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Dracula, Dreadful, Doctor Who and Foxy: Graduate Kevin Campion takes us through his first year in the industry

Posted: 27 March 2014

Dracula, Dreadful, Doctor Who and Foxy: Graduate Kevin Campion takes us through his first year in the industry

Our 7-week courses are very focussed on teaching the practical, vocational skills required by employers in today’s film, TV and other creative industries. We’re all about getting graduates ready to begin their careers when they leave, and it’s always interesting to see how they progress with making those all important in-roads into the industry.

Last week we caught up with 2013 Make-Up FX and Prosthetics Creation graduate Kevin Campion to see how that went for him, how his career is looking one year on and how the course helped him realise his aim of being a screen prosthetics freelancer.

The images above and below show Kevin’s final project as a student here. This is the all-important project that students work on during the second half of their course, to create a major portfolio piece through which to show their new skills to prospective employers.

In such a competitive industry nothing is guaranteed, but this is a great example of what can be accomplished with skill, dedication, the right attitude and a lot of hard work. Here’s what Kevin had to say…..

This time last year you were coming to the end of your course at Gorton Studio, had you enjoyed the course and were you confident about how your final project was coming together?

The four weeks of the final project was a very exciting time. To have practically unlimited resources to make whatever you want is a rare opportunity. Not only do you have facilities and materials, but the experience of the tutor and access to industry professionals gives you the best opportunity to put your best foot forward on a portfolio piece.

Your project was fantastic and photographed really well. Once it was in your portfolio and you were showing it to prospective employers, how was it received?

The piece itself was well received.  I think the main thing about the final project for me though was that it gives you the confidence that you can take a project through from start to finish, from concept through sculpting to mouldmaking and finishing.  Once you have the confidence in a range of processes it is far less daunting to work professionally, where you are more commonly given just one step to focus on. 

The final project is fantastic because it gives you an insight into the process as a whole. It’s all well and good to feel confident in your favourite area, but gaining a better knowledge of mouldmaking makes your sculpture better, it informs your design decisions on future projects, making sure that the work you do will be usable in professional production. Having a good idea is no use if you cannot make it functional for production.

I think that the understanding I gained from doing the final project is of even more value than the portfolio piece itself.

On that subject, how did you go about looking for work once you’d graduated?

I put together a portfolio of the pieces I did on the course and some of the sculpture and design work I had done prior to the course. I sent out CVs, portfolio and a covering letter to the companies in the UK that I knew and wanted to work at. I was lucky too, in that I hit the industry at quite a busy time.

What was the first freelance job you landed?

The first job I got was actually a sculpting job, at Millennium FX. I sculpted new hands and feet for the “Foxy Bingo” adverts and then sculpted a makeup for the “Harry Hill Movie”. 

Was it exciting to have taken your first professional step in the industry so soon after finishing your studies?

I was absolutely thrilled because sculpting is the area I’m most passionate about and Millennium was familiar to me from the course. I couldn’t have asked for a more exciting start in the industry, it was what I wanted to do most, and it was in a place that was comfortable and welcoming. I even got to work alongside Dave (Bonneywell), who was the tutor on my course. It felt almost like further study, that I was getting paid to do.

Take us through the rest of your career path since…

I stayed at Millennium FX for 3 months, working on various projects, including “Fool Britannia” and work on Display pieces for IMATS. I got a chance to do quite a bit of mouldmaking there and improve on the skills I picked up on the course. 

I moved on to working at Coulier Creatures (on “Dracula Untold”). Originally I was supposed to be there for three months, but unfortunately the makeup budget got cut pretty severely on the film, so I ended up there for just a month. But luck was on my side because the day I got my notice at Coulier Creatures, Nick Dudman was looking for people with mouldmaking experience to work on the new Showtime programme, “Penny Dreadful”. 

The lead Mouldmaker at Coulier Creatures at the time was running the Facebook page that Nick was using to advertise the job. He told me about it on the day I got my one week’s notice and I started work with Nick on “Penny Dreadful” the following Monday. 

I spent three months on “Penny Dreadful” as a trainee. I got to try my hand at a bit of everything lifecasting, mouldmaking, even occasional silicone running and hair punching. I even managed to get to do a little sculpt. It was a small crew with lots of work, so everyone had to be able to pitch in. It was a fantastic experience.

Since then I’ve come back to the UK and back to Millennium FX for another stint, this time sculpting on “Doctor Who”.

What have been the highlights of such a busy 12 months for you?

Getting to sculpt on “Doctor Who” was amazing.  I sculpted pieces for two very interesting “Doctor Who” critters. Being a fan of the show, I can’t wait to see them on screen. I was also pleasantly shocked at a train station one day to see the makeup I sculpted for the “Harry Hill Movie” up on a billboard. It was in the background, but it was there!

Mostly though, I’m amazed at the calibre of people I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with so far. As a massive film buff, sitting around a table on a Friday lunch out with people who were instrumental in creating creatures and makeups in so many films that I love has been daunting, but brilliant.

You’re recently been back to talk to the current Make-Up FX and Prosthetics Creation students about what you’ve been up to, what advice would you give them on how to go about breaking into the industry?

You have to put your work out there to let people know you are. A good portfolio is a great first step, but you may have to call people to follow up after sending them a portfolio. Not that you want to pester, but it’s no harm to remind people who you are once in a while.

Events like IMATS and UMA are fantastic places to meet people.  Don’t be afraid to bring along a portfolio and meet some of the people you would like to work for… I mean, you will be afraid to do it, but don’t let that stop you.

Most importantly, when you do get work, work hard. Everybody knows each other in the industry, so reputation means a lot. There’s no excuse for sitting about looking bored, there’s always bins that need emptying!

What’s next for you? Do you have work lined up?

I just finished up a stint at Millennium FX so I’m back looking for work again, and using the free time to set up a more permanent living situation in the UK, since I’m from Ireland myself.  I’ve been moving about so much in the last 12 months that I haven’t had much of a chance to do the housekeeping side of things.

What are you main ambitions as a prosthetics artist in the future?

My dream job would be to sculpt full-time.  I’ve only really been sculpting a few years, but I love it. I have a lot to improve before I get there, but one of the things I’m hoping to get in my new place in the UK is somewhere I can sculpt at home, so I can continue to develop those skills. 

Looking back are you glad you decided to do the Gorton Studio course?

Absolutely. It gave me the confidence, basic skills, and contacts to help me get the ball rolling on my career. After that all you need to do is work hard.

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