Interview from 12 years ago
Time off has allowed me to search through the hundreds of DVDs in my collection and I have found some forgotten emails such as this.
The following is a write-in interview that someone did as their high school project. They contacted me through My Space I believe and I don't really remember writing this. I never heard from this person again or received a "thanks" so I'm wondering if they failed the project.
I wrote this when I was doing a lot of work at Optic Nerve Studios, Spectral Motion, and Quantum Creations. Work was VERY difficult to find back then due to an immense dry spell and the industry doing everything with CGI. This was when I used my income tax return to create the GRAB-IT PACK and things began to turn around for me. I received numerous big "pay days" through my invention which is an incredible feeling.
It is weird to read this because so much has changed since then: My product gave me financial freedom for 8 years, I became a makeup instructor, shops have more "permanent" employees, social media CAN get you noticed, CGI hasn't gotten any better and makeup effects has become more prominent and demanded in the industry.
My prediction for HDTV seems to have come to fruition and my 2005 demo reel has been online for 11 years and no one has watched it ;) I haven't updated it since.
1. What is your job description? What responsibilities and daily activities does this position entail?
Job description (from my resume): Created, implemented, and managed teams in order to meet stringent deadlines. Priority skills include: Silicone, Gelatin, and Foam Running for Appliances and Mechanical Creatures; Seaming; Creature Suit Construction; SAG Puppeteering, and Core “Sock” Tailoring. Experienced in Computer Graphics and Desktop Filmmaking
My “typical” day I run foam latex, gelatin, or silicone appliances. It depends what shop hires me. Bigger shops like Spectral Motion, I’m running foam, prepping molds, and that’s it. Smaller shops like Optic Nerve give me more responsibility such as fabricating suits, coming up with gags, and supervising a team of artists.
2. What are the skills, personal characteristics and physical abilities you should possess if you are considering this position?
When I have the ability to hire people this is what I look for: Extreme attention to details, must work well under pressure, thinking on your feet problem solving skills, ability to complete tasks without constant supervision, ask questions if not clear on job duties, and honest with abilities.
Things I won’t hire people for: causes drama in the shop, back stabber, known for not taking direction or completing tasks, too interested in climbing the ladder rather than doing a good job, excessive partiers (known to not show up for work due to hangovers).
3. What are the chances of getting a position in this particular field? In what parts of the world are these positions available? What are future trends of this position? What can this position lead to?
If you’re new to the business and keep your pay rate low… very good. Shops like to take advantage of less expensive, talented new comers.
Anywhere there is an effects shop and a film industry.
Makeup effects has changed little although materials are upgraded and some new techniques are being invented. I’ve noticed that less shops are having “permanent” crews year round.
Where you want to go with the position is entirely up to what you want to focus on. It is rare that opportunities are handed to you but I’ve seen it happen.
IMHO with advent of HDTV makeup artists are going to be in more demand and under more scrutiny.
4. What are some of the great things about your field of work? What do you feel the rewards and satisfactions are?
The experience, learning new things, meeting interesting people, and hearing great stories. Residuals for puppeteering and stunt gigs.
It’s nice to be complimented, rehired due to your work, and given more responsibility.
5. What are some negative aspects of this field? Do you feel any drawbacks or dissatisfactions?
Not being recognized or appreciated for work, fake friends, back stabbers, damage control when people lie to prevent you from getting hired, growing lack of work year round, it’s a young person’s industry, CGI steals a lot of work, lack of big long term projects, unstable work hours, and worse of all…seeing untalented, ass kissers getting promoted.
6. What are the usual hours you work? What time day or night would you be required to start your day?
It depends on the project. Some shops will not allow overtime so it’s 40 hours a week. However there have been times where I’ve worked two days with no sleep and 84 hour weeks.
7. What kind of environment would you expect to work in? Indoors, outdoors, office work.
In a shop, hopefully well ventilated.
8. In this field what would entry-level pay be? And what would be a maximum salary? Is it subject to change often? Any other benefits or perks? (Not asking your actual salary)
Entry level could start around $13/hour depending on experience. You have to be a good negotiator and prove why you want a higher salary.
The past two years I’ve had to take less money and work more hours.
Maximum salary depends on where you want to take your career.
Benefits are working often due to good word of mouth, working on set, occasionally a puppeteering gig. As for fringe benefits, there is no such thing unless you consider getting an occasional crew shirt or screen credit a benefit.
