MUD Talks: An Interview with Vincent Van Dyke

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Vincent Van Dyke is an industry leader in special make-up effects. Getting his first job at just 14 years old, Vincent Van Dyke has gone on to work on TV shows and movies like I Tonya, Darkest Hour, Code Black, and Dexter. Acting as the owner and creative director of Vincent Van Dyke Effects at only 28 years old, Vincent Van Dyke has now moved to the Burman studio space where he learned the tools of the trade.

Despite being so much younger than his peers, Vincent Van Dyke says his career has always progressed in “gradual baby steps.” From experimenting with a make-up kit at six years old, to introducing himself to Barney Burman at an FX supply store, to working with Kazu on Darkest Hour, Vincent Van Dyke’s career has blossomed in a way many young make-up artists can only dream of. We spoke with him about approaching your make-up artist idols, living your passion, and knowing when to take your next big career step.

MUD: What was the defining moment when you knew you wanted to be a make-up artist?

VINCENT: That’s such a hard question for me because it goes back so far. My step-dad was a huge film aficionado, so he was really big into old black and white silent movies and all that stuff. I remember one night in particular I was going to bed and he had the original Hunchback playing and I was mesmerized by it. I could barely go to sleep because I was like ‘oh my god I want to do that!’ When I woke up in the morning I got my little makeup kit out and I duplicated that makeup on myself. I don’t remember when I first got this little kit or how I put it together, but I had it already. That was one of those moments where I got silly putty and I got a pillow and I shoved it in my back and I made this little face. It was really a fun make-up to do. There’s a picture of it somewhere that my mom has I’m sure.

MUD: How old were you?

VINCENT: I was probably six when I did that–that’s what’s weird. I had no idea what I was doing; I just knew it was fun. My mom would always be so encouraging and so supportive. I would say “how does this person look like this?” And she would go “oh well it’s makeup and I don’t really know how to answer that question, honey.” My association with makeup was what my mom put on her face so I was like “well that doesn’t make any sense!”

MUD: I read online that you were reading a lot of books and watching a lot of videos about special make-up effects early on. Which ones in particular?

VINCENT: I was reading a lot of Vincent Kehoe’s Special Make-Up Effects. It’s funny because I found it recently and it has all these little highlighted notes and post-its. It looks like a textbook, you know? The internet was in its absolute infancy, so I was literally going through books and getting VHS tapes. Michael Burnett had a line of VHS tapes that were huge for me. I watched those over and over and over again.

MUD: You met Barney Burman at an FX supply store, correct?

VINCENT: He was there shopping and I showed him my portfolio, and maybe six months after that he gave me a job. It was my first internship, which was amazing. Then later on, maybe one and a half or two years after that, I went over to Tom and Bari Burman’s shop. That was when my career took off. You know, you have your job and then you have like your career. It was really like they honed me in and guided my eye. I can’t imagine any other company ever doing that for me. I was so, so lucky to have fell into that position at that time in that month and the universe–just everything aligned and it just worked amazingly.

 

MUD: What was it like working that young?

VINCENT: Oh it’s ridiculous! It’s weird to be paid for something that you absolutely love. I think that’s honestly still hard for me to grasp, because so many people have to work to live but when you live to work and you really just have this amazing passion that you get paid for–that’s so rare. It was hard for me to fathom like ‘oh I’m getting a paycheck for playing with the stuff that I played with already for so many years as a little kid.’

MUD: I bet that a lot of people reading this will wonder how you were able to just strike up a conversation with a potential employer. Do you have any tips for approaching a big make-up artist?

VINCENT: I always had my portfolio with me. So no matter where I went, especially if I was going to a make-up store, I always had a little portfolio. You never know who you’re going to run into. I would just go up to them and say ‘hey, I know who you are, and I would love to show you my portfolio. I hate to interrupt you.’ I can’t imagine anybody in this business going ‘I don’t have time for this like get out of my face.’ Everyone’s going to take a minute to look at your portfolio, especially if you’re coming up to them, and you’re polite, and you’re just asking for them to look at your stuff, not asking for a job. I wasn’t really thinking about having a job.

MUD: When did you know that you wanted to have your own studio?

