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My Journey in SFX Make-Up Part 1: No training, All Passion

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picture 1 article 8-19As some of you may know I’m not only a cosplayer and costume designer, I actually started doing make-up before my costuming adventures. I originally was head of make-up for a fashion designer, The Red Ant, based in SoCal about 10 years ago. Very avant-garde make-up and hair; we ran two fashion shows, several photo shoots and the designer ended up opening her shop in AZ sometime after that. But that wasn’t the extent of my skills. Sometime in late 2007 I began working on perfecting my SFX application skills with a horror pinup site called Ghoul-Girls.

Basically turning beautiful ladies into beautiful monsters. I worked with latex and foam latex and practiced my body painting skills. I experimented with all the adhesives I could get my hands on.  Though uneducated I was very passionate.  I stormed through trial and error and got a real sense of what I was doing. My only education was a stage make-up class I took through the local college in Ventura. My goal was to try and mimic makeups I’d seen online or in print. With an extremely low budget and not enough credit under my belt to earn any discounts from FX suppliers I got REAL creative, not letting one scrap of material go to waste – even if it was the flashing from an appliance (prosthetics) or left over pieces of make-up sponges. I even played around with home-made recipes for blood and started watching more and more horror to research all the post production work.  You’d be surprised at all the filters they add to the footage in post. A lot of details go unnoticed.

insert picture 2 article 8-19It was 2008 and I was finally on board for my first horror short!  A friend at the time who was an actress started writing, directing and producing a series called Hell-y-wood. I had worked with her before and we came up with some concepts that would easily be workable for the film. She wanted to embody a number of horror icons from Candy Man to Jason to even Night of the Living Dead and so on.  All would be on the “big little” screen of the internet.

There was not much by way of budget and all was paid out of pocket, my kit wasn’t at all what it is today, but I managed with some latex prosthetics from Cinema Secrets in the valley. I used the only adhesive I had at the time, a stronger version of spirit gum and did what I could do for the production to the best of my knowledge. Though I’d had no training and the film was shot all at night, I’d made it a point to learn the script and visualize the shots with the DP so I knew what kind of time needed to be spent on the detail and blending of the appliances to the actors faces. Keep in mind a simple question to the director/or DP can save you a lot of trouble when doing SFX makeups. If it’s a grainy dark look in post, then there’s no need to spend hours trying to smooth out your blending with the appliances.  Trust me, you have more important things to do like finishing up make-up on all your actors so you don’t shoot till 5 in the morning! I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: there’s a big difference between still photography and video. Still photography can and will be Photo Shopped! Luckily this production was shot very grindhouse-esque.  It made it very cool and I did not need to work about blending! Overall we had so much fun and the film was quite entertaining and that’s all that matters.

Finally after more and more practice with Ghoul-Girls I was asked to be on another film project, it was for a zombie web series called 8.13 in 2010. Ok I was NEVER good at zombies at all! Luckily I had met an awesome guy who ran an FX shop of which I had the honor to spend some time at and learn a thing or two in 2009. He gave me my very first Skin Illustrator palette and I was able to play with alcohol based paints for the first time! I was in love and in awe over how awesome these were, and quite a step up from aqua paints or cream colors. I’d even picked up some Gel Effects – a cheaper version of 3rd Degree which is one of my favorite products also. I even traded in spirit gum for medical adhesive and pros-aide. I knew what the final product of the series would look like as I had asked about filters and post work so I knew what needed to be done. Not gonna lie it took me a few episodes in to really grasp the design of my zombies for this particular series. There wasn’t much need for prosthetics but more for texture. I began thinking of ways to create grotesque looks with mediums such as bread.  That’s right:  Wheat bread, latex and gel blood.

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I practiced painting most of the time on set on my arm.  I tried different styles to create depths and dimension. Had it not been for me being an original pencils and charcoal artist this would have been more difficult.

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Now I get called in for zombies all the damn time!  After a good run on 8.13 over a year or so I had become so busy with work and other gigs that I had to move on to other productions and projects. I had worked for several jobs that allowed me to wear many hats and meet many people in the industry. Soon folks from 3 years back started contacting me for paid FX gigs.

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I’m now the head of SFX Make-up on Batgirl: Spoiled. Remember you have to take on some volunteer or kit fee only work before the $ roll in. And you MUST network and meet others who are equally passionate. At least that was my case, and I love what I do and can’t say no!

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I’m learning new stuff every day and the quality of the films get better and better, I even booked a feature a couple months back which was a joyous moment for me in my Make-up career. I’ve even been able to intern at a friend’s FX shop helping her cast sculpts for molds and some pretty heavy FX stuff. I’m learning from the pros and continue to perfect my application and paint skills. I’m faster and efficient and I know what needs to be done on set. I’ve even taken up some gigs running make-up departments for other productions. Lately I’ve taken up hair as another skill and have been called upon for a lot of hair gigs.  It’s really important as an artist to know both hair and make-up from productions to weddings etc. With Halloween right around the corner, check back for part 2: awesome cheap ways to pull off some cool horror looks next month.

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About Chrissy Lynn

Born and raised in Southern Ca, Chrissy Lynn had an eye for design and detail. As a cosplayer and designer she thrives on perfecting her craft and learning new techniques in hair styling, special FX makeup, prop and fabrication as well as costume and wardrobe. Her passion for the arts growing up has lead her to the Los Angeles area taking on positions in film/television, new media and marketing. In between working, Chrissy actively participates in non-profit charity work be it coordinating/planning, events/donation drives, cosplaying or digital marketing. She thrives on networking and making introductions. You can call her a matchmaker for collaborators as she firmly believes that artists should work with other artists and make s**t happen! She currently co-runs Nerdy-Girlz.com, a site dedicated to lady geeks in the community who regularly participate in cosplay photo shoots, charity events, comic conventions and more.