Featurepreneur: A Freakishly Talented Pair
By Genevieve Allen Hearn
You may know Phantom Effects Special Effects & Make-up because of their annual Phantom’s FreakShow Haunted House & Corn Maze at Stirling’s Fruit Farm in Wolfville. Or, perhaps you’ve been to a theatre production where they were responsible for make-up and props. Then again, you might have heard about their ghoulish motorcycle masks, or about the restoration work they’re doing in the Cornwallis Inn. Phantom Effects co-owners Aaron Peerless and Jaimie Corbin are busy entrepreneurs, especially around Hallowe’en. Luckily, we were able to steal them away from their work terrifying people to ask them a few questions.
The Grapevine (GV): In your opinion, what is it about Hallowe’en and ‘getting a scare’ that is so enticing?
Jaimie Corbin and Aaron Peerless (J&A): H.P. Lovecraft said “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Haunted houses give us the creeps not because they pose a clear threat to us, but rather because it is unclear whether or not they represent a threat.
From a psychological point of view, the standard features of haunted houses trigger feelings of dread because they push buttons in our brains that warn us of potential danger and motivate us to proceed with caution. In The Phantom’s FreakShow Haunted House we pay close attention to the psychology of fear and plan a journey that takes you out of your “safe zone” and into our darkest world.
We have multiple people who become crippled by their fears and have to be escorted out, and many more who relieve their bladders from the startles that await them! And yet, each year these people return to attempt another twisted journey into the Phantom’s realm. Fear is a very enticing chemical that keeps them coming back for more!
GV: Your company has helped local theatre productions really raise the bar. What is it like behind the scenes when you are helping performers get into character?
J&A: A crucial part of a live performance happens behind the scenes, both before a production is mounted and during its run. We do so much more than just standard theatre make-up. We have built massive sets and elaborate props, we paint and detail the scenery to create a structural environment, and we add visual elements such as smoke, snow falling, and throats being slit (Sweeney Todd). And let’s not forget about the costumes – we have the ability to make just about anything come to life on stage!
During the performances we usually have a room set up where our costumes and make-up are separate from the rest of the company items. It can become extremely hectic before a show so we appreciate having the space organized so we are able to transform each individual into their fully actualized character. It is always a thrill for us to watch this transformation and be part of creating something mesmerizing for the audiences. With carefully embellished costumes, custom wigs, make-up, and prosthetics, an actor becomes the mad man, the hero, or the rock star!
GV: Your motorcycle masks have generated a lot of buzz recently. Tell us about this part of your business.
J&A: This summer we got a lot of coverage on our motorcycle masks due to the Devil’s Half Acre Motorcycle Event and CTV News. Our motorcycle masks are 100% custom and hand built for the client’s specific interests. Many are custom sculpts and no two masks are identical.
A few years ago after being hit in the face with a bumble bee, Aaron realized that there needed to be a better solution other than a full face helmet or a flimsy piece of fabric. Being a monster maker, Aaron put his special touches on the idea, and the rest is history! If you saw a ghoulish creature or animistic character riding a motorcycle throughout the Valley this season, the chances are that Phantom Effects created it!
GV: What is the most challenging part of your work? What is the most exciting part?
J&A: The most challenging part of our work is definitely time management. We are ‘yes’ people and can get carried away with too many projects and not enough time in the day to complete everything. This usually results in no time for meals, little time for sleep, and forget about a social life.
However, this chaos is balanced out by the once in a lifetime experiences that we get to have. After all, not everyone gets to spend their day dressed up as zombies to give a sick kid a wish. Or build a family with the FreakShow haunteers that (in some ways) becomes thicker than our own flesh and blood connections. Or witnessing a child from a high school production evolve into a complete superstar and know that we had a part to play in that path. These types of things are what makes all the sleepless nights and missed Thanksgiving meals worth it!
GV: What advice would you give someone starting their own business?
J&A: Starting a business is not easy, especially when your business is so specialized. We would recommend doing your research. Try not to let the hard times get you down. We have found that over the years, we have sacrificed A LOT of time for the business. But if you want to succeed, it initially takes a lot of effort. If you’re passionate enough, and believe in yourself, you will be successful!