My favorite part of watching the Oscars is trying to predict who the winners will be. I love calculating the odds of victory for my own favorite films, actors, and directors and then cheering for them during the ceremonies. Seeing my favorite actors and directors walking the red carpet is always exciting. And I do love the slow torture of the gradual reveal of the winners over the course of the lo-o-o-ng evening, enduring the cheesy musical numbers and bad jokes while waiting for the big payoff at the end – Best Actor, Actress, and Director, and finally Best Picture. And all the while I’m fantasizing about how cool it must be to work in the film industry, creating art and telling stories, not to mention all that glamour and excitement.
It’s not just me! A lot of people have dreams of working in film or television, and most of them know it’s a lot of hard work, not just the “Hollywood” stuff. The actors and directors may be the ones who get the star treatment, but there are many more opportunities behind the scenes on the technical end of filmmaking if you have the right skills.
One way to leverage your artistic talent into film or TV work is to become a makeup artist. You can either learn to apply conventional makeup to actors or presenters, or you can be like the competitors on Face Off – a reality show on the SyFy Network where special effects makeup artists compete to create elaborate makeup effects like the ones in horror and science fiction films.
One of the world’s foremost practitioners of that art is Pittsburgh’s own Tom Savini. Mr. Savini is famous for his award-winning work in creating groundbreaking makeup effects as well as for his work as a stuntman, actor, and director.
If you’re intrigued by the possibility of a career in Special Makeup Effects, Mr. Savini offers an intensive 16-month program at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, PA (near Pittsburgh) where graduates receive an Associate Degree in Specialized Business.
Students study makeup application, mold making and casting, animation fabrication, and exhibit and display design. In addition to learning the techniques to create makeup special effects for films and TV, students also learn skills that can get you work in designing/building scenes for museums, molding prosthetic limbs, or creating toys.
In fact, Mr. Savini is very generous in offering referrals to graduates of the program when he receives requests from film or TV projects or various haunted attractions. Program alumni have also gone on to work at McFarlane Toys, the Smithsonian Institution, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, and NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
So if you love movies… if you have a talent for art… and if making monsters for a living sounds like it might be fun, there may be a place for you in Hollywood!