LOWELL — Since she was a child, Madeline Bogathy has wandered the world of trolls, dragons, gnomes and other strange creatures populating classic fantasy fare in stories, books and movies.
It's a world Bogathy, now a 17-year-old senior at Lowell High School, continues to inhabit as a talented special effects, or FX, artist with professional gigs on her resume, and college and career plans in that art niche.
"My dad read a lot of fantasy stuff to us," Bogathy said of her father, Randal, who along with mother, Dana, and brother, Owen, make up the Bogathy family.
"I've always liked dragons. I think they were the first things I drew," Madeline said. It was natural, then, for her to create the 24-foot-long, 9-foot-tall dragon affectionately dubbed Vanessa for the LHS spring production of "Shrek the Musical."
The creature, operated by its creator, rocked the stage and wowed audiences.
"The dragon had its beginnings on my kitchen table," Dana Bogathy said with a grin. In fact, the Bogathy home is filled with the masks, molds and other work of its resident artist.
"When I was 11, I got into the world of FX," Bogathy said. She started watching a Syfy Channel program called "FaceOff," and approached the Season 4 winner Anthony Kosar, of the Chicago area, who runs Kosart Studios, a commercial studio serving theater, TV, film, web, media and more.
She began working there as an intern doing prosthetics applications and mold-making, including work for Kosart clients, "Chicago P.D." and "Chicago Fire." A favorite was prosthetics and paintwork she did for Chris Brown's musical video, "High End."
"It was awesome. I got to talk to him on the phone for a bit," she said. She also demonstrated how to apply makeup on a live model at ComicCon in Chicago last year and is slated to appear again this year.
Although quiet and not wired to tout her talent and accomplishments, Bogathy did admit to receiving lots of positive feedback on her work including from LHS teacher Terry Brandush, who hopes she will be part of a revival in an industry dependent on CGI, computer-generated imagery.
Bogathy also is ready to attend Columbia College in Chicago where she has been accepted, or Chicago's Academy of Art where she has won a scholarship.
Her eventual hope is to avoid FX-saturated Los Angeles and start her own studio in the Midwest where there are fewer professionals in the genre, she said.
While Bogathy's career path is aimed at special effects, she has won numerous awards and scholarships for her work in clay sculpture, drawing and digital illustrations, she said.
When asked why she finds FX so compelling, Bogathy said, "I like making a story for people and let them unravel it themselves. It's not static like art. It brings a whole other level to a story."
Frightful family fun
For nearly nine years, the Bogathy clan has operated Bogathy Fright Productions, which annually mounts a haunted house for charity.
"Last year, it was in our backyard," Madeline said, noting it has been held in school buildings and civic group halls in the past. "We've just started looking for a permanent venue," she said.
The family currently is involved in getting municipal permits and approvals for a 5,000-square-foot space they found in Cedar Lake to become their permanent haunted house home, Randal said.
While Randal and Madeline work the creative end, Dana handles the business side and is an actor as half of a favorite haunted house duo, the clown twins. Owen, 15, does all the engineering stuff since he's technical, his sister said.
Brainstorming for this year's haunted house, which generally begins weeks in advance of Halloween already has begun. By mid-September, props are being built, and set-up is two weeks ahead of opening night.
Additional family and friends are volunteer actors.
To learn more, visit Bogathy Fright Productions at hellsofhavenwood.com or on Facebook at Bogathy Fright Productions: The Hells of Havenwood Charity Haunt. Last year's haunted house benefited Don't Be a Monster, an anti-bullying organization.