Christien Tinsley – Monster Maker Interview with Academy Award winning Makeup FX Artist

>>Christien Tinsley: I think my first moment
that I can recall where I was fascinated by monster-making
or the craft of making monsters I was in the living room.
I don’t remember what time of night it was. American Werewolf in London was on
and of course the transformation sequence I was terrified watching the beginning of the movie,
the whole mores sequences and the attack. Still to this day it’s terrifying.
That transformation sequence just threw my mind into a different place.
It was around the same time. That was the first moment I recalled going,
“Okay, I don’t understand but this is really cool.” Then I think when I finally jelled was watching The Thing.
All the different effects from Winston’s dogs to
Bottin’s head splitting and coming off with the spider legs,
everything about that film. Look if you ever wanted to really
capture the essence of what we do, you will look at the movie The Thing.
I’ve met Rob a few times. He doesn’t do effects anymore
but I think back on when he did that movie, God, he was like 23 or something,
insane. To
this day, that movie holds up.
American Werewolf in London holds up. You know when the cut is happening
or you know when they’ve jumped to a different effect to put it together.
They didn’t have digital segues and transitions and things like that. It’s so perfect. I think that year 1981 was the year where
I just said, “Oh, this is it.”
I don’t know how it’s divided up. I didn’t know that there were directors and
DPs and gaffers and makeup people. I just knew filmmaking in the aspect of creating
that stuff is what I want to do. I think it was probably
maybe within that year even, I immediately jumped onto asking my dad,
“How did they do? What is that?” He had this general concept,
“I don’t know. It’s latex or something.” I grew up in a small farm town. Nobody knew
anything about this stuff. I remember calling up local costume shops
and saying, “Is there any information about this?” “Well, you might want to check out this book.” I’d go to the library. I would check out making
monsters of Corson’s book of makeup and I would read. Everything was in such simplistic terms back then. It was latex, not foam latex. It was a spirit gum to glue down everything.
There was no 355 that they were talking. They didn’t talk technical in those books
then. I would call up the costume shops and I would
say, “Do you have latex?” They were like, “Yeah, we got latex.”
Do you have grease paints?” “Well, we got grease sticks.”
Grease sticks is what they paint clown faces with and I’m like, “Hey, look. If that’s what …” They say I can paint latex masks with that.
It was just one of those things that I fumbled through using plaster of Paris
and wax and everything else I could get my hands on
to create the stupidest, the stupidest things in the world. I remember it took me probably a good year
to realize after burning my flesh with liquid latex that Dick Smith didn’t use latex.
He used foamed latex to create those prosthetics. I remember putting latex on me going, “How
does he get all that?” He says it took them three hours.
“I can’t get my nose to dry in two hours. How did he do the whole head?”
I didn’t realize they were making molds or any of that.
Yeah, I was that guy. I was that kid.
I remember going to my father saying, “Look, they used this material called alginate to
take impressions. It’s the same thing that Dentists use. It’s
dental alginate. I mown a bunch of lawns, made like $15
and I gave it to him and I said, “When you go to the dentist, can you ask them for some
dental alginate?” He said, “What’s it used for?” “They take
impressions off of faces with it.” He went to the dentist. He comes back.
He’s got a bag. It’s a plastic bag filled and I remember, I’ve only used plaster of
Paris up to this point, filled with this green material.
I’m thinking, “So that’s what alginate looks like.” This green powder, I’m going to mix it with water. I’m going to get this magical impression
off of someone’s face.” I was so excited.
I called my friend over. I said, “Okay, I’m going to make a cast off your face.”
He was all set to go with it. Remember reading the books a little Vaseline
on the eyebrows always helps. I put all the stuff down.
I mixed this up. I stick it all over his face.
“This stuff supposed to set up pretty quick,” it’s not setting up.
I said, “No, but I don’t know. Maybe I mixed too much water into it.”
It’s like an hour of scooping this stuff up onto the face. It finally starts to firm up
and harden. I literally do it.
It’s the only time I’ve ever done this. I literally have straws in the nose.
People to this day go, “Oh, you take impressions like the straws in the nose.”
Nowadays, I’d look at people and I go, “They haven’t used straws in the nose for
30 years, really.” I did. I had straws in his nose and I did
the whole thing. I had this all the way up on his face.
It hardens, hardens. Then I put plaster bandage over the top which
I think was burlap dipped in plaster of Paris at the time.
I stick that on top. “Oh, this thing is going to be good.
I know it’s going to grab great detail.” Everything hardens on his face
and I got to take it off. “Oh man, it’s kind of stuck on there.”
Cut to three hours later, chipping on the way.
It was dental material. It was dental plaster for taking impressions
of teeth. What we’re left with three hours later is
my friend with these patches of plaster over his eyes.
He’s been blind now for about five hours, plaster over his eyes.
He slowly trying to work one off of this side of his eye
and it’s cracked in the middle so they’re moving separate of each other.
I go to help him. He’s a bit of a klutz and he’s a bit pissed
off at me at this time. I go to help him and he trips backwards,
hair all through the way through their bald. Little drops of blood started to form.
I’m like, “Oh, it doesn’t look good.” We continue.
His mother ends up getting so pissed off. She takes him to the doctor.
