Interview – Tate Steinsiek

A sense of creativity is something that we are all born with, but it is how we nurture the trait that determines what it blossoms into. Fortunately for Tate Steinsiek he had the support seem system that allowed his imagination a free thinking environment. A good talking point for the nature versus nurture debate, perhaps in Steinsiek’s case, it was a mix of both. Now an award winning SFX prosthetics artist, conceptual artist, and film director, his wild visions have become world famous. 

Usually behind the scenes, creating all the creepy, eerie, or gross special effects seen in your favorite films and television shows, Steinsiek was introduced to the mainstream back in 2011, appearing on Syfy’s popular reality series Face Off. A part of several big budget projects, including Law & Order and 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, his biggest passion will forever be the magic of Horror films. Recently working with a talented team for the reboot of the Puppet Master series in the form of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, Steinsiek took the time to chat about following his dreams, his endless imagination, future plans, plus more. – You have been involved in special effects makeup professionally for over a decade now. Working in film and television, briefly tell us, what initially inspired your interest in working in special effects and makeup art?   

Tate Steinsiek – I have always had sort of an inborn understanding of monsters. It is something my parents couldn’t really explain, and I couldn’t really explain. They tried their best to keep it under control as a youth, they wouldn’t even let me watch Horror films. I had no access to Horror, but I always knew what monsters were. I was drawing pictures of creatures ripping the heads off my schoolmates and drinking their blood. I can actually still picture the drawings from preschool – with sharp teeth and blood spraying.

My teacher actually called a conference with my parents and said, “You have to stop letting this kid watch Horror films, it is taking over his class time.” They said, “Yea, we don’t know what to do. We don’t let him watch Horror films.” (Laughs) I kind of never had a choice is what I am trying to say. I was supposed to do this for a living. – (Laughs) When you describe that, it sounds crazy. If you were a child in today’s society, they probably would have you going to therapy and on endless amounts of mind-bending drugs.

Tate Steinsiek – You’re 100% correct. Enough generations of mind-alternating prescription medication haven’t been around to see what the outcome is going to be. Who knows, it might turn them into super-creative beings. I do agree with the fact that, if I were a kid in today’s day in age, they would have me laced with prescription drugs and in therapy. (Laughs) 

Lucky my parents were a little more open-minded than that and decided to comfortably give me a range to be myself. My mom was an artist and a musician, so she understood the principal of being naturally strange. Especially in a place like Oklahoma, where everyone either raises cattle or works in a factory. Luckily I had cool parents who were very supportive and they let me be as weird as I wanted to be. I think it kind of all worked out. 

Columbia Pictures Corporation – Absolutely!  You have done a lot through the years and in 2011, as well as 2013, appeared on the Syfy series Face Off. What was that experience like for you?

Tate Steinsiek – Face Off was some life-changing stuff. Effects artistry is a behind the scenes sort of profession. Unless you just get lucky with the right script with the right marketing and get in front of the right people, you never really get famous as an effects artist – at least not young in your career like I was. It created a platform that gave artists a chance to be known. I’m eternally grateful for the people who called me in on both of those seasons, and then again for Game Face. They fully changed my life and career.

Still, to this day, it’s been 5 years since I was on the last season of Face Off, and I’m still getting emails from around the world. Crazy little island countries on the other side of the planet are telling me how big of fans they are of mine! That is completely insane to me that I could jump on a plane, travel pretty much anywhere on this planet, and there is going to be people who know me and my artwork there. I feel ultimately blessed for something like that. – That is very special. You recently worked on the new Puppet Master film, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Now in theaters and available on VOD and Digital HD, how did you become involved with this project?  

Tate Steinsiek – I had a couple of degrees of separation from Dallas Sonnier for years and I didn’t even realize it. He was the owner of a company called Caliber Media which used to represent me as a director when I lived in New York. There was obviously a lot of people between he and I – my manager, who ever supervised her, etc. Then Dallas left New York roughly around the same time as I – he moved to Dallas and I moved to Oklahoma. After a number of years, my manager reconnected us and said, “Hey Tate, aren’t you in Oklahoma? I know this guy in Dallas shooting a Puppet Master movie.” I said, “Holy shit! Puppet Master! I love Puppet Master!”

I thought it was just going to be another sequel, I had no idea we were completely rebranding the franchise. When she put me in contact with him I told him, “I am a 4 hour drive away from you, let’s talk Horror.” Dallas and I got on the phone, and we just hit it off. We realize we had the same deranged sense of humor and the same blood-soaked mentality. The rest is history. 

