Using many unconventional sculpting techniques and tools, foam sculptors of Local 755 in Los Angeles can create absolutely anything you could imagine, regardless of scale.

Comments: 150 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

roastedbagel24 karma

OP is verified.

Trauma_Zulu26 karma


Lights_Fade18 karma

What was your favorite set to make?

Trauma_Zulu43 karma

My favorite set was my first big set, it was a massive cave for "Land Of The Lost" with Will Ferrell. It's the one he used to hide from the T-rex. It had 4 massive chambers and in total it was about 2.4 million cubic feet in size. 20 or so of us put it together in about 3 weeks.

MICHAELdirector28 karma

I think your set work was better than the movie. Good work!

Trauma_Zulu9 karma


Hamibl16 karma

Your site is in flash, so I can't view it on my ipad :( This is not a question, but I will make it look like one with incorrect punctuation?

Trauma_Zulu51 karma

Buy a PC, you will be a happier and healthier person overall and your sex life will never be better.

oOmoonyOo16 karma

I'm interested in this sort of thing. How did you get into it?

Trauma_Zulu29 karma

I was always into sculpture, ever since I was a kid. Also, I was always fascinated by film. My older brother is a sculptor, my mom did hair, my sister and her husband are both costumers. So the contacts and avenues were always open to me. If you're interested in joining our noble ranks, you just need to contact any of us with a portfolio, then you need to wait till there is an abundance of work. Once the union doesn't have enough people to fill a job, we hire "permits," survive as a permit for 30 consecutive days, and you're in.

oOmoonyOo9 karma

Well this is too cool, what's hard about being a permit?

Trauma_Zulu19 karma

Well, there are only about 30 people in the world who know how to sculpt Styrofoam, 20 of us in LA, and about 10 in England. Perhaps a few more, also 2 or 3 in Canada. Learning all of the techniques while working 12-16 hours a day with 284 lbs of foam on your back is a bit difficult. We only allow the ones we absolutely love to make it past day 28. Most don't have the social intelligence, sculpting intelligence, raw intelligence, or physical endurance.

Hollowbody5733 karma

Having worked in a packing and shipping warehouse for a year back in college, I can assure you that my skill in carving styrofoam penises is second to none.

I have also perfected gluing them to the hoods of cars belonging to any annoying co-workers you might have. PM me your email and I'll send you my resume!

Trauma_Zulu14 karma

You made me produce a grin of great proportion, thanks.

ReverendTrips5 karma

I don't mean to poo on your ama but this sounds like BS. I imagine that maybe 30 do it professionally or thirty in your union but saying that only 30 people can sculpt styrofoam is a big assumption judging from how much information on that type of sculpting is available online

Trauma_Zulu11 karma

There are people who use foam for specialty projects, but nobody else uses our tools, techniques, or scale. Every other Styrofoam sculpture I've seen online has been extremely rudimentary. However, I have seen a few people who are gifted, working with Urethane foam.

ReverendTrips2 karma

ah okay, yeah that makes sense. thank you for clarifying.

Trauma_Zulu4 karma

No worries mate.

pirate_tom-3 karma

There's about 20 right now poly sculpting sphinxes on exodus using hot wires what are you saying you do that's special?. I'm 100 percent certain there's not only 30, I work in the industry

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

Some people do copy our methods, but as I've stated in a few comments so far, nobody works with our skill, scale, or speed. We do this stuff for 90-120 hours a week. Our tools and methods are known only to us. People other than ourselves do indeed sculpt foam, but there is no comparison.

pirate_tom0 karma

Bullshit, your telling me all the UK sculpts from pinewood to Longcross that use solely UK sculptors aren't as good as yours?. Transformers rubble was bog standard, I could pop that out in ten minutes with a nail board and shinto saw

Trauma_Zulu2 karma

Take a peek at my other comments. I give due props to the limeys, shit, I'm a British citizen myself. We even trade sculpture ideas with them, we love those guys. But they still don't work as fast as we do because they don't do 90+ hour workweeks.

Ghosd-2 karma

Copying your methods? Your a joke. Please take a look at the British Film industry in comparison, and find the shear amount of large productions made hear out weighs yours significantly. As a "professional" you should know that no method is copied but passed on and learnt. There are no monopolies on these things!

Trauma_Zulu2 karma

As I've stated, I give much love to my English counterparts, those guys are great. I'm also a British citizen, and my dad is full limey. We do share methods and materials with the British. I'm sorry you were mislead by something I wrote.

oOmoonyOo5 karma

Do you work for a company, and how did you learn how to sculpt Styrofoam?

