- Articles | Series
- Columns | Departments
- Publicity News
- Events Calendar
- PDF Back Issues
- Trending Now
- My Membership
MASTERSFX Celebrates Toronto Studio's Five Year Anniversary:
- Monday, Apr. 12, 2021
Award Winning Character FX Studio Creates FX for TV Series "Handmaid's Tale," "Umbrella Academy," "The Boys" and "Coroner," Plus Monsters for "Psycho Goreman" and Upcoming "Day of the Dead"
It’s been a busy five years since the acclaimed MASTERSFX (MFX) expanded from its Vancouver, BC, headquarters by opening an additional studio, just outside Toronto, in Etobicoke. The company, led by Emmy® Award winning founder Todd Masters, specializes in the design and creation of original creatures, prosthetic FX and digitally prosthetic FX - for film, TV, and streaming endeavors.
Since its launch on April 1, 2016, MFX/Toronto studio is continuously bustling with top projects, such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Coroner,” “The Umbrella Academy,” “The Expanse,” and, most recently, the hit Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg Netflix series, “The Boys.”
Founded in Los Angeles in 1987 by Masters, MFX is known for creating the Emmy® Award winning cadavers for HBO’s “Six Feet Under” - the vampires for “True Blood” – the Borg from “Star Trek” - the babies from “Look Who’s Talking” -- the werewolves from the “Underworld” series -- Chucky from “Child’s Play” -- and the large Predator alien from the 2018 release “The Predator,” to cite just a few examples.
The company expanded its footprint into Vancouver, BC, in the early 2000’s. From their new studio location, MFX continued to add to its impressive resume, with such “northern-boarder produced” hits as “The Good Doctor,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Snakes on a Plane” and “Fringe.”
Explaining the reasoning behind launching an additional Toronto location in 2016, Masters says, “More than five years ago, we were already busy with several projects in Toronto - “Hemlock Grove,” “Falling Skies” and “Heroes Reborn” -- without the benefit of having a local studio based there. We’d make our creatures in one of our other shops, and then ship it to Toronto, praying that it would get there in one piece. We were also already working with local makeup FX legend Zane Knisely way-back then, and he played a crucial role with our expansion into Ontario. Eventually, one pilot we shot in Toronto was picked up - and the showrunner urged us to “get local…or go home” - so we did! Zane, of course, came fully on board - even before we had any real estate in the area – as our team leader and supervisor in Toronto, ever since.”
From the very beginning, the MASTERSFX/Toronto studio was a hit - but word spread slowly. Says Zane Knisley, “We started immediately on Season One of ‘The Expanse,’ doing various makeup FX for the show - and even after a few episodes, I’m not so sure the producers believed we actually had a local studio site. I remember one producer even coming by early one morning, checking the address, to see if we were actually really there!”
“Toronto is a happening place, and the film crews are world-class. Every project we’ve done in the Toronto studio has been a joy,” Masters enthuses. “Our team at the Etobicoke studio is the finest - our work there has been consistently impressive. What I love about having the multiple studios is that every artist brings a fresh perspective, inspiration and his/her uniquely individual experience. And each of our shops likes to show-off to one another - like it’s a creative competition between the locations.”
One of MFX/Toronto’s truly inspirational artists, Steven Kostanski, has pushed his talents even further, having launched a successful second career as a director. His recent feature film “Psycho Goreman” is a genre hit, returning nearly all of its modest budget in the first weekend of release. “Try that Hollywood!” says Masters.
“Psycho Goreman” is the latest and greatest of Kostanski’s film directing, monster-making and makeup FX-creating trifecta. “’Psycho Goreman’ is a hilarious gut-buster in every sense of the word,” says movie reviewer Adam Graham of the Detroit News. And now, having just very recently been released on home video, the Canadian Special Blu-Ray edition of “Psycho Goreman” has already completely sold out.
Kostanski first began working with MASTERSFX when a movie the company was working on - “A Haunting in Connecticut” - came to his home town of Winnipeg, and MFX needed some local help. In addition to his on-going makeup FX work for MFX, Kostanski has created several hit cult film favorites, including “Return of Leprechaun,” “The Void” and “Man-Borg.”
MFX’s effects work on “Psycho Goreman” was extensive, with the Toronto team having pulled out every trick in the book to marinate the modest budgeted film in monsters. “Steve used his horror-making know-how to maximize every ounce of the practical monsters and gore FX that fill the picture,” Masters explains. “The movie features several monsters, creatures, robots and dynamic armored alien beings, all of which sprang forth from Steve’s and our Toronto team’s creative minds. Even competing with the big-budgeted, studio monster and genre films out there, ‘Pschyo Goreman’ is being hailed as one of the best monster movies in recent years!”
Zane Knisely, who served as Associate Producer on “Psycho Goreman,” adds, “We were bursting out our bay door with creatures during the making of this film. It was a creatively exhausting movie, but somehow we pulled it off! The monsters are fun and a key part of the movie. ‘Psycho Goreman’ tapped into a broad demographic, with a mindset ranging from a childlike to an adult experience. It transported me back to monster movies I loved when I was a kid. That’s how I felt when I watched it. The film is almost nostalgic, and I feel is one of the best ‘kid’ movies ever made.”
Next up for Kostanski, Todd Masters and MASTERSFX is the upcoming new SYFY miniseries “Day of the Dead,” slated to debut during Fall 2021. For the new series, Kostanski directed several episodes, and both he and Todd Masters serve as Executive Producers. In fact, “Day of the Dead” will mark a first as Executive Producer for a TV series for Masters.
Masters concludes, “Clearly, we’ve created a monster here in Toronto, both in front of and behind the cameras. It seems the creature, character, and makeup FX industry is sturdier than ever. These five years of MASTERSFX in Toronto has exceeded my wildest dreams – and I have incredibly wild dreams, too!”
Founded in 1987 by two-time Emmy® Award winner Todd Masters, MASTERSFX (MFX) is a multi-award winning character and makeup FX company. MASTERSFX's creative teams produce a distinctive blend of practical and digital makeup FX, prosthetics and animatronics, through a process called “dMFX,” for hundreds of hit feature films, TV shows, and commercials, for nearly 35 years.
The company also supplies dummies and detailed FX props for studios to rent, and custom and stock temporary tattoos, as well as their unique, fast-apply prosthetic system, ProGASH.
Included among the TV projects to which MASTERSFX has contributed its work are “Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Magicians,” “The Good Doctor,” “The Umbrella Academy,” “The Expanse,” “Coroner,” “The Boys,” ““The Flash,” “This is Us,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “True Blood,” “Six Feet Under,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “Fringe,” and many others. Among the company's film credits are “Child’s Play,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “The Perfection,” Disney’s “Timmy Failure,” the 2019 version of “Rabid,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “The Haunting in Connecticut,” “Star Trek: First Contact,” “The Horse Whisperer,” “Slither,” “Snakes on a Plane,” “Look Who's Talking,” and more.
Makeup and special FX artist Todd Masters is the winner of 2016 Daytime Emmy® and Leo Awards for “Outstanding Makeup” for the Netflix series, “Monsterville.” He is also the winner of an Emmy Award in 2003 for the 2001/2002 Season of “Six Feet Under” in the category "Best Special Effects Makeup." And, in 2006, Masters won a "Saturn Award" for "Best Makeup FX" for his work on the film “Slither.”