They end up getting down in there with a scalpel and cutting the other eyebrow loose.
He gets on the bus the next morning for school and he’s got patches on his eyes and his brows.
He is just livid. Needless to say, that was my first live casting
experience. It goes to show you how important videos like
this are because we actually explore what materials to really use
as supposed to those bullshit lies that they gave us in the books back then.
Anyways, that was so hard. Then when I finally did get my hands on some
alginate, I didn’t realize the stuff set up in five
minutes if you don’t mix it properly.
I’m sitting there again having mown 20 lawns
just to get enough money to buy some alginate. I remember I mixed it up
and I go to put on my friend’s face and it just hardens like this big clump of
what alginate does. I waste $30 worth of alginate.
It’s some hard, hard learning lessons. I wasted a lot of money. Everything that we use in this industry has
at some point been created, has been an innovation out of necessity
or somebody created brilliance really. We’re living in a world and we have for many
years been doing with artists who have constantly
wanted to push the envelope of what we do, how we do it,
how we go about creating those wonderful either makeups
or characters or creatures. I think that’s what’s most important
is keeping that concept alive. With innovation, we can keep this industry
alive and we could keep it moving forward
and we can keep it prospering and allow people to still be interested
in what we do and still create an illusion that is essentially
a magic trick for everybody to wonder about. What I hope everybody takes away from watching
these videos, what Stan Winston School is showing everybody
what they read about, what they hear about, other people that they’re working with.
Whether you’re considered a professional makeup artist
or you’re still striving to be that is the idea that you have to think outside
that box. You have to take what history is giving us
in our field. You have to learn from that.
You have to add to that and you have to be a participant in it. Being a participant isn’t
just walking through the steps that someone’s taught you.
It’s taking those steps and it’s taking that information
that’s being provided and then building on top of that.
That’s the only way we’re going to grow. I remember being a kid wanting to do makeup
effects and thinking to myself
if I’m ever lucky enough to work in the industry and build a monster or build a character,
I’ll be happy. That’s all I need.
Still to this date that reigns true. I’m just happy doing what I do.
However, I never thought that I would be in this industry providing information to people
and helping inspire others or even be doing anything that would create
some sort of inspiration with others. At the very most I thought
I would get paid a nice hourly wage to whittle some clay at the very best or maybe paint
a makeup. To be able to have done that
is above and beyond what I’ve always dreamed. I did it for very simple reasons.
I did it because I love what we do. I wanted to put everything I had into it,
my passion, my desire and my need to explore what hasn’t been done.
I think if you have that vision in mind of constantly wanting to push
the envelope and create something that no one’s ever seen
before by your nature of that alone,
you will be innovative and you will be creating something
that will inspire someone. I remember having a conversation with Kevin
Haney who I’d only read about
and I met him once. This was 15 years ago.
I was a new makeup artist just trying to find my way.
He was being very complimentary to a makeup that I had just done.
I said, “You know, well one day I hope to do something that means something.
I mean, I remember reading about you and all the work that you’ve done with gelatin
over the years and sort of how you helped Dick Smith sort
of really expand the knowledge of that. You know, one day I’m hoping I can provide
something.” He goes, “You know what, you do this long
enough, you keep at it.
Your work will inspire somebody. There is a kid out there that will watch something
that you did, a makeup that you’ve done
and will be inspired to do this. That’s a wonderful thing
if that ever get back to you. If that information ever comes full circle
and you hear it, that’s really the true meaning of the gift that you’re giving.” People will ask a question of you keep pursuing this, what’s the longevity
of your career? What’s your lifespan essentially going to be? Since it seems like the heyday of what we do in practical makeup effects has passed us,
the ’80s, the ’90s; ’80s and ’90s
were sort of the makeup effects were considered the rock stars. We are the people who drove
the masses to the theater. If it had Stan Winston’s name on it,
if it had Rick Baker’s name on it, this is what drove people to the theaters
because they knew they were going to see a spectacle.
The funny thing is supposedly in a dying field,
it’s probably the most popular it’s ever been with TV shows,
exploiting the idea of what we do. There seems to be this idea that you can grow up and be a makeup artist
even though it’s limited now. We’re not building large dinosaurs that can
walk around anymore. That is being left up to the digital people.
We’re building characters. We’re building character makeups.
We’re building props that can be married to a digital effect nowadays.
We found ourselves changing how we approach the makeup effects,
how we’re designing things to breed in more with modern day filmmaking.
There’s a generation of actors and directors that never dealt with practical makeup effects
as their only way of achieving an effect. We have a generation of DPs
who don’t know how to shoot prosthetics. They know how to shoot against green screen.
They know how to shoot on digital cameras. We have directors who don’t understand what
can be done practically behind a camera. We have actors who are willing to act against
a tennis ball. When you start to do that, you’re pulling
away from the magic that can happen naturally in the camera.
However, it still exists. We’re still around and we’re still providing
it. I think one of the way we survive is
we diversify what we do. There’s a lot of makeup artist who don’t limit
themselves just sculpting monsters and fake noses.
They are working with the medical industry. They’re working with the aerospace industry.
They’re dealing with theme parks. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree
for me. I create products for seasonal Halloween wear.
