By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Steve Neisen had to repeat fifth grade because of “Star Wars”.
“(From the moment) the Star Wars music played and the star destroyer appeared on the screen, I was lost,” Neisen told Cowboy State Daily – lost in “a galaxy far, far away. “.
He was so lost he completely neglected his schoolwork, Neisen said
“I remember my mother showing up at school and the teacher walking over to my desk, which had the flip-top,” he said. “And when they lifted that lid, nothing but Star Wars and Star Wars maps and figures and drawings fell out. So we moved to Louisiana after that, and I had to repeat fifth grade because of Star Wars.
His fascination with the franchise never faded, Neisen told the Cowboy State Daily, and led him to the career he has today — creating mockups for Lucasfilm and other major motion picture companies.
From photos to TIE fighters
Neisen said he never liked “toys” because they were never accurate enough for him. On the contrary, from an early age he enjoyed building model airplanes and other replicas.
“Every Saturday I would pick up comics at Piggly Wiggly (grocery),” he said. “They had the magazine rack, and they had this special edition behind-the-scenes book of ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ It showed how they made the movie, and I started noticing these guys working on these models.
Neisen said he started making his own models using whatever parts and pieces he could find, drawing from photos as models. He joined the military in 1986, and during his 20-year tenure he discovered a treasure trove of model building information on the internet.
“I was part of one of the first forums, called RPF, Replica Prop Forums,” Neisen said, which put him on the ground floor of the studio-wide replica industry. . But he was still in the military, so his hobby often got sidetracked.
“I went to three or four combat zones in the same time period,” Neisen said, “and what I ended up doing was researching these models and finding all the little pieces of kit to make them exactly like the ones they used in the movies.”
Neisen said the first Star Wars model he ever built was a TIE (Twin-Ion Engine) fighter, piloted by Empire forces in the series.
“I taught myself to do rubber molding and molding, die casting and such, and then people liked what I was doing,” he said. “I could replicate that for people if they wanted one in their collection, so I started doing that on the side.”
His work was quickly noticed by none other than Lucasfilm’s special effects team, which initially alarmed him a bit.
“I’m a military policeman, you know, and a phone call comes from this company, Master Replicas, the licensee,” Neisen said. “I think I’m in trouble. And they said ‘No, no, no, you’re not. We want to know if you would like to help us.
Neisen was asked to provide lists of the model parts needed to build an AT-AT Walker, an armored personnel carrier featured in the movie “The Empire Strikes Back”.
“Fast forward, I made a ton more kits, I made a ton more models, and then I retired from the military,” he said. “I joined the Cheyenne Police Department, and while I was on patrol, my phone rang and it was this guy, he worked for Master Replicas, but he started his own company called EFX Collectibles.”
EFX offered Neisen to work as a subcontractor, designing and building licensed model kits for the Star Wars franchise, which he did for several years, while also building his own models on the side for the pleasure.
Then, in 2014, Disney called.
“We’re going to do a Star Wars Land in the parks, and we want you to provide the models for the Star Wars launch bay,” Neisen said, explaining that the launch bay was an area open to the public while Disney was developing the Star Wars attraction at Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida.
“We’re looking at 30 models – 15 models, two of each, and that’s a 4ft Star Destroyer, a 6ft Blockade Runner, X-Wings, dropships, Slave 1, whatever you can imagine,” Neisen said. , “to be delivered in four months.”
Needless to say, this kind of work couldn’t happen during his off hours. So, after 20 years in the military and eight more in the Cheyenne Police Department, Neisen decided it was time to devote his full attention to the “hobby” that had fascinated him since childhood.
“Modeling has gone from all by hand, then a bit of computer, now almost everything is done in the computer,” Neisen said. And the advent of 3D printing has made creating models light years faster than in the past.
“With 3D printing and 3D modeling, if I can’t find the part and I have a good reference for it, I don’t have to wait or leave it out of the model,” did he declare. “I can create it on the computer and then print it.”
From comics to Comic Con
Neisen said he’s now a regular at Star Wars conventions and other sci-fi gatherings around the country.
“I’m leaving for Comic Con (in San Diego) on Tuesday (working the EFX booth),” Neisen said. “I think we’re going to have a baby Yoda with the ‘pram’ he rides in. I got to meet all my modeler heroes, who now come to watch my models.”
And he also made other dreams come true.
“I’ve been to Skywalker Ranch, like, three times,” Neisen said. “I stayed in the small villas, I cycled to the archives. It’s a magical place. I mean, it’s quite a small community. Green is greener, blue is bluer. I spent four or five days in the archives taking pictures and re-measurements (the original models) and had full access.
Add to Cheyenne Sci-Fi Universe
Neisen’s hyper-accurate models have served as the basis for computer-generated imagery in a number of blockbuster movies, in franchises outside of the Star Wars universe.
“I’ve worked on a lot of other movies, different franchises,” he said. “I did some Star Trek stuff. We had the Marvel license for a long time, and we made Loki’s helmet (from “The Avengers”). We did some Iron Man.
And Neisen said he also creates fully licensed models for other companies, not just for movies.
“A watch company called Cross, they took one of my models, the studio scale model (of Star Wars’ Slave 1 ship), which is about 30 inches by 26 inches, and they made me convert it into a wristwatch holder,” he said. “You take the canopy off, then you put their $175,000 watch on that little pillow inside the cockpit. I have a contract for 11 of them, so next year I will do one a month.
Develop your own universe
Neisen has created a network of people who help him with the big jobs, but he said he does most of the modeling work himself.
“I just sent out a studio-scale Slave 1, the Boba Fett ship, yesterday,” Neisen said.
Until recently, Neisen collected all of his models from his 2-car garage. But his equipment needs are growing as fast as his business, which is why he recently purchased a 5-acre property, on which he is building a 2,500 square foot store.
“I bet I have the biggest 130 watt laser in the state,” he said. “I have a 63 x 54 inch laser that I use to create designs, and I have 3D printers, I have a dye sublimation t-shirt manufacturing facility, I do all kinds of things. ”