Quote Unquote: Bomb Disposal Technician by Day and Visual Effects Artist by Night
As one of Hawai‘i’s few bomb disposal technicians, Kamakani De Dely puts his life on the line defusing unexploded military ordnance. But outside of his day job, he builds costumes, prosthetics and visual effects for shows such as Marvel’s “Inhumans” and “Hawai‘i Five-0” for OnceFound FX, the state’s first special effects and makeup studio and supply store, which De Dely founded.
photo: aaron k. yoshino
Before bomb disposal, I worked pretty much everything. I was a lifeguard, I sold tuxedos at this place in Pearlridge, I worked construction, I worked at a gym as a personal trainer.
I went for school [to be an unexploded ordnance technician] at Texas A&M and after that, I started moving up the ranks … and now I’m a team leader. There’s only a handful of people who do this on the island—maybe two dozen that I know of.
I’ve lost friends doing this. Back in 2011 at that Waikele bunker explosion, a team was getting rid of illegal fireworks and they were in the tunnel when it exploded. Two
of them were my best friends.
Even now when I work with ordnance, I wonder: If this item blows up, would I know? Would I feel it? Thoughts like this go through your mind when you’re working on something that could kill you and your entire team.
But I love the fact that I can do this. I’m from Hawai‘i, I’m Hawaiian and I take pride in my culture and the fact that we’re out here cleaning up the land. We’re making sure it’s safe for people to go out in these military training areas and for construction crews to go out there and work.
One of the films that first inspired me [to do special effects] was Alien vs. Predator in 2004. I really wanted to learn how to make stuff but there were no places in Hawai‘i and [learning things on] YouTube wasn’t big back then. So I wrote to effects companies in L.A. and I interned with one for a few months. I learned the basics on making molds, casting resin, building armor, all that stuff.
At the shop, we sell Kryolan makeup, fake blood, mold-making supplies like silicone and resin. We get everybody coming in, from hobbyists to film industry people to military personnel to fishermen casting molds to make lures. I’ve had interior decorators come in to duplicate specialty tiles they have or to create custom crown molding.
I kind of ruined movies for myself though because now when I watch films and see blood, I wonder, is that the same brand we carry? Or I start looking for the lines where they glued the prosthetic onto a face, like, ooh, that’s a good blend.
I don’t want people to be forced to move to California to learn this stuff. You should be able to live here at home with your family, learn and perfect your skills, build up your résumé, then send it out. You don’t have to automatically go to L.A. when I’m here and willing to teach classes.