How It All Began…

How It All Began…

Sometimes it’s nice to reminisce. The story of how Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program began is one often talked about amongst the staff here at DEC. Now in it’s 14th year, the Program was launched in October 2000. Check out the first class! There’s a motley crew if I’ve ever seen one. If you look closely you can see a younger, short-haired Jerry Gergely smiling in the back row. And that strapping young man standing beside Jerry… The one hiding behind his classmate. Yes, my friends, that would be Will Ritter. (Sorry Jerry and Will! I couldn’t resist!)

Tom Savini's Special Make-Up Effects Program: The 1st Class

Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program: The 1st Class

The story of how the Program came to be is one talked about fondly amongst the staff at DEC.

Tom Savini had been approached by various individuals over the years. These eager few were interested in the possibility of starting a special make-up effects program, but, for one reason or another, none ever materialized. Everything happens for a reason, right? The right opportunity just hadn’t presented itself, and Tom let it go.

Soon, Tom was introduced by a mutual friend to Jeff Imbrescia, CEO / President of Douglas Education Center. At the time, Jeff and his team at DEC were interested in developing and expanding the Programs that the school offered in the arts.

Over dinner, Jeff pitch the idea of creating a special make-up effects program at DEC. Tom wasn’t overly excited. How could he be? Many had approached him already and nothing had ever worked out; however, when Tom looked across the table at Jeff he saw something in him that caused him to pause. There was a fire there that Tom had not seen before in the other contenders. Tom decided to give Jeff an opportunity. “Show me your business plan,” he said.

Jeff set to work. He developed a 3-5 year business plan that was conservative, realistic, and most importantly, possible. He sent it to Tom.

Tom laughed and ignored him.

After a few weeks of no response, Jeff got mad. He had put the effort into creating the business plan, and it was good. Damn good. Why wasn’t Tom responding?

Jeff called Tom and asked to meet him for dinner. When they met, Jeff asked Tom why he never responded to Jeff’s business plan. Tom laughed and said it wasn’t worth it. “I spend more on cigars than you’re offering me.”

“What do you mean it’s not worth it?” Jeff asked. Jeff then pulled out his ledger paper and put it in front of Tom. Tom looked at it blankly and said, “Yeah…?”

Jeff said, “What do you mean, yeah? That’s a whole number you’re looking at.” Tom looked from Jeff to the ledger, and back again. He finally looked up and a smile broke over his face.

Apparently, Tom had misread Jeff’s business plan. What Tom originally thought was a decimal number turned out to be a whole number, and the rest is history. They set to work immediately. 14 years later, Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program is one of the most well-known and thorough special make-up effects programs in the world. Now, 40 class starts later, the Program has graduated over 1,000 students. Many have gone on to work in a variety of industries, including everything from the television/film industry, prosthetic industry, dental industry and the toy industry to name a few.

“Our greatest pride, our greatest success, is the success of our students after they graduate from DEC. Their achievements shine the light on what we do and teach. Being able to share their stories is the most rewarding thing we, as a faculty and as a school can aspire to,” said Jeff.


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