Did you find you got better fast or was it gradual progression as
supposedly was one of the fastest to get the certificate- but I
also worked really hard at it every day for a year and a half.
So I guess it was a fast gradual progression.
Some people get it right away. You can see it. Others take
forever. I guess it doesn't matter how long it takes you as long
as you get to where you want to go, right?
Where do you think you would be if you hadn't taken the course?
do you think you would be if you hadn't taken the course? No one
would be asking me to do an interview. Honestly, if you want to be a makeup effects
artist and do this stuff for a living, taking Dick's course is a
must. If you feel it's too expensive, or you can't learn at home,
then just forget about doing make-up effects and do something
else. Honestly, what serious artist or inventor would turn down
learning under Da Vinci? What serious basketball player would turn
down lessons from Michael Jordan? Dick Smith is to make-up what
these other super achievers are to their respective fields. It was
very obvious to me that his course was the only way to go. The
money it (the course) costs is a pittance. Not an issue.
NOW, that being said, there are people who are
very successful in the fx business who haven't taken Dick's course.
Or began it but didn't finish it because they got a job in effects
and learned and became great from working in a shop around other
great artists. But I would guess that over half owe their careers
to his early influence and guidance.
Another course that is an absolute must is Jordu Schell's online
course. It is a perfect companion to Dick's course. I learned and
continue to learn amazing stuff from Jordu.
about Dick in general His personality; his character traits.
Wow. Hasn't it all been said before? He's an amazing
person. He has touched many people with his generosity. He's a
very hard worker. He's got a very soft heart. He is a health
fanatic who knows more about nutrition than most physicians. He has an amazing memory for an 80 year old
man. He eats dinner between 6 and 7 so don't call him during these
hours. He can be very intimidating to new people. I still get a
little nervous when I talk to him, perhaps because I have tremendous
respect for him or maybe just because something in the back of my
mind says "Lee, this is too good to be true, he's gonna figure out
that you are a waste of his time and hang up" I know that sounds
crazy. I'm actually getting more comfortable now with the fact that
we are good friends and I sort of look at him like a "mentor" -
actually, he means more than that to me. He is like family to me in
my mind. I feel very close to him because of all that he has done
for me. He literally changed the course of my life for the better.
And I am not alone in this- I am one of many I think.
haven't really told anyone this story before in the fx business,
but you will enjoy it. Just don't tell anyone. Michael Key of
Make-up Artist magazine threw Dick an 80th birthday dinner and he
(Dick) invited me! It was very intimate- only about 20 people,
all related to make-up obviously ( Dick talks to so many people when
he is here for the makeup trade show that I think he just wanted a
few people there). I was there sitting next to Rick Baker.
Kazuhiru Tsuji was at the next table. Steve Johnson to my right.
And guess who the guest of honor was....Linda Blair! So I got to
see Dick and Linda Blair together!!!! Hal Holbrook and Dixie
Carter were there as well (Dick won an Emmy for his makeup on Hal as
Mark Twain and they remain friends) and Mr. Holbrook in his
amazing voice read letters from Max Von Sydow and Roy Scheider
among others wishing Dick well on his birthday. It was truly the
most amazing night of my life to see Dick Smith, Rick Baker and
Kazuhiru Tsuji in one room. The three greatest makeup artists ever
in one room!!!!!! It gives me chills just thinking about it. Of
course my big question of the night was "What the hell am I doing
here?!" Dick even sang a little song for us! What an amazing gift
that Dick gave me to allow me to help celebrate his birthday that
night. I'll never forget it.
study anatomy? How do you go about learning the ins and outs of the
I have studied the face more than
overall anatomy. If I have to do bodies, I of course gather up all
of my reference but I'm not at the point where I can name every
muscle. There are many guys in the business who can knock out
perfect anatomy at will, but I have done more facial prosthetics
and heads. Most of the bodies I have done have utilized actual body
casts. This business is so specialized that you usually end doing a
lot of one thing and less of others. So if they know that "so and
so" does great body suits, they are going to call him in on that.
