Interview with Emmy Award Winning Buffy the Vampire Slayer Makeup artist Todd McIntosh
So: What is your favorite fictional depiction of vampires?
Favorite fictional depiction. So books or movies?
Either or both.
That's a tough one because there are some really great, obscure, little vampire stories out there. Like, recently, I read a book called Only the Dead Know Burbank, and it was a really great original take! Still, I would have to say that probably Dracula and the original Dark Shadows are the foundational ones that brought me to the vampire world.
I think I was about six or seven years old at this point. My stepmother was watching soap operas all day long, and I happened to catch a bit of a show with vampires on it, a show that I was wildly taken by, and that show turned out to be Dark Shadows. That was a major part of my childhood. It allowed me to focus on something. It filled my imagination, and took what was a relatively unpleasant childhood and made it bearable.
While I was going along the way, I kept trying to figure out how these creatures looked the way they looked! So, I would go and use an eyebrow pencil to try and draw lines on my face. I would make fangs out of shirt-collar stays. I would do whatever I could to try and make myself look like the vampire Barnabas. During the process, a neighbor who was in the theatre happened to notice and kindly gave me a makeup book. That led to another makeup book, and then another one after. I was practicing, and doing make-up on myself whenever I wasn't doing schoolwork, so that by the time I was twelve, I was working in the theater. By the time I was 18, I was working in a TV studio as a makeup artist. By the time I was in my 24, or in that range, I was chairman of the Makeup Department of “the Local” in Vancouver, and then I moved on to doing all kinds of movies and career-building stuff. Then I decided to move to Los Angeles when I was 30. All the way along, Dark Shadows and vampires have been a through-line to that. So it’s really because of Dark Shadows that I have a career.
So you're entirely self-taught?
Yes. When I was about 15 or so, and I'd been in the theater for a while, I’d been working with an art teacher, talking about making molds, and using latex, and I started doing prosthetics. I was actually teaching makeup in high-school while I was still in high school. So, I've always had a second career as a teacher.
Did you ever picture yourself getting as far as you have in this industry?
When I started, Yes. That's such a hard question because this was my passion. This is what I always wanted to do. In my mind, I never had anything else that was a possibility! Even so, my family decided when I was just graduating high school to sit me down on the couch and tell me that there was “no such career as makeup artist”. That it didn't exist, and I’d better get out and get a job, or I would be out of the house. So, I had to get a job, (for about a week), as a waiter.
That didn't work. I moved to an Art Gallery down the street, where I was selling First Nations art as part of the staff. While I was there, I tried to make a portfolio, and decided that I needed a wig. My mother used to work at the CBC before she became ill and called them and asked if her son could borrow a wig. They said, “well, we have a job opening. Would he like to come over and do an interview?” Which I did, and I got the job. So that's how I ended up at the CBC at 18.
Yes! So, in the end, you showed your parents very quickly that Makeup Artist Was going to be your job?
Yes. I didn't fall for that. I knew that there was a focus there, a passion. Unfortunately, it's so easy to get sidetracked. I had to make it a rule that I would do any job, I would work anywhere, as long as it was related to makeup. So, in those early years after I left the CBC, (I wasn't there very long), I struggled.
I worked in makeup stores. I worked in makeup-supply stores and dancewear-stores and retail wherever I could. I demonstrated where I could, and eventually landed a job at the Blanche McDonald's School instructing the aesthetics program in makeup. Eventually, I said to Blanche, who was still alive at that time, that I would really like to expand this and teach a proper makeup course, a television and film makeup-course, which she thought was a great idea. So, I wrote 30 classes and I started to teach them, and that blossomed, grew, and evolved. Now, makeup is one of the major subjects that that school teaches! There are several other factions to it. There's still the aesthetics program, and the fashion-merchandising program, and fashion-show production and all of that side. They also have a hair school now, but the makeup school is rather large and intense. I'm still basically the director of that part of the school even today.
Wow. What are some of the big differences in makeup for theater or film and TV when you first started working, versus back during Buffy's time, and even versus today?
