My first feature film I ever department headed for was actually the first feature film I had ever worked on. I remember like it was yesterday; possibly the best experience of my career thus far. While it was quite intense, I will have to say… I did a pretty good job for not having any experience on a feature film. At that point, I had worked on plenty of commercials and short films, but never a feature film. “Whats the difference,” you may ask? Ha, well…
First off, there was about 4 months of pre production. In my department, this just was setting up meetings with Collin Schiffli (director) and the lead actor, David Dastmalchian, doing test makeups. For those of you who have yet to see this film or don’t know what it’s about, this film is about the journey of 2 heroin addicts who con and steal, living in their car in Chicago. So during our test makeups, we would test different types of materials, paints and makeup products to create different track marks. It was really fun seeing what worked and what didn’t! At the time of the test makeups, we were planning on having a scene that was somewhat delusional and out of the box, so we tried out some cool makeup effects. That scene ended up getting cut out of the film, unfortunately.
Back to the difference of a feature film vs short films or commercials:
Aside from the weeks of character breakdowns and test makeups, there are typically 10 or more shoot days in feature films. With Animals, there was about 25 shoot days, with one or two prep days.
During the prep days, I would trim Dave’s (Jude)hair to make sure it was the same length through out the entire film, and for Kim (Bobbe), we colored her roots in to make it look as if she took care of her hair at one point, but due to being homeless and an addict, let it go.
Once shooting started, continuity kicked in right off the bat. This was where I was challenged the most! Like I said, my experience on feature films at this point was at a whopping zero…. and somehow I did a decent job at it. To be honest, I have the wardrobe stylist to thank, Kelsey Ettman. She’s a wonderful human being who was always on top of her game. I remember seeing her take photos like crazy, and I just mimicked exactly what she was doing haha! I would write detailed descriptions of what I used for each scene on each day. It became like a puzzle to me- Day 5, scenes 13,56, 64, 23. “Okay, so on Day 3, we already established looks in scene 12, so scene 13 has to match what we did on scene 12.” This is what I went through every single day. And I loved every minute of it.
Feature films never shoot in sequence. They are almost always shot completely out of order, which is why continuity in feature films is such a vital thing to master. I remember there was a day where we started out with the two lead actors being totally drugged out and at their lowest, then into a flashback where they were supposed to be completely clean and healthy, and then back to being at a very low point. That was such a huge challenge of mine. Thankfully I had the help from Justine Losoya, a makeup artist friend of mine, who assisted me that day and helped make sure everything went smoothly.
The makeup for the character Jude was much more intense than Bobbe’s. Jude’s character tended to be, for a lack of a better word, sloppy. Whereas Bobbe was very OCD in a sense. She would stick herself in the same spot, every time. So their track marks were different. Bobbe’s being the same place on her left arm, and Jude’s being pretty much anywhere and everywhere.
For Bobbe, I used a silicone based material called 3rd Degree. This created a raised bump that was on the verge of looking infected, but not quite. It was clearly irritated, and almost in a way was her skin’s way of callusing a bump from her obsession of sticking herself in the same place every time. Then for her face, I would use a light application of Stila’s Stay All day Illuminating Beauty Balm. I would go over her nose and sides of her nostrils with a bright red lip liner from Prestige Cosmetics. On her lips, we would put a light coat of Benetint in Rose. If we had a day where she was at her low point, I would add bags under her eyes with a lavender color, and add glycerin for sweat.
For Jude, he was a little more chaotic. I used these tattoo FX that were actually for zits. Ha! They worked really well. Over the stick-on tattoos, I would paint with alcohol paints to make more bruising effects and broken capillaries. I would only use a very light coat of Stila’s Stay All Day original Beauty Balm on Jude because he was supposed to look a little bit worse than Bobbe for most of the film. I always added dark under eyes and a tiny bit of contouring his cheeks if it was needed-he got pretty thin for this role naturally. On his days where we needed him to look his worse, I paled his skin out with a lighter foundation about 2 shades lighter than his skin, and then take the death wheel pallet from Ben Nye and used various colors, and applied with an orange sponge to add some texture to his skin for a little more effect.
Being a part of Animals was honestly the best experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time experience. Everyone was downright amazing at their jobs, and we were all so passionate. Bringing passionate people together will always result in the best outcome of any project. This film is something I am incredibly proud to have been a part of.
I am thrilled to say that I will be attending the next 3 screenings Animals will be playing at. This week, October 9th in Los Angeles, October 11th in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and October 17th in Chicago, Illinois.
Collin Schiffli is one talented human being! It’s an honor to say I have worked with him and I hope to continue working with him through out the outstanding career he has begun. And David is such an amazing person, I can’t express how much I respect him. He inspires me to do great things, and is always one of the most supportive friends I have, rooting me on through and through.
Go check out Animals if you haven’t already! You can see where Animals will be playing on their Facebook page. Go Animals!