Special effects in both major motion pictures and TV series has become both more advanced and stylistic over the past few decades, and so too have elaborate costumes, including prosthetics, much of which is comprised of complex latex makeup and other elements. While several major companies like George Lucas’ ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), Rhythm and Hues and Digital Domain have provided both moviegoers and TV viewers some of the most dazzling visual effects ever seen, much of it digitally produced, legendary makeup artists like Rick Baker, Tom Savini and the late Stan Winston (co-founder, with Oscar-winning director James Cameron and Scott Ross of the Digital Domain firm) have been responsible for some of the most terrifying – and amazing – prosthetics ever created for much of those films and TV shows.

Over time, though, a large portion of movie and TV production – some of which utilizes those special effects – has migrated from the Golden State to the Pelican State. Given the demand by major studios for quality work, one production house, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has become an industry hub for both prosthetic masks and specialty props: Composite Effects, Inc. (CFX), whose incredible output has been seen in major movies like UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, THE FINAL DESTINATION, HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY, plus the recent comedy 2 GUNS with Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, and the popular Disney Channel kids’ series IMAGINATION MOVERS.

Their work – and the colorful personalities that comprise the company’s staff – is the focus of the new reality series CFX UNBOXED, created by Andre’ Chapoy and currently airing on its official Youtube page. The 20 episode series debuted on September 2nd, with new episodes airing every Monday and Friday. In an effort to increase the duration of episodes, the Monday and Friday shows are being combined to make them longer, and there will also be extra content “from the cutting room floor”, as Chapoy says, which will air on Thursdays.

With CFX UNBOXED, Chapoy sought not only to depict the tense yet exciting atmosphere of a local company heavily involved in outstanding visual effects, but he also wanted to change an all too common misperception that many TV viewers have of Louisiana, and of its people, as a result of popular reality shows like DUCK DYNASTY, SWAMP PEOPLE and BAYOU BILLIONAIRES. “Interestingly enough, reality shows in Louisiana depicting us as backwood hicks is what really inspired me. I wanted to show that there was this really amazing industry, that you would never have imagined, existing right here in our own backyard, and it had nothing to do with hunting, fishing or football,” he says.

CFX UNBOXED was filmed over the 2011 Halloween season, perhaps the most active part of that year – or any year for the company, given their clientele and the diverse selection of prosthetic masks produced for them. A lot of that work is for the popular “haunted houses” tours given throughout the state, most notably in New Orleans, as well as for various other attractions all over the world. The idea of a reality-based series that documented the complex and hectic process of creating those masks came as a way to provide the company with a greater awareness among viewers – and throughout the film and TV industry.

“Wes Branton, the co-owner (of Composite Effects, Inc.) originally came to me and asked if I would be interested in the project. I work with CFX on a regular basis producing their company demo’s and promotional materials. Ken Decker Jr., the other co-owner, has a relationship with some of the cast of SONS OF GUNS (the Discovery reality show, also filmed in Baton Rouge). After seeing the success of SONS OF GUNS, I think Wes saw CFX UNBOXED as an opportunity to raise the profile of their company,” Chapoy recalls.

The series follows Branton and Decker as they both manage to run a tight ship in the midst of the chaotic Halloween season, and as one might expect there’s plenty of drama and conflict. “Ken Decker Jr. is a tinker gnome. I don’t know if you get that reference, but it’s about the best way to describe him. Complimenting Ken’s abilities is Wes, an amazing artist and visionary. He is a bit of an ass, until you get to know him, and then he is still an ass; however, he has a good heart and very good business instincts,” Chapoy says. Those instincts, combined with their talents, have garnered both Decker, Branton and CFX national attention. “Recently, they were even in the Sept 2013 issue of Playboy – a multi-page spread. Don’t worry; it was an article not a photo shoot,” Chapoy recalls.

Described as “REAL reality TV” by its creator, the production crew’s efforts to document the daily work of the company was initially met with some resistance. “At the end of the production we had a TON of footage and just about all of it was non-scripted. “These aren’t actors, and they DID NOT like us the first few days we were there,” he says. “We got a lot of cold shoulders, and folks there would actively avoid us if they could, (and) we tried our best to avoid interrupting anyone working. After a while, though, they pretty much all warmed up to us, and by the end of the second week I think we were pretty much just blended into the background. At a certain point we just decided to go ahead and break the fourth wall (a popular device in plays, movies and TV series where characters speak in asides to the camera, addressing the audience) because, increasingly towards the end, the talent would just start talking to us on camera,” adds Chapoy.

Chapoy’s production team – including line producer Jeff Routier, interviewer Wade Henderson, co-cameraman (with Chapoy) Paul Catalanatto, audio man Cohen Hartman and production assistant Donta Coleman, shot the series over a 3 week period, with filming taking place from six to eight hours each day. In terms of its storytelling structure, Chapoy initially tried to focus on some selected projects at CFX that were then in development. As time went on, and especially given the 3 week filming schedule, that focus would change. “We were going to approach it as a MYTHBUSTERS (the popular Discovery TV series) type flow and just follow special projects that were actually in production at that particular time. You can see some of this with the Toxic Avenger mask and the Baby project, but over time we realized that we would not have enough to cover a series with only 3 weeks of footage, so we decided to follow some of the natural story lines that were developing as we were filming.”

Filming the series was a process that was not only extensive, but came with its own set of challenges as soon as post-production ended. “At the end of the shoot we had about 3.5 TB (terrabytes) of data which was archived and eventually edited into a series intended for television. But as with everything, there is always the potential for something to go wrong, (and) for us that was ‘distribution’. The company we were working with at the time made many promises and kept none. Eventually we decided to re-edit the footage (which I own) and release it free to the public, as we really wanted to get it out in front of the fans of the company.”

CFX UNBOXED is a reality series that will appeal to fans of horror and sci-fi alike, especially those fascinated by the behind the scenes aspect of the incredible visual effects that are such a part of the popular films and TV series that make up the genre itself. Moreover, it’s a show that Chapoy hopes will make viewers aware of the work of two talented men whose dreams of success in the entertainment business have been realized – through thick and thin. “It’s REAL reality. I truly believe that I had a unique opportunity to document CFX at a time when they were going through a key point in their maturing process. These two guys created their own success. They started out as two kids fresh out of college, working out of their own apartments doing something they absolutely loved, and in 2013 they were honored as one of the top 100 LSU (Louisiana State University) alumni companies. I have always been proud to be associated with them and I want to do my part in making sure that the rest of the world knows about them.”

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCabSivTueHjyljyoJHrSqcA

ON THE WEB: http://www.compositeeffects.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/CompositeEffects


For a complete listing of CFX’s film and TV works, please visit its IMDB page: