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Do What You Love: The Hollywood Monster Maker

Jeanette Mulvey

Ever dream about finding a way to do what you love for a living? In my "Do What You Love" column, I ask people who've done it to tell me their secrets. Here's hoping they inspire you to do the same.

You may not know his name, but you’ve likely seen his work. Todd Tucker, president of Illusion Industries, is best known for creating iconic creatures in classic and award-winning films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Smurfs 2, coming out this summer.

After working on more than 100 films and television shows, Tucker found a way to continue to do what he loves by founding Illusion Industries in Los Angeles and opening offices in New Orleans and Moscow. He tells us in an email interview how he found a way to do what he loves and how you can, too.

BusinessNewsDaily: Explain you what you do for a living.

Todd Tucker: I am the president of Illusion Industries, a special effects makeup company. We design, create and apply old age, character, look-alike and trauma prosthetic makeups. We also make creature suits, puppets and specialty costumes, all of which are used for feature films, television shows, commercials, etc. Illusion Industries has studios in Burbank, Calif., New Orleans and Moscow. You can see our work in a number of films coming out in 2013, including G.I. Joe Retaliation, The Iceman, Smurfs 2, The East, Fort Bliss and Fright Night 2.

BND: How did you end up doing this for a living?

T.T.: I always knew that I wanted to work in the film industry. During high school, I started learning how to sculpt, mold, fabricate and paint my own creations. After a few years, I assembled a portfolio that showcased my best work. In 1990, I moved to Hollywood, went on interviews and I was lucky enough to started working shortly thereafter. My first big studio film … was Steven Spielberg's Hook. It was a dream come true to be involved on such an amazing production.

BND: What was the crucial decision you made that led you to this place in life?

T.T.: As a kid, I was obsessed with movies like Star Wars, Jaws, The Dark Crystal and Halloween. I built a workshop in my garage and started making masks and puppets. It is a blast to conceptualize a character design then create the finish[ed] product.

BND: What did you want to be when you grew up?

T.T.: While growing up, it was very clear that movies were my passion. I loved coming up with story ideas and writing scripts; designing and creating creatures; then filming them as movie trailers.  I wanted to do it all, makeup [effects], write, direct, act. Everything movie-related.

BND: Why do you love your job?

T.T.: I love my job because of the reaction you get from people when your creation walks out on set. It's a great feeling of accomplishment when directors become genuinely excited because you were able to bring their vision to life.

BND: What's the biggest misconception about your job?

T.T.: The biggest misconception about my job is that it's easy. A good artist always makes what they do look simple, but it actually takes years of practice, along with good people skills, to make the job run smoothly. Also recently, the new digital cameras are like a magnifying glass that sees everything, so now more than ever, the makeup applications have to be flawless.

BND: If you didn't do your job, whose job would you like to have and why?

T.T.: If I didn't do my job, I would probably be working with my dad and brother at the fire department. I think it would be truly rewarding to work in a profession where you are able to help people in times of crisis day after day. I have a lot of respect for those guys.

BND: Do you think having a job you love has made you a better person in other areas of your life?

T.T.: I do think that loving your job does help to make you a better person. If you enjoy and are passionate about what you do for a living, no matter what it is, it makes every day personally rewarding and gives you a very positive outlook on life. It works for me.

BND: What's your best advice to other people who are trying to pursue their career dreams?

T.T.: For anyone trying to pursue a career dream, start by gathering as much information as possible to help you understand how to achieve your goal. Come up with a realistic start-to-finish game plan, then take one step at a time. Be patient, motivated, passionate, smart, and don’t get discouraged by setbacks. Everyone will encounter a few along the way, but nothing is impossible.  It's up to you to make it happen.

BND: What's your idea of the perfect retirement?

T.T.: Forget retirement! I'm just getting started. I'd like to thank the Illusion Industries team Ron Halvas (CEO), Martin Astles and Joe Colwell (key artists); Adam Walls, Jane Pfeister and Marine Khachatryan (production coordinators); and Jason Garber (Paradigm agent).

Image Credit: Todd Tucker, President of Illusion Industries / Credit: Bobby Quillard, Quillard Inc Photography
Jeanette Mulvey Member
<p>Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter <a href="" target="_blank">@jeanettebnd</a>.</p>