Author Archives: naomidlynch

The Power of No……

No matter where you are or what your circumstances, pursuing Special Effects Makeup as a career is going to be an enormous challenge.  It is one of the most highly competitive fields in the world, and yet the rewards are not monetary or even fame, but intrinsic to the creative process, and inherent in the actual work itself.  For people who are lucky to live in a time and a place when the business is good, and work easy to come by, they may not understand or appreciate the sheer numbers of people all over the world, in the most remote corners, who desire so passionately to pursue their dream, regardless of the whether or not there is a viable film and media industry where they live.  And yet, they do… WE do…..  all of us, just a little bit mad, and very, very, determined.

A dear friend and mentor of mine, a highly respected SFX MUA, said it best- “We are all missing the part of our brain that tells us when to stop…”

Many people ask for information and help on how to get this, that, or the other, achieved on a shoot, “with a very tight or non-existent budget” Fair enough. We all of us, apart from a fortunate few, start out that way, doing work for free or very little and without much to work with, its part of our training and necessary, if you can pull a rabbit out of a hat and get something onscreen that will pass muster when you have nothing to work with, then JUST IMAGINE what you will be able to do once you get some REAL equipment and materials….

But what really riles me, is when I hear “there’s no time to do this”.

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So you want to be a Makeup FX artist? Pt 1. Where Do I Start?

So, you have been doing what you are doing for a while, life was going ok, good, not great, and you have slowly come to the realisation that you have a niggling dream to work in Special Makeup FX…. Or perhaps you always knew you wanted to try for this, but you never quite knew how to start? You might be twenty and single, footloose and fancy free, or you might be married with a mortgage and kids….
I do empathize with you- I didn’t get into this until I was 40, and let me tell you it took me about three years to work up the guts to do it!! I flipped everybodies lives upside down in the process, because I had to move to the other side of the country for three months to train, and previously I had been home with my kids while they were little, so my husband suddenly had to rediscover (discover?) his domestic side and hold the fort whenever I was working! Fortunately for me though he realized I needed to do this and saw how much happier I was once I had so it all worked out, not everyone is that lucky. Also we have money from our other business so I can afford to just do the jobs I want- never had to take weddings to pay the bills.
So where do you start?

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How Time Flies… The Intensity of Creativity….

I was teaching a class in May, as Guest Tutor for PAC Screenworkshop 2, having been asked back as Makeup Instructor once again by Annie Murtagh-Monks, (Casting Director, Managing Director of the Association of Screen Professionals and Co-ordinator and driving force behind the Perth Actors Collective). Annie introduced me as an ex-alumni of the PAC workshops, also of the memorable Creative Intensive residential weekend workshops held at the old New Norcia monastery every year, and she asked me when it was I had done mine. Off the top of my head I estimated at least one of them was around 2005….

Well, out of curiosity, I was leafing through some paperwork in my office, and came across the original certificates of completion- turns out my first Creative Intensive was the 5th to be run, in July 2002, and the second was the 8th C.I. ever, in September 2003…. ( since those heady days they have a single weekend every year, they are up to C.I. 15 this October.) Looking back at the 9 years that has passed since my first C.I. has afforded me a unique perspective… and I just thought it might be interesting to share it with anyone who is currently in the midst of their own creative journey…

For anyone who doesnt already know, I used to be an actor. Admittedly, not a fabulous actor, as in those days I was restricted and restrained by the insecurities of youth and upbringing, my inner shyness and lack of self-confidence… Go ahead, I hear you laughing from here… but (believe it or not) I am actually a very private person and, especially in those days, rather controlled and emotionally self-contained, which is not the best thing for an aspiring actor to be…. I had not yet discovered the secrets of letting go and being myself, but was still in the grip of control issues and inner demons. Yeah- we all got ’em….