Well, obviously, there's a difference between theatre, and television, and film just because of the closeness you are to the actor. Makeup for a theater was intended to project, but nowadays a lot of professional theatres in New York or wherever, have screens that have cameras on the actors for people further back in the audience to be able to see clearly what's going on. Small houses in that sort of venue don't use extreme makeup anymore. So it's getting more and more close to television in its own way. There's a production going on right now in New York of The Music Man, and my friend Jerry Quist built a foam-latex nose for that and he was there to show the actors how to put it all on and color it and stuff.
So, you're seeing prosthetics that would be used in television being used on stage! Of course, if we start at the Dark Shadows era, we're in black and white, so we suddenly move into color in the early 1960’s and 70’s, and that requires an entire shift. In order for an image to show up on video at that time, they needed much more light. So the makeup was a great deal more Orange, and it was heavier, and more theatrically-applied for TV in the early days than it was, for example, in movies at the same time.
This created this discrepancy in the minds of employers, thinking that people who do television don't know how to do movies because their makeup looks are too heavy. So, it created a sort of schism there that if you ended up working a lot in television, you didn't get offers for many movies. Obviously, all of that started to change in the world of digital and low-lighting filming, where now there's virtually no difference between a TV makeup look and a film makeup look. The only thing that's a difference is the budget and the time you have to prepare for everything.
Of course, Makeup is always going through revolutions. Again, at the beginning when you were doing black and white TV, and black and white films, makeup was sort of adapted for those mediums from the stage, so a lot of them were the same sort of thing.
Max Factor was really an important part of adapting makeup products to the medium as it shifted. Originally, he had panchromatic makeup, and then there were other makeup forms that came along when we were in color, and needed bright lights to do movies. He shifted from grease paints to water-based makeups, and pancake makeups so that the actors weren't greasy looking all the time. Those innovations are constantly happening, but as we get into our current era, anywhere from the time when I stepped in, or just before, there were still makeup companies that made specific products for television and film. Vincent Kiho, for example, had his line of makeup. The RCMA, or Research Council of Makeup Artists had their line of makeup. Max Factor was still there making things for the lights, and for the film stock to adjust skin tones. However, as we get into digital, and lower-lighting filming, things are more realistic, and you need less correction of skin color, and something that looked less “makeupy”, less heavy.
Even today, if you want to see that, you can sometimes look at news programs that are done direct-to-video, and see how much heavier the makeups are on the anchor people than if you're watching a crime show, which, if it's shot in a certain way, may not even really need a lot of makeup at all. Again, the adaptations, as we're going through these, are to get lighter, lesser and different methods of applying things. In the middle of all that, airbrush comes in to give a softer, more-diffused makeup that doesn't show so much on the digital cameras. Even digital cameras have shifted from their more primitive form to a form today that doesn't quite see all of that. There's filters for it now, so you can get away with a little more than you could when digital first came in. There's so much to cover on a subject like this, it's almost hard to do the details!
I apologize. It's a very broad question. It's definitely very visible, even in films that have been remastered and are now available in HD and they didn't come out in HD originally. One of my favorites is the old Marilyn Monroe films. I read she was usually nipping at a bottle, so now that it's in high definition, you can see where her lipstick is wearing the center of her lips, so it's not full coverage. Back then, you couldn't tell in the final production that she wasn't wearing lipstick.
Right! Not unless there was a huge close-up on the lips. Yes, you could get away with so much more on film because of the fusion of the medium itself. As far as prosthetics are concerned, that's radically changed over the last while. We moved from what was basically painted rubber into a mold to foam latex, which came into being around the time of Wizard of Oz and hit its stride around the time of Planet of the Apes. Foam rubber has been a standard, and it's still used even today for a lot of TV shows. Then, around the time Buffy was in its stride, we started to have silicone appliances. After silicone appliances, there were gel-encapsulated things that you could transfer from a piece of paper onto a face. It got even more delicate and translucent in its finish. So, of course, paints had to be developed for all of these new mediums. Again, we're no longer using rubber mask grease paint, which was heavy, to hide the rubber, and blend it into the skin. We're now doing light coats, splattered and stippled coats of illustrator, or alcohol-soluble pigments. That the little dots of color diffuse to look like translucent skin.
What would you say is the most challenging makeup that you have to do on Buffy?
There were a lot of challenging makeups, but the most difficult was the Adam character. It was built by Optic Nerve very quickly, because they were having trouble casting, I assume. So, they started building that character on some generic forms. By the time it got to me to put on the actor, it was so jury rigged in its concept of how it was going to go together that there was a lot more work for us to do. So, the very first time we put that entire piece on him with all the face pieces, and the arm pieces, and the hand pieces, and the weapons, and the seams at the back, all in the headpiece, and that took us eight hours the first time. The second time we did it, we got it down to six hours because we knew what the pattern was, but we never got it down further than 5 hours. It was just a long, hard process. It was hard on the actor, who had to stand for half of that time. It took two of us working constantly to get it to that stage. So, yeah, that was the hardest.
I've seen recently that a lot of teenagers on TikTok are trying to go back and find specific colors, shadows, and lipsticks that were used on Buffy: the Vampire Slayer specifically, but also other teen movies from the 90’s. Buffy seems to have endured, despite the early seasons being a little bit aged, technology-wise. How much influence do you have over color choices for the main cast of women, for their makeup and what influences those choices?
I had a pretty large range.
I mean, initially, everything comes from upstairs. If Management says, “I want this,” everything has to be interpreted through that lens. Say, for example, a director says, “I want red lipstick on this actor,” and the actress comes in and says, “Please No, red looks terrible on me. I need peach.” You need to go back to the upper echelons and say “No, she wants peach”. They say, “No, I want red.” Then you have to put the two together to talk it through. That's specifics, but as far as the rest of it is concerned, it's really just if you've got a tone from the top.
Initially, Buffy was supposed to be a high-school girl. They wanted her very earthy looking, with no heavy makeup. I did that for the presentation. About three or four days into filming, one of the producers came to me and said, “Look, they want something more. Can you bump it up? Can you make her look more Valley Girl?” That permission allowed me to go into all the frosty colors and the glossy colors and everything that was popular at that time.
Again, it comes from the top, then it's my interpretation of it. Once I get that basic word, plus the actors’ involvement in how they want to look, it becomes a combined effort. Every weekend I would go out shopping for whatever was current, whatever was fashionable, what fit the upcoming episodes. There was always this turnover of bright nail polish colors or frosty eyeshadows for Buffy, or various looks. We went through Brown lips at the time, or Gray. We had some Gray or purple lips, I think, going on at points in there. Obviously it was different for the villains. Obviously a darker palette for, like, Drusilla.
In some cases, I mean, Buffy's lipstick colors were always light and frosty in general, and so were Drusilla's. The difference there was her eye makeup, and, of course, her performance. That's the center of it. When I designed the beauty makeup for Pushing up Daisies, for example, we had a completely different approach. We decided on each of the women to be sort of “decade driven”. Kristin Chenowith, our leading lady, was very 1960’s. Then there was a 1950’s look to Swoosie Kurtz’s makeup, and we adjusted time periods. We didn't exactly do that in Buffy, but we were looking at it and saying, “Okay, this is a 200 year old vampire. What would she be doing? Most of the time, they're trying to fit in like Darla. From the very presentation, she was supposed to be another high school student, so that you couldn't tell when she was going to become a vampire. Very much someone trying to fit in, and her makeup had to look like everybody else’s makeup. Drusilla is never going to be other than Drusila. However, she probably “played” with makeup as part of her life as a modern vampire, let alone as an earlier vampire.
I feel like there was a little bit more of a contrast when they did the whole Willow vampire storyline.
When that happened, we definitely went into a darker look for Willow vampire.
A very bright green eyeshadow.
And when Willow became the powerful witch and had all the stripes on her face, that was a different makeup again as well.
Also, seven years into filming.
For sure. They grew up as they went along.
