Michael Mosher has done quite a bit as an FX
pro. Hairing, sculpting, commercials, TV, movies. The
more you know and perfect, the better chance you have of landing a
job and Michael keeps on top of it. We caught up with Mr.
Mosher to find out how all this got started, where he's been, where
he's going and just why he no longer eats fire for breakfast.
Talk about growing up on a farm in Connecticut. How did that
inspire you to head out to Hollywood? How was farm life different
from the hustle and bustle of the big city?
didnít much like growing up on a farm. I spent my early childhood
living in a suburb and moving to the farm at age 9 was my parents
idea. There wasnít much to do
and my little greasepaint makeup kit was something exciting to do
other than feed chickens. My mom is a sculptor so I always had an
artistic background. My dad is a scientist so I had a good science
background as well. Thatís helped a lot because I read the
ingredients on makeup and FX materials and I know what the stuff is
and what it does. I could formulate (and have) some of my own
stuff. I did my first lifecasting in the farm as well. Alginate
wasnít really available, at least I didnít know about it, and so my
first face casting was done directly in plaster. I think my eyebrows
are still growing in.
Were you able to learn and experiment with the makeup craft back
I eventually found a store in Boston called
ďThe Makeup PlaceĒ. It was a godsend.
It was run by a guy named Dennis Curcio,
he eventually moved the business to Glendale and then vanished. I
bought the Lee Baygen Book and my first R&D Foam latex kit. I read
and read and finally made my version of Roddy McDowallís makeup from
Planet of the Apes.
Neat, how did it come out?
Surprisingly, it came out pretty well. The hair came from the Dick
Smith Ape from his gelatin monster seriesÖ but it was my first time
working in Foam. After looking at it now, I have no idea how I
ever got that mold apart. I think it cracked the third time I baked
it. The appliance was glued on with Steinís Spirit Gum, painted with
regular Liquitex, and blended with the most awful color of Mehron
RMGP.. Iím still not sure how they ever made a color that bad. To
say the least, their formula has improved. In my opinion, itís some
of the best RGMP made now.
Talk about some of your early work. The various odd jobs you had
electrician, magician, carpenter. Your fire-eating skill
about the same time I really started getting my teeth into makeup, I
also started doing the same thing into magic. Magic was a good
living and the ultimate part time job. It was good money, great
training both to cure shyness and develop self-esteem. There are
principles in magic that also helped me later as a scenic artist and
later on, even as a makeup artist. After performing as a magician
for a decade, I worked for David Copperfield for a while, but got
burnt out on his schedule. Fire eating was something I started
because I lied to someone and told them I could do it. Itís not
that hard once you know the rules.. Iíd never encourage anyone to
try it at home..
moved to San Diego, makeup wasnít something that you could really
make a living doing, so I worked in theatre. I think Iíve been one
of the only people ever to work at the Old Globe Theatre in San
Diego as an electrician, carpenter and in wig department all in one
Wow, how was working with Copperfield? Any fire eating mishaps?
David was great. The whole cast of that show was such a family. We
had one guy that some didnít get along with.. but even he was very
nice to me. David was a bit taken aback when I told him that Iíd
been a fan of his since I was a little kid. Probably not the best
phrase, since heís only 11 years older than I am. (BTW, he lies
about his age now, which I think is funny)
I was very lucky eating fire. I have several very good friends
that have been badly burned. I never even got so much as a blister.
Donít try it at home. Itís dumb and I donít do it anymore.
Did you improve gradually, or were there any events or training in
your background that really improved your talents?
to learn continually. The best training I got was actually not in
the SF FX part of the field, but in beauty makeup. I went to work in
the early nineties for a company called Freeze Frame (sort of a high
end Glamour Shots) and did over 5,000 makeovers in 3 years. I
learned how to work with every ethnicity hair, face, skin type and
personalityÖ Thereís a makeup artists named Robert Bennett that
taught me so much. Heís one of those sad cases where he had so much
talent and destroyed his life with drugs.
Where did your big break into the FX business come?
Iíve been really lucky, Iíve had some really good jobs.. but have
not yet had that ďbig breakĒ. My work on the Chronicle (Sci-Fi
Channel 2001-2002 season) was fun, but didnít get the exposure it
could have, I do have a film I worked on with Steven Soderberg as
Executive Producer called Able Edwards.. but no one will see that
for a year or so. It may very well be a film that revolutionized the
film industry the way that the Blair Witch Project did a few years
ago. Itís going to look like a 60 million dollar film, but Iím going
to keep the budget secret for now. It was VERY low.
Who have you worked for? Any comments on the studio?
I was part of the Titanic Team.. Tina Earnshaw was our department
head. I do a lot of smaller independent stuff, some of it actually
gets released! Iíve been lucky. I was department head on a film
called Poor White Trash. I see it all t he time when I go to my
local Video store.. itís sort of a cult hit.. I still get a thrill
out of seeing movies I work on on the video store shelves. Now if my
union would only negotiate a residual for us!
Are there other pros out there that you look up to or admire?
many! Without Jack Pierce and John Chambers I would have never
wanted to do makeup. Rick Baker, Steve Johnson, Brian Penikas, Rich
Redlefsen, Bill Corso, Victoria Woods, and so many more have all
been inspirations in their own ways.
Any makeup/FX work that totally astonished you?
days, any work thatís not computer generated is a good thing.
What are your thoughts on CGI? What about blending CGI with makeup?
I thought that the work on Blade 2 was amazing! It was the PERFECT
blending of makeup and CGIÖ I am working in the Edge FX shop right
now and have talked extensively with some of the guys on that
project.. and even they had a hard time telling where their effects
left off and the CGI began. It put something like American Werewolf
in Paris to shame.. (Then again, the effects in the Power Rangers
are better than in that film)
Talk about some of your work on commercials
Commercials are a very different animal than anything else Iíve
worked on . There are so many people that need to approve your work.
Thereís the production company that hired you. The art director, the
Client, the Clientís mother, and any one of them can change their
mind for any reason and all you really can do is say ďYes SirĒ and
fix it the best you can in the time available. Thanks goodness for
digital cameras. Iíve saved so much time getting sculptures approved
online rather than transporting them back and forth to the
What about the speed of commercials?
Itís not as fast as youíd think. There are so many cooks.. everyone
has an opinion and everyone has to approve every shot. A friend of
mine was in a commercial the other day.. After shooting the whole
day with one guy as the lead,, the client picked him to say the
lineÖ and they only had an hour to pretty much reshoot the
commercial with him in the lead. Thatís no typical, but itís not
unusual for major changes to be made on a whim. When itís a wig or
a makeup job.. it can be disturbing. One job I worked on had to
have a prosthetic literally resculpted ON THE SET!