I had always held a yearning to act, but working in hospitality in my younger years kind of precluded that ambition, and it wasnt until I had my first child in 1995 that motivation met opportunity, and I joined my local community theatre group, at the local Irish Club.  (Coincidentally I also acquired my love of a properly poured Guinness during this period…).  Like anyone, I contributed to almost every role at some point during my internship in theatre, from Stage Manager, Costume and Sets, through Acting, often at the same time..  then studied Theatre Lighting at UWA and temporarily took over from our Lady of Light, Ms Fiona Reid, who was studying her craft at WAAPA.  I even directed a couple of plays, and had one delightful actor tell me that one day, I would write my own highly successful production and give him, in his own words, “Three Lines And A Gun”.    I still think that would make a great play or even film title, and you have my permission to use it, as long as I get a Thankyou in the credits!! Continue reading


BLOOD FOR FILM: Information, Ingredients and Recipes

The original version of this post was written for the Film and Television Institute in Perth, Western Australia a few years ago. It has since been updated and added to several times. In its current form it summarises the best and most accurate recipes and useful information currently available to Makeup Artists, to allow you to make your own Theatrical Bloods for Film, Tv or Stage.

THE HOLY GRAIL OF MAKEUP FX

As a Makeup Artist, I am often asked about the best way to make a CHEAP, REALISTIC artificial BLOOD, that won’t stain, and can be made in bulk for film and theatre.

The answer isn’t always what they want to hear, sadly, there is no such beast! As always, the classic designers triangle applies here: Good, Fast and Cheap. Pick two…..

Quite honestly, if you are only using a small amount then you are better off buying a good brand of theatrical blood as it will work out the same price to make your own and wont always be as good, and less fuss!

However, if you need a large quantity or are unable to source a good quality product in your geographic area, there are plenty of recipes around and one of those listed here is bound to suit your purposes.

In my personal Makeup FX kit I routinely carry between 12 and 16 different types of bloods at any one time. Yes, thats right- at least a dozen! The reason for is that there are many variables on a shoot, and rarely is one product suitable for every occasion. You need to mix and match. I carry runny bloods that dont dry, runny bloods that do dry, runny bloods that are mouth-safe or edible, bloods that stay where you put them, bloods in different colours in the above categories, opaque bloods, translucent bloods, blood pastes, blood that can be reactivated by a spritz of water, blood that will stay on underwater, blood that sets scabby, blood that looks fresh, blood for eyes, blood powder, blood capsules…. you get the idea?

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The How and Why of Silicone, (Part 3)

USING YOUR SILICONE:

So you are now fully equipped to choose exactly the right silicone product for your purpose, and you are champing at the bit to get started. So lets look at how to do that.

I’m not going to go into the entire multifaceted sculpting and mould-making process here, it would take me six months, and there are already a lot of fabulous resources out there…. (see post on My Makeup Books) what we ARE going to look at now  is the actual silicone itself and what you need to do to end up with a usable product at the end.

There are several things to do before you even open the product.

FIRST, make sure your workroom, tools and materials are neither too cold, nor too hot   This, I understand, can be tricky…. but especially in your first few attempts with silicone, it will make the process much smoother and increase your chances of success.  (All Technical Data sheets list the estimated geltime and total curing time of your product, at an ideal working temp of around 24C (about 75F).)
Wait a minute- chances?  You mean this isnt a guaranteed, easy peasy, smooth as pie process?  Weeeelllll…. technically, yes, it could be, as long as you follow the instructions perfectly and work in optimum conditions. But Im not going to lie to you- there are many things that can go amiss if you aren’t careful, and sometimes, even if you are…

SECOND, assemble your tools and materials.  You will need to make sure your materials and workspace are clean, and all components are compatible with the silicone of your choice- remember your list of inhibitors.  You really need to have an accurate electric scale measuring by the gram for working with silicones, plus a pocket scale that measures by 0.1 grams, especially if you are making prosthetics and the likes that use only small amounts… (see The How and Why of Silicone (Part 2) for some good pocket scales).  Dont forget the calculator and a notebook to write things down- NEVER assume you will remember it all.  Also, you will need to make sure you have CLEAN CONTAINERS. Never try and skimp on this… as my 16 yr old observed, recycling isnt a large part of Special Effects, and although we can re-use some things, it pays to be scrupulous when working with something as fussy and expensive as silicone.  You can save a container you have used for the same silicone before and remove the old cured mix, but if there are uncured parts you are best to dispose of them and start again. Some cardboard cups contain wax that can inhibit some silicones. Clean paper cups, plastic containers or foodgrade plastic buckets are best.
THIRD, it goes without saying that you should ALWAYS test your materials before starting your project.  It also goes without saying that most people simply don’t bother….