And more of a budget, I'm sure.
Well, to tell you the truth, that was an interesting conversation because about episode three, they started to come down on me about the budget. I asked, why are we cutting the budget on a show that is hugely popular? And the answer from the producers was, “well, it's popular now. We don't need to spend the money anymore.” So it would be opposite from what you think. Quite often the budgets get cut rather than raised as the show starts to make a profit.
Interesting. I guess that makes sense. They're trying to push money into it to make money, and then it's making money, they want to cut it. I guess that makes sense.
Yeah. But it's not what you'd expect.
I've never thought about that before! Do you have any favorite stories you can share from films or shows you've worked on? Not necessarily Buffy, but anything. Just any specific story?
Well, I mean, I've been working for 42 years!
I know there's a lot.
One of my favorite stories is the one I told the other night about getting the actors all taken care of on set and then opening the trailer on Halloween night to the producers, and the crew, and the actors who weren't working so that they could come in and get made up for Halloween and experience Halloween. We never did because we always worked through it. That was a really great memory.
Really, my memories of the show were constantly working. It was all a logistics game. How do I get this set covered? How do I make sure that makeup is done? How many people do I have as a resource to spread here? If I go this way in the morning, I can have all of the makeup looks I need done with ten people. If they need them done sooner, I have to go this way and hire 20 people and get them done. That was my life. That's what I remember most about the show.
Actually, there is a story that I tell, (and I am not going to tell you who this was!) but we had a performer who appeared on the show. I was doing their makeup, and it involved, at the time, rubber mask grease paint, because we didn't have any of the alcohol-soluble pigments. I was using a sponge, and I was tap, tap, tap, tapping on their face to try and get the blending of the colors to work right. In the middle of that, they reached up, grabbed my arm by the wrist, pushed it aside and said, “You're done now.”
So, that was a moment. I said, “Okay”, and we got them to the set, and we got them rehearsed. I managed to get in there and do enough touches to finish the piece. Then about two months after that performer was finished with their role, we had an early call time, and the hairdresser and I were in the trailer getting set up for the day. There were no other actors yet. It was just us, the early call. Then, into the trailer, without knocking, comes that performer, and they said, “Hi, I'm going to an audition just down the street, and they need me to be a bit older. I was wondering if you could just do some aging makeup?” I was so shocked that I sat them down and I did a bit of aging makeup on them, and the hairdresser put some Gray in their hair, and they walked out without ever saying, Thank you. That was one of the oddest experiences of my career.
How many makeups were you doing at the beginning of the show for the whole production, versus near the end when you had all the different Uber-Vamps and the potentials? I'm sure it expanded over time.
Well, I mean, even at the beginning, in the first episodes, there are some scenes with at least 20 vampires running around. I don't remember the specifics of it, but even in that first season, we would have quite a few to do. It wasn't just always about numbers. We went through a whole period where there would be just one demon or one monster per show. Then there was that whole section about the underground science lab under the University, and of course, there were always background demons in all of those cages.
I did not do the last season of Buffy, so I was not there for the Uber Vamps or any of that other stuff. So, I don't know how big it got at that point. I just know that during my tenure, there wasn't so much of a volume of makeup, although that was there. There were different units running at the same time. That was the hard part for me. You'd have scenes going on on three different stages and sometimes on location. I do recall one day that I drove to location, made up a character, and then drove back to the studio and made up all the rest of actors that were needed for the two units that were working in the studio. That was a logistically-difficult day.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced as a makeup artist?
