Movie Make-up - It's Not All Monsters and Mayhem
Today we once again go behind the scenes and talk with Alexandria Storm, Make-Up/Special Effects/Visual Effects Artist, whose work can be seen in movies such as horror films EMPRESS VAMPIRE and RETURN of the KILLER SHREWS, as well as comedies like BARELY LEGAL.
Alex, thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
Matchflick: Alex, it looks like you've been the business a relatively short time, but you've amassed quite a resume of films. Are you ALWAYS working?
Alex: That's a tricky question. I'm always working on something. And it's not always make up. I have several different projects going on on the side. I like staying creative in all avenues.
Matchflick: Was Effects Work your first choice of careers in Hollywood?
Alex: No actually. When I started doing make up, my goal was to open up an eyelash bar. But with all the regulations, it wasn't possible unless I put down an additional $20k and locked myself down for another 9 months to study Cosmotology (hair styling), which I wasn't interested in because I didn't want to cut or color hair. I stumbled into effects within my first month of graduating from make up school. I had zero experience. It was an unpaid job with EMPRESS VAMPIRE but I learned a lot from the key make up artist, Candace Christen. To this date, she has helped me tremendously and I'm incredibly indebted.
Matchflick: What was THE movie that made you say, "THAT'S what I want to do!"
Alex: WHITE KNIGHT, directed by Jesse Baget, staring Tom Sizemore was the film that made me say That's what I want to do. It's the environment - a lot of good, creative people. A lot of people that made it want to happen.
However, I have to say that I had actually worked in the pharmaceutical industry for some years doing a corporate job. Horrible place to be. Red tape everywhere and all these people trying to make it impossible to move forward. I was firefighting all the time with zero creative outlet. I felt like one of those cars that was on it's back with it's wheels just revving - going no where. It was sad and frustrating.
When I was on set I felt like everyone was trying to work together. No one was deliberately trying to placate his/her ego by making it impossible for you to get your job done on time. It's an amazing high. Creative problem solving is valued. At the end of the day, you actually feel valued, you actually feel as if you've created something, accomplished something. Having had a job that you've hated makes it made it easier to understand what it feels like to do something good. It puts things into perspective and allows one to not take good things for granted.
Matchflick: One of your first full-length feature films was the horror movie EMPRESS VAMPIRE. How did you get this break?
Alex: hate to say this - but it was Craigslist. Today when I do get paying jobs off Craigslist and people on set ask me how
I got the job I say, Through my friend Craig... Craig List. It's corny but I laugh.. even though no one else does.
Should Have Tipped the Hair Stylist...
EMPRESS VAMPIRE was a non-paying gig. Back then when I was starting out, I'd did a lot of non-paying work because I understood that at the beginning of my career, I had to make some sacrifices. I was lucky I had a job at that time as a Quality Engineer at a Pharmaceutical company, which paid pretty well. The day job allowed me to support myself while I worked tirelessly on all my days off for a year assisting on features and working on short films. It was a year where I worked every day straight with no weekends, personal or public holidays. My system eventually broke down and I got shingles that year.
I'm glad I did it.
Matchflick: Have you ever done an FX project, when in 20-20 hindsight you thought, What was I thinking?
Alex: None that I can think of in terms of FX. Knock on wood, I've been pretty prepared thus far.
My What was I thinking moment was in the beginning of my career when I was working on student films. The Assistant Director (AD) had told me that it was a super wide shot. He said, You'd never see the actors faces. You don't have to be on set. And I believed him. I take some serious pride in the quality of my work. And when I saw the final product, that very scene was a super close up and all the actors were sweaty and shiny. I wanted to bury my head in shame. It was heart breaking. Thankfully no one else noticed but I was giving myself some serious ass kicking.
Lesson learned: Either always be on set or have an assistant on set to watch the monitor or, at the very least, be on set for the first shot to make sure nothing should go wrong. Never place faith in anyone because production may change their minds and fail to inform you.
Matchflick: On the other side of the spectrum, what do you consider your masterpiece - so far?
Alex: It's a sculpture that I'm working on. It's a stop motion bear. It's really not what you'd expect. Here's a picture of it.
Matchflick: Do you prefer horror to mainstream, or take the jobs as they come?
Alex: I go through phases. Sometimes I get an overdose of one and I long for the other. I have to admit though.. it's quite exhilarating making someone bloody and bruised and it's loads of fun transforming people and making them ugly. But then again, when you've created an amazing beauty make up, it's really exhilarating seeing that played on screen.