VINCENT: It’s funny because I think a lot of people maybe discover that they want their own studio after working for people, but I knew from when I was little. I really loved this stuff, and I knew that one day (I just thought it was going to be when I was 50), I want to be able to have the stuff produced under my roof be something I’m really proud of. When it happened I had no idea that I was ready for it. I don’t think you ever know that you’re ready for a move like that. But the way that everything had aligned–I had been working at the Burman’s for around 8 years, and I eventually became their shop supervisor and creative director, and they had really groomed me to be in a position like that. Bari Burman pushed me and my eye so much- really giving me a totally different perspective on the way I approached sculpture and paint. She and Tom are brilliant artists. And Tom Burman had such an ease about everything he did- always thinking outside the box and pushing the boundaries for the “standard” approach. Orchestrating teams, and working with extreme deadlines, I could go on and on but they really made it possible for me to have my own shop. It was a good time for me to be able to get a space and see what happens.

MUD: You’ve said it can be difficult to relinquish creative control once you start expanding. Do you have any advice for delegating tasks or collaborating?

VINCENT: I’ve been really fortunate that all the artists that I hire are all very collaborative. I never feel like somebody’s taking the bull by the horns and just saying like ‘this is how we’re doing it.’ It’s always a conversation of like ‘what’s the best way to get here?’ That was something that was instilled in me from Bari and Tom when I was working with them–like having these discussions and having open ideas of like ‘let’s take ego out of it and look at this situation and figure out the best way to do it.’ That to me is always the answer. Most of the time the answer for me is ‘that guy is way better at this than I am, so he’s going to do this.’ Sometimes it’s ‘I would love to sculpt this right now, but I’ve got my lead Daniele Tirinnanzi.’ He’s been my lead sculptor and painter now for a while, and he’s brilliant, so I always know that he’s going to do these things better than I am and it’s easy for me to relinquish that creative direction.

MUD: What is your favorite thing about your job?

VINCENT: I think that actually is my favorite thing about my job–that collaborative deal–because it’s so nice to be able to work with other artists that I learn from every day. For me the coolest thing is when I get to hire people that I think are so amazing at their job. Because I don’t shop hop around, I’m actually bringing people in that I get to look over their shoulder and learn from.
It’s cool to me when I can go ‘oh, I get to bring in Mitch Devane, who I think is the best sculptor in the business, to sculpt for me and he’s across from my office and I can just look in there and be like ‘wow Mitch Devane is sculpting the most amazing thing right now!’ That to me is kind of the coolest thing.

Thanks for talking with us, Vince!

From Mailman to Make-Up Artist: Adrian Rigby talks with Burbank Students for MUD Talks

Working as a postman for the UK Royal Mail, Adrian Rigby began his career reaching out to special effects make-up artist Nick Dudman. They had never met, but both living in Northern England where there was little work, Rigby figured Dudman was the only big professional he might be able to get to look at his portfolio. A few months later, Dudman invited Rigby to one of his first four-day make-up courses, and to his surprise, offered him a job on Harry Potter.

Photo courtesy of IMATS

“I had the interest from 11 or 12 years old” says Rigby about his swift career change. With little-to-no experience, it’s pretty remarkable that he would start his make-up career on the set of one of the world’s biggest movie franchises. “I had very little experience in film at that point so it was a completely new world for me,” he said about starting off in the Potter mold shop. His first task, making a mold for one of the Basilisk’s tongs, took him “longer than it should” and longer than his boss expected. But his appreciation for the job and raw talent shone through, and Dudman asked him to help run his courses in their time off between films.

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

Though Dudman may have catapulted his career, Adrian Rigby has gone on to make a name of his own. Since entering the industry professionally in 1998, he has done a lot of freelance work, including projects for Neill Gorton’s Millenium FX, KMFX, and Mark Coulier’s Creatures company. The films he’s worked on include Merlin, World War Z, Atlantis, Heart of the Sea, and Eastenders. And, in addition to working on the Harry Potter series, he also has contributed to other fantasy franchises like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. We found out his best tips:

  1. Let your passion show. When asked why he thought Nick Dudman so serendipitously wanted to hire him, Rigby guesses that “he could just see I really wanted it.” And, despite now being so established, throughout our interview Adrian Rigby kept calling a career in make-up things like “a dream come true,” or “fantastic.” In a field with so much talent, it’s clear how easily your passion can become the factor that sets you apart.

