The MastersFX universe just got a little bigger. On April 1, 2016, the award-winning effects house opened a new facility in Toronto. The 5,000-square-foot building, located in an industrial park just outside the city, will join the long-established MastersFX houses in Los Angeles and Vancouver, British Columbia. After being offered a steady stream of effects work in Canada’s largest city, including such series as Heroes Reborn, Hemlock Grove, Night Shift and Prison Break, creating a permanent foothold made sense.
“It was for a variety of reasons. It just seemed like the natural time to do it,” says MastersFX founder and president Todd Masters. “We had one toe in there with all the projects we were doing, and then one project ‘threatened’ us: ‘You guys have to have a facility in Toronto.'”
Longtime MastersFX associate Zane Knisely was tapped to get the new shop up and running. Knisely found the space and is overseeing its transition from a former machine shop into a state-of-the-art facility.
“He was our go-to guy in Toronto,” continues Masters. “He had a little shop where we were slowly starting to build things and store molds. We were pushing him into the corner. So I said, ‘Sorry, Zane, maybe we need to get a bigger place.’ He was really proactive about it. He’s a real talent and a really nice guy and he’s balder than I am, which is great.”
“Many of us have worked with the MastersFX team over the years, so it’s been nearly seamless getting this shop plugged into the collective MastersFX hive,” says Knisely in a press announcement. “We now have three studios that are really linked into one another! With MFX’s internal communications, our decades of experience and effects history, plus a stock of effects techniques, visual effects, rentals and tattoos, our combined offerings are amazing. We can scan or mold actors out of our L.A. studio, while building and shooting here.”
Nine artists are currently in the building creating physical effects, but the Toronto location is a work in progress. The life-casting scanning room is fully operational and moldmaking is under way. As of June, the make-up room was still being built. Installation of the spray hood had just begun. Like the other two MastersFX locations, plans call for the Toronto house to eventually include a department for digital effects.
With 30 years of make-up effects under its belt, MFX has amassed a great inventory of everything from cadavers to skeletons. As a result, it enjoys a thriving rental business. Items are being transferred from the L.A. and Vancouver shelves to Toronto to take advantage of the additional space and serve production rental needs as they arise. “We just finished a job with 3,000 bones in Toronto,” says Masters. “I actually have a severed head of myself that we rent.”
Toronto is also well stocked with MFX’s line of transfers it calls ProGash. “They go down much like temporary tattoos,” explains Masters. “We have a selection of stock bullet holes, cuts and wounds—all cataloged. They are specially designed for straight make-up artists to have a system right in their hands for prepping shows. TV goes at such a crazy pace these days, they need to have a bullet hole ready to go.”
Other major projects keeping the Toronto facility humming include the TV series Zoo and The Expanse. Work is scheduled to begin shortly on the Soska Sisters remake of the David Cronenberg film Rabid.
Masters, who can trace his ties to Toronto back to 1987 and the low budget horror film The Blue Monkey, is looking forward to the increased opportunities for MFX’s unique blend of practical and digital effects. “The cool thing about Toronto is there are not too many other shops,” he says. “But there are a lot of independent artists who are just amazing, and we’re really excited to link up with these guys more than we have before.”