Trauma_Zulu14 karma

We do not work for any specific company, we are a union ( When a producer wants to make a film s/he hires 3 people, a director, production designer, and cinematographer. From there, the production designer hires a construction coordinator, who hires many people, including a lead sculptor if needed. The lead sculptor hires me.

GlitchedForLife10 karma

What was the most difficult thing you've ever had to make? Why was it difficult?

Trauma_Zulu35 karma

the most difficult was probably one of the most basic. It was rubble for Transformers 3. We had blueprints of all the buildings on Washington street, and we de-constructed segments of them to appear as rubble on the ground. The hard part wasn't the mental trials of sculpting the pieces, but rather, the physical. We were working on-location in Chicago. We were in an old steel mill, the building was solid steel with low ceilings (30f.t or so, small for us) and the floor was a thick layer of steel filings mixed with old oil. Because of the weather and the building's construction it was about 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) and you would slowly sink into the floor. You couldn't touch your knee to the floor because you'd get metal filings embedded into your skin, and the oil from the floor made the foam even more flammable than usual, which is a huge danger to us (we've burnt Universal Studios down twice).

sfreeman199411 karma

I work down the street from where some of the large "building" pieces were stored, and yeah that sounds like a crazy amount of difficulty! It made my day to see them though!

Trauma_Zulu6 karma

Glad to see it made you happy :)

dancing_raptor_jesus10 karma

Twice? And they hired you again? Damn, you guys must be good.

But seriously, story time please!

Trauma_Zulu10 karma

Our primary tool, an exposed copper wire, heated with electricity to burn through the foam. It makes precise cuts so we can "block up" before sculpting into the material. Anyway, fresh Styrofoam is still "gassing off" and these fumes make the foam more flammable. Also, we use blow torches and head guns often for texture. Once foam catches aflame, it's unstoppable unless you put it out immediately.

Th3_Halt9 karma

How many sets have you made?

Trauma_Zulu13 karma

Honestly, I haven't counted them, sometimes sculptors only make a portion of a set in conjunction with carpenters or other departments. Probably 50 or so sets / set pieces.

AutoModerator8 karma

Hello! You don't have any links in your post, which probably means you didn't provide any form of proof. All AMAs require proof, and here are instructions on how to provide some. We really prefer that you post the proof in the text of your post, but it can also be sent confidentially to the moderators if necessary. If you can't or won't provide proof, there is no need to message the moderators. Delete your post and repost it in /r/CasualIAmA. If you do not provide proof, your AMA will be removed. Thank you, and enjoy your AMA!

Readers, if the OP just ignores this message, then please click here to tell the mods that OP is not following the rule. If the OP has since provided proof but it isn't sufficiently believable for you, then ask for more and message the moderators if the OP doesn't provide any more.

I am a bot, and this action was performed automatically. Please contact the moderators of this subreddit if you have any questions or concerns.

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

roastedbagel6 karma

Since anyone can link to a website, can you show something that proves you're Clark? I'm sure this will get very popular as it's a very interesting topic, but knowing you're Clark is priority.

Trauma_Zulu5 karma

Do you want a copy of my driver's licence? I really don't know how to prove my identity...

SL612 karma

A pic of your driver's license with a card next to it that has your Reddit username would probably work. You can send it to the mods if you're not comfortable publicly posting it.

Trauma_Zulu3 karma

Alrighty, can I get an e-mail address or something to send this image to?

squatly1 karma

Trauma_Zulu4 karma


Berlchicken8 karma

Have you ever snuck something into a set whilst creating it? 'That was me, that was me! Yeah, you see that penis looking branch? I did that!'

Trauma_Zulu14 karma

I have done little things during my break time, doodles on the outside of the set where things wouldn't be filmed. We're very careful to be professional. However, some more immature people with access to the sets have done some "creative vandalism," on the most recent Indiana Jones film, someone outside the sculpture department carved their name into a wall that said "return" in many different languages.

Trauma_Zulu14 karma

once I had a whole miniature room of those little yellow guys from some Pixar film. the little yellow workers with 1-2 eyes and overalls (can't remember the film's name). Anyway, the overflowing A-B foam adhesive we use looks just like them, so when one overflowed I would wait till break, then sharpie some features on him, and hide him off behind the set in the room. Eventually more people started contributing and it ended up looking pretty sweet.

allyballybee12 karma

Despicable me.

Trauma_Zulu8 karma

Thank you.

comped3 karma

You got a picture of it? I wanna see! IT'S SO FUZZY!