    Photo courtesy of AdrianRigby.net
  2. Be kind to your coworkers. When asked what makes some of the make-up professionals he’s worked with so special, Rigby answered “they’re just nice people. It comes across in working life.” Though this might seem like a no-brainer, it can be surprising just how important being enjoyable to spend time with is in the working world.

    Photo courtesy of IMDb
  3. Find a hard-working crew. Rigby says that though working on the set of Game of Thrones is “hard work,” it is also “one of the best jobs ever because of the crew we work with.” It can be easy to to get tired on a film or TV set, especially when you and your coworkers are working 12-hour days for months at a time. But when you’re with the right crew, the real magic begins to unfold. On the set of Game of Thrones, for example, Rigby says “nobody says no, because they have such a good time.”

    Photo courtesy of AdrianRigby.net
  4. Pursue the jobs you’re fanatical about. When he worked a day on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rigby skipped his break so he could watch the actors: “I just wanted the opportunity to be on set…I’m such a Star Wars fan.” He says the same thing about Game of Thrones as well, having watched the series before ever working on it. Needless to say, a job is going to be a lot more fun if you’re excited about it.

    Photo courtesy of AdrianRigby.com

Thanks for talking with our students Adrian!

Special Make-Up Effects Professional Neill Gorton Speaks to Students for MUD Talks

British animatronics and prosthetic specialist Neill Gorton has developed a name for himself on the sets of Saving Private Ryan (1998), Children of Men (2006) and Doctor Who (2005). Starting at only 17 years old, he has won the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards four times with six nominations, and won the RTS (Royal Television Society) Awards two times with five nominations.

Photo courtesy of The Prosthetics Event

Having grown up watching other renditions of the same monsters he now recreates for Doctor Who, Neill Gorton’s successful makeup career is a childhood dream come to life. Now, with Doctor Who as a career-defining project, he spends much of his time on set redesigning his own characters rather than those of years past. The show’s humanoid robots “cybermen,” for example, have already been reimagined and recreated three times. This opportunity, he says, is due to working in TV instead of film: “you can take a great character and start exploring different directions.”

Photo courtesy of WhosFX

But Doctor Who isn’t Neill Gorton’s only career milestone. “In my teens it was working on Hellraiser II and Nightbreed…in my twenties the next big milestone was Saving Private Ryan…[and] in my thirties when Doctor Who came around it’s just ticking off all these great things” he says. Here’s some of his best stories and advice:

 

  1. When recreating a character, do your research. “You have to show respect to the source” says Gorton. As he finds himself reinventing characters that have been been previously featured on Doctor Who, he says it can be difficult to find a balance between an old design and a new update. Thus, instead of completely reimagining something, he advises artists to reference back to original designs and focus on carefully tweaking it for a modern setting. 

    Photo courtesy of National Film School Lecture Series
  2. If big productions aren’t for you, try TV instead of film. Although Gorton has had the privilege of working with some great directors, working on film felt to him like he was just a “cog in the machine.” When working on The Wolfman, for example, Gorton says he went to a production meeting with almost 120 people. “You can’t even have a conversation because you have to shout at everyone across the room” he says. In television, however, a makeup artist is able to work with a smaller crew and take on a greater variety of projects.

    Photo courtesy of Make-Up Artist Magazine
  3. On working with Steven Spielberg: Gorton says working with Steven Spielberg was one of his most exciting jobs. “He could edit in his head” says Gorton, and “there was so much attention to detail because you only need to do one thing wrong in one of those movies and there will be people pointing it out.” After life casting all the crew for Saving Private Ryan’s deadly battlefields, for example, Spielberg stopped him because he had made the bodies look British rather than American–something that had never occurred to Gorton. Working with that level of film craftsmanship was inspirational in his career.

    Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
  4. On the future of special effects makeup: Although the onset of CGI might scare a young makeup artist interested in special effects, Gorton gives us a comforting dose of reality: “people love new new toys,” but “then when they see something live they go: ‘hey, there’s something else there: it’s on the set, I can light it, I can perform with it, I can do something else.’ “ When Jurassic Park was released, there were all the same fears circulating through the industry, and now 25 years later there are even more professional artists doing special effects. According to Gorton, all that’s going to happen in the industry now is “closer collaboration” between technology and makeup artists.

