Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It is indeed a strange world...

Firstly - the theme to yesterday's Maniacal Movie Poster blog post was - director David Lynch! And now for why!

Well, it has to do with the movie Blue Velvet.

You know the one - Dennis Hopper? Isabella Rosellini?
Kyle MacLachlan?

Okay, bear with me, as my tale of this past weekend backs up nearly two decades for exposition!

I've been friends with makeup artist Jeff Goodwin for almost twenty years now. We met on the set of Super Marios Bros. in 1992, where the film veteran befriended one of the newest and greenest production assistants he'd ever worked with. In fact, I'd started as an extra on the movie, and managed to work my way over to the crew during the seemingly life-long production of SMB.

Jeff Goodwin circa 1992 - Super Mario Bros.

This is how I appeared as an extra in Super Mario Bros.
I'm the one on the left. I don't remember the name of the
young lady, sadly. I'm also wearing a cool lizard scale
forehead patch applied by Jeff Goodwin. Would you like to
see me in the movie? Good, so would I. *sigh*

I think Jeff recognized in me a fellow film buff and a unabashed fan of movie makeup and makeup effects, and so we became fast friends. We continued to work together several times over the next decade. With more experience under my belt, I was often hired as the production assistant who "ran first team," which is movie jargon for coordination of the actors through makeup, hair, and wardrobe and sending them to set when called for. As a result, I spent a lot of time around Jeff, and I loved hearing his production stories of his days starting out with Earl Owensby, and proceeding through that wondrous 1980's time when Dino DeLaurentiis turned little Wilmingon NC into the third largest film production center in the United States - after Hollywood and New York, of course.

One of the wildest and best movies Jeff worked on was David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Let me go on and say SPOILER ALERT here for anyone who's not seen Blue Velvet but is planning to. (First off - what are you waiting for? It's been 25 years! Jeez!) Jeff was makeup supervisor for the film, and as part of his duties for the movie, had of course created The Ear. You know, the severed body part found in a field by Kyle MacLachlan that sets off the whole movie?

Well, one of the benefits of being a pal of Jeff Goodwin's is that at some point, if you're good, he might actually retrieve the one and only screen used Ear from the secret vault it is stored in - and not only show it to you...oh no...if you're really good he might let you hold it! What an incredible opportunity for a film buff - to hold such an iconic piece of film history between your fingers...with only a tiny bit of imaginative thought, you can picture yourself in a field, holding this thing and little realizing just how much your life just changed...

Circumstances have taken Jeff away from Wilmington NC in the 21st century. He now lives in Rome, Italy, and works all over Europe and places like that. But we've stayed in touch over the years, our friendship as strong as ever. The Ear lives on as well, still in as almost a peak condition as when it dangled from Kyle MacLachlan's fingers. This is because Jeff Goodwin constructed the ear in a revolutionary new way for movie makeup effects. Now, there are a few stories about the development and creation of this piece - and I'm leaving most of them for Jeff Goodwin to tell in this documentary. But I am going to mention why The Ear is still in such good shape. Up to the time Blue Velvet was filmed, a fake body part like this one would have been fashioned out of latex rubber. But latex wasn't going to give the ear all the properties Jeff wanted it to have, so he decided to go with a new medium to produce the piece - he used silicone for the first time in film prosthetics, as silicone rather uniquely mirrors flesh in all its jiggly wiggly glory.

Not silicon.

 It also holds up across years much better than latex, which continually dries out until it crumbles away - but thanks to the silicone Mr. Ear is just as supple and youthful looking as the day he turned up in that field. And as far as silicone goes - let's stop and think about this - after developing the silicone process, Jeff shared his insights with his colleagues, including Dick Smith -  and the use of silicone in prosthetics quickly caught on - now being used more often, I would say, than latex rubber in the creation of certain kinds of prosthetics. And in fact, the same use of silicone to reproduce flesh has extended even further - into the realm of prosthetic personal pleasure personnel - if you take my meaning and I'll bet you do. So, if you have a very special friend at home and silicone was the medium - you more than likely have Jeff Goodwin to thank for it.

But I digress - and I mean really digress!

Recently, Jeff told me he was contacted a while ago by a Wilmington filmmaker named Benedict Fancy, who was gearing up along with his production company partners to shoot a 25th anniversary documentary on the making of Blue Velvet. I was happy to hear the film was being commemorated.

Benedict Fancy.

Fiddler's Creek Productions logo in very small form.

The idea was for Jeff to be flown in from Rome to shoot his interview pieces in Wilmington, which is a little different that most documentaries like this - which would normally send a small crew to Jeff in Italy, interviewing him there. But for this project, now called It's a Strange World - The Filming of Blue Velvet, it was important to bring as many of the crew as possible here, for reasons I'll explain in a moment. In any case, after much prep and planning, and with the incredibly serendipitous financial backing of a New York City art gallery that wanted Jeff and The Ear to be a part of an art show they were planning called "Magnificent Obsessions," Jeff Goodwin and Mr. Ear (as he calls it) were flown over to the United States. The art gallery show was apparently a great success, and now Jeff has travelled on down to Wilmington, where over the last week or two he has been interviewed on several of the locations by Benedict Fancy, aided by his talented co-producers and crew from Fiddler's Creek Productions.

