CMU School of Drama

Friday, September 30, 2016

‘Other People’ Hair, Makeup Team Transform Actress Into Cancer Patient

Variety: Makeup department head Elle Favorule had a particularly difficult challenge to deal with on Chris Kelly’s semi-autobiographical film “Other People,” starring Molly Shannon: how to believably transform Shannon into Joanne, a woman with end-stage cancer.

9 comments:

Vanessa Ramon said...

my first impression from this article was the fact that so many people worked on this one aspect of one character of an entire movie. I always find it so fascinating to hear about how much detail when into things things that weren't the main part of the production or even of a scene. I also found it very interesting how long they worked on the process. I think its so awesome the kind of dedication a lot of people in the entertainment industry has for attention to detail and determination to have find the best possible outcome possible in the amount of time they have. Its also cool to hear a real life example of the kind of collaboration that goes on between the many different aspects. I hadn't thought before about the fact that the make up artist would have to consult with a DP for camera tests. I love how each department of this industry has an affect on another. Overall, this article is very effective in providing an example of hard work and collaboration found in the entertainment industry.

Angel Zhou said...

I wish this article had gone into more detail over the intricacies that went into the makeup process. I found some parts of the article very difficult to visualize, especially since the only photograph provided was the end result of the process. If the article had added pictures throughout, I likely would have known exactly what each short paragraph as describing. Each paragraph in this article is one, two, or thee sentences, overall producing a very choppy, bullet-point-like structure. This is particularly unsuitable for this article since it is describing the makeup process for a character undergoing chemo; this process is something to be respected and meticulously digested, not thrown together in the form of quick descriptions.

In the end, my concerns with this article could easily be alleviated through the use of pictures—what are some of the photos that inspired Favorule in terms of the effects cancer has on its patients? What are some quotes from the testimonials that Kelly shared from his mother’s battle with cancer? What did ‘starting heavy’ look like and how does it contrast to the scale-back used? What does Shannon look like without eyebrows vs. with lightened ones? I understand that some of these pictures may be impossible to obtain, but any sort of visual aid would be very helpful.

Natalia Kian said...

bSuch careful work speaks to the subtlety of detail crucial to pulling off such a realistic effect, especially one that can seem very simple upon first glance. It would have been easy for Favorule and her team to say "she's bald, the end" and just move on. It also would have been easy to make the actress look sickly and ill in one way and leave it at that. But for such seasoned professionals, I'm sure the easy route was never an option. Clearly these artists understand that the more plain and seemingly straightforward a special effect, the more important its seemingly insignificant details, like the slow transformation involved in the recovery from cancer. Because the team did such careful research and tested all their options before coming to a final product, they achieved an effect so realistic no audience member will be able to second-guess it. No one is going to look at this woman and think, "Who did the hair and makeup for this movie?" And that means Favorule and her team have done their job incredibly well.

Tahirah Agbamuche said...

It's touching to me to see how carefully the hair and makeup was planned out for Shannon. Instead of viewing her unique circumstances as an obstacle, or inconvenience, Favorule took on the challenge with elegance and beauty. It would seam that if there's nothing to work with, then nothing can be done. Shannon is left to be filmed, "bare" and there is no helping it. Instead, the make-up team went through a careful procedure, which is extremely touching. The standard of beauty in our society, is not typically a post cancer patient, which makes this a rare, yet equally important case. I really loved the thought process and care that went into planning out Shannon's hair and make up for the movie. I really liked the thought process behind using men's wigs because the course growth pattern matches the situation.

Michelle Li said...

It's stunning how much wigs and makeup can truly transform a person. I feel that it's work like this which opens up people's eyes to the capabilities of makeup and the importance of what having a great wig/makeup department means! Often times, this department is brushed off and seen as superficial but clearly from the article, the amount of dedication, time and research that goes into making a specific look is astounding. Like many others focused before, it's beautiful how much effort went into carefully crafting this specific look, and a look I'm sure many people can relate to. Bald caps have also always baffled me simply because all of that hair is now hidden away! And the fact that now all movies are shot in such high definition-- really an example of mastery when you can't even tell on film. I would love to be able to take a special effects make up course one of these days, as I feel like it would benefit my understanding as a future costume designer!

Jamie Phanekham said...

I think the most interesting part of this article was the last line. That despite in real chemo, peoples' eyebrows fall out, it would be too jarring for the audience to see Molly Shannon's eyebrows gone. I think it's funny that though they're trying to portray a stark image of the reality of cancer, it would still be too much to see how it really is. It just reminds me that what we do is always glamorized or unreal in some way, despite what we aim to create.
And like others have said, I wish I could've seen or read about how the look was created, seeing the "too much" versus right amount on screen. It would be interesting to see the line between it being noticeable by camera and it being realistic on camera. But still, its interesting. We mostly read about the crazy FX, or gore makeup sides to things, and don't see how hard the subtle camera makeup like this has to be. In 50/50, like they mentioned, Joseph Gordon Levitt looks truly ill, and the makeup isn't apparent at all. It's really incredible how they do that, and I'd love to see another article showing that.

Cosette Craig said...

It's so fascinating to see the expansive characterization that designers create. To me, I've always considered the wig and makeup a last step and accessory to the costuming (still very important in it's purpose), but I like how this one effect draws all the attention. This process also highlights the collaborative nature of theater. Each department has to work together to create a cohesive story and cast of characters. This makeup transformation also benefits the actors bringing this story to life because effects like these can make the moment they're in so much more real. In this article, I also loved how humble they were about heir practice. To me, makeup is kind of like lighting design. If you don't overtly notice it and it is very natural and seamless, the job is being done right. Some of the best makeup effects are ones you don't notice.

Delaney Johnson said...

Makeup and hair/wig design has always been a strangely intriguing element to me. I am continuously impressed by the ability of a designer or artist to completely transform a person into a entirely different "creature" all together. Although intriguing it also weirdly freaks me out in how realistic it can be done at times. I suppose that is the beauty of the art form as a while- the ability to make one thing another and yet it still remain itself. Not to nerd out it is very similar to chemistry in that sense. You can mask the element on the inside but deep down it is still a mixture of the same solutes and solvents. This is how makeup and wigs helps in character development. You change how the actor or actress looks so that it can better show what is underneath- the heartache, humor and emotions baked into the solution of acting by the performer. In this instance especially, a cancer makeup makes the emotions of being sick visable in a commonly known image for most viewers. By creating a familiar image of cancer, the designer was able to give a canvas for the actor to paint the characters story for the audience.

Madeleine Wester said...

It's pretty unique how creating this role requires help from many different departments of theatre. In order to make her illness believable, the cast of hair and makeup had to work with prosthetics, costuming, etc. I've had little to no experience with hair and makeup, and their ability to completely transform a person always astounds me. Sometimes, people may overlook their importance or place in film/theatre, but without properly done hair and makeup, the characters we love (or hate) don't have such unique and recognizable appearances. In the case of this film, I'm sure the realistic appearance of this character helped the actress get into character as well as the other actors who interacted with her on screen. If she didn't show her cancer visibly, this film would have a totally different vibe and interpretation. I'm glad that hair and makeup film/theatre artists have been getting more recognition recently, and I think that's partially due to social media. I hope they continue to be recognized and awarded for their amazing work.

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