If there is one thing you can say about Andre Freitas, it’s that he is anything but conventional. Life for him has always had a twist or a turn leading him down the pathway to where he is now, working with big budget Hollywood productions as they come through Atlanta.
Freitas was born in Hawaii, though he was there for only a short while. His father worked and trekked the globe with the Lockheed Corp. During his early youth, Freitas lived in Iran for four years and Singapore for three years before returning stateside. While abroad Freitas recalls fond memories of his mother, technically a stay-at-home mom, teaching art classes to the local children.
He says that his mother would make creative Halloween costumes designed around her influences at the time–European Opera in the 1970s–of clown or opera characters.
“I remember in 1979, she bought me a Mighty Man Monster Maker, which was like $14.99 then; now it sells for about 80 bucks,” Freitas recalls.
Shortly thereafter, his mother passed away, leaving him and his brother to be raised by his father. His father transferred taking a position at Lockheed Martin's Marietta division thereby allowing him to raise his sons without the rigors of travel and life abroad.
“My mother’s passing stimulated me to do more work,” Freitas says as he became a ‘drawing machine’ exploring the range of his talents early on.
While at Saint Joseph’s Catholic School from fourth through eighth grades, Freitas picked up where his mother left off in designing his own Halloween costumes, focusing on interesting make up combinations.
However, it wasn’t until his freshman year at Wheeler High that he discovered special effects. He says he went to a kid’s house who had amassed a collection of catalogues and magazines in the basement where he tried to assemble his own special effects.
Freitas took that information quickly and built upon it as he put his knowledge to use starting his portfolio within a matter of months from his initial exposure. Soon he surpassed the skill level of his buddy and their friendship faded.
As a practical matter, the materials for his hobby were fairly expensive, so Freitas took a job at a local hardware store offering him a significant discount on his materials and supplies.
“I needed to make money to finance the supplies to continue to do the special effects,” he says of the high school years.
Completely self taught through “experiments in training,” Freitas landed a unique opportunity the day after graduating high school. Through a program sponsored by the high school, Freitas, along with a selected group of other classmates, attended a field trip to Washington D.C. to learn more about the role of government.
With the aid of his father, Freitas had arranged a behind-the-scenes tour at the Smithsonian Institute where he presented and pitched his portfolio landing him an apprenticeship complete with pay and housing for the summer. There Freitas’ career began as he worked on a life-sized Javanese Warrior (from the Island of Java in Indonesia) for an exhibit called Beyond the Java Sea, on display from 1990 - 1996.
After leaving D.C., Freitas took his talents to Hollywood where he would gauge his skill against seasoned professionals while learning the specialized manner in which they worked, which was quite different from the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian would provide six months to complete a project, whereas the Hollywood studios would do the same project in two weeks.
In 1991, Freitas returned to Marietta equipped with two unique and highly specialized skill sets which would help him to make an indelible mark on the local film and artisan community. He started his business AFX Studios which has a suite at the Artisan Resource Center. Freitas says he was only able to make it with his business by adjusting to the needs of his consumer base. Since films were not readily produced in Georgia during the 1990s and early 2000s, business was essentially what he made it.
“Being in Georgia has made me a more diverse artist than if I would have been in Hollywood,” Freitas says, explaining the array of titles he has carried over the years. These include: prop master, makeup artist, special effects makeup artist, costume designer, costume fabricator, art director and art designer.
Freitas gives tribute to former Gov. Sonny Purdue for signing the Georgia film tax incentives into place as his business has more than quadrupled in the past couple years. He says he has worked on more ‘big budget’ studio film projects in the past two years than he has in the past 10 thanks to the film tax incentives.
“It’s like a gas station waiting for the freeway to come through–that’s what just happened to us (in Georgia),” Freitas says of the opportunities he is getting offered on a weekly basis. Notable projects he has been involved in include: Kalifornia (1993, Brad Pitt), Nell (1994, Jodie Foster), Zombieland (2009, Woody Harrelson), Vampire Dairies (CW Network), Big Momma’s House 3: Like Father, Like Son (2011, Martin Lawrence), Xmen 1st Class (summer 2011) and Teen Wolf (MTV television series, fall 2011).
As if that were not enough he also worked in costume design, character development and belt manufacturing for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) organization and the World Wrestling Entertain (WWE), which promotes Smack Down and RAW.
Freitas is currently working on Abraham Lincoln’s Vampire Hunter, shooting in New Orleans, produced by Tim Burton and slated for release next year.
However, Freitas is also a very talented sculpture artist with his works on display around the city. He says he enjoys working with independent artists as well. Andre Freitas can be reached at 770.499.0735 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.