The Prosthetics Event 2014
Dr Who prosthetics guru Neill Gorton launched The Prosthetics Event, the first dedicated SFX event in the UK, on November 16.
The best of the British film and television industry, designers, artists, materials suppliers and nearly a thousand attendees gathered at the Aston Conference Centre in Birmingham, to celebrate the outstanding success of the UK SFX industry.
There were demonstrations and talks, artists in residence creating work at the Monster Mash exhibition and animatronics displays. Experts from every part of the makeup effects industry were there, to share their expertise and to inspire you.
The atmosphere was electric. Attendees travelled from across the globe and were a mix of professional makeup and special effects artists, students, enthusiasts and cosplayers.
Creature creations at the Monster Mash
The industry line-up included designers from some of the biggest Hollywood films. Headlining the event was David White who created the prosthetics and aliens on this summer’s blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as Captain America, Snow White and the Huntsman and Thor: The Dark World, to name but a few.
Secrets from the set of Guardians of the Galaxy
David shared some of his design secrets and stories from behind the scenes. He described the creation process on Guardians of the Galaxy and how testing makeup and creating new creatures is time consuming. One test makeup took more than seven hours to create the look.
He explained that whilst working on Guardians of the Galaxy sometimes it was easier to completely cover an artist in prosthetics rather than trying to blend pieces with their skin. David described how major prosthetics coverage plus digital and visual special effects, can work really well together. “In early discussions director James Gunn was very pro prosthetics and very supportive, so I had carte blanche.”
It was a huge design challenge as there were twenty one main cast members and a massive number of supporting artists. David started prepping in February and filming began in the June – the schedule was intense and very demanding.
As David said, “What we do looks like a lot of fun but you have to remember this is the film industry. It’s not called the movie BUSINESS for nothing. Hollywood is now a corporate environment.”
‘Fangtastic’ teeth from Fangs FX
At The Prosthetic Event Fangs FX collaborated with Neill Gorton on breath-taking transformations of cosplayers Tabitha Lyons and Beckie Ray.
Fangs FX have created special effects teeth on more than 365 films, including Frankenstein, Captain America, Hellboy and X Men.
Fangs FX director Chris Lyons explained that unlike the USA, here in the UK prosthetic teeth application is highly regulated, hence Fangs FX are registered with the British Dental Council.
As Chris said “Irreparable damage can be done in seconds just from taking impressions”. The Fangs FX studio actually has a fully functioning dental office and they are renowned for their specialism and expertise.
Customised creations by Fangs FX
Chris explained “Nearly every actor has had dental work done; some even have no teeth at all although you would never know it. Working with an actor’s teeth is a sensitive process as you are actually working inside the body.”
Prosthetics teeth can be designed to distort the actor’s face, dramatically changing its shape and helping to create the character. Fangs FX work closely with the designer and then take a cast of the actor, always with the utmost care. Fangs FX never use clips, clamps or adhesives and everything is designed to fit the actor perfectly.
They have even taken an impression of a Doberman’s teeth, when they created gold teeth for a dog on a Kanye West video.
Asked what his favourite challenges have been Chris replied “The teeth for Frankenstein’s monster for Penny Dreadful, 180 sets of teeth for zombie epic World War Z and contributing to the Oscar winning prosthetics for Meryl Streep on Margaret Thatcher.
Creating characters with contact lenses
The Reel Eye Company created one-of-a kind character contact lenses for Neill Gorton at The Prosthetics Event. They have also designed lenses for some of the biggest Hollywood productions.
Reel Eye is one of the largest suppliers of SFX contact lenses to the film industry. Jemma Puri from Reel Eye translates the make up designers vision to contact lens manufacturers. The manufacturers paint the SFX lenses creating character lenses that bring the makeup artist’s vision to life and are also suitable for actors to wear.
Jemma pointed out that in the UK the sector is highly regulated and only a qualified optician can apply contact lenses to an actor on a film set.“People don’t realize that cheap lenses that are not fitted by an optician can be extremely dangerous and potentially sight threatening.”
The ultimate character lenses by The Reel Eye Company
Wearing painted contact lenses can be difficult and eyes require atmospheric oxygen. To help aid this actors are limited to using them for three hours at a time, then a break is required. This is repeated throughout the day.
Jemma explained that on-set lenses should always be applied after prosthetics application. “This helps to save ‘wear-time’ in the lenses for filming and to minimise the risk of make-up greasing up the contact lens, causing discomfort.”
Working with actors
During his phenomenal prosthetics demonstrations Neill Gorton described some of the challenges of working directly with artists.
Neill said, “Some actors love character makeup, but others are less inclined. Some don’t want to be anything but themselves on screen. Aging makeup can be especially tough for those actors with vanity issues.
This can’t be said for Paul Whitehouse – actor, comedian and SFX character actor extraordinaire of the British Aviva adverts, for whom Neill created all the character prosthetics.
Neill explained that when creating a character design you must take the actor into consideration. Your prosthetics must not impede an actor as it is essential that they can still perform.
Neill himself has also worn prosthetics makeup. He spent a full day in makeup just to experience, first hand, exactly how it feels and to better understand what the artist goes through.
As Neill explained, “No actor wants to sit in a chair for five hours having makeup done and then go and do a whole days work. You have to think about what you are putting someone through on a daily basis. See the role from both sides – it is all about collaboration.”
Breaking into the industry
Both David White and Neill Gorton shared crucial advice for beginners wanting to break into prosthetics and special effects makeup, in the film industry.
- Identify what sets you apart
- Be true to yourself, be honest, and be confident without being too pushy
- Be professional at all times as you are dealing with actors and egos
- Learn prosthetic processes from the ground up – repetition is essential
- Do your research when you approach the industry for work
- Make phones calls, write letters. Keep pushing and trying
David described how he responded to a letter 2 years later simply because the timing was right.
As David said, “Ultimately you need to be patient, determined and keep the faith!”