Techniques For Creating Successful Horror Theater Makeup

Techniques for Creating Successful Horror Theater Makeup

Independent directors often come from the fringe, so there are usually good horror plays to be found in need of a makeup artist. Fringe plays usually have a short run, and working can be mostly in the evening. This requires less time commitment than the block booking of a film, so contemporary makeup artists who undertake other jobs to supplement their income are ideal for new makeup artists. Organizational skills get developed in this environment, and stage work often requires a greater intimacy between actors and makeup artists, with more shared space and collaboration than is usual on feature films.

As film scenes can be retaken, cut, and changed, working in the theater also helps gain professional standards, where makeup is perfect every time.

In recent years, film makeup has undergone massive changes from application techniques to new prosthetic materials. Stage makeup has taken on these changes, but it is now a uniquely creative place where it is possible to get a significant dramatic effect from a mixture of old and new materials. Horror often utilizes dramatic lighting, so tailoring makeup to work will produce excellent results, often with little time and budget.

Fringe and Low to No Budget Makeup

Theater actors may do their hair and makeup, excluding just special effects. Time management is always key in successful makeup for theater, and this becomes more crucial with each visual impact required.

  • For a super low budget, think around materials. Latex, papier-mache, foam, and wax are all cheap yet look stunning when lit dramatically.
  • Using the principles of light and shade to create optical illusions is the basis of all good theatrical makeup. A few cheap grease paints in white, black, and brown can transform a face on stage to reveal the hideous monster.
  • Consider the character of the building. Some fringe venues have small, intimate stages so that makeup can be subtle. For large theaters, visuals must be bolder.
  • Keep makeup clean and crisp looking. Even though the stage does not call for HD perfection, clean blending and contouring is a must for makeup to make the optical illusion effect best.

Scene Changes

Sometimes an actor may go from being a monster to a normal man in only a couple of minutes, and then later back to a monster again. Makeup department efficiency is of prime importance in order not to ruin a whole play.

  • Use stencils and a digital camera to achieve perfect makeup each time. Treat this as you would treat makeup continuity for a feature film to guarantee standard.
  • Organize the dressing room with timetables for scene changes and layout equipment needed for each actor.
  • Keep makeup remover as well as cleansing wipes to hand for quick removal.
  • Keep towels, tissues, and a large quantity of good quality powder to hand at all times to help blot shine.
  • Make multiples of any prosthetic pieces needed, from cuts and gashes to heads, noses, and chins. These can be produced fairly cheaply from latex then colored and dressed to look realistic. They are easy to stick on and remove at will.
  • As stage actors are used to being involved with their makeup, delegate when needed. For example, actors may wipe off makeup for one scene while the makeup artist gets a wig and prosthetic nose ready. This creates a quick change and carries on momentum for the actor.

Horror Makeup Effects

  • Wax is an excellent way to make quick horror effects. Color with a little makeup and dress with stage blood.
  • Old fashioned makeup products from the theater and silent film often still yield the most dramatic results. Items such as Cake Eyeliner and Collodion will turn any low budget makeup kit into an award-winning magic box.
  • If making your cheap blood effects, take care to use coloring that will not stain skin, clothing, or the stage. Try to avoid liquid food coloring at all costs, as this is very hard to remove.
  • Use the best quality adhesives to fix prosthetic pieces as actors perspire excessively on stage. Feeling insecure about a prosthetic piece can destroy an actor’s performance—makeup peeling or dropping off ruins more than just the makeup credentials of a play. Similarly, ensure all hairpieces are fixed using the proper professional method.

Being hot and uncomfortable is a side effect of acting in a production that requires special effects makeup. However, it is important to design makeup with as much comfort in mind as possible. On stage, anything which interferes with breathing, hearing, or speech is out of the question. Taking time to build a good relationship with actors is a way to help secure the makeup success of a horror play.

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