Category Archives: Life, the universe and everything…

Seven Stages of Film Production

This is SOOOOO true…… was showing it to everyone on a recent feature shoot and it had them all in stitches…

Craig Ormiston

During the production of “Hollywood Is Like High School With Money,” the following list was posted by our Second Assistant Director outside her production trailer door:

Seven Stages of Film Production

  1. Wild Enthusiasm
  2. Total Confusion
  3. Utter Despair
  4. Search for the Guilty
  5. Persecution of the Innocent
  6. Promotion of the Incompetent
  7. Distribution of T-Shirts

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Misadventures in Mouldmaking. Pt 2….

Ok, so you made a mould.

 

Cool.

 

Now what?

 

Time to make the cast and see how good that mould actually is!

STAGE 1: Making a Silicone Hand from your Life Cast Mould

 

Step 1. Buy your silicone.
First, go to local suppliers. Stand dumbfounded for twenty minutes looking intently at all the available choices. Remember (vaguely) what you read about different types of silicones in “The How and Why of Silicone”. Decide that only the best is good enough for your piece! Choose a Platinum 1:1 mix silicone. Gulp at the price, but buy it anyway.
Proudly take your new purchase home and re-read basic silicone casting instructions.
Make a mad dash back to local suppliers, arrive three minutes before closing.
Head home again, wallet considerably lighter, but now armed with a can of release wax spray, plastic measuring cups, wooden mixing sticks, flocking and silicone pigments.
Finally arrive home after wrestling with peak hour traffic, having realised halfway home that you forgot to buy disposable gloves. Remember you have a packet in the laundry cupboard somewhere. They’ll do….

Step 2. Calculate the amount of silicone you are going to need.
You do this, of course, by weighing the clay from the sculpt (which you carefully saved when you cleaned it from the mould). You then calculate 70% of the weight of the clay, and add 10% for safety, to get the total required weight of silicone.

Or, alternatively, as you removed the clay, you stuffed it all into a container that you know the volume of, and if you know the total volume of clay, you know you will need the same total volume of silicone… (Plus 10% for safety, of course.)

Yeah…. right……

Since you totally forgot to measure, weigh, or even save any of the clay in your enthusiasm to clean your lovely new mould, you decide you will attempt to guess the volume by filling the mould with water. Look carefully at mould for a few minutes, notice the multi-piece nature of your mould, and its irregular shape. Dismiss this idea.

Have a rough guess instead.

Step 3. Measure and colour the Silicone.
Dig around in the laundry till you find that pack of disposable gloves. Find the kitchen scales and sneak them into the work area while nobody’s looking. Make a small attempt to protect them by covering them with plastic wrap. Realise you wrapped it too tight and the scales don’t work. Try again by loosely laying a sheet of plastic over them.
Take two measuring containers, open containers excitedly, have a sudden fit of anxiety and spend fifteen minutes trying to remember if you are supposed to mix a 1:1 silicone by weight or by volume. Decide on weight.
Weigh out equal parts of your silicone.
Carefully mix a tiny bit of pigment into Part B, as per the instructions. It looks too pale. Add more. Still too translucent.
Add flocking.
Scoop out excess flocking. Resolve to use a spoon next time instead of just shaking it in.
Remember trick of putting a marker pen dot onto a wooden stick and using that to see if silicone is correctly coloured. Decide it is.

Step 4. Mix the Silicone.
With a little bit of nervous trepidation, prepare to mix the silicone. Carefully scrape Part A into mixing bucket, pick up Part B and begin to tilt bucket.
Stop suddenly, remembering that you haven’t released your mould yet. Spill silicone on benchtop in the process.
Scrape silicone back into measuring cup.

Step 4. Release Mould.
Shake can thoroughly and spray interior surfaces of mould with a thorough but even coat.
Allow to dry.
Go make a cuppa.

