MUD Celebrates Our 20th Anniversary with Gil Romero

Our Associate Director of Education, Gil Romero, has been with MUD since the beginning. Choosing to become a make-up artist because of his childhood love for monsters, Gil has not only worked administratively but has also taught in our schools and acted as our Burbank location’s School Director. In 2009, Romero co-authored the second edition ofMake-up Designory’s Character Make-up textbook and has demonstrated special make-up effects techniques on behalf of MUD around the world.

As an independent make-up artist, Romero’s work has been seen on television shows like ScrubsPrison BreakThe ShieldAmerica’s Next Top Model and films like Midnight Movie and Route 666. In addition, he’s produced prosthetic make-ups for Universal Studios Hollywood and Tokyo live-action stunt show WaterWorld, the Anubis puppets for The Mummy II: Chamber of Horrors, Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream character “Jack,” and live musical performers including Lady Gaga. With his extensive experience and personable nature, Gil Romero is a central piece in maintaining all of MUD’s schools, studios, and partner schools.

Q: What makes MUD different from our competitors?

A: I think there’s a lot of things that make MUD different from our competitors–the quality of teachers that we have and our structured and organized curriculum, primarily. As an organization we truly do care for our customers and our employees. We will make extra efforts for each customer and for each person that works for us. MUD is also unique in its approach, because we’re not just a hard sales atmosphere. We really try to investigate whether this is the right choice for the student and I think we do the same when we’re looking at people who are working for us and who are teaching and are in contact with these students. We want to make sure this is what they really want to do and we want to make sure that they’re well trained and well prepared to make a difference in the kids lives. Overall, it’s a sense of caring that comes from the company and from the employees that I think makes us different.

Q: MUD says it’s focused on the needs of the professional makeup artist. What is it about the MUD schools makes our grads so professional?

A: First and foremost, I’d say it’s our strict adherence to cleanliness, sanitation, and our ability to establish professional work habits. Beyond that, we try to immerse them in an atmosphere that feels safe and constructive and allows a student to learn. But we still hold the students to that same level of professional standard inside of the classrooms as far as behavior. Our opportunities to expose the students to professional industry speakers I think really helps us to set an expectation of the student.

Q: Are there any new directions that you see the schools being developed in the future?

A: I think our core classes are going to remain the way that they are right now. We’re looking at how we can separate these out and bring in some different levels of education that will then speak to people at different levels of learning. I’d like to see us develop avocational courses–courses just from a hobby standpoint–and, definitely, the continuing education aspect for different levels of professionals. I’d also like to see us bring in some emphasis on some traditional art studies, like maybe some more developed classes in color theory, or foundational art and drawing type classes.

Q: How did you envision the future of MUD back in 1997?

A: I never thought it would get this big! In 1997 I was just excited to be a part of something that was so new and what I felt was, at that time, so unique to the other institutions. Everybody was so close and everybody worked so hard to make sure that the school succeeded. We were really focused on student satisfaction and making sure that students not only progressed through the school, but also that they had the support they needed to be successful after their time with us. I don’t even think at that point in time I thought we would ever have a second campus, and then in 2005 New York happened. It’s amazing to see the level of growth that we’ve had in the last 20 years.

Q: You didn’t think MUD would reach the size it has now?

A: Yeah! I lose count every time I try to think about the amount of partner schools and studio campuses we have. I am fortunate enough to travel to some of these locations and spend some time with their educators, faculty, and administrators, and it’s amazing to be able to help them establish the quality of education that we offer at our primary campuses in their local markets. But I don’t even think that many of these locations ever thought they were going to have something of this quality and this caliber. It’s pretty cool to see the standard of make-up challenged and I’m really excited to see what the next 10-15 years is going to bring. It’s awesome to see how qualified graduates are out there making a difference.

Q: Where do you see MUD in the next 20 years?

A: I would like to see more of our primary campuses established in the United States. I think there’s still some very large international markets that I would love to see us develop a primary campus in, as well. I’d like to see something in the United Kingdom, and I think it would be nice to see something in an emerging area in Spain. There’s definitely room for more primary campuses and more growth to help out artists in all different avenues be it print, fashion, or film and television. I would also like to see cosmetics opportunities grow and the cosmetic company expand. I’d really like to see more distribution centers and more retail spaces inside of the US. I feel like we’re on the verge of seeing all that happen.

Q: What’s the most memorable moment from the last 20 years? Or is there a funniest moment that comes to mind?

A: So Burbank is a very eclectic neighborhood, and occasionally we would get people wandering in off the streets. Somebody had called my desk and asked me to come into the store. They didn’t elaborate. When I had rushed to the store, I saw a young lady inside the store causing a little bit of a ruckus. She was going through all the cosmetics in the display and going through some of the back stock and opening it up and physically trying the stuff on and dropping the package. I asked her to leave the store after staff had already asked her to leave, and she just blocked us out. She really wasn’t there all the way. So, I got on the phone with the police quite calmly and they said “is the woman located in the store now?” and I said “yes.”

They asked me to give a description of the woman, and I gave them a physical description of her when they said “what is she wearing?” I said “well, she’s wearing some sparkly woman’s underwear, fluffy slippers, a pearl necklace, a pink feather boa, and an old Sony walkman strapped to her waist.” The police officer on the other line just started laughing hysterically. She said “you’re kidding me?” and I said “no, absolutely not.” Of course, the police officers came in and helped the lady out, but it was definitely an odd moment for all of us who were standing there.

Q: Is there anything else that you want to include?

A: I’m proud to be a part of Make-Up Designory for almost the last 20 years. I’m always excited to talk a little bit about the company, the organization, the students, and the quality of our faculty. I’m happy to have the opportunity, like I said before, to go around and visit the other campuses and sights and I really do feel a sense of pride when I’m able to talk about what we do for our students. The best sense of pride I think comes from when we see the little bit of impact we make on our graduates. To be able to see what they’ve taken with our education what we’ve given them and how they’ve been able to grow and establish themselves in the industry is amazing. I think now, 20 years later, we’re really starting to see many of our grads making a big impact and it’s amazing. I’m proud to be just a small part of that.

 

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!

The wait is over. Face Off Season 6 is here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last night, Make-up Designory hosted a Face Off viewing party to celebrate MUD Alumni Bethany Serpico, Cat Paschen and Niko Gonzalez’s debut on the show. The party was held at Gordon-Biersch in  Burbank, CA. Guests included MUD’s CEO Tate Holland, Director of Education Paul Thompson, MUD LA’s school Director Gil Romero, VP Karl Zundel along with Niko, Cat, school instructors, current students, friends and family. All were there to show their support for our grads, the make-up artist community and fellow cast members.

The room was filled with anticipation, but while the beginning credits began to roll, the room exploded with cheers and applause. Everyone watched as the contestants were met with their first foundation challenge. Models appeared on stage in fanciful wigs and contestants were challenged to create a character make-up in TWO HOURS that expressed who they were as artists. The winners would receive immunity from elimination this week. The second challenge was to create the Beast based on the tale “Beauty and the Beast. “ While everyone worked in teams, there were some teams that showed individuals who were stronger than others.

We’re happy to report that our grads survived the first challenges of the season! Watch the first episode here.

Check out Entertainment Weekly’s Interview with Face Off Judge Ve Neill to find out what she’s specifically looking for when she judges, her favorite challenges and her advice to aspiring Face Off contestants.

Keep up with #teamMUD and check out photos, comments and updates on Twitter @mudschools Facebook @mudschools and Instagram @makeupdesignory