Alumni Success: Carl Lyon
For DEC Alumnus Carl Lyon, it began when he had reached the point of age crisis. He was roughly 20 years old, staring at the ugly head of a soul-sucking job at a local factory smack dab in a boring town. Each day was the same monotonous schedule. Eat, work, sleep. Eat, work, sleep. He was miserable. The glimmer of light in Carl’s life was when he was able to spend a few hours here and there dabbling with his favorite hobby – special make-up effects. “I think that it was that town and that job that really made me want to reach for the stars and turn my hobby with special make-up effects into a career… It was a leap and DEC was a stepping stone to make that career a reality.”
Carl packed up all his belongings and made the trek to Monessen, PA and into the awaiting arms of Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program. It was here that Carl was able to cultivate his passion for special make-up effects. He learned early on some tricks of the trade. “Don’t ever act like you know what you are doing if you don’t… and even if you do, keep it to yourself and learn how it’s done at that particular job. EVERY shop does things just a bit differently and keeping yourself open to those methods are very important. If you are not sleeping, breathing and eating special make-up effects, you won’t make it in a shop environment.”
One of the most important lessons that Carl learned whilst a student at DEC was from special make-up effects instructor, Will Ritter. “Will always pushed me to make my mold work as clean as possible. He always pushed me to make my molds better, and then better still. He made me realize that no matter what I was doing my work needed to be the absolute best because if I wanted to work in LA, it had to be. There are no two ways about it. Will instilled a sense of ‘it’s never good enough’ mentality in me that I will forever be grateful for. It’s helped me get to where I am today.”
Carl works at Vincent Van Dyke Effects in Burbank, California. “We get the opportunity to jump around to different departments, which is great! I get to do a lot of different things, however, I’m primarily the Mold Shop Forman. You really have to make your future your own by paving the way with extreme quality and a great attitude. Your work will get you in the door, but your attitude will keep you. To quote the great Jerry Gergely, ‘50% talent and 50% personality…’ Make sure you keep ego out of things and the understanding that you will work your way up from the bottom. You will sweep floors and clean bathrooms far before you could ever thinking about making a mold or sculpt anything. That is the reality of this business.”
Carl enjoyed his time at DEC. “One of the main perks, in my opinion, is the location of the school. Because DEC sits in a small town there are very little distractions around you. It allowed me to completely immerse myself in my education.” For Carl, being close to LA while he was going to school would have been detrimental to his focus. He was able to focus on his work and his portfolio.
“If you are unsure about the Program, don’t be… It’s the best of its kind. But if you are unsure of your career choice… then stop now. It’s the unconditional drive and passion for this work you will need to be able to make this a career. Without it nothing will prepare you for the job. But, if you have it, and you’re willing, then you are about to start a fantastic journey.” Buckle up and enjoy it.