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The Lamborghini kit that lead to breakaway glass.

The NewRule Origin Story

I’ve always been interested in film, movies, tv and entertainment. 

From the first frames of an enormous spaceship that roared across the local movie screen in an epic space western, to the plywood set built in my own backyard, I was enamored by the process of making movies and all the seemingly ridiculous amounts of detail and equipment that was required to create them. 

I grew up in a creative and technically inclined family. My mother Arlette is an amazing artist, she was always working on some new medium; painting, playing the piano, even flower arranging. My father Greg was an electrical engineer by trade and as a by-product of that profession he also had an interest in photography, computers, electronics and basic carpentry. Fortunately for me, that gave me access to a lot of interesting cameras, electronics, and other gear that would all coalesce into a love of filmmaking. Making movies combines creative and very technical skills together into a very complex, yet rewarding art-form. 

In the early 80’s my father bought a very early version VHS home video camera system and after relenting to the constant pestering from my brother Darren and I, allowed us to use it. Together, we made scores of short, pretend commercials and short videos. Most of which were pretty much unwatchable, but the skills began to grow and so did my desire to create things that looked more and more realistic. The camera technology and editing was very limited, so everything had to essentially be done in-camera. That was the beginning of my love of special effects. 

I owe a debt of gratitude to the legions of plastic green army men, first generation Star Wars action figures, and Matchbox car toys that ultimately met their demise in the service of my earliest motion pictures. My friends and I also spent hours rummaging in my father’s garage looking for old electronics parts, circuit boards and switches; tirelessly hot-gluing random pieces to make “control boards” or spaceships and the like. 

Most of the time these creations made it into a video, though sometimes just the art of creating these little props was the end product in itself. After getting my first issue of Fangoria magazine, I then jumped bloody-head-first into experimenting with makeup effects, latex, molding and casting and all sorts of other fake blood-covered things. Halloween quickly became my favorite holiday (after Christmas…the best re-supply holiday). I would bicycle out through the neighborhood with my best gory makeup FX and wow the neighborhood kids. 

My passion continued throughout elementary school and into junior high. It was at that point when I started on a multi-year movie project called “Operation: Revenge," a right out of the 80’s playbook adventure movie (read: glorified home movie) with teenager heroes, Russian assassins, car chase scenes, a robot, police and even a scene with a real helicopter attacking our heroes! Many of my closest friends were essentially conscripted to working each weekend and throughout our summers until my senior year of high school, when we finally figured out a way to get it edited together and into a (somewhat) watchable form. The “Big Premiere” of that project on my 18th birthday is still one of the greatest nights of my life. My friends and family were all there, my high school video production teacher even did the intro. It had it all, a stretch limo, a new date with a girl, lots of people giving me encouragement and attention. I had finished a pretty big project that had literally taken 5 years to make. Thirty years later the end product is now pretty tough to watch, but given the time and place that it was done, it’s pretty amazing we got it done. Someday I’ll post it to YouTube and let the endless stream of laughing and comments go into hyperdrive. 


The original Ryan Johnson production studio.

The Old School NewRule Production Studio 


After I graduated High School and started college, my production business, New Rule Productions, really started taking off. I was now creating real commercials for businesses around town, training videos, safety films, whatever someone would pay me to create. I started from my bedroom in my parents house, and by the time that I moved out, my bedroom was more than half filled with video editing gear, video monitors, computers and piles of video tape. The projects I was hired for were generally well done, and so the business grew and I used the funds that I made to further expand the company. We grew even larger, eventually building our own production facility and soundstage to support both our productions and others. New Rule Productions was now a multi award winning production company. I produced a television series that aired on ESPN called American Dragster which ran for two seasons.


Cover art for American Dragster season one.

Season One of American Dragster


As the production company grew, so did my experience directing and editing. With so much focus on the film side of my business, I realized I was losing touch with the physical creating side of the productions that I enjoyed so much. I wasn’t tying strings to model spaceships anymore. Gone were the days that I would empty the contents out of Piccolo-Pete fireworks fountains to create my own pyrotechnic charges. Most of my time was now spent lugging cameras around, setting up lights and just filming people talking. So. Much. Talking.

In the mid 90’s I decided to buy a Lamborghini Countach Kit car project. I’ve always wanted that car and this was the closest thing to being able to afford one that I could find. I spent hours in the garage tearing it down and rebuilding it, piece by piece. It satiated my hands-on desire that I needed, to balance the time I spent sitting in front of screens for my video production company. When it came to some of the extremely rare parts that I couldn’t find, say a badge or button for example, I would find an original on eBay, teach myself more advanced molding and casting techniques, and then create their plastic replicas. I sold those replica pieces on eBay to other enthusiasts and that, in turn, paid for more parts for my car.

