Friday, June 4, 2010

...AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN HIM BEFORE...


Thankfully the technology behind prosthetic make-up has come a long way since the original Planet of the Apes movie won an Oscar in the late 1960's. But it remains an art where patience is the ultimate virtue. Arriving at the Make-up Effects Group (www.megeffects.com.au) workshop in Sydney, I enjoyed up to around 6 hours (probably more) of being poked, prodded, glued, painted and fussed over. But it culminated in a transformation at the hands of designer Polly McKay that is nothing short of phenomenal. In fact, the entire process was quite relaxing.

I was warned that the
experience could be 
claustrophobic, but I found it not so. Initially, the basis of my character's face was formed by a prosthetic mask, moulded from soft foam and perhaps latex that fitted over the contours of my face like a glove. This was aligned to match my features, generously glued in place, that allowed for amazing reproduction of my facial expressions. Being restricted to the chair for so long was alleviated by the attention paid by various 'assistants' who ensured water, juice, tea and coffee was continuously offered (and consumed via a straw) as well as ample goodies in the form of gummy bears and other sweet treats.






With the basics in place, a break for lunch was called and the artists, along with their own 'beasts', retired for a time to congregate around the catering, made up of various wraps (yes, versions for vegetarians as well), soy crisps, wagon wheels and a cheese and fruit platter.


Back in the chair after lunch for the finishing touches by way of acrylic and grease paints, as well as the more traditional powder-puff.

Lunch had kicked-in, and as brushes left dabs and splodges on my new appearance during the ensuing hours, I certainly drifted off to the land of nod once or twice. I believe this is common in 'the business'. Finally, fitted with costume, it was time for shooting, which never does justice to the magic and skill of the artists. Talking and performing various emotions via facial expressions is key to creating 'realism' in any film's fantasy world, and this make-up technique allows for both in spades. The blending between the prosthetic pieces and my natural skin is the real skill, and truly results in a convincing on-screen character.


So amazing was the finish, I didn't want to have it removed. It was work of art, with me as the proud canvas. Eventually though, two artists spent time slowly removing the layers of paint and powder, carefully peeling back the mask and brushing on copious amounts of fluid to neutralize the glue. Bit by bit, reality returned albeit over another 90 minutes or so in that chair, as the fantasy was finally detached, and life returned to normality...until the next shoot...