My effects life began, what seems like 1,000 years ago, while I was in Junior High School. I started doing light shows for local garage bands (since I seemed to lack any musical ability). Through trial and error, I built most of my own lighting equipment. My non-paying obsession with this enterprise continued until I turned 20 years of age.
While doing a light show at a nightclub in Venice, CA, I found myself talking with a rather inebriated special effects man, who soon asked me if I wanted to work in a movie studio (yeah, right!).
Three days later I found myself working at MGM Studios. In those days, 1975, anyone able to operate a screwdriver could get a job in the movie business. Among the first movies I worked on were "Logan's Run" and the remake of "King Kong".
MGM had about 150 people working in the Special Effects department at this time, and for a person who'd never had a real job, this was both a revelation and a shock. My mother, who had long maintained grim pessimism about my future, was very pleased.
In those days, the old-timers in special effects were really generous in teaching special effects to the new guys. It was around this time that I met my wife Sharon, and we were blessed with three boys, Mark Jr., Jesse and Casey.
Around 1979 I started making new connections, which opened the door to my working in different studios. I had some help from amazing effects men like Cliff Wenger and Tommy Fisher, and I soon discovered I needed to expand my skills in order to keep working, so I began to learn welding, machining and hydraulics.
15 years flew by, I was working on “Jurassic Park", and the guys from Stan Winston's creature shop had put a full-size mechanical T. Rex on a rental motion base. I immediately thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
Fast-forward a year, and I was hired on "True Lies", to mount a full-size mock-up of a Harrier jet on a motion base. It was a grueling experience, but I ended up with a real passion for motion bases, I could see their potential in the movie business.
The unit we had rented for that show was not "user friendly", difficult to ship and the electronics were crude. I immediately decided I must build my own unit. It ended up taking 6 years to finish, but with John Frazier's help, having obtained funding from "Space Cowboys", I finished it and was on my way.
I opened a shop in Newbury Park, and one of our first jobs was the "Spiderman" movie with Toby McGuire. Spiderman II and III soon followed, and I branched out into building servo-winches for flying people, and then cars. Flying heavy things (or humans) is not as easy as it might seem, but after many trials and tribulations, we came up with a safe system able to keep us off of the six o'clock news. My sons then began to push me toward applying for a technical achievement award from the Academy. In 2011 I won a Scientific and Engineering Award for the NAC Servo Winch Flying System.
With lots of help from family and friends, we have since built five motion bases, varying in weight capacity from 2,500 to 75,000 pounds. We have now completed about 120 movies, television shows and commercials using our systems.