Trauma_Zulu3 karma

Sorry, no evidence exists as far as I know.

LensFlare077 karma

As someone who works as an Electric (not union yet, only been doing it about a year and a half) how often are you given instructions to build something a specific way in order for a light or other equipment to be placed in a specific location? I know wild walls are very common of course, but with large, complex sets, is anything done differently? Have you ever been called in to alter a set that's already been built because a shot or setup has been changed?

Trauma_Zulu8 karma

Creating wild pieces is much more difficult than wild walls, I assure you. I can answer your question with an example. For Cowboys and Aliens we made a large cave meant to be the gold extraction room. The way we cut the alien's tunnels were meant to be scary when lit, and the stones were "melted" in ways so that very specific shafts of light could make it through.

LensFlare074 karma

Thanks for the reply! That's really interesting! Another question came to mind: Is there anything you wish more people in Grip, Electric, and Camera knew about your job, department, or the sets you've built?

Trauma_Zulu8 karma

I have no "beef" with any other department, there is a mild rivalry between the carpenters and the sculptors. The construction coordinators are always former members of Local 44, so they often get special treatment and more work. But it's not a big deal. I guess the only thing I wish is that we would get screen credit. It is in our contract to get more money in exchange for no screen credit at the end of films. I'd like to see my name up there.

LensFlare073 karma

Wow, that sucks. So your IMDB page is missing quite a lot of stuff you worked on, then? I hope that changes for you guys eventually.

Trauma_Zulu5 karma

IMDB recognizes our situation, and they admit us to the system when we provide proof. So only the ones who care enough get to be in IMDB.

jsreid3 karma

why would they rather pay you more then give you screen credit?

Trauma_Zulu3 karma

They save money by needing less frames to finish up the film I suppose.

meltedcandy7 karma

I want to be involved in the film business in any way possible - how did you get your start? What are some proactive measures I can take as a senior in college?

Thanks for doing this! :)

Trauma_Zulu7 karma

No problem, my pleasure. Contacts and charisma are more valuable in Hollywood than intelligence and skill. Find out what part of film making you love, move put here, and start out as a PA (personal or production assistant).

Trauma_Zulu4 karma

If you're interested in construction, we use carpenters, plasterers, and laborers as well.

meltedcandy3 karma

Awesome, will do!

Also you're pretty handsome, you need a PA?

Trauma_Zulu12 karma

Haha, thanks :) I don't need a PA just yet, as of the 25th of January I am somewhat crippled. I was struck by a car while helping to save a man's life during a 16 car pileup on the 101. I won't be able to work until I can walk again.

meltedcandy4 karma

Oh man that's terrible! Best of luck to you, get well soon.

Trauma_Zulu4 karma

Thanks, I'll recover in a year or so.

benwubbleyou2 karma

Currently a PA on set. Everyone has told me so far that to move up in the business of movies is to make yourself indispensable and talk to the others on how they got their job.

Trauma_Zulu0 karma

Yep, pretty much.

insane_moose5 karma

Have you ever had to watch one of your sets be destroyed for something, and how does that feel after putting hours into building it?

Trauma_Zulu4 karma

To be honest, rule #1 is not to get attached to the work. It often will be changed, and it will always be destroyed. I've never witnessed any of our pieces or sets being destroyed, but the Labor crew tells me that they crunch it up with a big claw, then it all goes into landfills.

keebyjeeby5 karma

Are you aware of the problems with the London skyline in ST:ID? And if so, how will you compensate the people of London, over whose homes and views you have ridden so shoddily? We demand justice!

/Anyway: you say you work with foam... Anything, on any scale? I have a partner and a son in Athens, Greece. Do you think you could realistically recreate/complete the Parthenon using the remaining pillars and foam, so people could see how it looked in situ? I would pay literally 300 quid to see that (as long as that was for my flight).

Trauma_Zulu4 karma

I am not a CG artist, nor am I responsible or even educated on the matter. I have not ridden over any of your homes. Try talking to JJ.

We can certainly recreate the Parthenon, full scale, double scale, anything. There are no limits. Seriously. If you start a kickstarter and get enough money, I'd be happy to make it for you.

keebyjeeby2 karma

Dude, I think it would be amazing. I will be in Greece next month and will ask some people about who I would need to talk to. It is highly unlikely that a World Heritage Site, the No.1 symbol of Greece and the capital of the Ancient world would be allowed to do such a thing, but if it were possible, how could I contact you to find out how much we would need to raise?

As for the London thing... I hope you recognised fine British humour at its best, or we just look like a load of fucking twats bitching and moaning into our tea.

