You can learn a great deal about an industry by spending some 25 years in it, even when that industry has as many ebbs, flows, and technology upgrades as the booming film and television industries. In Jaremy Aiello’s case, having a wealth of creativity and talent at his disposal probably didn’t hurt, either. His expansive body of work includes everything from Star Trek to the X-Files, and more contemporary film projects like Annabelle and the soon to be released Carnage Park (review). For someone whose goal moving to LA was to make monsters, he has met and surpassed that modest aspiration tenfold.
Aiello says it’s challenging to work in the FX industry. Artists are constantly directed on what to create, build, and do. There have been projects which, after hours of work, had creatures or sculpts on the cutting room floor. In the 2013 fantasy comedy This is the End (which Aiello did makeup for), it was ultimately easier to go back in and redo some effects in post-production with CGI. Working in FX, you can’t take those things personally.
“Sometimes they won’t know how to shoot it [a sculpt],” he explained. “Like actors, artistic elements and creatures can have good sides and bad angles.” When directors can’t find a way to shoot a creature that looks both good and consistent with their vision, that is when footage will end up abandoned or reworked in post production. Although some FX and makeup professionals have expressed concern at the decline in practical FX, Aiello seems unphased by the rise of post production editing and computer generated effects. Having creatures and FX elements not make it into the final cut of projects has long been a reality for artists in the film industry.
Despite instances of having some of his work end up scrapped, isn’t all disappointment. Some of Aiello’s most rewarding work has been on projects that allowed him to test his creative limits and push the boundaries of what is possible. One such project that stands out as the most difficult and creatively satisfying is Mirrors. It required actress Amy Smart to rip her jaw off. What was even more challenging was that the actress would be naked, in a bathtub. The deck was stacked against Aiello’s team, since there would be nowhere to hide any prosthetic elements or appliances. They initially thought it might be necessary to create the scene artificially in post, both due to the inability to hide things and the fact that the shot would require removing a substantial part of the woman’s face.
Creatively, it was immensely gratifying to be able to do something he had believed was impossible. This same drive to do things that can’t be done and to always make things better is what Aiello wanted to do with Carnage Park. Fortunately, there will always be more movies to shoot and monsters to build, so that inspiration and enthusiasm will not be going to waste.
At this point the artist’s dream project would be to bring one of the scripts he has written to life. When he was 15 years old, Aiello wrote something that would’ve been impossible at the time, complete with fantastical beings and inter-dimensional travel. At the moment he’s co-writing a script called The One Percent which he describes as Raiders of the Lost Ark if it took place in a haunted house. Though The One Percent is a work in progress, Aiello says it will take a Cabin in the Woods-like approach to horror. He doesn’t like it when films follow a template or are predictable. (And who among us wouldn’t want to see a unique take on a haunted house plot?)
Although he has spent a great deal of time in assorted Arts departments when it comes to film and television, Aiello is making a shift toward writing and production. Why? It gives him one more way he can help the directors with whom he works achieve their vision. In these roles, he has more control and spends less time being told what to do. Is there more pressure and stress? Of course, but that comes with the territory of added responsibility.
All images courtesy of Jeremy Aiello.