.........Big Shoes To Fill
Out just now is the article I wrote for the Artisan Magazine for the Local 706. Enjoy the read!!!!
For me, when the first Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters back in 2014, it came from left field. This was a film that I had not read about, heard about, seen blurbs about…nothing. Then I started seeing the billboards around Los Angeles. So, when I finally saw the film, I was totally blown away. Not only from the writing, the comedic slant, the visual effects, but from the characters, the worlds, the universe that the makeup and hair departments created.
Kudos to David White and Lizzie Georgiou for all their design and direction, and for their team’s hard work.
Fast forward to the summer of 2015, we are up in Montreal representing Legacy Effects for John Rosengrant and finishing up another XMen film, when I get the call from Shane Mahan and Lindsay Macgowan. Legacy Effects has just picked up Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, and would I like to be involved.
Who doesn’t want to receive that call?!?
When you Google the phrase “have big shoes to fill”, many definitions come up. But the one that best fit this occasion is:
“To have to meet high expectations about something that came before”.
These were the exact thoughts I had after my elation wore down from receiving the call from Legacy Effects.
I was told that we would inherit the Guardian makeups – Gamora, Drax, Nebula and Yondu. We were also going to be creating some new characters, Mantis and TaserFace, and get to create some new looks for a whole slew of Ravagers. However, Marvel did deliver a laundry list of upgrades that they wanted for the Guardian characters. It was our job to streamline and make better which was already beautiful. This is when our heads start spinning with ideas of how to move forward and then the real fun begins.
The Third Department
After the first few preliminary meetings, we all knew that this was going to be a massive undertaking. At this time, production was still on the search and had not hired a Head of Department for Makeup or Hair.
For part of the streamlining process, Shane Mahan, Lindsay Macgowan and I had discussions with the producers about stepping outside the norm of the usual makeup and hair departments and to create a legitimate third “Legacy Effects” makeup department. Like most makeup departments, our department had artists that did corrective, beauty and prosthetic makeup, but we would also include an internal hair department. This way, during the design process, Legacy Effects could discuss and decide the flow of creation of all the aspects of the character’s makeup, prosthetics or hair before we started the build. On set, this translated into shorter application times, as the actor did not have to trailer hop, or sometimes not have to chair hop. As the Legacy Effects department head, I could maintain the integrity of the intended look that was created back at the shop.
The work for the film’s characters were divided up between the Legacy Effects Prosthetic Department, the Makeup Department, and the Hair Department. Since part of the focus for Legacy Effects was the update for the main characters, Gamora, Drax, Nebula and Yondu, we had to get started right away.
Originally, the prosthetic design for Zoe Saldana’s “Gamora” consisted of a silicone forehead, and right and left silicone cheek pieces. We were also told that Zoe was not a fan of having “all of this alcohol based makeup sprayed all over her face”, so the search was on to find something more skin friendly.
For the testing phase, we cast a local model, someone to be our guinea pig until we were ready to bring the goods to Zoe’s face. We all decided it was a good idea to move forward with combining the three-separate silicone facial pieces into one forehead and cheek silicone wrap. This would clean up the “crow’s feet” area and save some time with less edges that needed to be blended. Like the original design, we carried the forehead deep onto the top of the head so that we had scalp material there so that through the part of the wig, we would be able to see “green skin”. Between finding the right thicknesses, to the right depth of the “metal” elements in her face, to the best place to end the sculpture for movement purposes, Legacy Effects ended up doing at least dozen versions of the Gamora forehead cheek wrap. Glen Hanz, Mario Torres, Shane Mahan and myself, all worked on these variations.
Vera Steimberg is Zoe’s personal makeup artist, and was also part of her makeup team on the first Guardians movie. When it came to redesigning her coloration, we knew we needed to involve her right away. We met and poured ourselves through the continuity and application notebooks from the first film, deciphering the steps and seeing what we could change and streamline.
During Vera and my discussions on how we could move away from using so much of the traditional alcohol based makeups, I remembered a conversation that I had on the set of XMen with one of my crew, makeup artist Julie Socash. She had mentioned that on Dancing with the Stars, they had used ProAiir Professional Body Makeup from Donna Nowak’s ShowOffs Body Art. She described it as a very hearty body paint and safe for kids. The “Hybrid” formula is made with a highly refined cosmetic alcohol which is practically odorless. The initial tests with the Hybrid ProAiir were great and it did prove to be long lasting. I mixed up two color samples from Gamora’s base palette, and sent them off so that we could get the color in bulk. We did find that the ProAiir has a very matte finish to it. Almost too matte. I mixed in some of Nik Dorning’s BlueBird Gloss into the formula, and it gave the makeup the suppleness that we needed. Vera and I did a few tests on our local model, figuring out the best way to lay down the colors to keep its vibrancy. Even in the streamlining process, we narrowed her down coloring process to 10 layers, a combination of MAC makeup, ProAiir, BlueBird, and minimal translucent use of Skin Illustrator bring us to her Gamora green skin tone. The silver implants in her skin was achieved by painting the sculptural element with two different colors of chrome acrylic. At this point, Vera would complete the “beauty” portion of the makeup with lashes, eye makeup and lips.
