Ever since I was a little boy I loved movies, I used to watch horror and science fiction and imagine how they created the effects that brought some of my favorite monsters and aliens to life. I dreamed about one day being able to manifest my own creations to the screen and show the world whatmarinated in my head.
Let’s just say to my dismay I never sought out my dream of becoming an effects artist, but you can imagine my delight when in January 2011 I saw that SyFy Channel was making a special effects challenge show and after 9 seasons I am just as hooked as I was before. With amazing challenges and the who’s who of the effects world making appearances I am completely stoked for season 10 which airs Wednesday January 13th.
The show starts off with contestants having diverse levels of experience in their respected area competing throughout the weeks on predetermined challenges. The resident judges include Academy Award wining Ve Neill who brought Beetlejuice and Mrs Doubtfire to life; Glen Hetrick who custom designed for Lady Gaga, effects for all The Hunger Games, Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D and the list goes on; as well as Neville Page who has done everything from working on Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, lead creature designer for the first Avatar and the special effects on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah to say the least.
The contestants also have a mentor giving them insider advice while managing their difficult tasks, but not just any mentor but none other then award winning Michael Westmore. If you are unaware of the name Westmore then you need to crawl out of the rock you have been living under and watch The Munsters, Rocky, Raging Bull and even the original and newer versions of Star Trek…so yes Michael Westmore (and his family) are pretty big deals when it comes to effects in Hollywood, people know them.
Every week the artists face a “Spotlight Challenge” that test their skills and talents to create a full character with parameters given to them at the beginning of the first day. Over the course of 3 days they must utilize the narrow time line to come up with an original design and implementation on a living model and present their creation to the judges for critique as if they were working on an actual movie set. The first day they are given 5 hours for concept and sculpting, the second day they have 10 hours for working on the molding and the final day they have 4 hours to apply and paint with an extra hour called “last look” for touch ups before they present their work.
I love this show not only because of the fantastic challenges ranging from creating a human/animal hybrid, an alien race, a Tim Burton themed whimsical character to a living nightmare designed by children. There is also never extra drama added to the show for cheap attention, you hardly get to see the contestants when they are in the house they are staying in because the show doesn’t need it. The problems that face the contestants are enough for dramatic appeal and you find yourself holding your breath for a favorite participant when their application piece rips in half right as they are putting it on the models face or their mold breaks as they try to remove it from the casting. For anyone who is interested in the behind the scenes of the movie world and always wonder how they bring those realistic monsters and characters to life I would definitely check out SyFy’s Face Off. I know I will be watching excited to see what new creations are brought to the life, and smiling along with the charming Ve Neill every time a character she loves comes on stage congratulating these talented artists out loud.