Today we’d like to introduce you to Kayte Sabicer.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started making anything and everything I could as a kid. Dioramas, hairbrained inventions, birdhouses, Go-karts whatever I could with my dad. I went to a fine arts specialty junior high and high school and focused on painting and video production. I went to Chapman University for film school but found production design to not be hands-on enough for me. My professor recommended model making as a way of using my arts and fabrication skills while still being part of the film industry. I started an internship with New Deal Studios that really changed my life. Within a few months, I was working there full time and on major movies. While there, I was privileged enough to work on miniatures for films like Inception, Hugo, and Dark Knight Rises. I started working in stop-motion movies and fabricating props and sets on a feature with director Henry Selick. It was during this time that I was introduced to VFX and Stop-Motion legend Phil Tippett. Working with him has been truly amazing, and helping bring his vision for his short film Mad God to life is something I hold as my most rewarding work. And with Phil I was able to live out my childhood dream of working on Star Wars- I still can’t believe that I can say that. My little kid nerd self would be so ecstatic! Through Phil I had the pleasure to meet Adam Savage and his team at Tested.com. I instantly fell in love with the people and environment. I was blown away when they asked me to join their crew and now I have my own series called Model Behavior where I teach model making tips and tricks with my wonderful co-host Norm Chan.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I definitely hit a lot of obstacles on my way through this career. The biggest was just getting into it. Every day people would tell me to get out of the industry- either because they thought the field was dying and there wouldn’t be any jobs in my future or because I didn’t fit the image of someone who knew what they were doing in a shop environment. Well, they were right about the jobs drying up. Sadly the work in visual effects miniatures became more and more scarce, there were times I struggled to pay rent or buy groceries. But the recent boom in stop motion projects has been wonderful and creating so many jobs for so many artists. And luckily the shop environments have really changed. I don’t know if it is because of the younger generation starting to take over these workspaces, or maybe because now I’ve been in the business long enough to be taken more seriously as a veteran of the field- but I rarely encounter the sexist attitudes I did when I was younger. It feels great to just be able to walk into a shop and work side by side with equals with nothing but mutual respect.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I work freelance now. Usually I get hired to build a prop, replica, model, or puppet that someone is in need of. I use a variety of materials- wood, plastic, foam, silicone, resin, 3D printed and lasercut materials. And I have become somewhat specialized in my finish work- painting, texturing, and aging have become my favorite part of a job and a lot of times now I’m simply brought in to do the finishing work to get a piece looking it’s best before it’s handed off for display. Greenery is another area I enjoy a lot and do a good deal of work in- creating lush landscapes and forests is some of the most fun I have in my job. It’s like creating my own tiny slice of paradise.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memories from childhood involve being in the garage with my dad. It was there I learned to use a glue gun, swing a hammer, and work through difficult problems. My grandfather gifted me my very own toolbox filled with a starter set of hand tools. It felt great to have such unlimited potential with that tool set – I could make anything I wanted, only limited by my imagination and the materials I could repurpose.
Norman Chan, Julie Shuford Photography, New Deal Studios