Press > Escape From New York > Exclusive Interviews > Eugene P. Rizzardi (Uncredited Model Builder)

How did you end up being a Model Maker/Supervisor as well as a Special Effects Technician?

When I first got into the business in 1979, I was inspired by those who went before me, especially Greg Jein. I thought he was a great guy to work for, so when I had the chance to lead a crew I took it and tried to emulate his ways. Now, I only worked for him later in my career (Star Trek TV Shows and The Blob) but he was someone who I thought was a great leader. Although Special Effects is where I started, once you got into the union you had to fulfill certain requirements to become a Special Effects Tech. I would say it takes a minimum of 6 years in the Union before you can even attempt to be considered. You have to have had a Prop Shop rating for at least 4 years before your eligible to apply. I always considered miniatures and especially the destruction of them if required, to be Special Visual Effects. No, not the CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) stuff you see today but real miniature work that may be destroyed at the end of the shot.

I was influenced by Godzilla, Gerry Anderson's TV shows, Sylvia Anderson's TV shows and early Sci-Fi. They were so much fun and I thought I could possibly do that, but I never really tried to do this work till I moved to California in the late 70's and thought I should try to do commercials and movie work for a living. Trust me, it's not for the weak! But if it is in your blood you will find a way.

How did you get the assignment to build miniatures for Escape From New York?

Like many of us at the time, I heard about this show going on and wanted to work on it. The Supervisor knew of my work so when I interviewed I got the job. I think I recommended Bruce MacRae to join me.

How did you, Brian Chin (Miniature Construction), Bruce MacRae (Uncredited Model Builder) and Tom Campbell (Engineer: Special Visual Effects/Uncredited Model Builder) prepare for this project and did you build anything else than three gliders in different scales for the movie?

There was never any preparation before the job as far as I know. Maybe Brian would have more insight into that. We were given tasks and we had to build whatever we were given. Bruce and I worked as a team. Bruce would do most of the finish work and I would do the molding, making the parts and assembly. Bruce would do the paint and details. We were a great team. Tom built the Helicopter and I think I remember helping him with the mechanics but I don't remember that too well. We were much more focused on building the Gliders and the Air Force One.

How were the models constructed and how long did they take to make?

Most of the models were built from fiberglass, automotive body filler and urethane foam. When we were working we also realized the molding material we were using was not really compatible with the fiberglass resins, so we had a lot of fixing to do. We probably had about 8-10 weeks to build everything. That included the 3 Gliders, the Air Force One, the Helicopter and some of the buildings and the roof top where he lands. Air Force One started out as a display model for the airlines, there was a company we used to order these from for various shows we have worked on so we were familiar with how they were made and used them from time to time.

I was an R/C Glider pilot so making the gliders was something that was left to me to do.

How was the experience working with the rest of the New World Special Effects facility team?

We knew everyone from when we worked on Battle Beyond the Stars so it was pretty easy to do the work. Bruce and I and Tom were left alone to get our job done. Brian would come and check on our progress from time to time, but for the most part we just made our models and whatever else they threw at us.

What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the movie?

Well, I have a few. One was the glider going over the water. The floor of the warehouse was painted gloss black, and because it was rough it looked like water, especially the way the Skotak's
(Robert & Dennis) (Directors of Photography: Special Visual Effects/Matte Artwork) filmed it. Another memory, most of the buildings were just xerox's over boxes, since it was mostly at night it did not matter they they were accurate, they just had to be there. Remember that Model making is impressionism, If I make you believe you saw it. I am doing my job.

The one I really remember was Brian saying to me, "Stop doing what you are doing, you cannot polish plexiglass." (I was working on Air Force One at the time and cutting out the windows to replace them with long pieces of clear 3/8 plexiglass that were sanded and polished to shape). Bruce would then paint the windows over that. Bruce and I also got in trouble because Bruce was well known to Brian because he was published in Military Modeler magazine, and I was giving him direction on how I wanted certain things done. Please remember we worked as a team, and had worked previously together so we knew each others strengths and weaknesses.

What happened to the models after the movie was finished?

I am not sure what happened to the models. I had heard the mid sized glider ended up at some guys home, but he passed away about 10-15 years ago so I have no idea where they went.

What do you think of the movie personally?

I liked the movie. The only thing I would have changed is the Air Force One. I did not think an old Viscount was the right plane for the conversion, but it worked and that is all that mattered.

What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I usually work on Nickelodeon's Henry Danger and Game Shakers. I build special props and run the set of Henry Danger and sometimes help setting up Special Effects or Special Props for Game Shakers. What does that mean? Well the Man Cave has different things that work, Secret Doors, Elevators, Gear Doors, The Couch and the Up the Tubes gags. I also provide wind and smoke as needed. I work with a team of people and we all solve the problems as they are introduced. We have a great team! I also work on Face Off from time to time, usually doing smoke, fire or fog. What do I do for fun. Well that depends on the time of year. I am usually working on my house or property, and sometimes when I have the time, I build Garden Scale trains for my own enjoyment, or do photography.

Thank you for your time, Eugene

More about Eugene P. Rizzardi here:

Photos: Copyright 2016 Eugene P. Rizzardi