Disney/Paramount Productions

Maybe the most challenging of the film projects I've yet to work on and definitely the most fun. In my role as a head sculptor I was called upon first to create 2 replicas of the crashed Fairchild. Real aircraft were used for this (hey, it wasn't my choice). From documentary photographs of the actual crashed plane and crash site we deconstructed the fuselage(s) from the inside out removing most structural support. Then with 'sculptural tools' such as hydraulically assisted rams and vises, pneumatic chisels and hammers we cut & beat the airplanes into the required shapes. All this was completed at studios in Vancouver.

The 'sculpted fuselage' were trucked then airlifted (one only) onto the glacier location in the east Kootenays in the interior of BC. The second fuselage came to rest in a huge tent erected to create a soundstage match for the exterior glacier location. Once placed the planes had to be 'dressed in'. A quarter mile long furrow was sculpted behind the fuselage wreckage on the real glacier (this in fact is actually what was created by the plane as it skidded down the glacier. In the sound stage version a forced perspective 'psychic' created the illusion along with tons and tons of salt).

The most challenging and fun of all I did on 'Alive' without a doubt was the 'breakaway snowbridge'. This 'gag' was the greatest departure from the otherwise factual telling of the tale of these unfortunate men. It was added to create drama and to add some nifty special effects footage to an otherwise boring story of some poor castaways eating each other.

The snowbridge was directly carved in polystyrene foam. It was comprised of 64 individual pieces all carved to fit together in such a way that they held each other in place as they became wedged between two large stationary bricks of foam. A keystone bridge, in fact, is what we built. The size of he bridge was determined by the size of the crevasse that was selected (many trips in the helicopter to find and measure the right crevasse). Once measured the snowbridge was built back at the 'studio'- Actually a plastic lean to behind the snowcat repair shack at the ski resort which we, the crew used as our base. Here all the 64 pieces were carved into place to form the self-supporting arch of the bridge.

Once built a 'plan or map' was drawn of the bridge with each part numbered to correspond to its position in the arch. Once disassembled each part was carefully wrapped in plastic bags and packed into the 'crabnet' a huge aluminum framework with netting attached to hold all the styro parts as it was 'longlined' to the location. The helicopter carried the crabnet basket attached to a 50' cable slung under the helicopter. It was a long trip. Just to fly the crew there took an average of 40 minutes depending on the weather and whether or not we got lost on the way, which did happen once. The trip with the crabnet took over an hour. While we had been building the snowbridge back at the ski resort, the effects crew (John Thomas SPFX) were installing a suspended platform over the crevasse from which my crew would reassemble the bridge. Once all the bridge sections were there it was a race against time and weather. We were lucky and managed to ship and install the bridge in one day. All this along with a few other stunt effects we did in the bugaboos with Ethan Hawk made 'Alive' a most memorable experience.