You’ll find transfers and tattoos that you can dress-up and wear all year-round.
Primarily at Halloween when everybody in the world is dressing up.
There are venues in which we can take this craft and we can create that fantasy for people and still make it a living, breathing thing
for everybody to enjoy. It just matter how you look at this craft
and what you want to do with it. Being creating is being creative.
It doesn’t matter if you’re building something for the game.
Your heart might be in film or your heart might be in television. Your heart might be
in theme parks. Your heart might be in helping those who have
lost limbs in the war. The point is that it all comes back to a basic
skillset that we all look at and use. It’s material that represent flesh
of some sort. It’s constructing anatomy.
It is sculpting, painting. It’s using your imagination to create something
that never existed before. That’s really the true nature of it.
The passion comes from trying to imagine something and bringing it to life
and having had it never ever lived before the moment that you present it to the world.
I think that’s really where the magic lies. I can only really kind of tell the story looking
back now in hindsight because of the moment that it happened, you
didn’t realize what was happening. When I got into this business,
again I thought at the very best I would be a mold maker, perhaps even sculpt,
maybe make it to set. I was self-taught, learning out of my bedroom.
I didn’t even really have a garage to work out of.
Everything I created was what I read about in a magazine
or a book like so many people of my generation.
I didn’t have access to going down the street and trying to even find people that I could
speak to. I grew up in small little farm town in Seattle,
Washington. I really learned by looking at photos of people
and trying to mimic their action in the photo. I would look at colors of materials
and I would try to say, “Well, mine doesn’t look like that.
It needs to be pink, so what material is pink out there?”
I would try to connect these pieces and I did a lot of reading about it.
Not really knowing at the time what I was doing is
I was researching and developing my own ideas and I was coming up with my own methods of
creating even though what I thought I was doing was
just copying what everybody else was doing. When I finally landed my first job in Los
Angeles, I was eager.
I was excited. I was willing to put in the time and the hours.
It didn’t matter about the pay. I was just happy to be here.
I thought, “Well, now I’m going to learn. I’m going to learn from those who have been
doing this for so many years.” I did. That’s exactly what happened.
I didn’t realize that everything that I had learned
was coming from a different place. I didn’t really understand that the information
I could share to these people were going to help them.
I found myself in this really unique position of being able to share information with others
that they have never either experimented with or understood or approached
because it was everything that I was doing on my own
which was really unconventional at the time. One of my first jobs with Steve Johnson’s
XFX and Steve Johnson is known for being extremely
creative and very diversified with what he does
and willing to take a risk in doing things that are just crazy and unheard
of. Sometimes to a fault
but you can never blame the guy and you can never say that he didn’t try to
do something. I found myself working at his studio.
He embrace this idea of experimentation. I found myself in a very great and unique
position to be able to just create ideas for him.
It didn’t matter how crazy it was. He would just let me explore
and try to develop materials and concepts
and how we would go about creating something no matter how unconventional.
I think this was just the way I always work. For me it was really conducive.
As time went on, I realized that there was this inherent, selfish
need to make my life easier regardless of what existed
out there. If didn’t exist,
it was a matter of how do we make it work for me and make it work easier
because I want to make my job as smooth and clean as possible.
That’s really where everything that I’ve done, the premise of everything I do stems from.
Something like the tattoo transfer which started as a very simple idea of continuity.
I was doing the film Pearl Harbor with these two other makeup artists.
We were exchanging actors in the makeup trailer because we didn’t have enough time
or we didn’t have resources to maintain our own actor.
We’d have to share. What inevitably would happen is
the cut that I had established on the actor would look different the next day
when the other makeup artist had to do it. What I was doing with their actor was looking
different and it bothered me.
Essentially that’s what it came down to. I was annoyed at the idea
that there was no continuity from one artist to another artist
and I wanted that continuity because if I could control the outcome of it
even it wasn’t my hands applying it then the end result would be better for the finished
product. I created these hand-painted tattoos
on tracing paper using PVA as a release agent while I was sitting in Hawaii in the makeup
trailer. I just created dozens of replicas of all these
cuts and bruises and I handed them to every makeup artist
and I said, “If you do this actor, here are their cuts and wounds and bruises.”
At the time, I wasn’t thinking anything of it
but of course, for makeup artists out there this was a bit of a God-sent.
They were like, “Wow, I don’t have to paint the bruise anymore. I don’t have to know how
to paint a bruise. I could just buy a bruise.
I could buy the color that I want up a bruise. I could buy a cut that changes from a fresh
cut to a scabbed cut.” I found myself creating a lot of tattoos
for the makeup industry. Then this just segued into doing tattoos that
look like snakes and what you would find as a traditional
tattoo. That started this company
which is what it’s grown into as a company, not something I ever really thought about
having. It’s grown into this concept of creative thinking,
I guess is probably the best way of putting it.
I think people come to my company and my artists to find ways of trying to create stuff
that has never been done before. We always try to push what has been done.
That’s our whole process there. If we’ve made the fake head,
how can we make that fake head differently? There’s not a rhyme or reason to it
but that’s what we do. As time went on,
I found myself doing jobs, more jobs. Then I was presented with this project
“Passion of the Christ” Greg Cannom who has a relationship with Mel
Gibson came to me and asked me at the time if I wanted to look
at this project. He was going to be doing another film, couldn’t
be there and ask me if this is something I wanted to
take on. I read the script. It sounded fascinating.
It was essentially the modern day silent film. It was going to be all in Aramaic,
no subtitles and Mel Gibson wanted to really show
the brutality of what was happening at the time. It kind of left the door wide open for a makeup artist to explore all kinds of different possibilities.
As we were breaking down the idea of approaching this makeup
with all the traditional methods that existed at the time
whether it was gelatin, foam latex, silicone was already around at that time.
We started breaking down the pros and cons of every material and why it would work, what
would make it difficult, what would be the time and the chair versus
our shooting schedule. There were a lot of things to take into consideration.
As I was experimenting with different methods and application,
I was working with a gentleman named Chris Gallagher.
He was really a big part of the inspiration for coming up with
what was eventually the prosthetic transfer. He at the time I think was doing dentures
for Greg and really wanted to be more part of the process
of creating prosthetics. I kind of pulled him in and we talked a lot
about it. I remember it was a bit of a process.
We were having a conversation. I was a smoker at the time.
We’re having a conversation, I was having a smoke and we were going over all the different
options. What is a waterproof material?
What sticks to the skin really well? What kind of adhesives work? What applies the easiest?
What can you dissolve with edges? What’s going to hold up to liquids being poured
on it, sweat, blood, things like that? What has really good strength because he’s
going to be falling down on the dirt? He’s going to be hammered.
He’s going to be dragged around. We’re looking at all these different aspects.
Really one of the materials that we’ve mentioned was Pros-Aide for an adhesive and then
we started thinking, “Well, it’s also waterproof.” Then we started thinking, “Well, it’s also
really strong.” We said, “Yeah, but it’s Pros-Aide.
It’s a liquid. It doesn’t do anything.” He had mentioned Tom Savini
did a makeup of a guy that was sort of stitched together
and it was a paint job and he used like beaded Pros-Aide,
thickened Pros-Aide I think with Cab-O-Sil and he just sort of put it in between the
stitches or did something like that to give it some dimension.
We thought that was interesting. Then we thought to ourselves, “Well, maybe
if we put Pros-Aide in a mold or something like that we could let it dry
and of course …” Then we started talking about, “We don’t have
eight weeks to let Pros-Aide dry in a mold and that would be just ridiculous.
The thought was planted. Now the seed was in the mind.
We kept going over, “Can we change the formula of gelatin?
Can we do something with it? Can we change the formula of silicone and
have it do different things?” Then I was driving with my wife.
It was probably a day or two later. All of a sudden it just kind of hit me.
The Pros-Aide thing came back into my head and I turned to my wife as we were driving
and I go, “Can you freeze glue?” She was, “Well, I don’t even understand the
question. What do you mean can you freeze glue?”
I go, “Well, you can’t freeze Vodka. I mean, alcohol doesn’t freeze. I don’t know. Can
you freeze glue?” She goes, “I guess so, probably.”
We got home. I had some Pros-Aide sitting in my garage.
I went and grab it. I poured it into a cup and stuck it in the
freezer. I had no idea what to expect.
Even if it did freeze, what was I going to do with it?
I come back about an hour later and it’s as hard as an ice cube.
I thought, “Well, okay. It freezes. Great. Now what?”
I let it sit. I thought, “Now, it’s going to go back to a liquid or maybe it will start
to dries as it goes back to a liquid. I’m not sure.”
I remember coming back a few hours later and it did thaw but now it was rubber
or it felt like rubber. I thought it was the weirdest.
I said, “Well, it’s just the surface that’s dry.
It’s still thawing out in the center.” The next day, I remember coming back to an
impression. This was basically a solid piece of flexible
material now. It never went back to a liquid form.
I didn’t understand the science behind what was going on.
I was just really excited. It’s sticky. It’s rubbery.
It froze. Now, what can I do with this?
I remember taking that information back to the garage and I made up a real quick
silicone mold and I poured some Pros-Aide into it and I
stuck the whole thing in the freezer again. Sure enough it froze.
Turned into a rubber and I peeled it out of the mold.
I wasn’t doing acetate or paper at the time. There was none of that concept existed
but it peeled out like a piece of rubber being peeled out of a mold.
I was like, “Well, there’s something here. There’s an idea that’s starting to form.”
Then with having the company doing temporary tattoos
to sort of the two combined it. I said, “Well, if I was able to get this on
the paper somehow and transfer it and do this,
maybe we can make the system work.” It just kept snowballing into
this problem after problem that needed resolution. Then that would roll into another problem
that needed resolution. Chris was really helpful in that process.
I remember bringing that idea to him and saying, “Look, this is what’s going on. This is what’s
happening.” We’re like, “Okay. What if we did this and
what if we did that? Then it was a problem of released agents
and how do we get the piece out so it stays in contact
and then … it was a real process
that over the course of about a week presented itself.
I remember going to Greg and telling him at the time.
I said, “I think we got an idea for these wounds.”