    Photo courtesy of The Prosthetics Event

Thanks for talking with our students, Neill!

Makeup Artist to the Stars Gregory Arlt Visits our Burbank School for MUD Talks

One might know Gregory Arlt for his pin-up red carpet looks on Dita Von Teese, his vintage doll-like makeup on Katy Perry for her One of the Boys album cover, or his glamorous editorial work with Angelina Jolie for Vanity Fair. Make-up artist Gregory Arlt has had an expansive and successful 25-year career in the makeup industry. Luckily for us, Arlt dropped by our Burbank location for one of our MUD Talks to lend the students some red carpet tips, skin care recommendations, and stories from his work with the industry’s top stars and photographers.

Photography: Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott

When asked how he became interested in makeup, Arlt can point to a few distinct moments. Watching Culture Club on MV3 (what he called the “poor man’s MTV”), Arnt says his “whole life changed.” Not only was the star in makeup a man, something Arlt had never seen before, but also this was a moment in which Arlt’s suburban bubble of Westchester exploded to reveal a whole new world at his disposal. Arlt also points to the first time he saw his lipstick-loving mother come home from a department store makeover with eyeshadow for the first time, and flipping through Francesco Scavullo’s book Women. Inspired by the transformative power of makeup, Arlt went on to develop the distinctive glamorous style he is now known for.

But Arlt’s talk was not all about his own biography. Scrolling through a slideshow of his favorite makeup looks, Arlt sprinkled in advice and stories of moments shared with some of his favorite faces. Here are some of his top tips:

  1. First, focus on skin: Looking at a bold-lipped photo of six-year client Gwen Stefani, Arlt draws attention to her clear, glowy skin. “A lot of makeup artists want to go to the fun stuff” he said, but “my brain doesn’t even compute that. You can throw on mascara running down the hallway or a lip whereas if you go on with your skin not being done and there’s imperfections or discoloration, everything gets negated.” Advocating that a makeup artist should never rely on photoshop for anything, achieving perfect, flawless skin is always his primary emphasis for editorial work.

    Photo courtesy of gregoryarlt.com
  2. Know your makeup history: “However important you think it is, it’s nowhere near how important” as it should be, Arlt says. Discussing 60s references in a Katy Perry makeup look, Arlt encourages makeup artists to ask questions, like “Is it Twiggy is it Edie Sedgwick is it Pamela Grier?” or just “where in the 60s are we?” Albeit fun, having good historical knowledge is also a necessity when references are the language of the industry.

    Photo courtesy of gregoryarlt.com
  3. Make your model feel good: Discussing the intricacies of red carpet makeup, Arlt’s bottom line is that he wants the star to feel “like the A+ version of themselves.” When it comes to red carpet, this means doing a makeup that works not only for an image but also when the star is talking to people, or allowing there to be a little more attention on the dress for a change. One specific tip he had for red carpet is to still moisturize the skin: since the client will likely be showing more of it, make sure the skin moisturized and healthy before toning down the shine with foundation and powder

    Photography: Aleksandar Tomovic

Thank you for taking the time to come to campus and speak with our students, Gregory! 

 

Actor, Writer, Producer David Dastmalchian Speaks with Students at MUD Industry Speaks

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David Dastmalchian came to Make-Up Designory’s Burbank campus for an interview in front of students with Deverill Weeks. He shared some of the secrets of success to being a working and well respected make up artist in the film and television industry. He offered three simple rules. First, the right make-up helps the actor create the character. David believes that if the make-up is right, the character flows from there. He says that character development is 90% from the outside in, and that hair and make-up help a great deal with character development. Secondly, remember that the make-up artist is the first one the actors will be with during the day, and that the make up artist really sets the energy for the actor for the day. So be positive, professional, calming, and create an environment that lets the actor feel safe and comfortable. This will be a great help in keeping the production on schedule. Finally, do not complain. Actors and others may start complaining about the conditions, the producers, other actors, or the long day. Do not fall into the bad habit of complaining. Be empathetic and understanding, but not negative. Keep the energy positive and move on to another subject. This will keep the actors and the set more productive.

