Scott Essman and Mark Viniello Discuss Dick Smith’s Legacy for MUD Talks

You might recognize Dick Smith’s name for his work on Little Big Man, Amadeus, or Taxi Driver. Though he won an Oscar in 1985 for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for his work on Amadeus, his peers and proteges guess he would have won many more had the make-up award category even existed before 1981. For this reason, he also won an Academy Honorary Award for his career’s work in 2012.

Photo courtesy of IMATS

Nicknamed “The Godfather of Make-up” throughout the industry, Dick Smith pioneered many of the special make-up effects techniques we use today. The make-up for Little Big Man wasn’t just an old-age make-up, it was an old-age make-up that evolved to show the progression of over 100 years. He didn’t just do static bullet holes for The Godfather, but ones that bled and burst on screen. His make-up on Linda Blair for The Exorcist scared the audience so much, digital experts on movie remakes have attempted to recreate it. And, perhaps most memorably of all, David Bowie was so overwhelmed at the sight of his old age makeup for The Hunger that he left set for a full two days.

Photo courtesy of MonsterMovieKid.com

Writer, producer, and motion picture craftsmanship expert, Scott Essman, and special make-up effects artist, Mark Viniello, both came into contact with Dick Smith in very different ways. Taking up an interest in professional make-up artistry, Scott Essman was led to pursue Smith after hearing his name in interview after interview with other successful make-up artists. Viniello, on the other hand, pursued Smith as an aspiring make-up artist, mailing Smith copies of his work for months before Smith took him on as a student. Both talk about how they had to wear him down before he would take them seriously, contacting him repeatedly for information and advice. However, after years of collaboration, both came to consider Dick Smith a friend. Here are some of the most interesting things we learned:

  1. He’s responsible for multi-piece prosthetics. Back when make-up artists were using foam prosthetics in the 50s, these masks would have to be tugged and stretched to fit the actor’s face because the foam would shrink. This was very difficult and very uncomfortable for the actor because it was so hard to be expressive and move under the prosthetic. “Dick said there’s got to be a better way” says Viniello, “so what Dick reasoned is if there were little sections that overlapped, he could glue it on piece by piece and have a better glue down so the actor would be more comfortable and have more movability.” Now, years later, even though make-up artists all use silicone, Smith’s multi-piece prosthetic technique is still used.

    Photo courtesy of Lucy Amelia Thomas
  2. He was blatantly honest. When Viniello first approached Dick Smith for make-up advice, Smith told him he didn’t have “the skills you need to be a make-up artist.” After wearing him down by sending him continuous letters and photos, Smith eventually acknowledged his “drive” and and agreed to teach him. But, as Viniello says, “he didn’t sugar-coat anything,” and he developed a reputation for refusing to teach people he didn’t think would be worth the time. According to our host, he turned down Guillermo Del Toro as well.

    Photo courtesy of Dick Smith’s Special FX Training
  3. His attention to detail made him successful. When asked what set Dick Smith apart, both Viniello and Essman said it was his attention to detail. “Every wrinkle was based from a wrinkle in a photograph that he had up above his area where he was sculpting” says Essman. Viniello added that “he was never satisfied…not only artistically but also technically. He changed things to suit what he needed.” This attention to detail and perfectionism is likely why all his make-ups looked so real.

    Photo courtesy of Beauty and the Geek

 

 

 

Thanks for all your stories Scott and Mark!

Remembering Dick Smith

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“Dick Smith died last night…”

The first words I hear from my wife as I roll awake. I lay there trying to digest the words and acknowledge the emotional impact that will befall me, my friends, my students, my peers, my heroes and my industry. I never knew the man well enough to call him a friend. We shared many handshakes, a meal with friends and some kind words. I will forever be remorseful for not taking a moment to ask for a photo commemorating the memory of such an iconic man.

To his closest friends, colleagues and family, I have no words, only a ball of emotion that rolls through my throat, to my eyes then to sink back into the pit of my stomach leaving me feel empty and hollow. I knew what it was like to lose a father, and that’s who Dick was to many people in our industry. The rest of us knew him as a legend, a hero, the “Godfather of Make-up” as he was called, and we knew him as a teacher.