When you try to explain the process to somebody, no matter how simple it seems now,
when you try to explain something that nobody had ever heard of or thought of,
of course they were dumbfounded and had literally no idea what you’re …
You might as well been speaking a foreign language.
Greg just looked at me like, “Well, whatever. Okay. I’d like to see it.”
We did a version of it of a scar and we transferred it.
I remember everybody who’s looked that was standing around watching.
Everybody was like, “Okay. So what just happened? Okay. So you did what? Explain that again,”
because the end result was seamless and you applied it with water
and you didn’t have to do anything. There was no blending of the edge.
It was a beautiful translucent piece that sort of blended in.
Of course, we were doing a scar so it looked like an amazing scar.
It took seconds to apply. Of course then it just kept expanding from
that. How can we do a bigger piece?
How big of a piece can we do? How do you break it down to cover an entire
body? Is there a way of mixing the material where
we’re going to get properties out of it? It was very limited because
we were in the process of making a movie. We had a deadline.
The first incarnation of the prosthetic transfer was very crude
and what you see on camera is a little bit of movie magic.
It’s painting, it’s blood,
it’s good camera and a great DP shooting it.
Just all the elements came together very well on that first project.
Looking back at it now it has evolved into a much
better and more scientific process. I think the biggest concept surrounding this
that I found fascinating in its first few years
is with all the veterans of the makeup industry, with all the studios and shops out there
that create makeup effects, the independent makeup artists,
all the makeup artists who want to become makeup artist.
When this was revealed to the world how it was done
in this process, it was amazing to me how hungry the industry was for something
that was new and innovative.
I guess I never quite understood that at that point
because I was always approaching everything we did
with this wide-eyed childlike approach. I was fascinated with the idea that
Dick Smith figured out how to put a material on plaster
to float clay off of. I was fascinated the fact that
he would mix acrylic paint and this adhesive that nobody had ever heard about to make PAX
paint. I was still fascinated at the idea that
Stan Winston would create things that would open up into
these metal wounds or could make a dinosaur walk.
I was still fascinated and embracing all these concepts.
The idea that they used to glue beards on with spirit gum
over the top of grease paint is … it blows your mind.
If you really sit and think about the idea of taking spirit gum
hair and gluing it on to a foundation of grease paint
and making it look amazing for camera. I dare anybody to do that nowadays.
Yet that’s the way we’ve done it for 50 years
up to all these creations of skin illustrator, alcohol-based paint.
Really Fred Blau creating that concept for I think it was the illustrated man,
I think is where it came from, painting techniques.
Everybody uses an airbrush nowadays. Everybody has the splatter effect
where they’re creating little dots on their makeups and their paint jobs.
First time I had ever heard anything like that
and I remember people going, “Oh my God, you got to watch this guy paint. It’s phenomenal.”
Dave Dupuis at Steve Johnson’s used to paint things,
heads in minutes using this method of breaking up.
Everybody else was doing their little squiggles and these big broad stroke paint jobs
and here’s Dave making his little splatter effects.
All these things are creations. They’re coming from a place that had never
been done before, sometimes by accidents,
sometimes on purpose. I had always been fascinated by those
who push that envelope. I wasn’t aware that people were hungry for
this. I wasn’t aware that people would have been
so amazed by it and embrace it the way they did.
It really took off and became this like a small phenomenon.
I thought what’s even more interesting is that people would ask how to do it?
How do you create it? What’s the formula?
I remember getting a lot of – for it at the beginning
because I wasn’t just divulging it to everybody. I wasn’t divulging it for one very, very simple
reason. I wanted people to embrace the idea of the
experimentation. That’s the first thing that hit me is people
aren’t experimenting enough in this business and that’s why it’s dying.
When the transfer came out and you could explain to a director, “I know
you’re worried about the time. I know you’re worried about getting this makeup
on but if I can do it in half the time and make it
look beautiful for your camera, will you do it?”
“Of course.” “Great.” It captured more work.
It didn’t give away more work. It captured more work.
It made more makeup artists confident in their ability to do prosthetic work.
There were so many bonuses to it that just give it away without having people
embrace the idea of you have to work a little harder.
You have to trust that you can also create and experiment.
That’s really what I wanted to have happened. I wanted people to experiment.
I remember people coming up going, “Okay. You’re putting gelatin in your formula,
aren’t you?” I’m like, “Maybe,”
or “You know, all right. So if I stuck some latex in there,
would it …” I’m like, “That’s a good idea. You should try that.”
I remember trying to embrace these ideas. You know what, people came up with some fascinating
things. Connor O’Sullivan in England, what he did for Heath Ledger on Batman,
I think it was the same process they used on The Last Samurai. Making these silicone
molds, casting into it and then transferring the
mold onto the face. That’s just another version of a transfer.
He didn’t want to follow the paper method, the freezing method.
Fantastic. Was he doing that transfer method before the
prosthetic transfer? I don’t think so.
I don’t remember ever hearing from it. If that had anything to do with sparking his
creation then that’s what it was meant to do.
I think that’s what I love most about looking back in hindsight seeing this,
is that we have seen a change on how people are looking at it. Almost to a fault,
I think everybody wants to reinvent the wheel now.
Everybody is approaching everything with an idea of like,
“Well, how can we do this different? We’re going to mix this and this together
just to see what it comes up with.” I rather people do that than not do it.
