Have you ever wondered who creates those ghastly ghouls, wicked witches, and out-of-this-world aliens you see in movies?
It’s well-known that traditional makeup artists make actors and actresses (and the rest of us!) more attractive, hide flaws, and enhance beauty. But transforming characters into frightening, injured, supernatural, or mutilated creatures for film, TV, and the stage is the role of special effects makeup artists (SFX makeup artists).
These professionals know how to simulate the appearance of injuries, aging, other worldly features, and deformities. They know how to create bullet wounds and burns, and they can even change the shape of someone’s nose completely. Plus, they make it all look real!
SFX Makeup Artists and Their Tools and Materials
Special effects makeup artists use standard stage/movie makeup, but they also use a variety of prosthetics — often made of latex, silicone, or rubber. Some even include moveable, robotic parts.
To create these realistic alterations often means many hours in the chair for the actor, with the SFX artist hard at work. Painstaking attention to detail is required in the multi-step process of reforming their face.
Qualities of a Great SFX Makeup Artist
SFX artists must be able to communicate well with actors and crew members while planning their SFX changes ahead and maintaining a calm presence during makeup application and testing. They’ll have to coordinate their work with the special effects department, as well as with costume designers and standard makeup artists.
Training and Background Requirements
Special effects makeup artists require a Cosmetology or Esthetics background and expertise in multiple makeup materials. They must know how to work with latex, rubber, fake blood, and other materials that are used to make prosthetics necessary and that will achieve fantastic realism.
Most projects will not hire a SFX makeup artist until they have some experience under their belt as well. This may require apprenticeship hours with a SFX makeup artist who is already working or being an assistant.
What Types of Projects Do SFX Makeup Artists Typically Work On?
Special effects makeup artists often find themselves working on science fiction and horror films, but they are a staple on any film in which the characters go through a dramatic change in appearance.
For example, a character may need to age ten, twenty, or more years. They may need to be shot or beaten up or go through a supernatural transformation. This means the SFX artist is an important presence on the set of many productions. From zombies to gunshot victims, aliens to monsters, SFX artists create the on-screen reality that makes the story of film, TV, and the stage come to life.