Sci-Fi Storm

Syfy Digital Press Tour: Face Off returns, Monster Man cometh

by on Oct.19, 2011, under Television

Two of the unscripted panels we had were for the returning make-up competition show Face Off, and the new “follow around” docu-series Monster Man.

Face Off is the reality competition show involving makeup effects artists that just began shooting its second season which will begin airing January 11th at 10pm ET. Host McKenzie Westmore and judge Ve Neill were on hand to talk about the show and tell us about the upcoming season.


So, what happened to Season 1 winner, Conor McCullagh? Ve Neill just worked with him on The Hunger Games. “it just so happens that he is a resident of North Carolina, and I just finished shooting the film ‘The Hunger Games,'” she said. “Which is a very, you know, exciting project for all of us because it’s probably going to be the new set of films that’s going to take over from the ‘Harry Potter,’ you know, the ‘Twilight’ series.

“It’s a really exciting young adult book series. So I just happened to run into Conor at Monsterpalluza, and I said, ‘I just found out you live in North Carolina. Would you like to come be my third on ‘The Hunger Games’?’ So, needless to say, he was really excited about that. So that was kind of cool. And just prior to that, I was shooting the film ‘The Amazing Spiderman,’ and while I was in New York, I hired two more of our contestants, Tate and Anthony. And they came and worked with me on ‘Spiderman’ while I was in New York. So it’s really — it was really neat to be able to hire these gentlemen, you know, post-show, and it was very exciting for our show as well, I think. So it was — it was really cool.”

What can we expect in season 2?

“The ante has been upped so incredibly,” McKenzie says. “The foundation challenges, the spotlight challenges, a lot more women this year, which I found very interesting, which, with our first challenge, we break them off into two teams, the men versus the women.”

“We actually have equal amounts of women this year,” Ve added. “Like, last year, we only had a few women. This year it was…fourteen. So we have seven women and seven men.”

“It is neat, especially in this industry. As you know it’s a predominantly male industry,” according to McKenzie. “So to see the women kind of breaking through the industry is nice to see.”

What kind of challenges will we see this season?

“So we started off with — it was a “Wizard of Oz” theme, and it was reinventing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the original book, and they had to reinvent the three main characters,” McKenzie said. “So it was fascinating to see the choices that they made as far as doing whatever they wanted with the Tin Woodsman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow.”

Ve added, “Well, the important thing to mention about that was we really didn’t want them to do anything that was in the movie because we were actually going off only the book. So they really — and it was a themed challenge. So the women picked a post-apocalyptic ‘Wizard of Oz’, which was really interesting. They rocked on that one…and the guys did kind of like a horror, dark horror, scary thing.”

“So then we went into — next was the aquatic creatures,” according to McKenzie. “I took them down to the Long Beach Aquarium, and they got to travel through the aquarium and take a look at all of the different animals and create a human aquatic creature. And the fun thing about that — and they always love when they hear my heels clicking because they know that there’s some twist coming. They are starting to not like me now. So I told them last minute — not last minute, but I told them that, on top of having to create this creature, it now has to be waterproofed. And they then had to figure out how to make their entire makeups, head to toe, waterproof so that their models could be submerged in a tank for five minutes.

“After that, then we had our infamous nude-body-painting challenge, which also increased this year because the models were doubled. Each contestant or teams of two had to do two models. They had to choose a background, and one had to blend, and one had to be a character. So that was also really interesting, had a little drama that day as well, which people will find out.

“The next one after that was I took them to Linda Vista Community Hospital in downtown Los Angeles, which is a very haunted landmark of hospitals in America. And they had the challenge of taking a phobia and incorporating it into their own thought of a horror one. So they were then individually locked into rooms…for 30 minutes. To inspire — inspired them to create their horror [image]. So it was fun. It was a really interesting, fun challenge. And then they got to see them as individuals and the talents that would start to emerge, broken away from team challenges.”

And we can expect to see some friends from other Syfy programs to be guest judges this year. As for the contestants?

Ve: “I think we have really a lot of people this year that have a lot more experience and perhaps a little bit — I don’t want to say more talented because we really haven’t — we really can’t tell yet, funny enough.”

McKenzie: “Well, even some, though, that aren’t quite so talented, without naming names, there are a few that really aren’t even so familiar with what was even in their box to begin with. So it’s really interesting to see. Across the board, they are very — it’s a pretty level playing field, I’d say, this year.”

Ve: “Yeah. And even, you know — even a couple of the contestants that weren’t really familiar with the products that they were going to be using are using them in a really ingenious, inventive way. And they are actually doing some techniques that I haven’t seen in a really long time, you know, like construction-type techniques, which, you know…This one did this thing that I couldn’t believe. I said, ‘That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.’ You know, it’s like even — Glenn [Hetrick, fellow judge] didn’t even realize. He says, ‘How did that kid know how to do that? That’s so cool.’ He said, ‘We use that all the time.’ It like something that was a little-known technique, and it worked so great. It was so simple.”

As perhaps a complimentary program to Face Off (although it won’t debut until March 2012), Monster Man is about creature/makeup effects master Cleve Hall (Bloodstruck, Evil Spawn, Troll) and his shop, in which works his family and friends: His daughters Constance and Elora, his ex-wife Sonja, his business partner Roy Knyrim, Johnny Saiko, and office manager Cindy Miller. The format of the show is a fairly typical docu-series – they’ll have two projects per episode being worked on and we’ll follow the process of design and completion of those projects. Substitute cakes for make-up and it would probably be similar to Ace of Cakes, but freakier.