However, people are doing some fascinating things out
there right now. It’s cool. We’re sharing a lot of information today
with the prosthetic transfer. A lot of methods that we use currently
with creating the transfer. Something I’ve held very tight to my belt
throughout the many years, in fact I have rooms in my studio that people
aren’t allowed to go into. It’s where we do our RND work.
It’s where we come up with ideas. I think one of the reasons why I felt this
was a great opportunity to express some of it is
I just love what the Stan Winston School is about
to be completely and perfectly frank with you.
I’m a little bit on the fence on it. However, I think I’m so pro what you are trying
to achieve with these videos that
it push me to that side a little bit more. I don’t share my formula.
I don’t share all my methods and all our tricks and all out techniques
because I want to keep that mystery alive. I do want to keep that mystery alive.
I don’t feel it’s right just to give it all away.
There is a magic trick that’s going on here. I think like a magician
being an apprentice to another magician to learn and really devote himself to the
craft is important.
I don’t think this business or what we do should just be handed over to every 19-year-old
who’s out of high school who doesn’t know what the hell they want to
do with their life and when to be cool to make a monster. You know.
You have to have passion. It’s not just because it takes passion to
work the hours that need to be worked and given to this business.
It takes passion to love what you do
and it does come through in the final product. I came into this business so late in the game.
I think one of the reasons why I’ve been able to have a level of success
is because it shows in my work. I’m not just painting by the numbers.
I’m not always great at what I do but I’m not just painting by the numbers.
There is a process and there’s a lot of love that’s put into everything.
I think that ultimately has allowed me to standout a little bit.
I think what’s going on here is we’re sharing information with those who are
willing to give themselves to it.
We’re not just sharing the information in a general way.
We’re really diving in there. We’re giving people enough of the information,
enough of the techniques so they can understand
how to do it properly. Most importantly, what your school does
is it allows the end user to have to do it themselves.
They’re not sitting in a classroom where they’ve paid their tuition and along
with it comes all these products in the kit given by this
one sponsor that they’re going to use and they’re going
to learn A, B and C. You, you have to go out
and you have to buy the product. You have to set up a work bench.
You have to devote yourself and your time to doing it.
That alone, that devotion to the idea is going to be what
it takes to get you to the next step. If you fail here after investing all that
time and energy and you keep going, all the more reason why you should be hired
at the shop or a studio eventually when you get to build
that craft. I think this sort of goes hand in hand with
what Dick Smith was doing 30 years ago
when he had the Dick Smith course. Dick Smith never gave secrets away.
That’s a big misnomer. Everybody gets pissy when I don’t want to
give my formula away. What people don’t understand is Dick Smith never gave one thing away for
free. He gave it to people who worked hard at their
craft. Sure those people got it for free.
I’m happy to tell what’s going on to my neighbor, my fellow artist
but I’m not just going to give it to the world. Dick Smith didn’t either.
Dick Smith said, “You can send me photos. I can grade your photos and if I feel you
qualify, you can pay me money
and I will give you all my information. Then from there,
you have to work hard and invest your time and energy to then take
those notes and make them into something.” I think what the Stan Winston School is doing
here is just that. It’s providing a resource for people to go
to as long as they invest a little bit of money.
I mean, look, it’s business. Then secondly, leaving it up to them
to devote themselves to the craft. That’s really what tipped me over the edge
and said, “That’s something I can get behind. That’s something I can participate with.
I’m willing to share some of that information
and some of that knowledge that I’ve learned. I hope to do it again.
There’s stuff stored up here. I don’t know what it’s worth
but there’s a few things up there still. A lot of times I’ll get asked
what it’s going to take to break into the business?
How can I get in? Even, “Hey, do you have an internship program?
I’d love to come in. I’ll sweep your floors. I just want to learn. I want to be a part
of it.” Some people say, “This is something I want
to do. What school should I go to?
How should I learn more about it?” You get asked these all the time.
No matter where you go, someone’s going to ask you this question.
“My niece wants to get in. My son next door
or my next door neighbor had this crazy idea that he can make monsters.”
I have sort of a standard response about the schools.
I stand behind what the schools are trying to do.
I don’t stand behind the school’s system though. The school system teaches
these potential artists how to do things one way
because that’s all they have time for. That’s all their tuition is going to pay for.
What ends up happening is you get people without passion
going to these schools, thinking that they’ve earned a degree
and that they know how it works and how it’s going to happen.
They usually present themselves with confidence but it’s misguided confidence.
The confidence comes from a place of “I now know how to create a terminator.”
It’s like, “No, you don’t. I don’t even know how to create terminator.”
You know what I mean? That is something that does matter.
How many years of experience you have, you’re going to stumble over the building
blocks of how to do something that’s never been done before.
That’s the one thing that saddens me about most about
students that come from a school is they have this impression sold to them
that they know how to do everything. I don’t accept the internships
because I don’t like the idea of people sweeping floors for free just to learn.
It’s just not the way I roll. I like people to come in who have a knowledge
and who have drive to do something. I’m happy to pay for that.