There are challenges that are part of each stage of a career. At the beginning, the challenge is to get your foot in the door, get enough of a portfolio that someone will take you seriously and get you more work. Once you've got yourself sort of working and established, there's the Union border. Obviously, you want to work on Union productions because the rates are higher and you're protected from a lot of things that they will take advantage of you for on Non-Union productions. So, you want to cross that boundary, and there's requirements of time, and you have to get so many hours within a certain period. So, that's a hurdle. Then, suddenly you're in the Union and you don't know anybody because you've been working with everybody outside the Union. So, the next hurdle is to get enough producers and production managers to know you well enough that you have work all the time. I used to say at that point that if you had five producers or production managers in your pocket, that meant that one of them is generally working. They're not usually all working at the same time, and that would mean that you had a pretty regular income going. But that takes time. There's all time behind all of this stuff. While you're doing that, you're refining new skills and building those. I remember my first airbrush and hating it so much that I threw it across the room. What I didn't know, because I was self taught, I didn't have someone there to guide my hand. I didn't know that you needed a regulator that would control the amount of air flow, that would allow you to get subtle movement with the airbrushers that we need in film. So that was another hurdle, learning the new technologies as each one of them came in. But you take it in stride and you keep going. The hurdles I experience now are that I'm 61, and they're looking at my resume, and they're hiring people who are in their 20’s. I guess that's just a fact of life. Ageism has always been a part of Hollywood, but it used to not be quite so harshly defined. So, as I get towards the end of my career, I'm working less, and that's a hurdle.
At the very beginning, I was so passionate about it that I didn't listen to what my parents said, and I pushed ahead. I was so passionate that that was going to be how I made a living. That I wouldn't do anything else but makeup. I got into the Union, and then I had to build my reputation and build that career. I was always passionate about makeup until, suddenly, the career changed so much in the last, say, ten years, that it's owned by corporations. The artistry is fading. At least I had someone I trusted to go to who understood the vision of what he wanted. It was only the one voice to listen to. He would say, “this is what it needs to look like, and you could work with that.” Now, you've got three showrunners who have never done makeup or even been on a set before. They work in a writer's room and a director who has been effectively relieved of his ability to make artistic decisions and producers who don't really do that. There's no one standing there saying, “I am the one voice that you need to talk to”.
So the whole industry started getting more and more difficult to work. Every job became more of a struggle. That's one of the reasons that my passion for doing makeup has not changed. My passion for the industry has.
It's unfortunate. I have noticed that it seems to be more and more of a struggle for these shows to even get off the ground. They always say, “Oh, the showrunner left,” or “The showrunner couldn't agree with the author that they bought the rights from”. It does seem to be an issue for everyone, top down at this point, with the way it's going, and, of course, changing over from network TV to things like Netflix and AMC and that sort of thing.
In many cases, the higher producers of shows for Netflix and Amazon and on and on aren't really filmmakers. I don't know where they come from, but they’re not. They're business people, so they assume that everything's going to run like a business. Like Amazon warehouses, all the workers are expendable. We don't care. So, the shift from those of us who provided an artistic part of the show to getting respect for that gift we give the show, we'd become fodder. Oh, that one doesn't work. Get rid of them, bring someone else in. They'll do fine. There's no real respect for career. Then again, that's not just the film industry. No, that's everything. Every industry everywhere. There's a famous story, probably apocryphal, about an actress whose name I don't remember now, an older actress going in for an interview for a job, and the executive producer is there talking to her about her career and says, “well, what have you done?” So she reaches into her purse and pulls out an Oscar and puts it on the table, and he sort of looks at it and says, “well, what have you done lately?” Although that story may not be true, it is very much what I feel from the industry out there. There's not a lot of respect for history, and the past, and work that you've done in the past. It's very much “what can you offer me now? What can you give me now, and why should I bother with you now?”
Very Sunset Boulevard.
Yeah. In a way, it has that feel to it.
I know ten years ago or so, a big concern for the industry was moving over from practical effects to digital effects. Do you think that's been a big problem for makeup artists, or do you think it's more integrative than they thought it was going to be?
Well, again, I think that something really important that a lot of makeup artists are not focused on, is serving the show. Serving the job. In cases where, say, for example, it's not possible to take someone's nose away with practical effects, It has to be a marriage of digital and practical. I think that sometimes, when you go all digital, you lose something, and sometimes when you go all practical, it could be enhanced with what we have today. So, I'm not threatened by it. I think actors are always going to want beauty makeup, and there's always going to be a need for some variations of practical makeup. I think that there's certainly room for traditional artists, like makeup artists who may have come out of the art world. They can draw, they can paint, they can sculpt, and they get to be a part of the digital art form because they have an eye for what to do. For example, there are digital retouchers for photographs, and I've seen where they retouch from here down, and it's blank. There's nothing there. I can see the line where there's real skin by the eye and everything else is done.
