‘Yellowstone’ TV: Special Effects Supervisor Gives Behind-the-Scenes Look at Shop where ‘TV Magic’ Is Made

by Jennifer Shea

“Yellowstone” has many tools in its special-effects arsenal. For instance, the show boasts a complete manufacturing setup, where the crew can make most anything they need for the show.

That was just one of the features pointed out by Special Effects Supervisor Garry Elmendorf in a behind-the-scenes featurette from “Yellowstone.” The show’s official Twitter account tweeted the video yesterday, adding, “This is what we call a little TV magic. #YellowstoneTV.”

“This is our fabrication shop, where we do all the pre-rigging, the design and the fabrication for the effects that are going on,” Elmendorf said of the setup. “We have a lot of unusual materials.”

There’s a metal shop, a welding area and lots of specialized Hollywood equipment and supplies.

‘Yellowstone’ Special Effects Supervisor Brings Feature Film Sensibility to ‘Yellowstone’

Elmendorf is a third-generation special effects guy. His grandfather got into the business in the 1920s. His father started in the 1950s. And he launched his career in the 1970s.

“They were good to me, but you always had to prove yourself,” Elmendorf said of being a legacy special effects person. “It’s not always that easy to be someone’s son.”

The special effects supervisor explained that while “Yellowstone” is a TV show, the cast and crew try to bring a feature film sensibility to their work. And that extends to the special effects on the show, which are the best Hollywood has to offer.

“Mostly I’ve done feature films, so I try to bring that quality of what we do to the screen,” Elmendorf said.

There are plenty of opportunities for eye-catching special effects on “Yellowstone,” which blends epic dramatic action with sweeping Western scenery. The show may be character-driven. But Paramount Network has shelled out some serious money for the beauty of the backdrop and the persuasiveness of the special effects.

“Every time you turn around there’s something really interesting to look at,” Elmendorf said.

Elmendorf’s Job Is No Easy Task

Elmendorf brings decades of feature film experience to bear on “Yellowstone.” But that doesn’t mean the show has been a walk in the park. Television scheduling can be difficult. You have to make allowances for actor availability, weather and shortened deadlines.

“You think you have a week to do something, and it turns out it’s tomorrow. So then it’s all hands on deck,” Elmendorf said.

As one example of the realistic special effects they deploy, Elmendorf cited the air mortar. When they don’t want to use pyrotechnics, they can get basically the same effect – say, the sound of gunshots – with the air mortar. They used the air mortar for the explosion in Beth’s (Kelly Reilly) office at the end of Season 3. (They also used a pyrotechnic device for the bomb, he added.)

The crew also made a lightweight version of Kayce’s (Luke Grimes) desk, which Grimes had to flip over in the final scenes of the Season 3 finale. The real desk weighs about 450 pounds.

“Set deck likes to get these beautiful, one-of-a-kind things that we can’t touch,” Elmendorf said. “So we have to turn it into something that we can deal with.”

Despite the challenges of his job, Elmendorf said “Yellowstone” features a great group of people and a true sense of camaraderie.

“It’s never boring,” he said. “We don’t do the same thing twice. Everything is a new challenge, but each one has its own little unique thing that you’ve got to worry about. It’s been really fun.”

Watch the featurette here: