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Battles With Bits of Rubber

This podcast is a joint venture with Stuart Bray and Todd Debreceni. It's all about the making of stuff for makeup effects and prosthetics. Todd is author of 'Special Makeup Effects For Stage And Screen', what many consider to be the modern makeup FX bible. Stuart Bray is a working makeup FX artist with many years experienc. Credits include 'Saving Private Ryan', 'Shaun of the Dead', 'Dr Who' and more recently 'Game of Thrones'. If you have any FX questions you would like to see made into a featured blog post, then get in touch: stuartandtodd@gmail.com
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Now displaying: 2018
Nov 1, 2018

After the madness of Monsterpalooza 2018, we had the chance to grab the gang for a wind down chat to debrief about the trip and talk about what we got up to.

It was a fun time, and I hope the warmth of a truly magical few days comes across, as Todd and I were truly humbled at the non-stop kindness and generosity we were liberally soaked with.

Anticlockwise from bottom: Me, Sam Shuck, Adrian Rigby, Eryn Kreuger Mekash and Todd Debreceni hanging out in the magical trailer I stayed in.

Adrian and I met in 1995 when we both travelled out to LA to take a look at the FX scene and see how it worked at the start of what we hoped to be our careers.

It was so nice to be back out here 23 years later having been able to have those very careers we so badly wanted. I think that story needs it's own post, where we spent the day at Optic Nerve studios, on the set of Babylon 5 watching an episode shoot, and seeing the makeup touch ups happening with Greg Funk and Fionagh Cush working their magic. What a great time we had!

Anyhow, Todd had this cool banner made up to celebrate, and I'm so excited to share the podcast with you.


If you want to get in touch with us direct, email stuartandtodd@gmail.com and take a look at our Facebook page.

Until next time, keep it bloody!

Stuart & Todd

Sep 4, 2018

Steve LaPorte was a joy to speak with. For one thing, he is incredibly talented and has a fantastic body of work.

That aside, he also recalls exactly how he got there and can track back the step by step process of how he got there.

It’s a wonderful thing when someone can trace back their steps and know how they got to where they have and are keen to help others understand what is important.

Steve talks about the importance of knowing how to make things work rather than always relying on an endlessly supplied workshop to solve every problem. Knowing how to pull things together on the spot is a great skill to have on set but ironically is how most people start out when they don’t have a lot of kit.

Hearing who he has worked with is like a who’s who of the makeup effects world. Knowing good, solid makeup skills as well as using appliances and working in a workshop come together to make a very capable artist whose versatile skillset make for a great resume.

We see again and again in these conversations with makeup artists how living a little life first and getting involved in the real world before settling on a career path can be so beneficial, as you can figure out who you are a little clearer before throwing yourself into an industry.

Steve also goes a little into his interest in the circus and particularly clowning, and how learning from the people around you is important. It really helped set him up for working within the film industry and dealing with people and appeal to their better nature. Clowns nowadays are often seen more as scary tropes, like Pennywise from IT and Killer Clowns From Outer Space.

Clowning was designed for fun and joy, to create laughter and cause people to drop their guard and experience joy, and Steve looks at how he wants to reclaim the clown for laughs rather than screams.

Like he says (Steve credits Leonard Engleman with this maxim), "Retire to something rather than from something." He is a busy chap, and has plans to bring some very cool things into the business. Steve has such a pleasant manner and it really was a joy to speak with him. Todd and I were grateful that he gave up his time to chat to us so candidly.

He mentions a book by Wayne W. Dyer - The Shift: Taking Your Life from Ambition to Meaning, and I link it here if you want to check it out.

Many thanks for listening!

Til next time

- Stuart & Todd  

Aug 29, 2018

Michael Westmore has done battle with rubber for a few shows, it's fair to say.

With a long career spanning every aspect of makeup, he comes from a several generation deep family which practically bleeds greasepaint. Many know of his work on Star Trek, but the breadth of his experience is quite something.

To read more on the subject, check out a brief history of it here, on Wikipedia or track down a copy of 'The Westmores Of Hollywood'.

Awared the Academy Award in 1985 for Mask, a moving story of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis who suffered from Craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, Michael is well placed to comment on extreme prosthetic makeovers to subtle, undetectable straight makeup corrections.

Michael has recently told his own story in 'Makeup Man', a memoir made up from a collection of stories charting his progression in the industry, and I would recommend it as a great read for anyone with an interest in makeup and how it works within the film industry!

It's taken 14 years to assemble the stories, going from the 60's to the 2000's with loads of extra snippets. It really is a complete work covering the celebrities he worked with and doesn't shy away from the warts and all experences of a working makeup artist who deals with celebrity skin. A complete reliving of a career!