9. Do you have an updated portfolio that you present clients? Do you use it often? Website? What are your thoughts on the importance of either of these mediums?
Constantly updating portfolio and you will use it at EVERY interview, no one’s ever watched my demo reel. Websites are ok for personal use but not likely to land you a job. You’ll get A LOT of independent films asking for free work with a website. OK for experience but not good for the wallet.
As a tip: all work in your portfolio if you’re new to the business should be work you did OUTSIDE of school projects, this will set you apart from the crowd
10. What formal education, if any, would you suggest having in order to be hired for this position? What additional training would you suggest taking? Does this area offer training?
A good makeup school and stay focused on what you want to do. Most important is to EXPLORE outside of the classroom. When I started I had to learn from mimicking makeup artists in FAMOUS MONSTERS and FANGORIA magazine. Tom Savini’s first book started my training while I was an art major in college. I also went to business school for a year and it helped greatly in my management skills. Audio books on management are excellent for this as well.
Intern at a shop for the best experience.
11. When you began working in the industry what were your goals? Have you completed or surpasses what you set for yourself? What goals do you have in the future?
I wanted to be Tom Savini (an actor, stunt man, writer, director, and effects guy) I’m fortunate to have him as a good friend. I’ve done most of what I set out to do and have fallen short or got close with my scripts. I’ve given up on acting, it’s not for me. I’ve had a fun career and because I’m getting older ( I just turned 40 and have a 3 year old daughter) it’s hard to save money or travel at the drop of a hat.
Although I am impressed with what I have done considering my background, the monetary rewards have severely fallen short of my goals.
Because of my experience as a makeup artist and stunt man, I invented a product called the Grab-it Pack. I am hoping I am on a new path and this product will become my full time business.
12. Which set that you worked on was your favorite? Do you have any films that you worked on that are special to you?
Believe it or not, my favorite show was SPIDERS (a straight to cable movie). I got paid a lot of money, every shot we did went without any set up problems, and it was a fun crew.
TRAUMA was special because I was with my best friends and was working with two of my idols: Tom Savini and Dario Argento. I got to be very good friends with Asia Argento as well.
THE DARK HALF was my first film and I was a paid intern while still in college. It was my dream come true because I was working on a George Romero film and met people who are my best friends to this day.
13. What advice do you have for any makeup artists wanting to be a part of this industry?
Stay focused and be ABSOLUTELY clear on your goals. Do not spread yourself too thin, that has been a flaw of mine. Learn to be a good negotiator and surround yourself with people you trust. Help each other get work.
14. What has been the hardest obstacle in your career so far?
Whew. That’s a big one to answer. I’ll just say I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me far too many times. I haven’t had a “huge payday” show.
15. What films inspired you to get into the industry?
The original DAWN OF THE DEAD for makeup effects, GODZILLA films for monster suit puppeteering, THE ROAD WARRIOR/KILL AND KILL AGAIN (a South African martial arts film)/Shaw Brothers kung fu films for stunts/martial arts choreography
16. Do you have any artists working in or out of the industry that you take inspiration from?
First and foremost Tom Savini, a long time mentor and friend; Kazuhiro- because he is so scary talented, demands the best, and allows the time to do your best; Bob Kurtzman-because he moved to Ohio and started his own successful film company;
17. What are your thoughts on CGI being more incorporated in the makeup aspect of films?
No problem if it’s done right. BLADE 2 had some good stuff. WETA does amazing work, they do it right. ILM should just make cartoon movies. I just can’t understand that JURASSIC PARK had the best stuff and few CGI creatures compare to that after 15 years.
I really hate CGI blood. Totally ineffective. Some “digitally enhanced” makeups look too contrasty and unnatural.
18. What is your favorite makeup that has been featured in a film that has been created not by yourself?
Straight makeup would have to be in the movie VELVET GOLDMINE, really creative stuff that captured the era.
Prosthetics-Rick Baker’s work on ED WOOD, the performances complemented the makeup and was totally believable. Perfect example of how makeup effects should be used.
Gags- drill through the head in THE GATES OF HELL, amazing work that is down & dirty
19. Is there any specific effect that you love to do?
I love being in monster suits but that has come to a stand-still the last 4 years due to CGI. Next to that would be rigging blood gags and such, it’s like coming up with magic tricks that freak people out.
20. What advice do you have for any makeup artists wanting to be a part of this industry at an entry level?
You have to want it and be focused on what you want. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try not to be taken advantage of.
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