Jeff Goodwin and Mr. Ear today.
This past Saturday night, July 16th, as a part of a series of mini-festivals headed up by the Cucalorus Film Festival; featuring the work of one Wilmington filmmaker - called the Local Focus series - the subject was Benedict Fancy, and amid several entertaining shorts created by Mr. Fancy and Fiddler's Creek, there was some "teaser footage" from It's a Strange World - The Filming of Blue Velvet (henceforth IaSW). I was blown away by what I saw. This is going to be an amazing retrospective piece, combining new interviews with the crew on the actual still-standing film locations, intercut with film clips and an amazing array of behind the scenes photos taken by German photographer Peter Braatz during the original film's production. The 3 clips were brief - like 3 or 4 minutes each - but wow! What a revelation they were! The whole idea of this documentary's baseline idea - to focus on the crew, as opposed to the actors and director - take it into a whole new realm of cataloging film history. My excitement for the project leaped to new heights - I cannot wait to see this movie!

As far as the documentary being a record of the crew's stories - this was planned all along, but the wisdom of this course was proven when Benedict Fancy contacted Jeff Goodwin about participating in the project - one of the first things Jeff asked was "does David Lynch know about this?" Because without the original film's director's approval, Jeff wouldn't have felt comfortable being included. Shortly after, through the efforts of some of the BV crew members, David Lynch was contacted, and after hearing that the cast would not be the focus as they are in so many of these movies, the director signed off on the idea - though it seemed to go without saying that the notoriously quiet Mr. Lynch would not be participating. In my heart of hearts though, I hold out hope that after seeing a rough cut - which he surely will when the project is completed - maybe David Lynch will change his mind and for the first time go on record after the intervening decades about his experiences directing this amazing movie.

After the showings, the crew from Fiddler's Creek, Blue Velvet actor Fred "The Yellow Man" Pickler - a really interesting and funny guy who had his one and only experience in front of a movie camera on BV - but who also supplied prop firearms to the production, thereby making him a crew member and bypassing the "no cast" rule - along with Jeff Goodwin mingled with the crowd and chatted, and Mr. Ear turned up for some photo ops as well. I took a few crappy photos with my cell phone - here they are:

Fred Pickler (l), and Jeff Goodwin (r) watch director Benedict
Fancy do his Kyle MacLachlan impression.

Back in the hand that made it.

An "earie" shot.

Back into storage.

It was a wonderful evening, and really stoked me up to want to be a part of helping this production get completed. I headed over to their IndieGoGo website and made a financial contribution. Because the production of IaSW is not funded per se, there's not really a budget to speak of. The producers raised a couple of thousand dollars through IndieGoGo - one of those donation websites - to get started, and they are currently in the middle of a second fund raiser to help complete more travel and interviews with other crew members from Blue Velvet. But why don't I let Mr. Benedict Fancy tell you about that?

And if you'd rather just go to the site directly - where the same video introduction is on the home page - here is a link:


This is a really worthwhile project, and if you're a fan of Blue Velvet and want to contribute in any way or amount - I know the producers and crew will be ecstatic and most appreciative. If that's not how you roll - sending positive vibes can be a good thing too!

And if you want to spread the word - on the fund raising or the project itself - please feel free to do that too!

In the meantime, we'll wrap this one up - thanks for coming by, and until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Wow!! This is an epic story. I loved that ear, it was the first fleshy bit that ever creeped me out on film. And plead the 5th on your silicone digression. LMAO!

    How cool to do a documentary focusing on the crew. I would definitely be interested in seeing it. What a great film Blue Velvet is.

    Thanks for sharing this and now I understand completely where you were going with this. The caffeine kicked in about an hour later than your first post. :)

  2. What a fascinating story! I will never look at an ear the same way. And thanks for the personal insights. I guess I'll have to go re-watch Blue Velvet!

  3. Melissa and Matty - I'm thrilled you came by to check this one out! Thanks for the kind words! I'm going to try to do some follow ups on this one as it continues through production - I'll keep you both posted!

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  5. Awesome! I've never seen Blue Velvet but it's just made its way to the top of my must-see list. First of all, I LOVE movies about making movies. This should be amazing. Second of all, I'm a huge fan of movie makeup and effects. Third of all, Blue Velvet is a cool title for a movie. I keep thinking about Van Gogh...don't know why...

  6. Luana - I wish I could sit down and watch Blue Velvet with you! I hope you enjoy it - be aware it is a pretty wild movie - as I think this blog at least hints at... If you do check it out, please let me know what you thought - and thanks for coming by today!

  7. Haven't seen the film yet but I'm eager to give it a try after reading this article.
    And that ear look very real and creepy!

  8. Jaccstev - I'm interested to hear what you think if you do sit down to watch Blue Velvet - and yes, The Ear really does look real and creepy - and it does even in real life at a closeup. It also feels pretty real, making it all the creepier! Thanks for coming by!

  9. Craig, THANK YOU for such an excellent and in-depth blog posting about Jeff and the documentary! This was truly an awesome read!