Come back to workspace, sit and contemplate mould for a few minutes while sipping your restorative beverage. Admire how the pieces lock together, front, back, and that funny little piece around the thumb…..
Put down mug. Pick up mould, hold it together…. suddenly realise the single most important thing you totally failed to consider when you were making it, was how the heck you were going to clamp it together and stop it leaking when you fill it….
Dash off to Facebook for a quick look at some photos of Mould Porn on 911, leaving cup to go cold…
Forty five minutes later return with the only thing resembling a clamp you could find in the shed, and look at mould critically. Go back to laundry and find a roll of gaffa tape. Thank your lucky stars you have some left!
Ten minutes later, proudly admire your handiwork. Your three part plaster mould now looks like something from the return of the mummy, encased in layers and layers of grey duct tape. Ain’t nothing getting out of there no how!!

Prop mould, open end up, into a bucket.

Step 5. Mix Silicone.
Return to workbench.
Suddenly discover a bit of silicone that dripped off the bench and onto the floor earlier.
Do a neat impression of Tom Cruise in Risky Business.
Pick yourself up off the floor, cursing and rubbing bruised hip. So this is how old people feel….
Carefully examine rest of floor for unseen booby traps. Lay a trail of newspaper over spilt silicone to absorb it.

Mix silicone. Pour both components into mixing bucket. Using a wooden paint stirring stick, combine Part A and B thoroughly. Keep stirring for a couple of minutes till your arm is getting tired. Use hand.

Step 6. Pour Silicone.
Stand on chair, positioned above bucket containing mould so as to remove air bubbles whilst pouring.
Carefully and with great precision, overbalance and pour a thin stream of silicone and manage to get it all over the bucket and the mould sides, in fact everywhere but IN the mould. Swear. Balance more carefully and get the rest of the silicone onto the mould. Scrape out the last of the mix carefully. A little bit short but what the hey.

Check your your watch for the gel time. Do a rough cleanup and go and get a well deserved beer.

After gel time has elapsed, come back and check mould. Spilt silicone has oozed out over the mould surface and appears wet.

That’s odd.

Poke silicone remaining in bucket. It’s not set. Well, its kind of like a loose jelly, but definitely hasn’t set yet.

Go off and get dinner and another beer.

Come back an hour later. Realise with some trepidation that silicone still hasn’t gelled properly.
Dammit, must have been a dodgy batch! Curse the stupid suppliers. Have another beer and go to bed, hoping problem will have disappeared by morning.

It hasn’t.

Next morning:
Call suppliers and explain, politely but firmly, that they have sold you a dud batch and that you will be coming back in to return it and get a product that works.
Have animated discussion with irritating salesperson on the other end of phone about possible causes of silicone obviously being faulty.
Agree with the persistent gentleman that this is your first time but insist that you did everything properly. Outline in great detail the technique and materials you used, so he can see how it is obviously a fault in the materials he has sold you.
Listen patiently, then to humour him, since you will need to shop there again, go off to laundry on pointless mission, to hunt for disposable gloves box.
Slink back to phone, agree with the nice man that yes, they were latex gloves and no you weren’t really totally aware of the inhibition issue in using Platinum Silicones, and yes perhaps next time you should be more careful.

Spend two hours attempting to clean half-set silicone out of mould.

Drive to suppliers during the middle of the day, hoping the guy you spoke to will have gone to lunch.
No such luck. He is having a late lunch today. Sheepishly walk in and smile weakly in greeting.
Buy more silicone and a packet of non-latex gloves.

Return home and repeat process.

Take a moment to consider that it was probably a blessing in disguise, albeit a rather expensive one, as you realised when cleaning the silicone out of the mould, in the daylight, that your pigmentation was a bit off, way too translucent. Sure, when you looked at the coloured Part B the little dot was barely visible through the silicone, but you failed to account for adding Part A to the mix diluting the strength. Congratulate yourself on not making the same mistake twice.

This time, after the allotted time, the silicone has quite clearly gelled correctly. Give yourself a little congratulations and wander off to do something else for a bit.