 Ryan Johnson's 1990's Lamborghini kit project.

My Lamborghini Kit 

Learning to create molds and cast new parts opened up a whole new world to me. I began to look at everyday objects around me differently, examining everything to find the mold and parting lines, trying to think about how it must be created. 

Around that time I visited a friend one afternoon who owned a company nearby that made, among other things, masks and plastic vampire teeth for the halloween market. I was there to learn a bit more about advanced molding techniques using a vacuum chamber. I was trying to get really clear resin pieces for some of my badges, but was always getting bubbles. While I was there learning from Arthur, a real master at his craft, I saw a breakaway resin beer bottle on his desk. I mentioned how cool I thought those were and that I had always wanted to buy some to break, but never did because of their enormous price (in 2007 breakaway bottles ran about $22.00 each). He casually mentioned that with what I knew about making molds and the types of equipment I already had, I could certainly make some. That small encouragement dear friends, was most likely the real start of NewRuleFX. 

Fast forward TWO years, a lot of trial, failure, experimentation, and quite a few sore bumps on my head later, and I had come up with my own version of a breakaway bottle! It looked pretty good. I could sell these. was born. I learned just enough about how to code a website so that I could list my entire product line, a meager 11 different breakaway props, to sell online. This little business was the start of an entirely separate division of New Rule Productions. 


Some of the very first breakaway glass bottles.

Some of the earliest breakaway bottles headquarters started in my garage at home, and I hired Jordan, a kid from across the street to help me out and ship out these fragile props. The company grew, and I spent as much time as I could afford making new molds, creating new pieces, and even expanding into a line of safe foam prop replicas like the foam hammer — our first, still one of our most popular sellers. 

We quickly outgrew the garage which, by the way, most of my neighbors thought I was cooking meth in.  All that strange smelling melting plastic and fumes didn’t help. A newspaper reporter was curious enough to come and talk to me which resulted in a cover story in the local paper about my budding special effects business. We eventually made the move to an industrial park and built a dedicated shop, which we used as a precursor to make the bigger move to Los Angeles.


The Santa Maria FX shop.

The Santa Maria FX Studio


SMASHProps was growing and the professional production industry began to take notice. It was clear that further expansion was necessary; we had proven that a real need existed for good quality props at an affordable price. We were doing a lot of custom work and always innovating new products. But, being on the Central Coast was holding us back from getting some of the larger industry projects that we sought. A lot of customers couldn’t take us seriously because we weren’t in Hollywood. 

We eventually rebranded and migrated the website from SMASHProps (now the brand of our breakaway line), to in order to encompass the wider range of props that included things that were not getting smashed like our foam props, supplies and custom work. 


In 2012, and with the love and support of my then fiancee Sarah, we made the move to Los Angeles. One of our Central Coast employees followed us down as well. That was a big step and we were prepared to struggle and scrape to make ends meet. Fortunately, the business in L.A. really took off and we found the our operation grew quite quickly.  Sure, there were a lot of ups and downs, with more endless days and nights than I care to mention…to make sure that we delivered our props on time. We meet so many wonderful people and have had a lot of really great employees as we continue our expansion and grow our reputation in the industry. 


NewRule breakaway glass today

Current NewRule breakaway glass bottles


Today, we are a robust and busy effects shop that has multiple projects in the works on a daily basis. Our product line includes well over 1000 items now, and we ship our props and effects worldwide. Our work has been seen in hundreds of major theatrical, tv, and motion picture productions. The work that I get to do on a daily basis is a combination of the many skills that I stumbled onto or worked hard to learn as I grew up. I’m lucky to still be able to work on creating and discovering new technologies, techniques and skills. I try to continually push the envelope in the development of real world props and effects, and give our customers great value and friendly service. 

And, our story continues… Thanks for taking an interest in our journey to create the props and effects that are a part of the entertaining projects that entertain the world!

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Sam Drew - February 26, 2020

Ryan, thanks for this great story. As a use you may never have expected, we use your stage blood as a base for our surgical simulations. We perfuse real animal tissue with pulsating blood and surgeons love it – both the look and the feel. It is, by far, the easiest commercial stage blood to clean up. Congratulations on a great product and a great company.

Sam Drew
CEO and President
KindHeart, Inc.

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