David Dasmalchian, who is co-staring alongside Paul Rudd in the upcoming film Ant-Man, has an impressive body of work. He was in The Dark Night, Prisoners, Employer, and many stage productions. He was raised in Kansas and grew up loving special effects make-up and comic books. Throughout his life, movies were an escape. He was on his way to college to play football when he became heavily involved in theater. He started acting professionally in Chicago, and then headed to Hollywood where he has been doing well ever since. He is now married with his first child. He recently co-wrote and produced his first feature length film, Animal, which is being released in theaters nationwide in May. The make-up on that film was expertly done by MUD grad Amber Talarico. Look for details, of the movie release and his Q&A sessions at the premiers, on the MUD Facebook pages.

Students had a great opportunity to hear first hand from a well known actor about how important make up is to character development and to setting the mood of the actor on the set. His closing advice was find your marketable strengths and spend time with people you respect and want to be like.

Industry Speaks: Make-up Artist Kenny Myers

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What do you get when you leave a napping mother around a 5 year who is more interested in mommy’s makeup bag than he is about sleepy time? An Artisan Award winner and three-time Emmy nominee for make-up, that’s what. Kenny Myers, known for his work on The Prestige (2006), X Men: The Last Stand (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) and The Last Samurai (2003) graced MUD students and industry friends with insight on his journey as a make-up artist in the film industry.

While his story has great twists and turns, a few nuggets of wisdom appeared with every tale. For aspiring artists looking forward to their own journey, Myers shared professional advice that can be used in whatever path one takes.

“Innovation comes from every direction” Myers shared with the room full of wide eyes. The next big thing is always on the horizon and can come based on the smallest thing. Even when you’re working late at night, that one new “thing” can happen.

“Don’t be afraid of showing what you know. It WILL come back to you.” As the artist began talking about how techniques of Dick Smith had come alive from one project, it’s apparent that the genius of Smith has lived on throughout the face of make-up artistry today.

For artists that are ripe into the industry, Myers advises, “Your job isn’t to show off. It is to bring your skillset to who you work for.” People know that you’re good, that’s why you’re there. Do the job and save the sales pitch.

MUD thanks Kenny Myers and his family for joining us for such an insightful Industry Speaks and we look forward to seeing you around the MUD campus again soon. You can find a more detailed look into the eyes of the artist soon in an upcoming edition of MUD Art, with photographer and writer, Deverill Weeks.

Industry Speaks: Cloutier Remix

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Madeline Leonard, Director and Owner of the prominent agency Cloutier Remix, along with her team Libby Anderson and Marissa Alfe,visited Make-up designory Burbank to give students and alumni some insight on what it takes to get representation. The advice they gave was hearty and straight forward. “Show only your best work. Your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest image,” stated Madeline Leonard. Marissa, a new comer to the agency is focused on moving forward in the digital direction. She emphasized the importance of making sure your Online presence represents you as a professional artist and reflects your work and experiences in the best light, especially if you’re seeking work as a Brand Ambassador. “Brands want to protect their image and want someone that conducts themselves in a way that aligns with their brand.”

During the group discussion, the panel was asked to describe what it meant to have an agent. “We do whatever it takes for the artist to be seen in the best possible way, that they get credited for their work, and that their image is protected as a brand—artists are their own brand. Nothing we do for our artists is too big a task, or too small,” responded Libby, while adding, “my goal is to make my client’s goals happen.”

Upon concluding the group discussion, the panel graciously agreed to review MUD Alumni Magali Perets’s website magalirachel.com and give her pointers on how to make it presentation-ready. “Portfolios these days are all online. It’s rare that a portfolio is delivered as a hard cover. Your site must state exactly what you do, it must be easy to navigate and again, show only your best work!”

We would like to thank Madeline and her team again for taking the time to share their valuable insight with our students. We hope they visit us again soon!

About Cloutier Remix | http://cloutierremix.com/

Cloutier Agency­—Los Angeles’ premiere hair, makeup and styling agency—is reborn as Cloutier Remix.
Always respectful of its remarkable legacy of longevity in relationships with artists and clients, Cloutier Remix is taking on the future.

Says Madeline Leonard, heartbeat of the agency for the last 23 years and now owner, “Our new name update reflects our developing direction. In addition to continuing to represent prestigious, innovative beauty and fashion talent, we’re also forging new alliances worldwide and establishing a stronger presence in New York.”

