Mechanical Designer David Covarrubias has worked on all kinds of feature-films: IRON MAN, ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, INSTINCT, INSPECTOR GADGET…and that’s just the movies starting with “I.” Born in Guadalajara, Mexico on March 14th 1968, Dave’s interest in Special Effects came about differently from most people who are drawn to creature creation from a love of filmmaking or fascination with horror or sci-fi. Rather, Dave was essentially a “techno-nerd.” Fascinated with robotics since before he could speak, he acquired basic design and machining skills at an early age thanks to his his parents’ aerospace manufacturing company.
After high school, Dave started his own company; a small CNC machine shop doing production machining for larger aerospace companies. These were not happy years. Dave found the monotony and lack of opportunity for creative exploration stultifying. To stay sane, he spent time building robots out of 5 gallon buckets, lawnmower parts and some machined parts. Never imagining that he could turn his passion into a career, Dave shut the business down and moved to San Diego to finish his college general ed requirements. There Dave happened to catch a show called “Movie Magic.” In Dave’s own words, “At that moment the sky split open and a beam of light came down upon me... I think I even heard a chorus of angels singing in the background... well maybe it wasnt quite that dramatic but one thing was for sure... I knew exactly what my calling was.”
Dave started sending dozens of letters randomly to effects shops without even really understanding what kind of effects they actually did. His skill set and luck landed him an internship at Michael Burnett Productions, a makeup effects company known for lower budget and special venue productions. Moving to Los Angeles, Dave found himself both overworked and underpaid, but he was given invaluable gifts: a doorway into the industry, and an education in the basics in all departments. At MBP, Dave had the opportunity to paint, sculpt, puppeteer, mold, lifecast, etc as well as work in the mechanical department.
When the mechanical effects supervisor at MBP moved on, Dave was left as the only employee in the department. In his interview with the Stan Winston Studio, his position may have led to the impression that he was running the mechanical shop at MBP. Whether the supervisors at SWS were impressed, or just desperate for help, they offered Dave a position on a project. Dave worked incredibly hard to be sure they never realized the depth of his inexperience in the field. He spent his lunch breaks examining and absorbing as much of the amazing output that had come from the studio as possible. He worked on the animatronic body for the mutant baby in ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, and stayed with the crew who moved on to THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK. Dave designed the animatronic arms on the Raptors and Pachys and with every new job came more and more knowledge and responsibility. After Stan passed away, Dave moved along with the crew to Legacy Effects, where he is currently a lead mechanical designer.
Due to his aerospace machining background, Dave’s specialty is small precision work. He enjoys work that involves robotics and programming of micro-controllers as well as work on characters that require a solid understanding of human anatomy to achieve believable organic motion. He also loves exploring new technology and getting it to work for other purposes.
Dave splits his time between commercial work and features. Commercial work is faster paced and Dave appreciates the opportunity to travel and to develop his skills as a puppeteer, but in most cases commercials don't offer the time or budget to do bar-raising work. The right film can bring amazing challenges without as many restrictions—an ideal scenario for an innovator.
In the past few years, Dave has been focusing his attention on anatomy and microcontroller programming. A self-described “tinkerer/inventor” Dave is currently finishing up a high-end prosthetic arm for a family member as well as a device to help paralyzed people have a better quality of life. These projects are self-funded with the hope that someday Dave will be able to get this technology directly to the needy without the huge medical markups that make such devices unaffordable to most people. Through his startup company, Assisted Living Innovations and the Open Source community Dave hopes that this dream will become a reality in the near future.