Gene Rizzardi: A Fantastic Career in Special Effects

Like many professional model makers, Gene Rizzardi got started building models as a kid. Though he started out working on product models...


                                                                                                                          The Night They Saved Christmas

Gene Rizzardi: A Fantastic Career in Special Effects

submitted by Samanthi Martinez


Like many professional model makers, Gene Rizzardi got started building models as a kid. Though he started out working on product models in his late 20s, he soon found himself in the special effects industry. His first job was with EEG where Gene answered an advertisement looking for a model maker.  

“It only lasted about seven days,” Gene recalls, “but I was determined, and after a year of hard work I got into the movie business… and never looked back.”  That first project was a television mini-series called “The French Atlantic Affair” starring Telly Savalas and Jose Ferrer.



Gene’s 38+ years in model making includes work as a model maker, a model supervisor, and a special effects tech. He’s worked at Coast Special Effects, Introvision, Boss Film, Apogee, Dreamquest, and he now works at Nickelodeon. He has been a member of the APMM since the early days of the organization and attended the first model maker’s conference in 1993. He has presented workshops on special effects at conferences since then.

“I have worked on major and minor films throughout my career,” Gene says. “I have built architectural models, product models and movie models.” He advises those new to model making to stay versatile and “try your hand at all of them; they are fun!”

                                                                                                               V Supreme Commander Ship

                                                   Star Trek Enterprise Nemesis

Gene says he loves building things, but as time has gone on, he’s had to come to grips with very short deadlines. "Sometimes you only have a day or two to get the job done,” Gene says, “That is very trying but that is also what experience can do for you.”

Gene explains that he does not use a computer or 3D printing in most of his work and that it is all “hands-on” using traditional methods. Though a variety of skills is needed for successful model making, Gene believes that being able to think quickly and solve a problem in the shortest amount of time are the most versatile and valuable skills. “The solution may not be perfect, but it is there!” he says.



                                                                                                                        Killer Klowns Ray Gun

  Photon weapon from Nickelodeon's Henry Danger, unpainted. It was later painted and used
   numerous times in the show.


If this special effects wizard could go back in time, he says he would give his younger self some solid advice: “Save for the future. Don’t count on the people you know to be there when you need them. People move on or pass away or get out of the Biz, so save for your future.”


Gene plans to retire “in a few more years” because he feels that “the competition is great and I am getting tired of producing stuff so quickly.” Where model makers used to have months or at least weeks to complete a project, he says, “now, we have days or less to complete it. That is a bit much.”

Gene tells fellow model makers to be confident in their talents, to have fun and avoid burning any bridges. 


“The grass is always greener over the fence,” Gene quips, “but the art director called for that, so don’t be fooled.”


                                                                                                                     Dinner with Schmucks


                                                                                          Gene as Sasquatch


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