Obviously, that was not done by an artist. At the same time, I can see a makeup artist who has those skills just using layers of diffusion and leaving enough skin texture so that you're fooled into thinking that you're seeing what's actually there. That takes an eye that takes a very specific talent. So there is room for makeup to mesh with digital in the other direction as well.
I've seen that recently. We did a photo shoot, and their post-production person was sitting there the entire time, watching as the shoot came in, checking the images as they came in, keeping an eye out. We didn't have a spotter specifically. It was just him looking at the makeup in real time and comparing it on the screen to see how it was going to come out to save him time and editing to make it more seamless. He learned that by doing this at the makeup school. He learned it by being there for the students and helping them with their portfolios. I had never seen someone with that level of quick detail to get it while we're still here, and able to call the makeup artists back. “Come do the touch up to make it look better” with an eye towards that final result. It's literally just that marriage, like you said, of both worlds that came together. It was just a gorgeous result.
Now imagine if that person who was doing the digital work also had makeup training of their own. It would step up one more thing about what their eye is seeing, because a lot of camera-operators and people who are looking through the lens are not trained to look for the things that I'm trained to look for.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments? I know you want an Emmy for Buffy, correct?
I did. When you look at the two Emmys I won. The first one, the one for Buffy, was for Prosthetics, which was great, but the second one was for character and beauty work on Pushing Daisies. Those two Emmys kind of define my career because I've always pushed doing Beauty and Prosthetics at the same time, and how important it is to have both of those skills. I'm very proud of that part of my career. It's a high point. As I continue to teach after I retire, I will still be pushing that point.
Not that Emmys are everything, but I've been nominated 14 times, and I've won twice. I think that if you win an Emmy once, that's a wonderful thing, but if you keep being nominated over a period of time in your career, I think it definitely is a nod to the level of work that you're turning out. You don't have to win every time, but the fact that you're actually still in the running and still being talked about all the way through your career, that's pretty great. So I'm very proud of that.
Absolutely. That's definitely very impressive. Is there anyone you've always wanted to work with or any project you've always wanted to do but haven't gotten to?
Well, of course! There are hundreds of actors that I'm impressed by, and would love to work with. I have tried a couple of times and managed to meet most of the cast of the original Dark Shadows. That was a thrill, and I loved that. There is a new Dark Shadows that is always sort of being talked about. I did the 2003 pilot for a Dark Shadow series that was an abominable mess. So, I would say that, right now in my heart, if there was one thing that I've left undone, it's to do Dark Shadows right. To have a chance to finish that, to do the same show that brought me into a career. But who knows? I will probably be retired by October. So, there's very little time for that show to start out and stop me from going. As for the rest, there have been actors that I've wanted to work with, and actors that I've wanted to meet, and generally along the line. I've managed to meet them even if I didn't do shows with them. So, no, I'm not left wanting, particularly for that. The actors that I would admire the most and would really want to know are mostly deceased now, so that opportunity isn't going to happen. I did get to makeup Audrey Hepburn, and that was a good part of my career.
Just the once, for a UNICEF show, she was doing a presentation for in Vancouver. I happened to be selected to be her makeup artist for that. That was lovely.
Do you have any advice for young makeup artists just starting out in Hollywood now?
That's a really hard question as well, because the advice I used to give is probably not even applicable today.
