Alumni

CAREER CASE STUDY

Naomi LynchFrom: Perth, Australia

Naomi completed the 7-week ‘Make-Up FX and Prosthetics Creation’ course in 2012.

Naomi what is your professional background?

I always had a fascination with effects, even before my decision to train in Make-up Effects, but I was an actor for around a decade before switching sides of the camera. I trained under BAFTA winner and former UK Make-up Artist Peter Frampton in Queensland (now retired) and then returned to Western Australia to try and forge some sort of career in a state with no film industry to speak of! I have been an on-set make-up artist since I started, with FX work where I could get it.

What have your career highlights been so far?

Sadly I live a long way away from the major film hubs of this world, so there are no blockbusters on my CV, but I have had the pleasure of being involved in some well-received productions made locally. Part of my reason for doing the NGPS course was that I hope to encourage local film people to use more SFX Makeup in local productions in the future.

What made you decide to do a 7-week course?

I have always advocated the principle that you learn best by learning from the best. That, to me, means making the right contacts, choosing the right mentors, and investing in your education when the opportunity arises to learn from a great artist. Not all great Make-up Artists are great teachers, and not all great teachers are great Make-up Artists, but when the two factors coincide - do not let that chance go past you!

I was fortunate enough to have met Neill when he taught a short course in 2009 prior to the first Australian IMATS. I already had the DVDs he had produced by that point, and I did attempt to teach myself as much as possible, with, it may be safely said, somewhat uneven results!

When I discovered the Neill Gorton Prosthetic Studio course, I knew that it would have been designed with the same level of expertise and attention to detail that characterises the DVD learning series, and the fact that it is taught by working industry professionals rather than full-time teachers was another important factor.

I chose to do the 7-week course because in my location, I am isolated from any established Make-up FX Artists, and the opportunity to gain experience in an FX Studio or on a major film project, simply does not exist. So, in keeping with my philosophy, I assessed my options. There are no short courses of this kind in Australia. In fact there are few of any note worldwide. Most courses are designed to teach total beginners and are not available until you have done a beginners Make-up course of at least a year in duration. Most of the courses on offer anywhere are simply 'school' courses, taught by professional teachers, and the rest are generally run by FX MUA who don’t have enough work so are trying to get a bit of money on the side to keep themselves going.

I wanted to follow my own advice on learning from the best, so I contacted Neill about doing the course, even though I had a certain amount of experience and knowledge in the subject.

What was the final project you chose to do?

Despite the temptation of all the possible choices - and believe me there were many - I ended up deciding upon a silicone full-head make-up, as it was most likely to be the technique I would have most call for once I returned home. Consisting of a full head cowl in silicone, with a separate face-piece of silicone encapsulated with Super Baldiez, painted and finished with hand punched hair, it was an opportunity to try several different techniques I previously had little or no experience in. All in all I was very pleased with the result. I also made the costume and accessories to complete the look.

What did you get out of the course and how do you see it enhancing your career?

Half a dozen new friends and some wonderful new industry contacts! Seriously, we had a wonderful group who all got on well, which was a lovely bonus, and made everything even better.

But it wasn’t just a social event, of course. I have to say that in my personal experience the single standout feature that Neill's course offers over any other is the opportunity to observe a real workshop in action. Being right next door to Millennium FX was amazing, and we got to see things happening over the course of our time at Gorton Studio that you would never see anywhere else. Watching his uber-talented team do their thing was awe-inspiring too. Plus you get to poke about in the storeroom and see a lot of older work, both finished pieces and a variety of moulds, and that opportunity in itself was a goldmine of information for anyone paying attention!! It certainly helped when attempting something new to be able to see similar examples of moulds and how they could be designed for different purposes. It also illustrated with stark precision just how long things actually take to do, which is most evident in the time difference between working on something solo vs having a team of skilled technicians and artists on a job.

Personally my experience is best summed up by a quote from our Tutor, who said " Nothing phases me anymore, ever since I walked in to work one day (on a previous job) and saw that we were moulding a forty foot whale. If I can do that, I can do anything."

To me that encompasses the most important things I took from the course:

1) Don't limit yourself, by which I mean don't let your current lack of knowledge define your boundaries. Instead of deciding what you already know how to do and designing within those limitations, figure out what you want to do, and design that, and THEN figure out how to make it! There is always a way!

2) The quality of the end result will directly reflect the amount of care you put into each and every step of the process. SFX Make-up and Prosthetics is a multi-faceted area, and with many steps from concept to creation there are a thousand things that can go wrong along the way. Make a habit of putting an equal amount of care and attention into each step of the procedure, as though each phase was the final one, and you would be judged on your execution of that alone. Only this way can you be guaranteed that your end piece will be the highest quality you can possibly make it. And don’t underestimate the skill-building aspect of this approach: To paraphrase something Neill often says, "a beautiful mould makes for a beautiful piece”. I have personally seen moulds made in his workshop that were rush jobs put together in under 24 hours, but the care, skill and forethought with which they were constructed was no less than some that took a week to make. It’s a great philosophy to start any project with.

3) Reinforcing something I always knew but that since doing the course seems even more important, is the Designers Holy Trinity:

Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick two!        

High quality materials cost money, and the time something takes is constrained by the materials you can use, so if you want something fast you had better have a lot of cash!   High quality work takes a lot of man-hours, so you either need to have a lot of highly skilled crew working on it, or have a long lead time to prepare it. Lastly, "There's many a slip trixt the cup and the lip" - for many different and not always predictable reasons, things don’t always go according to plan. Accept that sometimes materials don’t behave, and that things can go wrong, do your best to avoid predictable problems, but always be prepared for the unexpected.

I came home feeling much more confident in my abilities and ready to forge ahead in my career.

What are your career plans for the future?

I have just opened a small workshop in my home city, and the next few years are going to be devoted to building that up. Although I did enjoy being a full-time on-set make-up artist, I always had a yearning to spend more time actually making things, bigger and more complex effects and make-ups, which was not possible before.

What advice would you give make-up artists thinking of adding prosthetics to their skills base?

Certainly it is possible to teach yourself a fair amount these days, from books and DVDs and the Internet, especially if you are very disciplined and work well on your own. I feel however that it is vital to get some quality feedback on your work, and no, your family and friends don't count! Only someone who knows what it is REALLY supposed to look like and how it should perform is in any position to give you proper constructive criticism that will help you improve.

In terms of more formal training, I hesitate to advise anyone to do a course just because you think it will somehow get you a job. No course will do that. FX isn't like doing an accounting or teaching degree - you don't just answer an ad, front up to a company and get a nice starting salary on the strength of a piece of paper. A great deal of your career progress will be defined by your interpersonal relationships, attitude to work, and ability to work in a team, as much as your technical and artistic ability, and that is seriously underestimated by a lot of people.

I repeat, therefore, my own personal philosophy: Learn from the best people you can get access to. You will not only get the formal training aspect, but you will have an unparalleled opportunity to observe them in action and to pick their brains for all the stories of crises and triumphs that they have had in their own career, and those are often where you learn the most useful things!! In my personal experience, I would not hesitate to recommend the Gorton Studio course to anyone, whether a total beginner wanting to either learn prosthetics, or for someone like myself, who had a fair amount of pre-existing knowledge and some experience, but who wants to polish and improve their skills.

I will always treasure my experiences at Gorton Studio, it was a pivotal moment in my FX Make-up career to date.

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