Todd and I recently had the pleasure of sitting with the man himself at Monsterpalooza 2018, and chatting about:

  • How practice is the key
  • The increase of materials available
  • How to get the best from time at makeup schools
  • The importance of art and art schooling
  • The new adhesives developed by Westmore Effects
  • The amount of available talent now

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Michael Westmore Jr was present also, and as the force behind Westmore Effects (check the facebook group) he chatted to us later about the developments coming up and the new exciting materials he has developed to addess the issues those of us who stick rubber onto skin face on set.

(Click here for retailer info nearest to you).

We hope you enjoy listening to this one!

Till next time

-Stuart & Todd      

Jul 31, 2018

Contact lenses are pretty easy to find nowadays. It wasn't always so, and the increased use of lenses has meant an increase in opportunities to have problems with eyes caused by them.

We chatted to Cristina Patterson of Eye Ink FX about eye care and lenses, especially in the light of many people around us who had created characters for Monsterpalooza using lenses. Many conventions will have extensive makeup characters with lenses bought online or in costume stores for not a lot of money. These lenses may be available in stores, but is it wise to buy and use them?

We also chatted to Bob Smithson, a lens tech with many years experience fitting lenses on set and dealing with the front line of lenses on a production.

http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/33lenses/

 

 

May 27, 2018

Todd and I had a great morning chatting with Allan A. Apone and Brad Look at MEL headquarters (Makeup Effects Lab) based up in North Hollywood.

MEL now occupies a huge area of workshops and produces effects for shows as well as products used by artists in the industry, including PAX paints, baldcaps and appliances. Starting out as a small lab in 1978, it now boasts some 18000 square feet of facility.

Their website is MEL Products USA and is worth checking out!

Our tour took us from machine shop to foam room, silicone lab and woodshop, all surrounded by a million artefacts from jobs in the past.

We sat and talked about the recent Monsterpalooza weekend, as well as the business of makeup and what really counts. As seasoned makeup artists with many years experience on set, Allan and Brad made this episode of the podcast a gold-loaded listen for makeup artists.

Like Brad says, "If you don't know highlight and shadow, it doesn't matter what you are putting on - it won't look right!". Despite the noise of competing companies vying for our attention and wallets, this really is the key message. Know your subject, know yourself and above all, respect the craft!


You can subscribe to our podcast, Battles With Bits Of Rubber on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and pretty much all podcatcher apps or platforms.

Thanks for listening! You can contact us at our Facebook page or email direct stuartandtodd@gmail.com with suggestions, feedback, or just to say hi. 

The blogpost for this episode can be found at http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/32respectthecraft/ .

Til next time

-Stuart & Todd

 

May 19, 2018

One of the great things about Monsterpalooza, and other makeup FX heavy trade shows is you get to meet the people who make a life around doing the work, and who care enough to help others do it too.

For my money, this chat with sculpting and creature legend Steve Wang was the most potent use of 20 minutes anyone could have. Steve was in high demand, but Todd managed to get him for a short timeslot on the mic and we jumped straight in with the sculpting talk.

I wanted to get a grasp on why ZBrush was still a mystery to me (and many others) and there is some golden wisdom in here which is worth hearing if you have been left blinking at the apparant dearted ship of digital creativity.

If you feel like you are on the dockside, waving sadly at a ship of endless creativity disappearing into the distance and cursing yourself for missing the boarding window, then you need to it down, listen up and dry those tears!

Putting this together and listening to it put me right back there and fired me up, so get stuck in and listen. Steve has such economy of explanation, he doesn't waste time or fluff around - he gets straight to the point and lands that info sqare in the part of your brain that is ready to go!

Check out Steve's instagram @stevewangcreaturecreator and alliance studio and elitecreature.com.


Thanks for listening. You can email the show at stuartandtodd@gmail.com, visit the facebook page and join us there. -Stuart & Todd

May 3, 2018

Chris and Fangs FX is who we call when we need teeth, but there is a lot more to Fangs FX than just...well...fangs!

This is the first of a series of interviews Todd and I did at Monsterpalooza 2018, a three-day event in Los Angeles which was busting at the seams with visitors, demos and vendors. It was amazing, and Todd and I applied my Bela Lugosi makeup for the Rick Baker Tribute on the enormous PPI Premiere Products Inc stand.

Blogpost: http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/fangsfx/

We grabbed Chris for a chat outside the venue as it was far quieter than inside, and talked teeth, drill bits in the mouth, loose teeth, missing teeth and how much hiding in plain sight takes place.

Making and fitting teeth requires the use of some pretty serious chemicals and hardware, and putting these things into performers mouths is a serious responsibility as you will hear.

Fangs FX was established in 1984, and has an outstanding list of credits. If you have never heard of Chris or his team, then you will certainly have seen their work. Check out their facebook page and Instagram @fangsfx.