I used to say, every single makeup artist’s journey is their own. It's totally unique. I was driven. I was going to do it no matter what. Yet I've met makeup artists who fell into it because they happened to know someone who knew something, who said, “why don't you try this?” Then they had a career. I know actors who couldn't quite make it in acting, but had a talent for makeup and ended up as makeup artists. I think that my advice would be: “find out what it is you're passionate about in the world and make that your focus.” One of the reasons you have to be so passionate about makeup is that, at least the way I've done it, is that you're on set 14 hours a day, five days a week. If I look back and I try to remember my life, there's a great swath of it that has been in dark cement buildings with padding on the walls, responding to cuts and last looks. It's not very joyful. Unless you're passionate, unless you can find joy in doing the makeup and being in that place and just sit back and say, “wow, I'm here, I'm doing what my love is.” Then, the whole thing becomes drudgery. It's the same as when a person who’s working in an office, who is saying every day, “I'm so glad I only have to do 8 hours of this because I couldn't stand it much more.” That's not where you want to be in life. It's not where you want to be in a career. Passion is everything. If you discover that in doing TV and film, that working those hours, working late nights and early mornings is not your thing, that it doesn't make you happy and you're grumpy all the time and you don't want to talk to people, then you should find another part of makeup that makes you happy. Go work commercials where you only work a few of them a month. Go work in retail or move into some other area that expresses your abilities and your interests so that you are happy going to work every day. That's my biggest advice.
Of course, the other half is “be nice”. Nobody wants to work with you if you're grumpy, and nasty all the time, particularly ADs and the other crew members that you interact with. I see so many makeup artists that behave like Divas. You don't need to do that. It's not the PA's fault that they're asking “how much longer?” It's not anybody's fault. It's just that's the mechanism of making this at work and they want to know, sorry.
It's the nature of the beast.
That's correct. Yes. And it's not as glamorous as it looks. Working in Hollywood is never as glamorous as it looks. No, that's for sure. It's the nature of the beast, and your nature shouldn't be to be a beast.
Yes! There you go! There's the tagline!
Yeah, that's a pretty good one.
You have to remember that 90% of getting a job is reputation. After a certain period of time, I wasn't showing my resume anymore. My resume had shows on it that the production manager or producer had seen. So they knew what that was. And it's all about, okay, they're going to call and get three references. Have you worked with Todd? What did you think of him? That's where it all comes. And if your reputation is that you can't get makeup done in less than 3 hours or that you're constantly yelling and sniping at people, you may not work very much.
Is there anything else you like to share that you're currently working on?
Of course I can't talk about the show that I'm currently on because we all have the nondisclosure contracts now. However, there are always finicky parts to every show. The current show has a very finicky makeup that is difficult to do and it's very stressful. This particular show, I've got eight weeks more to do, and then two months after that, I'll be retired, and hopefully I won't have to go to set ever again. I love doing makeup. I won't stop teaching it or being part of it, but I don't really need to be sitting on set for 14 hours anymore.
I was going to ask, what are you doing after you retire but you're going to continue teaching?
I will teach if someone wants me to teach. I’m connected to the school in Canada for life. So I'll go up there probably every two years or so, review the curriculum, talk to the teachers, talk to the students, maybe do some demos. That's been the standard for years, and years. Here in LA, if someone wants me to teach, I will. I might teach some private classes, but most of the time I've been teaching for the Union. So if that continues to go, then I teach the training program that takes you from trainee to journeyman. I'm happy teaching that program. It's great. I'll continue doing that, but I have many other things I want to do. I paint, I draw, I write. I want to do all of those things. I have stacks of books I haven't read, and I haven't had time to do it. So I'm going to look forward to that. I love to Cook. Cooking to me is like makeup. It's an understanding of the technique. It's practicing your hand movements enough so you've got the technique, and then it's a bit of artistry. How do you set the plate? How do you adjust the spices? How is this your unique thing? And then people get to eat it? How much fun is that? Then you can have a glass of wine and you can talk about the world over your dinner. So that's something I plan to do a lot more of.
I love that. As a native New Orleanian, I make a lot of Cajun food, since it's hard to find any good Cajun in LA. We don't measure anything. Everything's cast iron skillet.
There's a special skill to making that roux and making it the right color. Oh, yes, very special.
Do you think you'll write about your career?