Trauma_Zulu2 karma

My dad is from Blackpool, so I understood your point, I know you're not all twats :)

If you want to contact me, all of our contact info is available at, I'm Clark Kelly. We would need space, and about a month to build it.

TahjMyHole4 karma

Is CGI and other technology slowly destroying the art of movie sculpting?

Trauma_Zulu12 karma

In some ways, yes, but I like to think that CGI can be great at enhancing what we do, if used properly. Most producers don't understand the usefulness of sculpted sets, and many young ones default to CGI, however, in almost all cases, foam is much faster, and much more cost effective than CG. Plus, actors interact with a sculpted environment much better then they do with a green screen.

tomtom4123 karma

What's been the most challenging set/thing to build?

Trauma_Zulu2 karma

Anything that will be "hero" or "will be shot in detail," production designers/art directors/producers/directors are always wanting to make changes, and they all have conflicting opinions. And once the piece is over budget, it's the low man on the totem pole who gets shit.

johnny121b3 karma

Just wanted to say- saw the movie this evening. EXCELLENT! For your part in making it, thanks!!

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

No problem, thanks for making my job possible by watching :)

ChunkArcade3 karma

Where did you go to school, how many years, how did you get your first break? And would you recommend your education as a good path to follow if you wanted to pursue a job like yours?

Trauma_Zulu2 karma

I went to Humboldt State University in Northern California. It has a good sculpture program, but what I know isn't taught in any school. My first break was pure luck. During winter break there was too much work for the union to keep up with on "Land of the Lost" with Will Ferrell. They liked me so I was offered a spot in the union.

The path to what I do isn't a straight one, everyone I work with has a strange tale of how they became a foam sculptor. Check my other responses if you want to know how to join us.

jsh5h72 karma

How often are miniature sets still used in the industry? I know it was in Lord of the Rings in some shots and some Bond movies

Trauma_Zulu2 karma

Miniatures are dying out slowly as CG takes it's place in film making. Miniatures are also useful for sculptors, we can perfectly replicate a scale model of a set into real size scale with a few hours of planning. For natural looking sets that would be too complicated for blueprints, a model is often the primary resource provided.

jbtk2 karma

I'm wondering if you know my uncle, maybe. Works in the same type of job as you and worked with things like Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man, TDKR, all that stuff. Does Jeff Brown ring a bell? He may have worked on Transformers like you have. Anyway, I think it'd be a cool job to have. He's a greensman, if I recall correctly, working on sets and all. Picture Jurassic Park. I have heard it's a very time consuming and work filled job, very demanding and you gotta give it your all, is this so? Heard you're needed one day, or week, or month or two, then you're out of a job for a little while, but the pay will last you a good while until the next job. They're doing a lot of stuff in Atlanta now and I have the opportunity, being family, to get into the business. Is it enjoyable? I love entertainment. Pictured being on camera, but would enjoy working in the business in general, too. I'm kind of blabbering here, but I guess you see what I'm saying.

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

The business is never boring. I certainly suggest it if you have trouble living a routine lifestyle. Your uncle's name does ring a bell, but I don't know him personally, but I have worked on some of the same films as him. One day you will receive a call, the next day you could be on the other side of the planet working on a film for any number of days (or even hours).

AngryOldBastard2 karma

Since many movie props are repurposed commercial products, I have been trying to find the throttle used in the Star Trek movies for my boat but havent found anything on the market that looks similar.

Is the throttle for the Enterprise a completely custom piece or is it a cosmetically modified commercial product?

If I have to I will cast my own pieces to make it (machinist/toolmaker by trade) but having a starting point is always easier.

Thankfully "Into Darkness" has a great closeup so I can get the details right.

Any knowledge you can offer would be appreciated!

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

If you're talking about the new Star Trek films, then yes, it's probably custom. You'd have a better chance of having someone copy it for you. It would be much more cost effective and probably more practical/durable.

iamcoolstephen12342 karma

Is JJ Abrams easy to work with?

Trauma_Zulu4 karma

I've only heard pleasant things about him. However, I am construction / art department, so we don't deal with the production side of things very often.

[deleted]2 karma


Trauma_Zulu2 karma

Some of the designs are dictated by producers, but the primary creative force for how a set looks is the production designer and his army of art directors. We do not get to keep the things we make. We fabricate them, then they are shot on camera, then they are stored in case of re-shoots, or torn asunder and put in a landfill.