Doing the makeup tests in the shop with Vera was great, but I knew that since I would be running the department, I would not have the time to dedicate to the intricacies of this character. Both Vera and I had worked with Will Huff in the past, and we both wholeheartedly knew that his talent and temperament would be amazing for this team.
For Gamora’s wig, Mike Ornelaz and his team from Legacy Effects had the task to create a new wig, as well as refront one of the original wigs for a backup. Mike’s approach was to have all the hair pre-dyed the correct brown color, and then dye the ends with the correct magenta color. Mike assigned Connie Grayson-Criswell to spend the endless hours ventilating both Gamora wigs. It was decided that some of the original stunt wigs would be used again, so Tina Fabulic, went through and recolored them to match the new Gamora wigs giving them new life. Tina was also brought on to be the on set hair stylist for Legacy Effects.
Gamora’s final on set application and styling of the new wig was handled by Camille Friend, the films Department Head of Hair.
Overall application time for Gamora was reduced to 3 ½ hours including hair.
In watching the first film, one of my favorite character was Dave Bautista’s “Drax”. The dialogue, the character and the makeup design was all amazing. This was the one that I really wanted to sink my teeth into. Originally, the Drax makeup consisted of approximately 24 overlapping or interlocking silicone prosthetics. Although the prosthetics were thin, the mandate from the studio was to address the issues of the wrinkling and buckling of the prosthetics, as well as alleviate the bubbles of heat and sweat that would build up over time. Of course, reducing the makeup application time was also key.
We approached this redeux from two fronts. One direction was to create a “vest” that could be “pulled over” saving his torso from the wear and tear of the makeup process. All the scarification for the torso was sculpted in, and the vest was run in foam latex. His arms, head and neck would undergo the same makeup process as our second direction. This vest was pitched for days when stunts, and harnesses or long shots would work.
For the second direction, I thought the best approach for the Drax scarification would be prosthetic transfers. In using prosthetic transfers, we would only sculpt the scars as the prosthetic, and not have to incorporate a thickness to accommodate the “grey skin” in the silicone prosthetics. I envisioned that each window or cutout of the sculpture would be Dave’s skin. This would allow the prosthetic transfer to move with his body and reduce or remove any wrinkling or buckling. These windows would also allow his skin to breath and reduce any buildup of heat or sweat.
My thought was to flop the theory of how the original makeup was applied. Instead of applying all the prosthetics, then painting whatever skin was leftover, the makeup team of myself, Robin Pritchard, Jon Moore and Matt Sprunger would paint him, then apply the prosthetic transfers.
Because Drax has his dry dialogue we first had to glue a microphone to his belly and chest, then cover it with a foam prosthetic. We then attacked him with rollers and brushes painting his upper torso, arms, hands and head with the Maekup Drax base color. We used 4 separate colors to create the break up in his skin tone, then we would apply the pre-painted prosthetics. Often, we would incorporate a 5th person to speed up the tracing of the backside of the prosthetic transfers to assist with placement. Another makeup product that we used on Drax and many other characters in the film, was a crème’ tattoo cover from the company Jordane Cosmetics. I first met this vendor at IMATS LA and loved the idea of this crème’ makeup that would set like a tattoo makeup and wouldn’t move or crease. It worked great around the eyes, nose and mouth areas.
Christina Patterson recreated the look of Drax’s lenses from the first film.
Because the “scar” prosthetics would be the last thing applied, it meant that the fabrication of the prosthetics needed to be taken to a different level. Ken Calhoun not only was involved in the re-sculpt of the scars, but ran the Drax prosthetics department at Legacy Effects. The scarification was broken down into 27 pieces. Once the pieces were run and dried, any Prosaide residue from the edges and “cut outs or windows” needed to be cleaned, so that all that was left was the meat of the sculpture. The prosthetics were then pre-painted, and then once again cleaned from any paint overspray or residue. This ensured that when the final pieces were applied, that his grey/brown skin tones could be seen throughout. Once all prosthetics were applied we would tie the pieces together, raking the scar detail with fan brushes and Skin Illustrator palettes.