Richard Coyle from BBC TV show 'Strange' which maks use of swelling provided by a dental plumper rather than an appliance. Makeup by Jan Sewell.

You know who wearing some makeup by Mark Coulier. Nose wiped out digitally, teeth made grim practically.


Michael Rooker from Guardians of the Galaxy, makeup by David White.

 

Demo by Mark Coulier, reimagining the Nosferatu style Barlow from Salems Lot.

Makeup demo by Stephen Murphy for PPI. Model Ben Palmer.

 

A Cure For Wellness featured some neat teeth gags.

 

Paul Kayes' teeth for Mutti Voosht in 'Pan'.

The test makeup with teeth in place for Paul Kayes character Mutti Voosht for Pan, cut ultimately. Makeup by me.

 

Spencer Wilding wearing a Rick Baker wolfman makeup and some oustanding Fangs FX Dentures.

Tim Vine comedy sketch show wth removable tooth gag.

 

Naomi Harris in drama series 'White Teeth' missing the front four teeth - a worst case scenario for a practical tooth gag if all real teeth are present.

 

Gags, where something has to happen, move and perform on cue is a tough thing to pull off...

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... but even a moving drill bit appearing through teeth live in-camera is another day for Chris and the team. The stuff nightmares are made of!



As ever, email us at stuartandtodd@gmail.com or drop us a comment our facebook page.

Remember to floss regularly!

- Stuart & Todd.

Feb 20, 2018

So, this is my turn at soloing for a brief episode of Battles with Bits of Rubber.

And, depending on responses to my musings, perhaps Stuart and I can extend this into a longer broadcast with tips from you all on how to get rid of unwanted and no longer needed stuff.

Hi. My name is Todd. And I’m a pack rat.
(Hi, Todd!)

Let’s face it, most of us have too much stuff. Stuff we don’t use, stuff we don’t need, and stuff we don’t even remember getting.

So how do you get rid of it?! I can look around my office, shop and studio and wonder when the crew from Hoarders is arriving. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, because at least I’m not navigating through canyons of stacked magazines and newspapers, but… it’s easy to lose sight of my office from certain vantage points because of props, molds and masks… I can be looking for something - and it can even be in plain view - but it will take me a bit to see it amidst everything else. I either need more space, or less stuff. The answer is less stuff.

But how do you part with something you may need later? There’s a psychology to it… maybe even a pathology… I’ve been collecting and adding to bins of doodads and thingamabobs (I swear they even multiply by themselves!) for what seems like eons that I know I’ll find a cool use for someday.

I need help. I’m never going to use that shit. Who do I think I’m kidding? 2018 may be the Year of the Dog for China, but for me it is The Year of the Purge. I started reading a book by Japanese author Marie Kondo called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

I haven’t finished it yet, but the gist of it is this: Figure out which items ‘spark joy’ and which don’t. The items that don’t, heave ho! I’m still trying to wrap my head around that, but I confess I am making headway.

Perhaps I need to put in a call to American Pickers. It’s just that I’m in a business that requires stuff, and lots of it. There has to be a way to make do and do well with a leaner inventory and library of stuff. This is my start. Take a listen and let us know what you think.

Cheers,

Todd

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For the blog post on this, check out http://www.learnmakeupeffects.com/packrat/

Jan 30, 2018

I had the great privilege to be asked to teach some masters degree students at Theaterakademie August Everding in Munich, Germany recently.

I had a splendid time! The three students I worked with all had ambitious, figurative projects which they had been working on for some weeks when I arrived for my five day stint there.


  • Daniel Riedl had made a full-size figure leaning out of a bath and was in the final sculpting stages preparing to make ready for moulding.
  • Julian Hutcheson had just moulded his sculpt of a male torso, and in the week we mixed and cast out the silicone in the chosen flesh tone (Moldstar 20 from Smooth-On).

  • Caterina Veronesi had sculpted a scale figure of herself which will be cast in silicone and was also in the final sculpting stages and preparing to make the mould.

We had a great group chat to discuss how things work there, the education system (It's a free, government paid education which requires an extensive interview process which is a completely different model to the business-style version most makeup education systems work to) and the expected quality of work such a system produces.

One great project they had was to take classic roman marble sculptures and create realistic portrait busts based on them. This was a great project as it revealed the licence artists took to portray an idealised version of someone who perhaps would really have been a good deal less attractive in reality - the photoshop of it's day.

By studying the people depicted, discrepencies between reported ages and health reveal how much the idealised versions deviated from reality.

Pic: The original marble bust (left)and lifelike interpretation by Julian Hutcheson (right).

We also chat about how important beer is, making your own silicone wig blocks, using Monster Clay in a cold environment as well as the re-emerging point of the unavoidable trinity in all creative endeavours:

Good – Quick – Cheap...Pick two because you can’t have all three“.


