Make-up Mayhem with Ed Martinez

October 27th, 2011

Ed Martinez has an amazing imagination. His make-up and effects work on Project Arbiter gave the film a gritty and authentic feel. Ed is an experienced veteran in the field of make-up artistry. Ed was gracious to sit down with us and discuss the make-up and the mayhem that helped propel Project Arbiter to glorious heights!

Putting the final touches on Terra Flowers.

Where did you start your career in make-up and visual effects?

I started in Hayward, California. I have lived in the Bay area all my life. I have been making monsters ever since I was very young. I’ve been working in films, both features and shorts, for over 20 years. I’ve also been teaching Make-up FX for many years at Rose Hill’s Academy of Cosmetic Arts, in Los Gatos. I’ve done seminars and workshops in addition to teaching at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. One of my first professional feature film jobs was the zombie film, “The Dead Pit” in 1989. I’ve also been able to do the FX Make-up on award-winning music videos, commercials, and television shows. Some of my projects are horror films like, “Amityville: A New Generation” and “RetarDead.” I have also done things like Animal Planet’s “Hero Animals”, and more recently the cowboy-zombie film, “The Dead and the Damned.”

It's all in the details.

When Mike Chance first approached your team with the concept of Project Arbiter, what were your thoughts and what made you join the production?

I thought this was a very interesting project. A few years ago, one of the short films I worked on was called “Zombie Café.” This is where I met one of the producers named Tim O’Neill. He had approached me at Rose Hill’s Academy of Cosmetic Arts, where I teach make-up FX. He was a producer looking for special effects zombie make-up for the film. Tim coincidentally is also now a marketing director on Project Arbiter. I got involved with Project Arbiter when producer Vicki de Mey contacted Rose Hill and I. Project Arbiter sounded like a cool project. It had elements of both science fiction and horror. I am such a huge fan of both genres, so naturally I was interested.

The thing I like about Mike Chance is that he was very prepared. Mike had collected some photographs that we were to use as an example of the kind of look he was after for the FX make–up in the film. The photos were of people that looked like something from a Nazi concentration camp. These examples had also been Photoshopped to look like the victims of some kind of mysterious, horrific experiments. He had a victim character in his script that looked like this. They had huge boils and pustules on the bodies. I had a meeting with him to discuss these photos and the look that he wanted the make-up to have. He also sent me photos of German generals and military leaders from World War II, as well as reference photos of character make-ups from other films, especially any with scars on the faces. He also wanted another actor to play a German officer that has a very big nasty scar and a blind white eye. So these two characters needed Special FX make-up.

"That boil doesn't look infected enough."

Please tell us about the dilemmas you encountered. What were some of the challenges you faced when working towards the final look of the actors you transformed?

The actress that was cast for the part of the victim of these Nazi experiments, Miss Terra Flowers, was contacted and we arranged a special appointment at my workshop for a life casting session (the process to mold the Actors’ body or face). This process is very important and must be the first step to this type of special make-up!

I molded her neck, shoulder, and one arm down to the wrist. Using a silicone body casting rubber and plaster bandages, I then produced a positive casting from the molds in a type of plaster called Ultra cal #30. The casting session was several hours long. After she was cleaned up, Terra was done and went home. But my work was just starting. After the plaster was hard, I removed the castings from the molds and cleaned them up. Next, on top of that plaster life-cast, I sculpted the boils and the eruptions of pustules like I saw in the reference photographs that Mike had given me.

I used non–drying oil based clay. I did try a few other things like buttons and beads but most of that looked too symmetrical. I then tried some squeeze-tube products like a thick liquid plastic that I got at the arts & crafts store. It is used in stained glass simulation. But in the end it was a strange combination of all these things that worked out best to create the effect of the helpless victim make–up for the film.

The cast for the poor victim in Project Arbiter.

What sort of “tools of the trade” do you use? What was necessary to create the realism in your work? What were the different stages of the makeup application process for Terra Flowers’ character?

I made another mold of the finished clay sculpted blisters. This is called the negative mold of the sculpture I had done for Terra Flower’s character. From the new Ultra cal #30 negative mold, I cast the boils and eruptions in a material called Plat-Sil Gel 10. This material is very good to use to simulate human skin extremely realistically. By beginning this work on the life cast I made of Terra, the rubber pieces fit her perfectly to give the illusion that the effect was bubbling up on her own arm.

To create this is a very time consuming process the pre-made silicone pieces are intrinsically colored with tiny chopped fabric fibers called flocking and silicone pigment. This is how I created in advance all the rubber pieces used. This method allows for most of the work to be done before the day of the shoot. I applied these pre-made pieces to her arm on the day of filming using a silicone adhesive and blended the edges. I then colored the appliances and her skin with a make up product called a Skin Illustrator palette, which is an alcohol-based, waterproof make up that is used on Silicone rubber pieces. The last touch was the black oil that Mike wanted all over the area of skin. This type of make up takes a very long time to do but I save as much time as I can by using this technique and doing most of the work in my workshop. But it still takes a long time to apply on the day even with all the preliminary work involved. It can take up to a week to do all the work in the shop and as long as six hours or more to apply on the shoot day as well. Planning and pre-production are key to making an effect like that work .

I also did a makeup effect on the actor William Charlton. The look called for was a blind eye and a shrapnel scar near the eye. First he had to wear a milky white contact lens in one eye, then I applied a product called collodion around his eye which I made into a nasty looking scar. It was supposed to look like he lost his sight from a shrapnel injury. I had advised that the actor be fit for contact lenses in L.A. And the production did purchase a milky white lens for the actor to wear.

William Charlton after Ed Martinez' "improvements."

-David Bettencourt, Co-Producer

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