Many of you who have used prosthetic transfers know that they can be tenacious. Sometimes difficult to remove. Well now we have an actor with his whole upper torso and face covered in the stuff, and yes….it was unyielding. Our first makeup test with Dave took Alexei Dmitriew, Mike Ornelaz, Scott Stoddard and I about 2 ½ hours to apply. It then took us almost 2 hours to remove. Not fun. Thankfully Dave is a very patient man and only violent when he wants to be. We had streamlined the makeup process, now streamlining the removal process was paramount.
As a prosthetic makeup artist, we are always trying to find better and stronger ways to keep the makeup on the actor. Our enemy is heat and sweat. Heat from the lights, body heat from the actor, and of course the muggy summer Atlanta heat and humidity. Then it dawned on me, don’t run from it, run to it. We need to get the actor’s core body temp up before the makeup removal process. I thought of suggesting that Dave should run around basecamp for a while before removal, but then realized that would be ridiculous. To further test the theory of raising his body temperature, we ended up ordering a portable sauna from Amazon. It was a kind of a tent situation with a chair to sit on, and his head would stick out of the top. An attached hose would force feed steamy heat into the tent. I grabbed Chris, one of the guys from the shop, and applied the makeup and some prosthetic transfers to his chest. I lathered him up with shaving cream and he took his position in the sauna. Within about 15 minutes, his exposed head was dripping with sweat. Hopefully his body was doing the same. Chris then stepped out of the portable sauna, and I proceeded to wipe him down with moist hot cloth towels and some 244 fluid. The prosthetic transfers and makeup started to slide off his body. Success!!
However, once Chris stepped out of the portable sauna, his body and the makeup would start to cool down and removal became slow again. This took my thoughts to the next step of having to be inside the sauna with Dave so that we could maintain that high body temperature. With the initial success of the portable sauna test, it was now a matter of selling the idea to production to get a full-size sauna for removal.
They ended up buying two.
Overall application time for Drax was reduced to 70 minutes.
In the first Guardians of the Galaxy, to help achieve the sleek dynamic design for Gamora’s half bio-mech sister Nebula, Karen Gillan shaved her head. Fast forward to 2016 and the film’s sequel and being bald no longer interested her. When not filming, she wanted to keep her feminine locks. Our job was to try and recreate an image without the benefit of a best-case scenario.
Our thoughts and hopes were, that if she didn’t want to shave her head, please let us cut your hair to a manageable length. We created a series of Photoshop images giving her a sense of different hair styles that could still work with minimizing the density of her hair. Another key element to hair wrap process was to shave the nape of her neck up to the base of her skull. This would give the makeup artist a clean area to adhere any prosthetics to, as well as keep from adding any thickness to her slender neck. Eventually, a hair style and length was chosen, and the nape of her neck was shaved. Now we could get started.
Since I was already well underway dealing with Drax and Gamora, we brought in Alexei Dmitriew to spearhead Nebula. Shortly after that Chris Nelson joined the team. This was definitely going to be one of the most difficult makeups on this show to pull off, and these two talented artists stepped up to the challenge.
One of the first tests involved wrapping her hair, life casting, creating a vacu-form shell that we could adhere too. Basically, trying to recreate a smooth head. This became too problematic.
At this time, I need to reintroduce Tina Fabulic, the on set Legacy Effects hair stylist. After the vacu-form idea didn’t work out, both Tina and Alexei wanted to try to layer and swirl her hair, plastering down each layer with Blue Spiker Water Resistant Styling Glue. Tina also dried each layer as she went along, so at the end of it, there were no clips or pins. The result was a hard-shell hair helmet that was very tight to Karen’s skull shape. The process took about an hour, but the result was worth it, and now that Karen’s mane was dealt with, Alexei and Chris could buckle in for their ride.
The Nebula makeup consisted of 7 pre-painted silicone prosthetics, a bald cap then top of the head piece, face piece, mechanical eye pieces, and a back of neck. She also had a lace eyebrow, and an eyelash for her non-robotic side. There are a lot of geometric shapes and straight lines within the makeup design which added to the degree of difficulty in laying down the prosthetics correctly. Not to mention that they were being stretch over the bulk of Karen’s hair. There is a very intricate patterning of colors that both Alexei and Chris also had to tie together between the prosthetics, as well as an aspect of a beauty makeup. Karen’s neck had to be based on out PAX paint, then painted to match the rest of the scheme.
Also, depending on the costume, there was an upper arm prosthetic used that also carried the same look on her face down into her body.
Overall application time for the Nebula makeup was reduced from 5 hours to 3 ½ hours, including the hair wrap.