Step 7. After the total cure time has elapsed, open the mould.

Learn quite a bit about the importance of pour angles and air bubbles in the process.
Resign yourself to the fact that monster hands don’t necessarily need ALL of their fingers intact.

Show the finished piece off to a couple of your non-makeup artist friends and family. Be quietly pleased by their enthusiastic reactions to how lifelike and fleshlike it is. Dismiss their congratulations and reply to their admiration by saying
“oh, it’s easy when you know how”.

Next step: Painting and Finishing!


So You Got Your First Real Job As A Makeup FX Artist…….

Congrats on getting your first real gig.


Now comes the REALLY hard part!!


You are no doubt filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and a little bit of trepidation. Which is all to the good. 
There is nothing quite like jumping in at the deep end to find out exactly how well you can swim. And you are about to!!

If I can offer you any advice for the job it is this: 

BE PREPARED 
Yep, it’s the ol’ Scout Motto. 
And it holds as true for what you are about to do as for a soldier preparing for battle…

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Making Money from Someone Else’s Art: dealing with Licensing and Intellectual Property Rights

So, you are now starting a business, and you want to be able to sell your work.  Thats great!  You have worked hard to get to the point where you feel competent enough and that your work is of a high standard, and now its time to start reaping the rewards.

Except…. that along the way to get to this point, you practiced by creating work based on characters you admired or were inspired by, and although you have undoubtedly also done some fine original work, you have discovered that the work people most want to buy is not something you actually own, but rather a reproduction you have done of a well-known character from a movie/tv show/comic or book.

Of course you realise that selling this piece is totally illegal and could get you into some serious trouble, but after all it was only one… or three… or fifteen… no harm done, right?

Wrong.

You could easily find yourself being sued if someone who actually owns the copyright on that character discovers you are making money off their work. And in the case of movie studios and tv production companies, the stakes are especially high. Can you afford to lose everything?

Unknown

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Letter to a Young Filmmaker….

As you grow older, please don’t lose your enthusiasm and energy in the slow trawl through the current miasma of the Australian (and dare I say greater world) film industry….

Here and there on your journey you will find pockets of fresh and exciting ideas, full of people who energise you and give hope for the future.

But there are much larger swathes of territory and time to be crossed, inhabited by the soul-destroying shades of those who live on memories of past glory, clinging with their skeletal death-grip to the tattered remnants of strategies and ideas they once thought would conquer the world….. (usually accountants and economists…. LOL)

Dont let them beat you down.

You, like all people your age, with youth and innocence on your side, look at the generations who have gone before and think, “Why don’t they fix it? Its so obvious that we can do better!” and you are partly right… Sadly, you too will grow up and get tired of fighting against the system, as did the generation before you, and the one before that…. ad infinitum.

Yet in every era, there are a few who hold on to that precious flame and nurture it. Slowly, slowly, we build on those ideas, and slowly, slowly, we will infect the rest, building the numbers, until we reach critical mass, and only then will we effect mass change. But take heart, there is no reason you can’t be successful in the meantime on a smaller scale. Whatever your area, as an actor, a writer, or another kind of crew member, we are all involved in the change. Continue reading


Never Insult a Trekkie: A Lesson for J J Abrams

Bearing in mind I’m not a Trekkie, per se, but I am and always have been a Sci-Fi fan, and I totally understand the sentiment here….

I also love Sci-Fantasy, and am partial to a bit of High Fantasy as well.

When a movie is made of a beloved book/comic/TV show, there will always be those who rail against ANY changes.
I usually ignore them.

There will be those fans who complain bitterly that the filmmaker did not crawl into their head and produce a film based precisely on the way they imagined things, because their way would have been better…
I usually ignore them too.

