Savini grad Benzy finding success in many areas of special effects!
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, the special effects artist known solely as “Benzy” has established himself as one of the region’s top industry professionals. Since graduating from Tom Savini’s Special Make-up Effects Program at Douglas Education Center (DEC) in 2004, Benzy has added his unique talent to countless films, plays and television shows. But it’s not just the entertainment business that keeps his shop – Pittsburgh FX – humming along. His diverse list of clients in need of unique fabricated projects include the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, Columbia University, and Prudential, among others. Because of his wide range of skills and competencies, Benzy can make almost anything a reality.
Working for himself has been Benzy’s goal from the start. “All I really wanted to do was push and excel so I would never need to go back and work for someone else,” he says. “Believe me, I had some rough jobs. So running my own business my way was the bottom line.”
Just a few weeks into his first semester at DEC, Benzi was presented the opportunity to work with Terrors By The Lake, a haunted house that donated proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “I ended up right at the beginning of school opening up a shop and redoing the whole haunt for them with original creatures and effects,” Benzy remembers.
“I was going to school and trying to save this haunt solo at the same time. I ended up making something like 130 molds in the time I attended the Savini School and increasing the haunt’s donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation from $300 one year to $50,000 the next.”
Benzy worked with the haunt for five years. Unfortunately, during the haunt’s tenth year in operation, it caught fire and everything was lost.
“But it was time to move on,” Benzy says. “From there, I ran my first FX crew of 27 [artists] on G. Cameron Romero’s The Screening. Thereafter I worked on a good deal of other films, TV and theater doing FX and acting for Staunton Hill, Gallery of Fear, Those who kill, Promo West Live, Bug, Killer Joe, and Glen Gary Glen Ross.”
And soon, one opportunity led to another.
“I found that what I learned at the Savini school could be applied to much more than just screen and stage. So, I became a full custom fabrication shop. I have built many outrageous things for many clients including 3D billboards for North Park Lounge, the ex-presidents masks from Point Break for 80stees.com, a custom eight-foot sphere logo for Prudential, and even did some life-casting for Columbia University for evolution research of a live 400-pound alligator named Otis.”
Benzy’s latest project has him working with the Pittsburgh Zoo. “Right now I am working on a bunch of different projects for the Pittsburgh Zoo. We are life casting different animals, making resin skulls, sculpting fur patterns, and much more all for educational purpose.”
Despite all his success building his shop and making his mark on the Pittsburgh region, Benzy still credits DEC for helping him learn the business. “[The Savini Program] really taught me how to crank out good work in a short period of time. That is gold in the entertainment world because they need everything yesterday. It also taught me the right way on how to do things and how to work alongside other artists.”
So what advice does Benzy have for burgeoning special effects artists and students of the Tom Savini’s Special Make-up Effects Program?
“You may be a fan of blood and gore. You may be a fan of haunted houses. You may be a fan of zombies. But what you are about to learn can be applied to so many things out in the creative world, you have no idea. It’s all what you put in and how you can manipulate and apply the knowledge you will receive. The sky isn’t even close to the limit with this trade!”