Shaman Marya
Shaman Marya

Award shows are precarious to say the least. Viewers of these productions are committed fans who are enthusiastic but can be hyper-critical. They are discerning and unrelenting when it comes to what they feel is authentic. VFX artist Shaman Marya was aware of the potential pitfalls and honestly, was excited about the challenge of taking on this role for an audience who is unwilling to settle for anything less than the very best. The Fangoria Chainsaw Awards was held while Hollywood was still emerging from the Covid lockdown and thus filmed in the absence of an in-person audience with the intention of airing in perpetuity on the streaming service Shudder and YouTube. This allowed for ample use of Shaman’s VFX skill to manifest the impossible as well as exciting moments featured in this one-of-a-kind awards production. Directed by Xanthe Parajillo and hosted by David Dastmalchian (of Oscar Award–winning film The Dark Knight), the program featured notable personalities like Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Knives Out), Jason Blumhouse of Blumhouse Productions, and Emmy Award Winner Keith David (Crash, Armageddon). In addition to editing the entire show, Shaman created the visual effects which are so integral to the tone of this awards based event.

The most prominent aspect of the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards was dependent on Shaman’s contributions. Xanthe and Mr. Dastmalchian aspired to create a unique comedic tone for the award show that focused on unique space inhabited by horror films in the industry. This is something of a gamble as there are numerous factors that tip the scale between campy, scary, and ridiculous. The duo of director and host envisioned Dastmalchian presenting alongside a vampire version of himself [as Dr. Fearless] onscreen throughout the entire show. Xanthe was particular about wanting to cut back to David from presenters and winners at strategic moments that enhanced the comedy, broke up the show, and made fans feel a part of the show rather than mere spectators. These interludes of Dr. Fearless/David facing off were very carefully designed to achieve these goals. The miraculous results hinged on Mr. Marya’s talent. He describes, “This involved a lot of care, planning, testing, delicate compositing, and execution. It was particularly difficult when the timing on Xanthe’s favorite takes didn’t line up as well as we’d hoped they would and this and necessitated me to devise innovative solutions by retiming specific shots and making clever cuts to hide the imperfections. Thanks to a great director and cinematographer Tara Jenkins, we were able to get great footage during production which made my work as a compositing artist much easier.” One of the funniest campy moments of the entire program is when Dr. Fearless bursts into the genre staple flock of bats and flies away, courtesy of Shaman. 

As with major sporting events like the Superbowl, the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Halftime show featured a musical act with the accompanying visual spectacle. Taking inspiration from Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 hit horror film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, post-goth music artist Smiling Beth performed, “A Piano Walks Home Alone at Night.” This virtual performance was enhanced by Shaman, infusing it with a dream-like psychedelic quality. The combination of horror film props along with VFX distortion and liquefying effects not only made this performance congruent with the overall tone of the awards show, it complemented it with a unique “color” of music amenable to horror film enthusiasts. This musical moment, like so many aspects of this production, was a “big swing” that paid off enormously. Shaman Marya professes, “The whole team worked really hard under the shared vision. We knew we were doing great work but that never guarantees success; the public decides that. Most fans are very knowledgeable about the history of the genre, trends and iconic films, performances and moments. Thanks to the internet, this shared history has developed into memes and inside jokes among the community. Much of our editorial style was built around paying homage to the genre of horror. Deciding which personalities would appear in particular segments of the show was built around David Dastmalchians references to horror films. For example, David referencing the Halloween series prompted us to cut to Jamie Lee Curtis’ segment. This kept the audience engaged and created a sense of excitement. The audience of the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards could easily spot a lack of authenticity or half-baked effort; we were incredibly pleased that they were effusive about what we did.”

Writer: Basil Thomson

By Punit