I don't know. There's a number of makeup artists who have written about their careers, and it's not very interesting reading what we do backstage. If you come and watch us work for two hours, you're bored to death and want to go home. Really? That's all there is unless you're into telling juicy stories and seeing what you can get away with printing. I'm so naive, I was never focused on who was doing drugs or who was having an affair with whom on the set. I didn't even see it. I was so busy doing my technical work, focusing on the art. So, I don't know that I have much to write. And as far as writing a book on makeup, I can't imagine what I could write that's not already in the twenty or so texts we have on makeup today.
I feel like there's a lot more. Maybe that's just me. I find it fascinating. But I see that you also worked on the newer Space Jam that came out.
Yes. For the last three or four years, since the first season of Orville when Howard Berger and I first met. We'd known of each other for years, but we never met. After The Orville, I just kept going from show to show with Howard. So, Space Jam happened to be one that he was doing, and he assigned me a character on that. I was certainly on the show, but I wasn't doing the main cast. I was one of the many makeup artists he had doing all of those characters that were around the basketball court.
Memoirs of a Geisha is another one that you did that was very popular and well known.
I'm still surprised at how popular it is. Again, this is a case where there were other people that were running the show, and I was brought in for some specific things, doing the grandma’s cancer skin makeup and doing hair work. Also, of course, because I could do the Geisha White, which is difficult, and takes a certain technique. It was wonderful. But that flew by in an instant.
I will say, though, that it was one of the most impressive sets I have ever seen in my life. It was a complete outdoor chunk of Japan that they built in the middle of a field, and 98% of the filming of that show was done in Los Angeles. Well, that was part of the director's plan. He wanted to prove that movies like that could still be done in LA.
Do you know anything about the authenticity of the makeup that was used in that film?
Well, Noriko's mother was a makeup expert on Geisha makeup, and when Noriko was teaching us what she wanted to show, we were doing exactly what they do. The Dirrector hated it! He said it was scary to look at, and it was too white, and it just jumped out of the screen. So, the makeup was then altered to work more for his vision, which upset Noriko a great deal. She kept saying, “I can't go home, I can't go home”. So it wasn't authentic 100%, but she injected as much authenticity as she could.
Digital cameras, they react to things. I didn't see that footage. So I don't know if the director's eye was seeing something that we wouldn't have seen. My guess is that that makeup simply doesn't translate on digital stock.
Like you mentioned earlier, with the whole change over from dark theater to filming, and I'm sure it was made to be seen in low light originally.
I mean, great light on stage, but candlelight in person, right?
Is there anything else you want to add?
We should talk for a minute about Dracula, Dead and Loving it!
Again, I think it's interesting in the techniques to be talked about in that realm. Mel Brooks wanted Dracula, of course, to be pale, and we kept running into an issue because the actor was actually rather florid at his hairline with the white hair, and we couldn't get makeup in there enough to really do the job. It was becoming quite an issue because we could see this pink up there. So we paled him, but we reversed the process, and I took some pink in the airbrush and dusted that down the forehead and onto the skin so that there was a blend going the other way. If we'd had alcohol-soluble pigments at the time, it probably would have been something I could airbrush in there and it would have stayed and hidden the pink. Again, that's something that the products we had all had their own specific issues. On that show, I was very happy to design the teeth and make all of the teeth for all of the vampires. I really wanted to do that specifically. However, Optic Nerve built the ears and other small prosthetics, but all the vampire bites were mine. Again, the vampire makeups, like Lisette's vampire makeup after she's come back, was a very stylized version that I think I could easily say influenced Drsilla's makeup. It certainly is my style, and if you look at it, you can say “oh, there’s Todd!” Another makeup artist who's very close to me has a habit of calling me up and saying, “did you do a show called whatever” and I say “Yeah, so?” and he says, “I can see your style. I can see it there.” So, actually if you look at Meg Foster's makeup in Masters of the Universe and then you look at Lisette's makeup in Dracula, Dead and Loving it, and you look at Drusilla's makeup, you're going to see an evolution of that style of heavy, defined, more “fantasy-style” makeup.
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