starting his career in animation, Calum discovered a love of horror shortly after leaving university and decided to pursue a career in prop-design.
“Animation was my first love, but very slowly moving plasticine figures can get slightly tedious after a while,” he says.
“I was always fascinated by horror films and what makes people scared, whether that be gore or psychological.
“I gave the whole guts and gore thing a try and it’s been something I’ve been passionate about ever since.”
After designing props and prosthetics for a number of low-budget productions, Calum got his break at the Fringe festival in 2014, where he was responsible for the creation of undead hordes in the highly acclaimed stage show ‘The Generation of Z’.
“It was gratifying to see how ambitious these people were on such a small budget, it almost made it more fun because you had the freedom to go out there and create your vision,” he says.
“Big productions – The Walking Dead, World War Z, those sort of things – will have huge production teams and different departments for makeup, prosthetics, props, etc.
“We had anywhere between three and eight, depending on who was available, but it was a huge success and went on tour around the country, that was really something I was proud to be part of.”
Courses at Gibbet FX in prop design, prosthetics and creature design start from £425, with information available online at www.gibbetfx.com.