Ed Edmunds, the founder and co-owner of Distortions Unlimited Corporation, specializes in building animatronic monsters, creatures, zombies and aliens. Edmunds also constructs props, masks, set designs and haunted houses that have changed the industry across America.
Marsha Taub joined his team in 1981, and their work continued both professionally and personally, leading to their marriage in 1992. She has been the creative genus behind many of their monstrous visions. Jordu Schell is world-renowned designer and sculptor, having worked on such films as “Avatar” and “Predator II”, and assists the Edmunds’ and their Distortions Unlimited crew with sculpting their unbelievable monsters.
The three — now stars of the Travel Channel’s “Making Monsters — very briefly (for nine minutes) conducted a Q&A at HorrorHound Weekend in September 2013. This is a highlight of that conversation.
Q: How much of your work incorporates computer numerical control (CNC) digital technology?
EE: We were planning on doing a lot more, because we had some gigantic sculptures.
ME: However, that’s only for the huge, huge creatures. In retrospect, the gatekeeper we made for Dick VanDyke (as seen on the show) we probably would have sculpted. We are working on a huge skull for another project, though, and it really worked on that one.
Q: What was it like when you started making masks in your garage, back in the 1970s?
EE: You know, we’ve done masks for years, and there was competition, but there wasn’t much foreign competition. Now it’s all foreign, except for the really high-end stuff. So we don’t do as many masks these days and focus more on the props.
Q: Any advice for young people looking to get into sculpting?
JS: The most important thing is to sculpt all the time. That’s what I did, ever since I was a very little kid. I was sculpting, or at least playing with clay, all my life. I think it became “sculpting” when I started using tools. Taking a figurative sculpting class is a good thing, especially with a nude model. An écorché class, which is basically building the anatomy up from the skeleton, up to the surface skin. Collecting reference material is good. I think just being creative all the time is what’s going to lead you down the best path.
Q: What inspired you to make this your life?
JS: (sarcastic) I was locked in the closet until I was 12!
EE: I don’t know. At some point it just got in my head, stuck there, and messed me up.
JS: Actually, one of the things that inspired me the most was the work of Ed Edmunds. When I was 13, I saw an ad for Distortions Unlimited when the company was just making masks. The early work he did was 1978-1983, and I call that the Golden Age, was some of the most galvanizing stuff I had ever seen. Yes, I had seen movies and monsters. But seeing his work was like a lightning bolt.
EE: Switching gears to the show, we have to give credit to our production team. We make the messes, but they are the ones that make it look great on the show. They’re extremely talented and creative.
Q: What makes the show great is that you focus on the day-to-day process and don’t go in for any kind of drama.
EE: We love that. And Jordu just comes the way he is, funny quirks and all. It’s in his DNA. We told the production studio that we were not actors, we didn’t want to do that, couldn’t do that, and it wouldn’t be believable. And they said, “No, no, that’s not what we want to do. We just want to open a door to your industry and show the world.”
ME: And I wish the rest of our crew were here. We have an amazing team, and what you see on the show, that’s just them, too.
EE: What you see is their personality and how it really is. Obviously, we have to re-shoot things and do close-ups on occasion, but they try to do it live and keep it as real as possible.
JS: There are also major differences between our show and shows like “Faceoff”. I’ve been a guest judge on that show, so I’m not going to sit here and bash it. But the thing about “Faceoff” is that it is a contest. We’re both under the “reality” umbrella, but “Faceoff” is a bunch of people going for the gold. So it’s got the same drama as “So You Think You Can Dance?” and all that junk. Our show is referred to in the reality word as a “process” show, along the lines of “American Chopper”. You go in, get to know the people, and it’s not about the bickering. (sarcastic) Although that Marsha, I have a lot of issues with her. She’s physically abusive. You don’t see that on the show — they cut it out.
ME: We love Jordu.
EE: There are real conflicts between us and Jordu, and there are financial constraints.
JS: (sarcastic) By “financial constraint”, he means when he says, “We don’t have enough money to pay you, Jordu.”
ME: To clarify, it’s on the customer and what they want. Customers have budgets and we have to work within that.
EE: We have to run, but thank you!