As far as learning anatomy , you learn by
observing, drawing and sculpting it over and over. And the best way
to do it I think is with a live model. When we did Scooby Doo, I
brought my dog in to model for us. He sat there very patiently and
his musculature. I was so proud of him (eyes welling up).
What tip would you give someone seeking to get
into make-up fx?
DO IT! Just kidding. No really, DON'T DO IT! Damn, I hate this
question. The reality of the situation is that the business is in a
weird transition right now. There are double or triple the
artists than there are jobs right now. I think what I would tell
someone who absolutely positively is as insane as I am is to learn
the craft at home . Set goals in terms of years and don't be
afraid of cgi. Contact people in the effects business and establish
a dialog. This business is all about contacts . That seems to me
to be the most prudent way to go about it. I'm not sure that in 10
years you will have to move to Hollywood to do this. We'll see. The
thing is, there are so many talented people already here. I'm
talking amazing talents that you've never heard of. Many of them.
Way, way better than me. Working in a shop is not like doing your
monsters at home. You don't have control over what you're doing.
If you're working for a very big shop, you could be painting
hundreds of raptor claws- basically a factory job. You do not use
ANY of your creativity a lot of the time. You are just doing
exactly what someone who may or may not be creative is telling you
to do. And you have to do it very well and very quick. Does it
still sound fun?
Learn mold making or seaming . It seems like
the mold makers have the steadiest jobs. Learn how to be a networker.
It is a very social business. That is probably the most important
skill you can have here. Be a good bullshitter but be able to back
it up when you need to.
Get used to the idea that you may work on
movies 6-8 months of the year and the rest of the time you're doing
something else. Unless you're as good as Steve Wang. Then you'll be
working a lot! Actually, if you are into more of the lab tech
areas, like mold making and seaming , etc. You can work pretty
steadily I think. Sculptors are usually one of the first ones in
and one of the first ones out. I try to stay on and do some
painting and finishing work usually.
Get really good before you come. Okay, I may
be repeating myself, but this is important. No one has time to
teach you. Every time I see Rick Baker and beg him for a job he
always says " I don't like how the business is right now, we just
don't have time to teach people anymore" or in other words" get
lost kid!" Seriously, the budgets are tighter and the time frames
are tighter so no one can afford for you to mess up a mold or
sculpture. It has to be perfect the first time. That is really bad
news for new people coming in. But it is the reality.
was able to do it. I was very lucky. And if I can do it.....that
certainly doesn't mean you can. JUST KIDDING! Of course you can!
But everything has to work out perfectly for you, just like it did
for me : ).
If you do various other tasks like mold making when you are a
sculptor, is there a danger of getting stuck doing work you never
intended on specializing in?
think there is if you are not very vocal about what you will do and
what you won't do. Like I said before, there is no time to
teach sculpting. You have to learn on your own time. There are
other areas that you can be taught. Like seaming. Or foam running.
They need help and probably would take
someone on if they really wanted to learn.
I remember when I first started it was
sort of drilled into me that you WILL BE compartmentalized.
I was sculpting, and the sculpting
was being put on hold so the supervisor kept telling me that I was
going to go help out in the mold department.
THE HORROR! I didn't want to yanked out of sculpting forever, so I
would basically hide in other areas of the shop for days until
the sculpting work resumed! It was kind of crazy. Now I
enjoy being thrown into different jobs. Its keeps you
interested and fresh.
you see cgi affecting makeup fx today? 5 years further down the
this question too. I think CGI is great. It has been used to
create some incredible images (The first Jurassic Park still is the
best to me). But I don't want to see all CGI all the time and I'm
sure the moviegoing public doesn't either. At the least, it has had
a major psychological impact on practical effects artists. There are
quite a few bitter artists out there who endlessly complain about
their job ending any day now. What we do will never go away. We
create creatures and characters. How we do it and what the medium is
is bound to change. The creature effects shops may not be a good
place to find opportunity, but with the digital movie industry just
starting, can you be so sure that your home town won't be a good
place to be an fx artist? I think in the future every city will
have an fx shop of
some sort. You just kind of have to look bravely ahead and not
worry about it. And learn how to use a computer.