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The World of a Cinema Craft Celebrated at 2017 Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Guild Awards

February 23, 2017 | By
Leonard Engelman

Leonard Engelman. Photo by Amber Connelly.

The 2017 Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Guild Awards, as others before it, served as a celebration of an entire craft in cinema. Much more than an awards show, the evening was, in truth, a gathering of the best in their area of the industry. For only one night, these artists, typically spread out around the world working with the top actors in the business, honored both each other and their field as a whole.

Of note, the “guild” in the event’s title refers to IATSE’s Local 706, the union which governs film, television, stage, advertising, and new media productions, primarily in California, but also other nearby regions. Sue Ebert, president of Local 706 for 14 years now, the longest run of any such president, expressed that the career positions of makeup artists and hairstylists are as formidable as they have ever been. “It is a very strong time,” she said, noting that former “runaway” productions—which previously fled to Georgia and Louisiana for various incentives—have come back to California. “We finally got all the legislators to understand how important this was—an indigenous industry. We were losing many thousands of jobs, and they all got on board, and are staying onboard. We brought seven shows back to L.A. County, and there’s a couple in San Francisco and one down in San Diego, so it’s working.”

A well-deserved lifetime achievement award went to Leonard Engelman, whose career was inspired by his father and has involved a long stretch with stars such as Cher (who gave a warm presentation on video) plus becoming a Makeup Branch governor for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The other lifetime achievement award went to hairstylist Barbara Lorenz who has been in the industry for 40 years including work on this season’s heralded La La Land. Beforehand, she stated, amusingly, “I can’t believe I’m that old. But it’s very exciting and I’m very glad…very very wonderful.”

In one of the event’s final awards, Joel Harlow and Richie Alonzo won for Best Special Makeup Effects for the startling alien character accomplishments in Star Trek Beyond. Shortly after accepting the statue from seven-time Oscar winner Rick Baker, Alonzo spoke of the culmination of his 25-year career in Los Angeles. “It feels very good — it’s exciting,” he said. I’ve never won anything before, and it’s a rush. Especially to have Rick Baker present it… that was moment in time for me; I’ll never forget that.”

Though Alonzo’s chief responsibility in Star Trek Beyond, Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella, was not originally a major character in the film, Alonzo created the makeup about 30 times in the show, trimming the application time from three hours to two over the course of the film.

Cassie Russek

Cassie Russek. Photo by Amber Connelly.

Makeup effects artist Andrew Clement was also in attendance, nominated for his prosthetic work on Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, which was a collaboration with veteran artist Bill Corso. “Bill designed just a beautiful makeup, very sheer,” said Clement. “We designed it in such a way that we really brought out all of Ryan’s features: all the things that make Ryan attractive as a person. We enhanced that so when we layered the nastiness on top of it, we still kept what was essentially Ryan.”

To actuate an unclothed scene with Reynolds, Clement patterned out an entire body cast of the actor to allow for 16 body appliances plus nine head pieces for the full makeup. “We were making [appliances] as fast as we could, just cranking out, pre-painting and getting them up to Bill, just to stay ahead of production,” said Clement who was also nominated for both the HBO film All the Way, transforming Bryan Cranston into President Lyndon Johnson. “We really tried to keep it as small as we could and let as much of Brian show through but really get the essence of LBJ,” said Clement. In addition to movie and TV projects, Clement supervises late makeup legend Dick Smith’s advanced professional makeup course. “Not everybody gets to take it—only the people who really show a drive and aptitude for it,” Clement explained, noting that potential students can link to www.dicksmithmake-up.com.

Though exceptionally busy, artist and director Greg Nicotero was in attendance. One of the key creative collaborators on AMC’s The Walking Dead, Nicotero noted that he is eight seasons into the show which shoots 16 episodes per season, for which Nicotero typically directs five. “Eight years of amazing makeups by an amazing makeup team,” said Nicotero. “It gets more exciting, more gory.”

Coming up on 30 years of activity, KNB EFX Group, Nicotero’s special makeup effects studio in which he’s partnered with Howard Berger, involves numerous TV and film projects with many longtime director clients. When asked if making his cult short film United Monster Talent Agency assisted in launching his Walking Dead directing career, Nicotero unremittingly stated, “Yes, without a doubt. In this town, everyone has a ‘show me’ attitude. ‘Oh, really, you say you can do it? Let me see it.’”

Longtime-awarded makeup artist Ve Neill was also present for the event, noting her new status as director of education at Cinema Makeup School. “I’m just so happy to be there, number one,” she said. “I just love giving back—I love talking to the students. I go around to all the classes; I try to speak to every student at least two-to-three times a day when I’m there.”

Also a key operative on SyFy’s Face Off, Neill noted that episodes have already been filmed which will air through 2017. “We also did a pilot for another makeup show,” she revealed, noting that the same production company for Face Off is involved. “It’s a different type of show… we’re waiting to see what happens.”

In from New York were the energized team of makeup artists and hairstylists from Saturday Night Live, also nominated for the evening. Makeup department head Louie Zakarian spoke of this season’s tumultuous schedule on SNL, constantly in flux to suit the American political landscape. In several recent episodes, Melissa McCarthy guest-starred to play White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “She has a silicone bald cap, silicone eye bags, ears pushed out, and a wig by Jodi [Mancuso], and it just came together so beautifully,” Zakarian said of a character which solidified the Friday night before the Saturday when it first aired. “Everything changes so quickly. Just last week’s show—from minute to minute, everything was changing. From Friday night to Saturday night, the entire cast changed. We found out Kate [McKinnon] was going to be Jeff Sessions. It was just kind of crazy.”

Many others joined the proceedings as well. Makeup and hair designer of the entire cast of Suicide Squad, Sandro Bertolazzi, hails from Italy but lives in London. “The Joker was the most big challenge ever,” Bertolazzi stated of the part played by Jared Leto. “We were thinking about this character… like this movie inside of another movie. It was not part of the rest of the squad—he was completely separate.” Bertolazzi also designed Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, and other characters.

Meg Donnelly

Meg Donnelly. Photo by Amber Connelly.

Also from Suicide Squad, Killer Croc was separately designed by KNB EFX Group and applied by Christopher Nelson with assistance from Sean Sansom. “You’re creating an iconic character, probably one of the best known villains in the Batman world, in the DC world,” Nelson said. “I think there’s so many versions of Killer Croc throughout decades of comic books and also video games. Choosing just one is probably the most difficult thing. The trick was to create something that looked organic, and creating a character that people can sympathize with and attach themselves to.”

Many artists in makeup and hair work in multiple media. Esteemed hairstylist Cassie Russek is a key artist for the Late Late Show with James Corden but works in theater, such as with her nominated efforts in A Chorus Line, staged at the Hollywood Bowl. Of her 10-day stint at the Bowl, she said, “It’s like summer camp; it’s completely hot, and, mid-way through, you’re like, ‘I’m never doing this ever again,’ and then the last day happens, and you’re so in love with your cast and your crew, and you’re just like, ‘I can’t wait to see you all next year.’”

In a tribute to these artists and their meticulous crafts, many actresses of all walks visited the event, walking the red carpet and presenting awards onstage. Meg Donnelly from American Housewife, only 16, Kate Linder, a 35-year veteran of The Young and the Restless, and Logan Browning, from Netflix’ upcoming series Dear White People, all made notable appearances. Clearly, the impact of the makeup artist and the hairstylist is well-respected and duly appreciated through all aspects of the creative arts.

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