Even if I don’t think they’re experienced enough
to be thrown onto a project. If I see something in them
that maybe I connect with. Something in them that’s s drive
and an eagerness in them that I value, I will pay them to learn
but they’re still providing me a service. I find that very helpful
because it’s a mutual relationship between employee and employer.
It has to balance both ways. Then we get people who come in
and they want to set up interviews and they want to show their portfolio.
We do, we accept all those. We have people sending e-mail portfolio.
Really what it comes down to me is for one,
the end product has to look good. That’s a personal thing.
Everybody’s going to be different. What every shop owner,
Mike Elizalde, John Rosengrandt, Rick Baker
everybody is going to look for what suits them
either for the next project they have coming up
or just what appeals to their sensibilities. I have my sensibilities
and what I’m looking for. Ultimately, the final product is what matters
to me. Then the next level is how did you go about
getting to that final product? If you were the creator from start to finish,
that’s really important because then I know that you understand the
entire process. You’re coming in and you just want to be a sculptor
then I want to see the ability of your sculptures. I’m hoping that the ability of your sculptures
are beyond just copying the character that you’ve seen before
and you are a fan of this movie, therefore you sculpted it 10 times in different
angles and lighting.
I don’t want to see that. Where’s the creativity come from?
It’s hard nowadays because the market is so saturated
with 100 years of film, which is 100 years of ideas,
which is 100 years of exploring whether it’s aliens or character makeups or
fat makeups or whatever. It’s hard to find your own mark in there
and your own expression. I always have this funny thing that I talk
about with my designers where producers come to us
and they say, “We want to create a new alien. We don’t want anything like what anybody’s
ever seen before.” Great.
Can’t wait to give you that. We go and we go to the drawing board
and we come up with some of the craziest and we show it to them.
I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s pretty good.” “Hey, what do you think about the mouth having
like two teeth here and it maybe opens up this way?”
It’s like, “All right.” We change, do some more designs.
“What do you think about the hair?” Six drawings later, you got Predator in front
of you and you’re sitting and going,
“Okay. Well, that’s not original. You’ll realize it. That looks like predator
now.” They go, “Yeah, but you know, I just don’t
think anybody will understand the other stuff.” It’s like that’s because it’s new.
Until you present it to people, they might not understand it
or they might accept it and it might be the new predator that everybody’s
been waiting for but if you just want to do what somebody else
has already done 15 years now, great, we’ll do it.
Everybody gravitates back towards what they’re influenced by
and what rings with them, what influence them to want to create this
movie or to create this character?
I want to see people who aren’t doing that. It’s really hard.
It’s really hard because people want to show you why they were inspired
to be a makeup artist. I want to know why you were inspired to be
a makeup artist and do your thing. If I’m going to hire you,
I’m going to hire you because you’re doing what you’re doing
and I think that’s going to give me a fresh perspective.
I can hire the guy who created Predator if I wanted to.
That’s not what I want. I want the guy who’s going to make me
walk into that director and say, “I got something cool that you’ve never seen
before. This will blow your mind because that makes everybody happy.
It makes this business grow. It provides a new generation of inspiration
for people. That’s what we’re looking for.
Again, it all comes down to be the first person to do something
that’s never been done. I’ve had an extremely fortunate career,
extremely fortunate. I’ve had a lot of pitfalls that people don’t
hear about. I’ve screwed up on a production.
I’ve not come through on a makeup. I’ve done work that’s been half ass.
We’ve all been there. You tried to hide those and sweep those under
the floor and you keep going and you have to.
Every now and then, you get a little perk, you get a nice little
project. You do something and it creates another push
into that next movement. I want people out there
if you’re watching this not just to take what you’re learning in this video
or the other videos and just mimic it day after day after day
but take this information and see how then you can expand on that.
Do your own thing because that’s really what’s going to get
you moving I think in this business. I was influenced by the generation and even the generation before me,
the Dick Smith’s, the Rick Baker’s, Stan Winston’s, the Greg Cannom’s
the Rob Bottin’s, Jack Pierce, Lon Chaney,
all these people that were doing things not only before their time,
before it was ever really seen. That’s why they push that envelope
and were made into these heroes of film. We talked about Stan and Jim and the envelopes
that they pushed and Jim is still doing it to this day.
Look, you may like or dislike Avatar but Avatar is cool because it’s unique.
You can’t take that away from it. It is unique.
I think there’s also this underlying lesson to be learned.
If you can be matched up with the right people, it’s a beautiful marriage.
A great innovative director with a great innovative makeup person
can create magic. If there’s one thing that I could share
for people to practice, it’s the ability to say no.
You have to have the ability to walk in and disagree.
You have to have the ability to walk away from a project
if it’s not what you want to participate in. You have to be able to say no to a job
if they’re not willing to pay you or to give you what you need to do your job
properly because ultimately at the end of what you’re
doing is you’re sacrificing your work.
You’re sacrificing your livelihood. You’re sacrificing yourself.
That’s in general when everybody doesn’t or is not willing to say no,
it just goes down and it slows down into this place of complacency
where everybody is willing just to scrape to get what they can and they’re willing to
say yes to anything. “It doesn’t matter. The work is going to be
horrible. They’re just not giving me the time and money
but I’m going to do it anyways.” If everybody was willing to say no to that,
they would have no place to go and the one person that says,
“This is how it’s going to work and this is what it’s going to take.