This global positioning is the next logical step for the agency, given that the clients, companies and media who generate beauty and fashion imagery are worldwide players. Furthermore, Cloutier Remix artists are at home on the world stage. At any given time, in fact, Cloutier Remix is sending talent to work on location on five continents.
With a stellar roster and flawless integrity in place, Cloutier Remix will continue to build real alliances with clients and artists. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/cloutierremix | Instagram: http://instagram.com/cloutierremix

Industry Speaks: Make-up Artist Jordu Schell

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Contributor: Svenya Nimmons

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but in the case of Jordu Schell, what frightens you, makes you create an imagination of your own.  At a young age, he gasped at an image of someone being chased in a movie and his mother quickly shut the television off.  Fearful and curious, the artist-to-be was then left to imagine what the creature looked like.

His curiosity continued as he began experimenting with masks during his youth, landing him at a tradeshow in Chicago where he was the first boutique mask maker showcasing his works.  The rest is history.

With such credits as Alien Resurrection, Men in Black, Avatar and Edward Scissorhands, this industry vet has 30 years of experience in painting, sculpting and designing. You can find him at work in his studio in Chatsworth, CA.  His lovely and talented assistant Emily Deroski helps with sculpting and her attitude of just showing up to do whatever is needed for the day is admirable.  Plus, she’s great with auto mechanics which adds to her cool factor.

So what makes an awesome character?  According to Schell, a well-crafted piece with an expansive imagination of form really brings it home. His advice as an artist looking to be taken seriously in the industry is quite simple: Be prepared for whatever opportunity comes your way with a website, business cards and a knack for networking that shows your genuine interest in what you do. “You’re not entitled to anything and the world owes you nothing,”- great advice from the guy from Philly that learned to love horror films in a way that has shaped his career.

As always, we are immensely grateful to Jordu and all of our  guests who give their time, knowledge and expertise to help our students through this diverse industry!

Industry Speaks: Don Lanning

 

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“If you feel you are an artist, you owe it to yourself to be an artist.” Don Lanning

Don Lanning was born in Van Nuys, California in the heart of Hollywood’s creature effects community. With early heroes Dick Smith, John Chambers, Stan Winston, Rick Baker and Rob Bottin as guides, Don started sculpting creatures at 10 years old. Don is known for his consistent ability to deliver the highest quality work at lightning speed on projects from conservative realism to the archetypes of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

As our Industry Speaks guest last night, Don took us through his career—a career that got started 10 years after his initial opportunity. He told the story of meeting Dick Smith at age 17. Mr. Smith being a helpful mentor to many artists, was also there for Don, giving him the phone numbers to people who might help him get his start in the industry that held his heart and passion. But, there was something, or someone else who held Don’s heart and passion—a girl—and Don chose a career in real estate, perhaps assuming a steadier path. After 10 years, Don took a good look at himself and didn’t recognize the person he saw. He described it as feeling like he was in someone else’s clothing, living someone else’s life.

Shortly thereafter, he had the opportunity to sculpt for a commercial. It was during that process wherein he acknowledged his calling. He said, “I was found.”

Don’s story was the premise for the rest of the evening’s conversation as he encouraged MUD students to stick to their dreams. “If you feel you are an artist, you owe it to yourself to be an artist…you are the most beautiful when you are creating…art is the only thing worth doing.”  While Don shared his impressive portfolio, the true inspiration may have been in the pep talk he gave for living the life you want.

Don has recently received high praise entering the world of fine art with his modern take on pop icons Batman & The Joker and his elaborate reimagining of The Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tinman from “OZ.” His work is featured in more than 50 motion pictures and he continues to live out his passion, recently opening up a shop in Van Nuys, California.

Don’t miss out on these valuable opportunities extended to you to meet and speak with industry pros at our weekly Industry Speaks events. Our monthlyevent calendar can be found on our facebook page: facebook.com/mudschools

Don Lanning Instagram: @don_lanning

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/twoeyestwohands

Industry Speaks: Jamie Kelman

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Contributor: Jarrell Mosely

If you arrived late to Make-up designory’s Industry Speaks spotlighting Jamie Kelman (http://www.fleshycreatures.com/), finding an empty seat was not going to be easy. The crowd of MUD graduates, students and staff were unquestionably there to see Kelman and understandably so. He’s a skillful special make-up effects artist, an inspiration and a superb storyteller. This can be seen in his special make-up effects work seen in movies such as Looper, Oz the Great and Powerful and Star Trek: Into Darkness. It was also evident in the way he masterfully told an inspirational, and at times comedic, story of how he went from a thirteen year old doing special effects make-up in his basement to a two-time Emmy award winning make-up artist.