As a teacher, Dick Smith became a symbol of sharing, of guidance, of support, of professionalism, of talent… his work became the very defining marker by which so many make-ups were compared. His contributions and influence on the lives of generations of make-up artists will continue to reshape and define future generations of artists, artists who will never have known or met the man, but will be better artists because of the foundations he laid.

Thank you Dick Smith for being an inspiration to our heroes. Thank you Dick Smith for being my hero. Thank you for your humility and the positive influence you had on so many, many lives.

With sincere admiration and deepest regrets,

Gil Romero
MUD School Director

“What can I say? I loved him. He was a giving, generous, open, kind, amazing human being. He wanted to feed your passion for make-up, he wanted to help you do great work. I remember when I was 13 I asked Dick for his ager stipple formula. I called him on the phone and he was so kind. He went out of his way to make copies of the formula and sent it to me. You can’t find a single person that hasn’t been touched by his kindness. I really can’t put it into words. He’s a legend.”
Chad Washum, MUD Faculty

“Words are so inadequate to relay our thoughts about our dear friend, Dick Smith, and the sympathy and loss we feel on his passing. Not only did the industry lose its foremost innovator and unselfish proponent. But, the world has lost the epitome of kindness, warmth and humility. He has left an indelible mark in our hearts. Our greatest memories are the many times we just listened to his eloquent commentary of his unbelievable life at the many dinners we shared with him. We’ll miss him dearly. So long, Dick. ”
Andre’ & Jenny DiMino (ADM Tronics)

A forefather to his industry and craft. His mark was left on us all. He will forever be missed and never be forgotten. His gifts will surpass his physical life and his talents will surpass us all.
Much Respect Mr Smith
KarrieAnn Sillay, MUD Faculty

Your passion for make-up and sharing your knowledge is your legacy.
Paul Thompson, MUD Director of Education

As a teacher I see Dick Smith’s iconic imagery continue to influence new generations of make-up artists. Though the artist will be missed, the art lives on.
Lisa Leveridge, MUD Faculty

Industry Speaks: Todd McIntosh

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“I could recognize an artist’s stroke; I knew that the same hand that created this make-up, created that make-up.”

Interviewed by Deverill Weekes, Article by Myrna Martinez

Todd McIntosh is a believer—a believer in theatre and movie make-up magic, a believer in an artistic hand that has been touched by a higher power—a believer in knowing every aspect of make-up artistry is the key to no-missed opportunities. When the key that unlocked your life’s calling is found in classics like Dark Shadows, or the theatrical magic of Peter Pan, and—Spock’s ears?—you know you’ve been called to be an artist.

At eight years old, Todd began exploring what he could do with an eyeliner pencil, drawing lines on his face and creating characters with available materials. A neighbor who surely saw something amazing in this young boy, gifted him with a book on how to create stage make-up. By 12 years old, he worked in theatre; by 15 he was molding; by 16 he was teaching his high-school classmates make-up techniques and by 18 he was employed by a Studio.

This young, talented artist was on his way to creating multitudes of characters in his lifetime. Determined to master his craft, he learned all aspects of make-up, from beauty to character and Make-up FX.

“Every skill you are without is every job you go without,” is Todd’s ambitious philosophy. But, only a special kind of passion for what he does can cause him to be so driven. “I could recognize an artist’s stroke; I knew that the same hand that created this make-up, created that make-up.” With such keen focus on the artistry, Deverill asked if there was anyone who contributed to his fire—and like many artists before him, he answered, “Dick Smith.”

“Dick Smith was my first, well, I don’t have the words for it. He has this artistic ability that transcends the average—he has a hand that’s been touched by God.” Todd continues, “I went to a museum with Dick and he had me looking into paintings. I saw colors in skin I had never seen before—greens and blues—and I learned first-hand from Dick Smith.”

Today, Todd is inspired by make-ups on shows like Supernatural, Salem and American Horror Story. He remembers a certain aging make-up in a final shot of AHS that he thought was absolutely brilliant.

Now, our students’ eyes are on you, Mr. McIntosh. We are so very honored that you visited MUD and shared your personal stories of growth and inspired us with your experience.

MUD LA Students with Todd McIntosh, Daveid DeLeon and Deverill Weekes

About Todd / http://www.mcintoshmakeup.com/

Todd McIntosh is known for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) Emmy Winner, Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Pushing Daisies (2009) (Emmy Winner)