He’s going to get the job and they’re going to come through
and they’re going to get it done right. They’re going to have everything they need
to do it.” At some point, they have to pick that person.
I think two generations ago,
everybody was willing to say no. Everybody was willing to say, “Sorry, I can’t
do it.” Look, Rick Baker to this day
says no. He’s got the biggest shop in our industry.
His overhead is massive but he still says no
because if he’s not given the time he needs and if he’s not given the resources he needs,
he can’t do what Rick Baker does. Rick Baker cannot provide those effects that
he gives to the world if he only is given a month and $100,000.
It’s not the way he operates. If you’re not willing to stand up for what
you believe and what you’re doing here,
then you should walk away. Start learning how to stand up for yourself,
respect what you do and be willing to walk away from something.
Even if it financially is going to hurt you at that moment.
I think you’d be happier at the end of the day. My first job in the business, I was living in Northern California at the
time. I had sent off a resume and some photos
like a tear sheet of photos I had of stuff that I had done.
I was doing a lot of haunted house stuff for a few years.
I was 21 years old. Sent off to every shop that I could
and all of a sudden I get this call from Screaming Mad George.
I think he moved back to Japan years ago. Really this guy, he was crazy
in a great way. He just came up with the craziest ideas.
He called me up and said, “Look, I’m doing this music video.” It was
for Bush, the song was called Greedy Fly.
He called me up and said, “I’d love for you to come to work. Can you
be here tomorrow?” That’s about a six-hour drive from where I
was living to Los Angeles. Of course I said, “Yes.”
I think I left about 1:30 in the morning. I arrived at his shop
and he put me right to work sculpting.
I had never worked in a shop before. I didn’t understand the protocol.
I didn’t know what was expected of me. Just walking into a shop
literally for the first time and smelling it
and seeing what was happening and especially somebody I had read about.
I was a little star struck at the same time of awe struck like what am
I into? Am I going to do okay?
They’re going to fire me after today. I remember the first year of being in this
business I thought, “That’s it. I’m getting fired tomorrow.”
Essentially, I bullshitted my way into everything I did.
I had done so much research on people and items
and things. Like I said, I was a sort of a junky with
researching things that anytime somebody said,
“Hey, can you do this?” “Yeah.”
As far as I knew, I could. I read about it so thoroughly that “Yes, I
can do that.” As you long as give me this, this and this
I could talk the language perfectly.” He was like, “Okay, great. You know what you’re
talking about.” “You bet I do.”
I knew shit that people had no idea. I knew formulas and numbers of silicones
and things and people are like, “What?” They had no idea.
It was all research. I just read. I never used any of it.
I just bullshitted my way through the first year.
The difference was that’s okay to do. It’s okay to bullshit your way.
However, where you’re going to get tripped up
is if you don’t come through. If you can’t deliver,
you’re screwed. I invested countless free hours
into making sure what I did happen. When I was working at Screaming Mad George,
when I was working at Rob Burman’s,
when I was working at Steve Johnson’s I would do my eight-hour day or my nine
or 10-hour day whatever they needed. I had one small benefit.
I had no place to live. I had no place to stay.
Working in the shop for another 10 hours was actually beneficial to me
because my bed was my car. I rather be working in the shop than
sleeping in my backseat on the street in Burbank,
somewhere that I had no idea. I would stay countless hours extra
just playing and experimenting and doing stuff in these shops.
That’s the only way I think I survived is I was putting in hours upon hours
of trying to implement this research that I had read about for so many years.
Ultimately, I think that gave me the edge. I think that’s what helped me survive
is people saw that, “Wow, this guy has got a lot of energy.
He’s got a lot of passion for it.” Now I just don’t want to sleep in my car.
You know it paid off. It doesn’t pay off for everybody.

14 thoughts on “Christien Tinsley – Monster Maker Interview with Academy Award winning Makeup FX Artist

  1. Not to be a dick, but the title don't suit him. He isn't a monster maker. More of a makeup artist. He is really good, but monster wise… not so much.

  2. I wish I had someone to tell me this when I was eight. I remember looking through every movie and monster book the local library could get and trying to get any form of a How-To back in 1977. I remember making a stop motion dinosaur with an Erector set, and I didn't even have a camera to go any further with it.

    I put this on my G+ community just so someone might find it. Thanks for posting.

  3. I really appreciate how these guys all just keep it real and are very down to earth about the industry.  Very inspiring.

  4. how we live and learn when making these things,
    I used my knees as a vice while I cut through some dalek hemis
    and carried on through my leg with the Stanley knife (: but I haven't let it put me off I I dream about building in my sleep so wont stop now (;

  5. This is so great!  I love that Chris was actually good at what he is passionate about. I used some Tinsley transfers for Halloween for my zombie/walker costume and it was great.  Solid guy.  Really enjoyed watching this.  

  6. I recently started a kind of master in make up and prosthetics here in Spain and my hunger for knowledge brought me to this channel, your school and this video. Enjoyed every second of it. Thanks to Christien for those advices and thanks for sharing all these awesome videos with us.

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