Matchflick: Which is harder to work - Comedy or Horror?
Alex: I wouldn't really call it Harder work. It's more like More work. Definitely more prep work involved in horror/fx. More planning as well.
Harder work would depend on the set. If the budget is low and the number of cast members is high, then it's definitely harder work - be it comedy or horror.
Matchflick: I see you've done one project in front of the camera (EMPRESS VAMPIRE). Was that a deliberate choice, or was another extra just
needed for the scene?
This Will Make Sense Later
Alex: I loathe being in front of the camera. It was a sleep walking scene. I had my eyes closed the entire time and never knew where the camera was. It was Oscar worthy.
Matchflick: Would you go in front of the cameras again?
Alex: I know I said I loathe cameras but sometimes the productions I work on need extras and if I get pestered enough, I do it. I did quite a bit of extra work for KING of the ROAD. It was a fun show.
For me, it's more difficult trying to act, than it is doing make up. I feel incredibly stupid in front of the camera -like a deer in the head lights.
Matchflick: Aside from the movies, you've done some television. What's he difference between working on a film and working on a series?
Alex: Not much. Working on a series is like working on an extended version of a movie.
Matchflick: Who do you see yourself emulating?
Alex: My mentor is one of the best sculptor's in this business. Don Lanning. He's an amazing talent. I'd love to come close to his work some day. Don also has a really good energy. He's amazing!
I'm not very much like all the other FX make up artists who look into every creation of Dick Smith, Rick Baker and Stan Winston. I didn't really have a monster or blood fascination. Most of my blood work comes from having had parents who are dentists. They thought it was a good idea to leave me in my crib with medical books with graphic pictures of lesions and gangrenous limbs. I still remember them graphically. I also used to work in the dental clinic assisting my mother from age 12 up. I saw a lot of blood. I pretty much draw on those images to create wounds when I work. I like realism.
Matchflick: I see also you've done some print work. How does that compare to cinema and video?
Alex: If I'm doing editorials where I can create an altogether out there creation - it's so much fun! I have a few photographers like Lasonic Sivongxay, Kevin Ho, Treshawn Oliver, and Jennifer Serena who would actually let me do that. These guys are awesome. They are ridiculously talented.
Being brave and doing something crazy in print, it like walking the tightwire. It's so easy to cross the line and make something outlandish look ugly. Having a good photographer helps immensely.
In print, it's a lot more laid back. It's a team of 4 or 5 at the most and at the least just 3. You don't have a huge crew waiting for you to finish your make ups. Doing print work with the right photographers and models is immense freedom to create art.
In general, film make up tends to be either regular beauty make up or some kind of effects make up.
Okay, time for the Lightning Round
Matchflick: What's your favorite movie?
Alex: Sorry to disappoint. It's not horror. It's The BIG LEBOWSKI. I like quirky
Matchflick: If you could go back to work on any movie, not specifically one you've already done, which one would you choose?
Alex: RETURN of the KILLER SHREWS directed by Steve Latshaw, starring James Best. I was sad when we wrapped. Everyone had a great energy. It was very well organized. I truly loved everyone on that set. Everyone had such big hearts. We were like family. I was so happy.
Matchflick: Have you ever watched a movie and said to yourself, I could've done better?
Alex: My ego wouldn't let me say otherwise. But you never know what kind of stressors and limitations the make up artist/department was put under. A lot of productions put the vanities (make up, wardrobe / art department) last on their list in terms of time considerations or even importance on set. The final result suffers.
Matchflick: Which FX artist would you have wanted to work with, if given the opportunity?
Alex: Dick Smith.
Matchflick: Do you have any aspirations to start your own FX Studio?
Matchflick: I hear you have a funny nickname. Care to share?
Alex: I have a lot of nick names. :) I think you're referring to Fruit Ninja... ha ha. Jose Montesinos, the director of BARELY LEGAL gave to to me because I used to play that game in our carpool to set. At one point, there were five Alex's on that set. It kinda helped that I was called Fruit Ninja.
Matchflick: Finally, what would you say to all the budding Lon Chaneys/Rick Bakers/Tom Savinis out there?
Alex: Keep on practicing and keep taking pictures. Do as many make ups as possible. Assist as many established make up artists. Be humble and hard working. You'll learn a lot.
Alex Storm's work can be seen in the upcoming films RETURN of the KILLER SHREWS, The MUDMAN, END of the ROAD, and the online comedy series ASS Apartment Sketch Show on funnyordie.com and YouTUBE.
And visit her website at
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