Special Effects Technician – Olov Nylander

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Day in the life of
Special Effects Technician – Olov Nylander

Olov Nylander
Special Effects Technician

My Typical Day

My work with Special Effects usually involved a few hours of prototyping for an upcoming solution to be filmed or used on stage. Usually, it involved making comedy or action effects. Maybe a ladder’s rungs fall off, a mirror to break by ”supernatural forces”, making a rig to make an actor’s ears smoke, a sparking fuse-box spark, a lock that should look like it is ”shot to pieces” by a violent man, water squirt from a clown’s nose, a ”soft” replica cabinet for a fistfight, breakaway props for driving through, building a portable rain rig for a car driving ”in rain” or something really unusual – a radio-controlled animal, a trapdoor for several people seemingly in an earthquake, a mechanical ”birthday celebrating giant apple” etc. Often, work involved lots of testing for a ”one-off job”.

Then often driving to a remote location followed. And long, long waiting for setting off an effect (often called a ”gag” even if it is serious and looks violent) described above. Often an hour of rigging and a day for waiting to ”push the button” for setting off rigging a ”backfiring car” previously tested at the shop.


The pros of this was that it was great fun being creative.


The cons were that it was impossible to charge for all time testing and prototyping. Worst was lots of ”dead time” waiting on location away from home.

Sometimes I miss the camraderie and adrenaline on set.

Advice to aspiring Special Effects Technician

  1. Competition is fierce, so I would team up with someone in the business when you start your business. If you can’t beat them, join them. Try to get a mentor.
  2. Expect long hours and low pay. I worked for free for two years.
  3. Learn a lot from pros. If you ask the pros they will often be delighted to tell you a lot. Especially if they don’t see you as a future competition.
  4. Visit conferences in areas you don’t normally work with: magic, dental, beauty, inventor’s fairs, makers faires anything that gives you a new view on things.
  5. Read books on the subject and look at ”behind-the-scenes-films”.
  6. Join clubs and associations to get a network of possible customers (and colleagues).
  7. Get a second career to work with simultaneously when jobs are scarce.
  8. Team up with a student Graphic Designer when bidding on jobs. Your offers will look the part and you’ll get an edge over other competitors bidding on the same job.
  9. See competitors as possible team resources that you can rent equipment from or work together with.
  10. Offer outstanding service.

Olov Nylander
Special Effects Technician
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