RLJE Films – The film came out really well. As you mentioned, it is a reboot, not a sequel. The effects came out wonderful as well. What was it like working with this crew bringing these effects to life?

Tate Steinsiek – Anytime on a film set, it is only as strong as their weakest member, that goes across the board. That is especially with special effects, because you are selling an illusion. There is nothing worse than bad magic. The same can be said for special effects. I’m a lucky guy. In fact, 90% of my team is struck from my experience on Face Off – Ian Cromer, Eric Zapata, Rick Prince, Wayne Anderson, these are all people I met on that show.

I just went in and cherry-picked some of the best talent that Hollywood had to offer based on my experience on Face Off. We have all become great friends and basically formed an effects company together. We have done multiple features together. My same team came over with me for Dragged Across Concrete with Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn. That same team is with me right now on a Fangoria film called Satanic Panic that we are currently in preparation for. 

As much as I’d love to just sit there and relish in the glory of all these praises coming in for effects, I was just one part in a machine. My team is what made everything happen. – Everyone did a fantastic job. Obviously, people who are Horror fans know Puppet Master. They know the puppets, they have become classic Horror figures through the years. You kept them distinct and true to the original. Was that important to you?

Tate Steinsiek – Absolutely! First and foremost, I’m a fan. Anyone who knows me personally, knows before anything, I’m just a Horror nerd. I kind of do this for a living to keep myself immersed in cool things. As much as I’d like to sound like an adult and say, “I started a company to make money.” That’s not what it is.

I do things because I want those kind of things around me. Puppet Master was no different. This was an opportunity for me to take something I held dear, a title I loved since I was a kid, and get to play with the puppets! I got to own them, have a Blade in my house. These were very selfish reasons. (Laughs) I hope that shows in what we did, because it was a labor of love.

We did kill ourselves to make those things as great as possible in the amount of time we had. We equally killed ourselves on set to make sure they came to life in a believable way. Everything we did for this film was a labor of love based on the respect we had for the title. 

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich still. – It certainly does show. The film is fun to watch. It has it’s humor, it has gore, it has it all! 

Tate Steinsiek – Awesome! I’m glad to hear that. That was a goal. The goal was to give fans something new to enjoy, and something new to anticipate. The Full Moon franchise have their own niche carved out, you know and understand the tone of what you are getting into with each Puppet Master film you watch of theirs. We wanted to do the same thing. We wanted to establish a new tone, something darker, something more violent. That is what our films will be, and that is what you can expect in the future from our Puppet Master franchise. It’s only going to get more and more atrocious, gross, disgusting, and offensive, hopefully. (Laughs) – It will be exciting to see where it goes. This new film certainly leaves you hanging, wondering what happens next.

Tate Steinsiek – We have a lot. There is a lot of chatter about what is next. We can take this all the way back in time, or to something progressively in the future. Who knows where the next story is going to land. All I know is the right people are behind it, so the fans can rest easy. – That is great to hear. Last question, and it’s a big one. What are some of your favorite Horror movies?

Tate Steinsiek – When you ask a fan that question, there is the predictable answers – the artful, thought-provoking films, etc. I’m not going to give you that answer. I’m going to give you the answer of what is constantly in rotation in my DVD player, that is the true sign of what you love. The top 5 that I guarantee you never make it back into their case – the ones always sit dusty and on top of my DVD player for quick access. They would be Creepshow (1982), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), The Return of the Living Dead (1985), and maybe… The Elephant Man (1980), or Videodrome (1983), or The Fly (1986). (Laughs)

Listen, when you are talking to me it can be anything from The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987) to Swamp Thing (1982) to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). I’m more a fan of the era of the ’80s. There was a feeling that was associated with the unknown. Horror film at that point was still unknown, because it was still being crafted. It wasn’t over marketed, it wasn’t overdone. 

That’s kind of the feeling we are in search of and trying to bring back. That wonder of – what the hell am I about to watch? I think that we really accomplished that with Puppet Master. Of course people knew it would be gore, but they didn’t know we were going to do what we did. That’s evident when you watch it in a live theater full of people. Not only are people having fun, but they are being surprised, and they are laughing, saying, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I just witnessed this.” That’s specifically the feeling that all those films I just rattled off gave me. That is hopefully what we will be able to give it back to fans.

Warner Bros.
Orion Pictures

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