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UCalgary theatre alumnus creates Bleeding Art

Leo Wieser works with director Terry Gilliam on underwater special effects for the 2005 science fiction fantasy Tideland. Photos courtesy Bleeding Art Industries

By By Heath McCoy, Faculty of Arts

If you have a taste for the macabre, a trip to Bleeding Art Industries will not disappoint. The locally based special effects studio, was founded in 2002 by University of Calgary alumnus and technical theatre graduate Leo Wieser, BFA ’88. Wieser hosted an open house workshop during the 2017 Beakerhead festival featuring many of his ghastly creatures ranging from demons and werewolves to “goo-burping tentacle beasts” (as described by Wieser).

A favourite feature of Wieser’s is his live autopsy suit, a prosthetic body suit designed to resemble an actual human body sliced open for an autopsy. “We create the illusion that somebody is rooting through someone’s organs on a table, right before your eyes,” Wieser says. He adds with a laugh: “It won’t be boring.” Nor will it be for the weak of stomach, but, for horror fans and those who love a good shock, it’s sure to be a whole lot of fun.

“We’re an imaginarium,” says Wieser of his Bleeding Art Industries, located in Calgary’s southeast. “We essentially create illusions and magic for the film, television and theatre industries. We love dramatic works and telling stories, creating an atmosphere or conveying certain feelings through the art of special effects.”

Wieser’s work can be seen in such productions as the supernatural western television series Wynonna Earp and the family drama series Heartland, as well as the Canadian horror movie Gingersnaps, director Terry Gilliam’s Tideland and the American thriller Cut Bank, starring Billy Bob Thornton and John Malkovich. Bleeding Art has also produced realistic live training battlefield simulation films for the military.  

This may seem far removed from what Wieser studied with the University of Calgary’s Drama Department, which was rooted in theatre design, including sets and lighting, but, from a creative standpoint, he feels it’s all related.

“Whether you’re designing the lights for a play, or doing makeup or creating special effects for a movie, you’re dealing with human psychology and make-believe more than anything else,” he says. “You’re creating a feeling for your audience.”

Wieser has been interested in both the dramatic arts and the art of illusion since he was a child when he worshipped popular local magician Micky Hades, even taking courses with the master illusionist. He also took part in local theatre productions from the time he was 10 years old.

After graduating with his BFA from the University of Calgary’s Drama Department (today housed within the School of Creative and Performing Arts), Wieser went on to complete his MA at the University of Victoria. His technical skills made him a fixture of Calgary’s theatre scene and this eventually led to jobs within both the Calgary and Toronto film industries where he learned the art of special effects design.

Wieser feels that his time at the University of Calgary helped him develop skills that greatly benefited his career. “The professors I had taught me to think and analyze and criticize and, for me, that was brilliant,” says Wieser. “And, most importantly, they let us play. We got to do some amazing, weird, cutting edge work. Some of it was really experimental and ahead of its time.

“This taught me to push the limits and that’s a quality which has guided me throughout my career.”