There will be those who dislike the necessary plot and story changes that must take place in creating a film, due to the simple fact that what makes a great movie great is very different from that which makes a good book/comic/TV show, and you cannot slavishly reproduce something from one format in another successfully.
I take those complaints with a pinch of salt, but i watch the creative process carefully in these cases.
A good deal of craftsmanship and sensitive is required of a director and producers to do this well, and it is my opinion that it not only requires a great filmmaker to make a great film, it takes a true fan to pull off a great conversion, someone with as much affection for the source material as the people who will flock to see it. For someone to do it well, and produce a fantastic movie while remaining true to the SPIRITof the book/comic/TV show is challenging and risky, and when they manage it they should be applauded.
But…. it baffles me when someone is handed that responsibility, the midwifery of a beloved piece of our culture, and that someone does not even pretend to understand what made it beloved in the first place….
Ok, so yes, I saw Star Trek, Into Darkness, and it was a pretty good film, but to be honest I didn’t see the previous movie, nor half of the more recent tv shows, so I had no particular expectations.
But I understand that a lot of people did, and to have J.J.Abrams essentially slap them in the face by saying that he really didn’t care about them or what it meant to them is a wee bit disingenuous. You would think that since fans who buy tickets to his films are directly responsible for his success and his position of power and privilege in the film and TV industry, that he might have had at least a little empathy for the people who put him there.

So. Completely agree with the last statement of this post: “……I wish he had respected that, if only on TV. I wish he had invested a little more effort in keeping the magic alive.”

Because thats what we do in this business… we make magic.  And without fostering and supporting that magic, whats the point?

Unkilled Darlings

I am a fan, not a fanatic, when it comes to Star Trek. I grew up watching the Enterprise float around a Styrofoam universe and I have a special place in my heart for William Shatner, despite the whole thing of him being William Shatner. Still, I’ve never been to a convention or a Klingon-translated wedding. I don’t own any kind of Starfleet getup and I never really got into Next Generation (the geeks in the gallery gasp!). I still, however, think J J Abrams is a dick for what he said.

(Click here to link to a larger gif)

jj abrams jpeg

Yeah, it’s shocking right?! (Geeks in the gallery gasp, again!)
Let me level with you—Maybe Star Trek doesn’t fly your space ship. Kirk getting it on with aliens and Spock’s pointy eyebrows turn you off. Fair enough—I don’t hold it against you. Honest, I don’t. Scifi is not for everyone…

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How Will You Know When Your Dreams Have Come True?

I was reading the following blog post today and it got me thinking.

My Moment in the (Tuscan) Sun – Lee Jessup

It is an interesting thing to look back on your life and suddenly realise how much of what you have now is due to the realisation of dreams you had, in some cases many, many years ago.  From the smallest things, like the choice of cup you drink your tea from, to the home you live in, the career you pursue, even your relationships, every physical manifestation in your life began as an idea….

“What if….”

“If only….”

“I want….”

It is also interesting to note, that most of us spend so much of our time so intently focused on the things we DON’T have, that we forget to look around us and see what we have already received.

But what if you look at your life right now and you aren’t happy with much of what you see?

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So you want to be a Makeup FX artist? Pt 4. What Now?

And now your thought for the day, here’s a little something that all of us should be reminded of from time to time:

In the latest issue of Makeup Artist Magazine, there is a telling quote from Tami Lane where she is describing the hiring process for Hobbit:  “Not only did we have to pre-paint the pieces we got from Weta, we also had to hair-punch the eyebrows on them. It was quite difficult to find people that could hair-punch a realistic set of eyebrows.  I had to turn down a lot of fantastic makeup artists I wanted to work with, because I had to incorporate both jobs into one person.”

You start out as a total beginner, armed only with enthusiasm and sheer desperate willingness to succeed, and then you do some kind of training, whether self-taught or formal training, and then you are somehow ‘qualified’.

Ok, so the minute you actually DO any training to get your basic skills,  you are going to realise that there is a long hard road ahead of you, which involves doing a lot of freebies or low-budget work to get the ACTUAL skills you need- i.e. the ability to put everything you have learned into practice, on real people, in an actual working environment under what is often immense pressure from time and budgetary constraints….