Dividing up large appliances

Michael Pennington got in touch through our email (stuartandtodd@gmail.com) with a question about how best to know where one should divide up appliance sculpts to break them down into smaller pieces. As Todd points out, much of this is a hangover from foam latex and the shrinkage which was inevitable with that material.

Silicone howver has none of these shrinkage issues, so we don't always need to divide it in the same way. That said, there are often good reasons to make a large appliance makeup into smaller, more manageable pieces.

The most logical place to do this is where the sculpture is at it's thinnest, and to try and keep edges in easier-to-hide areas where possible, such as where there is naturally a crease or shadow.

This was covered in more detail in a post from a while back, 'Floating Pieces' where you will also find a workbook with lots of in-depth information: 

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'Cheap Cheap Cheap' shouldn't be 'Shit Shit Shit'

Whenever we do a video tutorial, I can guarantee that someone will want to do it for less money. This is of course an inevitable occurance, as it is quite sensible to not spend money you don't need to.

However, there does come a point where substitutuing can become so obsessive that eventually the end result can just look like a pile of crap.

I do a wax scar, someone wants to make their own wax becasue it's too expensive.

If I had a makeup using good wishes and exhaled air, someone somewhere would want to economise on that somehow. (I know of people who have made their own wax, but if you don't put a dollar value on your time or you seriously have a great idea to improve it then fine - but to me wax IS the cheaper and quicker way compared to sculpting, moulding and casting an appliance!)

Whilst it is true that skill will 'work well with anything', I can assure you top pro makeup kits do not have packs of cured meats and jam instead of makeup products to use on their screen talent. If mashed banana looks just right for fat, or pus or brains then fantatsic.

Just don't extend that to 'I'll never need to buy another makeup product again'.

Once you've seen outsandingmakeup work done firsthand, then your priorities change. You decide instead of trying to do something as quick and cheap as possible, you would rather try and do something as good as possible.

Like that trinity of choices above, pick two and decide which you would rather have in your portfolio.

Latex is a material that often gets used in colleges because it is cheap and easy to get. Howver, it requires more skill to paint it to appear like real skin than silicone appliances, so there is always a trade off.

We would encourage you to get good at using cheap materials on a small scale, and then gradually scale up as you improve. Beware clickbait and attention grabbing use of foodstuffs - if there was a way of not buying makeup then we can assure you working professionals would be the first in line at the grocery store!

Jam may be fine for a kids halloween party, but it won't do you any favours in a working portfolio.

Till next time.

Stuart & Todd  

Jan 25, 2018

#27 - Stu Musings

Seven hours is a big time difference to deal with when trying to synchronise a podcast with two people.

To help with that, Todd and I figured adding some extra single features to help keep the show moving.

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At Pinewood studios, I was teaching a great class which had me thinking a lot about what we teach and why. I seized the moment to share my observations which briefly were:

  1. When and why to premake pieces way in advance versus fabricating something up directly onto the skin.
  2. The difference between knowing about something and mastering it.
  3. Keeping a record of your efforts when trying to solve a problem.
  4. It's hard to be subtle - heavy handed is way easier to do.
  5. The importance of mixing the correct base tone to your appliance material.
  6. Making v buying fake blood.

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Links you may find useful which were mentioned:

Neill Gorton's Make-up FX 911

Rob Smith - Blood Podcast Part 1

Rob Smith - Blood Podcast Part 2

Maekup - David Stoneman's FX materials range

Eyeblood (Kryolan)

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Questions or comments either on the blog, the facebook page or email us direct stuartandtodd@gmail.com

Until next time,

Stuart

Jan 3, 2018

Most people learn techniques and perfect them.

Some people then take those techniques and look at what can be improved.

Sangeet falls into this camp.

He is now pretty well known for creating high quality prosthetic transfers, moulds made which contain the appliances and are used directly in their application.

As far as I can ascertain, this system was developed by Conor O'Sullivan and Rob Trenton and involves making silicone mould inserts which contain the appliances during application, speeding up the process in the chair and allowing multiple appliances to be run from the same sculpt.

Sangeet has taken this process and developed many techniques and methods to push it even further. The transfer technique involves a lot of moulding and remoulding, and is not for the faint of heart but the results can be fantastic.

Check out his website studiosangeet.com/ and his range of anatomivcally accurate injury appliance flat moulds.
 


I chatted with Sangeet in his home studio in North London, and we spent four hours talking about moulds, standing on the shoulders of giants, using old-school materials in new ways. We covered a number of topics, including:


Check us out on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/stuartandtodd/ or email us direct at stuartandtodd@gmail.com!

If you dig this, then share it! It would really help us out to grow the podcast.

- Stuart & Todd

 

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