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The How and Why of Silicone. (Part 2)

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR SILICONE    

Ok, so you have your project ready, you are off to go buy some silicone and dive right in….  Whoa!  Slow down, tiger….. There is a whole bunch of stuff you need to know first.

What are you doing?  Is it a big piece, a small piece? Are you making a mould or a cast?  Do you need to make a box mould, a brush-up mould, a matrix mould, a pour mould?  How much are you going to need to fill it?  Do you want a solid coloured, or translucent  silicone? Are you in a hurry or is time not an issue?  Will you need a long or short Potlife?  What sort of Viscosity is required? What Shore Hardness do you require in your finished piece? Do you need to worry about Elongation/Tear Strength/Tensile Strength?

Yeah, working with silicones is a bit like  doing high school chemistry all over again, but trust me, if you understand the basics, it will save you a lot of time, money and frustration.

Lets start with the Product Description. 

When you are searching a website for silicon moulding rubbers, you will usually find somewhere a link to a.pdf saying “Technical Data Sheet”, “Product Overview”, or the like.  In a catalogue there may be aTable giving comparisons between the products on offer.

Note that the information I am discussing here is NOT on the MSDS… (the what? I hear you say? It stands for the ‘Material Safety Data Sheet’- a topic for another time…).  

A Technical Data sheet will give you all of the relevant information you need about a product. Lets go through one step by step, just to give an example.

At the top there will normally be a Product Description.  This will describe the general characteristics of the particular silicone, its category and type, and an idea of its texture, hardness, mix ratio and suggested applications.

Here are a couple of examples I randomly pulled out of my file (you should always keep this info for future reference): Continue reading


The How and Why of Silicone. (Part 1)

Understanding Silicones: The uses of silicon in FX; Tin vs Platinum; Behaviours and Applications.

First point, for anyone who isnt sure, Silicone, the synthetic polymer, is correctly spelt with an ‘e’ on the end, to distinguish it from the metalloid element, Silicon. Technically, it is a misnomer anyway, that dates from their discovery in 1942, it was thought the structure of the compounds was similar to ketones, when they are in fact Siloxanes. However the name Silicone has become accepted and persists to this day.

Right, that’s out of the way, now to business…..

What is Silicone?

Here is the Wikipedia definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicone
The Encyclopaedia Brittanica explanation: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/544410/silicone

and for the real chemistry nuts, Dow Cornings spiel: http://www.dowcorning.com/content/discover/discoverchem/properties.aspx

Does any of that help? Well, maybe, but it wont necessarily help you make that mould/art piece/prosthetic or the like….

Basically, silicone, for our purposes, is a synthetic polymer, which sets, or vulcanizes, at room temperature, into a rubbery material. This is known as RTV Silcone. It comes in hard and soft formulations, is inert once cured, heat resistant, flexible (even in hard kinds) and very very useful! RTV silicone rubber is used in the movie, entertainment and special effects industry, and in theme parks. Soft “skin” silicone rubbers, used by make-up and Fx artists, were developed specifically for sfx makeup artists, and certain kinds are also used in the medical prosthetics industry. It is also used, in an uncured form, as a lubricant, which will be apparent to anyone who has ever spilt uncured silicone on their floor…. it is an immediate shortcut to the kind of slide action Tom Cruise was famous for in ‘Risky Business’…..

So how do you know what kind of silicone to use? That depends on what you are using it for…. First I will go through some basic information that everyone should know before they start. Continue reading


Great Makeup Books & DVDs

If you want to start collecting some good reference materials, this list gives you some idea of where to start looking- it covers a small selection of the books and DVDs in my Makeup & FX Library.

I currently have over  300 books in my collection, not including filmmaking books.  I have books on ‘straight’ makeup as well plus other pictorial period and general references, hairstyling books, medical and forensic books, magazines, etc etc. They are in no particular order but I would start with the first two as they both contain information on the latest industry standard materials and techniques.