But what then?  Surely after you have put in the hard yards and paid your dues, the world is your oyster, right?

I think somehow that most people believe that there is some kind of magic threshold, and that once you have reached it, everything is easy, you will get the jobs you want, work on the projects you aspire to be a part of, and live happily ever after…..

Well, as the above quote should tell you, no, the world doesn’t work that way.

Yes, nepotism exists, and people like to work with people they know and trust, which is fair enough, but a little bit of healthy competition never goes astray.

When  it comes down to getting the job done, however, it doesn’t matter how long you have been working, or on what, or with who-  the single biggest factors in choosing crew for any particular job remain the same regardless of your level and experience:

1. Can the person do the job or are we willing to train them to do the job?

 2. Will the person do the job well?

 3. Will we be able to work with this person and can this person work with us, over the long run?

 

Fall down on any one of those factors, and you’re no longer in the running. And then, beyond that, there are other factors like availability, location limitations, and the sheer brutal reality that you can only afford so many people in any given team.

For Hobbit the crucial factor was the first and simplest one- can the person do the job?  They didn’t have time to train people to the level required in the very specific combination of skills that were required due to the particularly demanding nature of the type of work involved.  Not a lot of people already  had THAT particular combination to the level required, and so they didn’t get the gig, even if they were incredibly talented people in many other areas and the best fun in the world to work alongside on a hard job.

The truth is, you can’t be all things to all people.  You can be a generalist, and ‘jack-of-all-trades’, but the flipside of that coin is the other half of the expression: ‘master-of-none’.

You can be a specialist, and amongst the best in your field in your chosen area, but that carries its own risks, amongst them, being pigeon-holed and never allowed to try anything else, no matter how good you might be, because people value what skills they know you possess far more than the ones they don’t know about.

Whatever your skill level, you won’t get hired unless you have the relevant experience and appropriate skills required to do that particular job.

So don’t take it personally if you get knocked back, no matter how badly you wanted it, maybe that job just wasn’t meant for you.


The FX Artists Reply to Unreasonable Demands:

There are many people who want to be Makeup FX Artists. More than there can ever possibly be demand for. Most of them will never ‘make it’. Not because they don’t have the talent, or the drive, but because they get worn down by years of trying and failing, and eventually give up, poor, lost and disheartened. It takes more than just raw talent and enthusiasm to make it in this business.

Many people starting out are often so eager to make a name for themselves and get involved in something- anything! – that they become unwitting doormats, willing to do whatever it takes to follow their dreams. For some reason, perfectly sane people who would never consider behaving like this in any other arena of their lives start belittling themselves or prostituting their skills. They become totally desperate- like drug addicts, taking whatever so-called ‘work’ they can get, to get their next ‘high’… Unfortunately in that state of mind it is easy to be taken advantage of by people who really couldn’t care less about your desire to prove yourself, they are just in it for themselves and don’t care who they tread on on the way.

It is one thing to be enthusiastic and helpful and excited about finally getting to pursue your dreams, and another thing entirely to get the chance to do something that is going to help you actually do that.

The word “No” is often completely eradicated from peoples vocabularies at this stage, because they are so terrified of somehow losing out if they dare to refuse a ‘job’.

Well, here is a reality check for anyone who is at that point:

The FX Artists Reply to Unreasonable Demands:

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The Makeup FX Workshop 2013 Classes

Putting together the schedule for next years classes and workshops at The Makeup FX Workshop. Starting with a couple of school holiday workshops for teens, one on “Mask Making” and another on “Puppet Making”, plus an adult Masterclass in “Mouldmaking Materials and Techniques”. Later in the year we have the fabulous Brian Sipe coming back to Aus from the US to teach a class in Prosthetic Transfer Appliances, and much, much more!! Anything in particular people want to see as a Workshop or Masterclass?

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