On its surface, the Yondu makeup appears simple. But that statement is the furthest from the truth. There is a lot of detail and layering that goes into that vibrant blue that Michael Rooker sports. The talents, artistic eye and patience of Scott Stoddard was set in motion to oversee the streamlining and recreation of this character, as well as deal with Rooker’s energetic personality.
Scott re-sculpted the “Fin Socket” prosthetic, as well as the criss cross scars on the right side of his face. John Cherevka recreated the dental prosthetics that finished off Yondu’s toothy grin. LuAndra Whitehurst became Scott’s partner in crime to help push this makeup through.
Once again, we dipped in to the Show Offs Body Art – ProAiir makeup paints to start off the Yondu makeup. This could be brushed on very quickly once the prosthetics where applied.
There were about 5 to 6 color passes of other ProAiir or Skin Illustrator makeup to create the depth and vibrancy is Yondu’s skin tone.
There is a scene in GOTG V2, where all the Ravagers are at the Iron Lotus, a bar and cyber brothel. James Gunn, the director, thought it would be cool to see Yondu shirtless in this scene. He wanted to see part of Yondu’s life through scarring on his body. Scott ordered up a bunch of Got Flesh!?! Prosthetic Transfer scars. In the handful of days prior to shooting the scene, a camera test was conducted where Scott and LuAndra conducted a full makeup test. The team, including Rooker all worked together with placement of the scars.
The look was approved on the first try.
Christina Patterson also recreated the look of the Yondu contact lenses.
Overall application time for the Yondu makeup was reduced to 2 hours. It took 3 hours to do the makeup and the upper torso for the shirtless scenes.
Enough of the streamlining. Finally!!, a new character.
Our first step for the Mantis character, consisted of Shane Mahan, myself and a team of people traveling out to Atlanta to do life casts on the top 4 prospects for the character. They knew that they would not be able to make up their minds until later for which actress they would chose. But while they were in Atlanta doing final screen tests, this would be our one shot to get all of the information we needed no matter who they chose.
As a new character to the Guardians family, James Gunn paid a lot of extra attention to her design. The design team at Legacy Effects went through so many iterations for the design of Mantis before they landed on the final design that made it to the film. Part of the design for Mantis were going to be Digital VFX antennae, the director wanted the freedom to decide movements and final look later. The prosthetic that was created for Mantis did include the base of the antennae, so that VFX would have a jumping off point for placement.
Even after the 2D design phase was complete. We must have sculpted half a dozen versions of the forehead prosthetic for Mantis. Trying to get the right shape, angle, and size.
Once Pom Klementieff was cast for the role, we scheduled her in for makeup testing. We wanted to keep her overall look very clean and classy. We knew that the focus wanted to be on her eyes. So, aside from wearing 22mm contact lens, that were painted by Christina Patterson, the makeup design would need to make her eyes look as big as possible…alien. I chose Mike Ornelaz to be the lead makeup artist on this character due to his conscientious and artistic approach. Together we worked out colors, direction and scheme that would transform Pom. When the schedule allowed, Scott Stoddard would help Mike get through the prosthetic portion of the makeup application, but would then step back and Mike would finish the beauty aspect of the makeup.
To help with the alien illusion of the large eyes, Shane had an idea for these long sweeping wispy lashes. Mike Ornelaz took this challenge to task, and eventually created what would be the custom lashes made from Ostrich feathers. Each pair were handmade, and meticulously matched. They ended up making about 65 pairs.
To top of the Mantis look was her wig. Mike Ornelaz, and his hair team at Legacy Effect, including Aimee Macabeo worked on this. Besides approaching it with 2D designs, the hair department bought several wigs and started cutting and styling. Each time narrowing down the look that the director couldn’t quite place his finger on. Once the final design for the wig was chosen, Tina Fabulic was responsible for the hair wrap and application of the wig.
Overall makeup application time, including hair wrap and wig for Mantis was 2 ½ to 3 hours.
Another new character for us to build was TaserFace, the leader of the Ravager uprising.
As another new character, Marvel took a while to come up with the initial design, so that it would fit in the world already created, but still be different than the other Ravagers. Legacy Effects took the initial design and then had to translate it over the actor’s, Chris Sullivan, features. At Legacy Effects, John Cherevka created the dental prosthetics and Chris Swift did the sculpt of the full-face prosthetics. Laura Dandridge was my makeup application partner in crime.
TaserFace’s prosthetic makeup broke down into a top of the head piece that came down and covered his brows, a face piece, a chin, ear pieces, and the Horsetail Mohawk. He also had lace mustache and beard pieces. During the process of application, we decided to omit the chin, as it was covered with the big bushy facial hair. Anything to save a little time in the chair.