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Film is a jigsaw puzzle -ALL the pieces need to fit!

Another from the archives- this originally posted on Facebook in 2009.

When you are planning your low-budget indy film, dont forget to consider Makeup, Makeup FX, and Costume!

It doesnt matter if its a short for your senior year at film school, or your first feature, which you have funded by selling your car….
Sadly, many people treat these highly specialised areas as an afterthought, or the poor cousins of Art Dept, when in reality they are as important as good lighting. And just like lighting, when done well, you should hardly notice them, but they lift the standard of the whole production, and contribute seamlessly to the overall look and feel.
Poorly done, they will drag your precious project and all its months or years of hard work down to the amateur level!
Will you appoint a DOP with no experience in camerawork? A gaffer who doesn’t know the difference between a key and a fill, or when to use a reflector vs a cutter? Would you use an obviously fake toy gun as a key prop? Or let an actor wield a weapon without understanding how a real one behaves? No? Of course you wouldn’t?
Then why would you trust a vital component of the visual appearance of your film to someone who has little or no experience, interest or understanding of how it works?
Another aspect you may not have considered is the difference that good crew in this area can make to your actors… Having well-equipped professionals preparing your talent and then looking after the continuity on set all day will make the editors job much easier, and leave the actors free to concentrate on giving you an award-worthy performance.

If you don’t know a professional – find one!!!!! A great place to start is on Facebook! There are plenty of groups dedicated to film production, and several devoted to film makeup.

Remember – professionalism is an attitude, not a price tag.
Having said that, don’t expect to get Oscar-winning work for free. The level of experience and expertise of your crew is commensurate with the level of remuneration you will need to provide. Trust your appointed crew to let you know what FX etc you can realistically afford, and give you the best ‘bang for your buck’. Continue reading


A New Era in Perth Filmmaking.

From the Archives:  This was originally published as a Facebook Note in late 2009.

Filmmaking is about creative collaboration and co-operation.

When you see the ongoing success of events like the ‘Perth Film Network’ networking functions you realise how much we are all benefiting, getting to know and work with the rest of the people in our fledgling industry. It’s great to see people responding so enthusiastically to these events. It makes you realise what has been missing for so long in this town- communication. It’s fantastic to have that chance to meet people, have a few drinks and and dream up new ideas for future projects.

But we won’t ever catch up to the rest of the country unless we all pull together, put in some serious effort, and make it happen…. or else we will keep on having drinks and having a good time, and life will go on pretty much as it always has round here. Which is fine if you want to keep working for nothing, or are happy getting paid two-thirds of what the rest of the country gets because ‘it’s only WA’. It’s fine if you don’t care that many of our crew never get much past the skill level of your average keen student filmmaker, not from want of trying, but purely because they never, ever, get a chance to work with someone better than they are and see how it can, and should be done.

There haven’t been enough professional level production here to have any sort of useful mentoring of our brightest and best, and people complain that the big productions that come over don’t use many local crew. Why is this so? Two extremely valid reasons- firstly, because we have a very, very small group of people trained to the standard they need, and most of those work full-time to service the small industry we do have- local commercials, corporates, docos, sport, and once in a blue moon, a kids tv series. Second reason is because most of the interstate and overseas productions don’t know a soul in the industry here, and even if they did want to hire local crew- they wouldn’t know where to find them. Basically we are really bad at promoting ourselves outside our own backyard. And not so hot within it, for that matter.

Is it any wonder that anyone with any ambition gets on a plane as soon as they can? If the people who do have the knowledge can’t or won’t teach you, how can you learn? Worse, if there is no-one here with the kind of skills you need to learn, what else are people supposed to do? How many of you want to spend the next twenty years making the same kind of films they have done here for the last twenty? Sure, the advances in computing and digital technology now make it possible for anyone to get a little camera and make a film, complete with CGI, in their living room. Well, heads-up, folks- just because you can physically make a film, it doesn’t automatically follow that its going to be good! This is an artform and a craft – one that requires dedication and passion, and most of all, practise! And by the way, practise doesn’t mean doing the same thing, the same way, over and over and over- it means refining and improving and learning. Continue reading


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