[deleted]1 karma


Trauma_Zulu2 karma

Yes, there was a spaceship and cave we made for Cowboys And Aliens. If I had the space, or money, I'd have loved to throw a party there. Also, the Black Pearl.

t20a1h5u232 karma

Which sets did you specifically make for ST:ID? The only part I can think of would be the sets for Qo'noS (Klingon planet). Would there be any other sets where it'd surprise me that they were sculpted?

Trauma_Zulu3 karma

The interior of the Enterprise, which was later painted black to also become the interior of the Vengeance. Carpentry also contributed the the interior as well.

Teaspo0n2 karma

Just curious, as a polymer sculptor myself: what kind of tools do you use to sculpt the styrofoam? How did you get into set sculpting? How long have you been working in sculpture?

Totally cool AMA! Thanks for doing it!

Trauma_Zulu3 karma

Our main tool is called a "hot wire" it's a custom made tool by us utilizing a halogen light dimmer to run a current through an exposed copper wire to make precise cuts through the foam, this is the main tool of our "blocking up" phase. Then comes shaping, modified garden hos, modified pneumatic sanding tools, acetone, blowtorches, and sanding blocks/L200 sanding blocks allow us to create any texture, almost any shape, and to almost any scale imaginable. This is all held together by any of our 3 various adhesives.


Did Chris Pine ever bash in any of your sculptors with a blunt instrument of some sort?

Trauma_Zulu1 karma



Do you ever have a fear he may do so?

Trauma_Zulu2 karma

Actually, the materials we use are really very sturdy, you would have to put fourth a lot of effort to break anything we make, depending on thickness of the piece etc.

Estamio22 karma

Does working with foam make you feel ill?

Do you have to wear a respirator always, or do you just use a dust-mask? Do you wear a bunny-suit, or just blast yourself with air/water at the end of the day?

Thanks, and continued success!

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

It depends on what chemicals we are working with, if we are burning the foam then we need respirators. Also 2/3 of our adhesives REALLY require respirator use as they are extremely toxic. Once a tank of our base chemical unloaded on me after a hose ruptured and I had to have my shirt torn off and get doused with many gallons of acetone. Another time I passed out and threw up from fumes I couldn't smell from our other adhesive.

sweet-brah2 karma

What was the most complex set you've ever had to make?

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

The only one that really stumped me was trying to find out the mathematical formula for a series of cuts. In the most recent Star Trek film part of the Klingon base was curved, the radius was so large and subtle that we didn't know how to bevel our 8 foot segments of foam. Aside from that, all the sets have their own strange geometrical quirks, and we're always looking for the most efficient way to use the foam.

Sun1raven2 karma

What is the biggest "I've really fucked this up" you have had?

Trauma_Zulu5 karma

I've had some shotty sculptures occur after working 24 of a 28 hour period due to exhaustion. But my biggest "oopsie" happened while filling some cracks between sculpted foam when my spray gun backfired and covered my boss in toxic, expanding, adhesive.

General_Fblthp1 karma

Estonia- thoughts?

Trauma_Zulu2 karma

It's a beautiful place.

darthjon1 karma

What was the abandonded sector of Kronos supposed to be, some kind of unused factory?

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

An old space base where a war had left it desolate and rusting.

Scottolan1 karma

I'm a sculptor as well (work more in bronze but enjoy working in foam when given a chance) Is your union in charge of the sculpting only? Or do people within your union also paint the sets?

Trauma_Zulu0 karma

My union is Plasterers/Painters/Sculptors of the film business.

supergalacticcaptain1 karma

Do you find yourself using these skills to make stuff so your home looks amazing? Or is it one of those cases where because you make so much cool looking shit at work you just want to go home and having nothing to do with it?

Trauma_Zulu4 karma

I am one of the few who isn't disenchanted by the awesomeness of what I see on a day-to-day basis. So yes, I do spruce up my home a bit with my own personal sculptures. I also have practical ideas. If sculpted correctly, Styrofoam can kill sound waves extremely effectively, and adding lighting effects can really make the sculptures stand out. you could have a very beautiful dance floor with sculpted ceilings and walls, with a bar right next to it, and you wouldn't have to yell to have a conversation.

jsrqs19811 karma

Just wanted to say this is one of my favorite AMAs. I got to visit SkyWalker Ranch a few weeks ago and see some of the digital side of movie making so it's cool to hear your side of it. And I hope you get better soon.

Trauma_Zulu0 karma

Thanks, Skywalker ranch is always a fun trip.

fartmasterzero0 karma

Hey, I hated the movie, but all of the production design was INCREDIBLE.

Thank-you for making the movie going experience enjoyable on some level.

Trauma_Zulu1 karma

No worries, glad you liked how it looked :)