One of TaserFace’s prominent features is the “Horsetail Mohawk”. Mike Ornelaz fabricated the giant hairpiece at Legacy Effects. The overall length was almost 3 feet long, and that is heavy, dense hair. Mike then had to come up with a way to attach the wig to the actor so that it would hold the weight as well as not lose the integrity of the design. We got clearance from the actor that he would shave his head. From there we knew we would make a thin fiberglass shell that we could mount to. Mike and the mechanical department at Legacy Effects came up with an adjustable pivot rod, that was mounted to the fiberglass shell. The “Mohawk” had a piece of vinyl tubing at heart of the wig, so that it could be slid over the pivoting rod. We used Skin-Tite, a 2-part silicone, to adhere the fiberglass shell to the top of Sullivan’s head.
As the rest of James Gunn’s galaxy, he wanted to make sure that the color scheme for TaserFace was fun and bright. The prosthetics had been pre-painted from the shop, but as we did makeup tests in Atlanta, the scheme changed. We went through 3 different makeup tests to find the right tone of purple-ish.
For TaserFace’s fiery demise, we didn’t have time to create a full burn makeup. Gunn wanted something that got the point across that he was burned, but nothing so gross or realistic that people would turn away. So, Laura and I fabricated a burn makeup out of kit as a test to show the director. We kept the colors bright underneath to be his flesh color, yellow to be exact. The test was approved, and repeated on the day of the shoot. We also had doubles of the facial hair pieces and the ‘Mohawk’, that could be burn, singed and charred.
Christina Patterson worked with Shane Mahan and Lindsay Macgowan on the look and design of the TaserFace contact lenses.
Overall application for the TaserFace makeup was 2 to 2 ½ hours.
The Ravagers in this universe come in all shapes, sizes and volume. The makeup work for the Ravagers were divided between the Legacy Effects makeup department focusing on the larger prosthetic makeup designs, and smaller prosthetic or other makeup designs created by John Blake and his makeup department.
Besides Marvel providing the molds from the first movie for us to recreate some of those original Ravagers, Legacy Effects also got to create some new Ravagers as well.
The in-house design team and painters at Legacy Effects were hard at work coming up with new paint schemes for the original characters so that we could create as many looks as possible.
The Ravager makeups ran the gamut of pre-painted silicone prosthetics, foam latex and fiberglass headpieces.
The main body of the Ravager shots in the film were shot during the first 5 weeks of principal photography. Luckily, I was able to assemble a large team of fantastic makeup artists from 706, including: Alexei Dmitriew (key makeup), Scott Stoddard (key makeup), Mike Ornelaz (key makeup), Chris Nelson, Tina Fabulic, Mike Mekash, Will Huff, Vera Steimberg, Kevin Kirkpatrick, James MacKinnon, Bart Mixon, Sabrina Wilson, Cary Ayers, Dave Snyder, and Nicole Sortillon-Amos.
798 members included: Matt Sprunger, LuAndra Whitehurst, Laura Dandridge, Mark Ross, Jonah Levy, Addison Foreman, Matt Silva, Emily Coughlin, Kerrin Jackson and Jessica Gambardella. And from the UK, working under 798 was Robin Pritchard and Jon Moore.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Besides having a large group on set to represent Legacy Effects, the team is not complete without all the members back at the shop in San Fernando responsible for the build. Unfortunately, I can’t name everyone here but I just wanted to give credit to the department leads for this massive undertaking.
Damien Fischer who runs the mold shop, along with Jeff Dietz as his key.
Cory Czekaj as the silicone and foam latex fabrication room lead.
Jamie Grove, Ryan Pintar, Mark Maitre, Bruce Fuller, Tim Martin, John Cherevka, and Shane Mahan as key painters.
Nicki Harris who wrangled most of the contact lens work onset, with help from Sean Kinney, Justin Faith and Jessica Nelson.
One member of this team, I had HUGE help from was Kelly Zak who helped me organize and coordinate to keep this train on the rails.
Thank you ALL.
Wrapping this up (finally)
During the first week of makeup tests at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, there was a day that we had about 20 of our Ravagers all made up and in front of camera. The director and production gave us all thumbs up.
I remember that moment, looking at this motley crew of silicone prosthetics and paint. There was a lot of build up to this makeup test. From all the work done at Legacy Effects, from the design team, sculptors, mold makers, prosthetic fabricators, painters and the hair department to finally the makeup artists and hair stylists on set. Many hands touched these characters.
But when it’s all said and done, and the work is successfully living and breathing in front of camera, those are the moments why many of us got into the business.
Big shoes to fill, Yes. But as a team, we laced up and ran.