It didn’t take much prodding for Kelman to open up about his career as make-up artist and his love for special effects make-up which began as a three year old watching Star Trek for the first time. “I’m a Star Wars kid,” Kelman stated. “I saw it and the world just opened up before my eyes,” he smiled as he revisited the childhood memory. “I believe that’s where it all started for me.”

When asked about his first job Kelman replied, “I have to thank my uncle for that,” and then vividly recounted the day his uncle, a producer of New York’s Shakespeare in the Park, had taken him to an FX studio when he was just a teenager. “I started working in the studio. I swept the floors and did other odd jobs around the shop.” He reflected. “But I learned so much and it was also where I got my first job working on the 1990’s show Monsters.” Almost as if he didn’t believe so much time had passed he added, “I was only sixteen years old.”

He continued the time line of his career. “After that I studied film at NYU but I always wanted to move to L.A.” and without pause he added, “L.A. is just where it’s at,” referring to opportunities for the up and coming special FX artist.

“Do you think going to school helped you in your career,” Devrill Weekes asked.

The answer came quickly. “I do. School is a great way to dip your toe in the water. You learn a lot from the people around you. You may find a new technique. I always learned from the people that were around me.”

Since, you mentioned that,” Weekes said leading into his next question. “Who was your mentor?”

“I had many,” he said and then took a brief moment to ponder on their names. “Matthew Monge for sure. He gave me my first job on Monsters and I learned so much from him and John Jackson. Dick Smith and Rick Baker of course and Steve Proudy. Definitely Katzu.”

“What is advice would you give to a make-up artist that are just starting?”

He replied. “Make it work.” Stop, step back and take a breath. If something isn’t working don’t keep doing it. If you can, make it better.” It sounded like age old advice you would receive from an elder and it made perfect since.

“Do you have a philosophy or a personal mantra?”

“Nobody wants to works with mean people.” He replied and the audience was enveloped by laughter. “I try to be nice. I try to have fun and I try to enjoy it.” His advice resonated with many in the room.

He continued to impart his words of advice. “I would also say protect your passion.” He said before adding, “Keep your passion alive because once it dies you may not be able to turn it back on.

A hand in the audience shot into the air with urgency. “How do you balance your work with your personal life,” asked a front row MUD student.

“I have a 10 year old and I’m married. I make time for them. When you start out take everything you can but don’t stay apart for more than 8 weeks. After that scandalous things start to happen,” He laughed. “You have to remember what’s important, which means sometimes you may have to say no. It’s also important that you know when and how to say no.

Other eager hands flew up. “What was your biggest challenge?”

The question required some thought. “I would have to say that beauty make-up was my biggest challenge. But I realized that you have to embrace what you fear the most so I started practicing beauty make-up. When I was working on The Grinch that Stole Christmas none of the guys wanted to do beauty make-up so they came to me.”

The questions began to come quickly. “What are some of the critical mistakes you’ve seen a new make-up artist make?”

“Trying to fly under the radar is the biggest mistake a new make-up artist can make. You have to make yourself known. You have to be on the radar. Now you have social media like Facebook so you can post your work.” He answered but shortly added words of caution and food for thought. “But people are posting everything on the internet. Only post what’s good. It’s better to have five great pieces of work than ten ok pieces.”

“Any advice for establishing relationships with a mentor?”

Reach out to them. You can find them on the internet and on Facebook. Send them a respectful email. Try hard to be helpful but stay out of the easy and learn. You’ll find that most people are willing to help you.”

“What’s on your goals list,” an enthusiastic voice asked from the crowd.

“I don’t have a goals list.” He answered. “I love what I do and I’ve had an amazing career. I’m living my dream. You’re lucky for the opportunities. Just grab them.”

And with those final words Jamie Kelman ended his interview and the audience erupted with applause. Without question he’d left an undeniable impression and left many words to ponder on later, words that would undoubtedly resurface during the careers of the make-up artist following in his footsteps.