Cleve, Constance and Roy joined us to discuss the show (along with the ever present Mark Stern), which is currently in production.

So, where did the idea for the series come from?

Cleve: “Well, I’ve always been a firm believer of being in the right place at the right time. Roy called me at midnight one night, and production needed the back of a huge whale for a shoot for a reality show about animals that attack. So I’m like, ‘Okay.’ I’m out at a nightclub, and so, about 2:30, the club closes. I went back to the shop and made it. 6:30 rolls around, and I tried to put it in my hearse, and I can’t fit it in my hearse. So I strapped it to the top of the hearse. And I get out, makeup smeared, and I’m covered in latex. And I said, ‘Who is this?’ And they just thought that was hilarious. They said, ‘We are doing a reality show about you.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, right.’ And they did.”

Mark: “Wow. Okay. Yeah, that’s not usually how those reality shows start. I know. And I think what’s amazing about this is, you know, obviously, this is a real workshop. Your relationship with your family is fascinating to watch. Also, I think what’s really great, just watching the footages, you know, [speaking to Constance] you are a fabricator in your own right. There’s a really interesting dynamic with you and your dad that, you know…”

Cleve: “She’s been working with me since she was 13. Ten years now.”

So how do they get along with work?

Constance: “Sometimes we get along and, you know, like, work perfectly, you know, like a well-oiled machine, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult, you know.”

Cleve: “Like, I get really, really focused on creating these things, and a lot of it I do in my head, build in my head. And I’m staring at the foam and stuff, and she’s just like, ‘Come on.’ I have my way of doing it, and then she starts to work on it. And I say, ‘Don’t do that. That’s not the way I want it.’

“Yeah. Actually, she does some of the things that when I don’t — when I don’t do the project, I run — like, totally stay away from making it and she does it herself, it’s awesome, you know. If she’s working with me, sometimes then she’ll rely on my skills and stuff to kind of to show her what to do. But if I just pretended to die or something and she was left on the run, then she does a great job.”

Constance: “We just have different ways of doing things. I’m all about trying new things, and he’s all about keeping it [in his head].”

Mark: “And, Roy, where are you in this whole mix?”

Roy: “Well, I own and operate SOTA F/X. Cleve and I have been pals for, like, 20 years. He’s been my head designer/fabricator for probably, like, 10 now? Ten years. And it’s kind of all in the family. It’s just been a long, crazy run. He started bringing Sonja and Constance, his own daughter, around.”

Cleve: “Yeah. I have my team that I use, which is basically of my family and Johnny, and it’s like, you know, we come in. And he gets these great jobs because a lot of this stuff is with bands. I was working for KISS and Alice Cooper and Devo. So it was like, you know, I come in to him, and he’s like — he’ll come to me first with stuff, and I’ll be, like, ‘Yes, let’s do this,’ because I love the jobs he gets. It’s a lot more fun than doing big food for Snapple, big fruit, you know. That was what I used to do.”

Roy: “I mean, we are very fortunate. I mean, about 12 years ago, when digital started taking over for a lot of things, so I made a really conscious effort to try to do a lot of live-production stuff. So I started working with bands like Alice Cooper and Devo and The Insane Clown pPosse, and we’d get to do touring sets. So a lot of monsters we do are for live stage shows, which is great because all of us kind of have a theatrical background.”

With the advent of CG and digital effects, is it a dying art?

Roy: “For sure.”

Cleve: “We are survivors.”

Mark: “And it’s interesting that you are kind of passing this on now to your daughters as well.”

Cleve: “You know, I don’t think it’s going to die. I hope it doesn’t die. There’s always room for it. I think CG is — you know, it’s a good compliment to the physical effects. It shouldn’t replace them. And to them, for those new CGs, it takes out the “how did they do that” aspect of special effects because I grew up with Ray Harryhausen, and those films just — those gripping scenes, these amazing effects, it’s like now you know how they were done.”

Roy: “We’ve been doing a lot of stuff for Syfy original movies. We did ‘Swamp Shark’, ‘Monster Wolf’, ‘Naked Spider’. And what’s been great is we’ve been doing a lot of practical stuff augmented digitally. And I think the actors really like this because they have something there that they can work with, and then, later on, they go, and they augment it to make it better imposed.”

Cleve: “And also, for some of these directors, if you bring in something that is a physical effects and you show them, ‘Hey, you don’t have to shoot this digitally. You can do this on set with this thing.’ Actors love working with it. You bring in cool things — Tony Randel [Hellraiser 2] was awesome because he’s — these older school directors who work with physical effects, they are the ones — they really want it. Some of these newer guys who have never done physical effects are kind of stared of them. It used to be the rule was when he first filmed, never work with children and animals. Now it’s children animals and physical effects.”

Question: “You mentioned Ray Harryhausen, and there’s a lot of guys out there in the past that have done some amazing work. But, for you, who really, like, set the bar? What is the — let’s say this: Who created the creature that, for you, is like the Mona Lisa, the thing you always inspire for? Like, what is that?”

Cleve: “Eiji Tsuburaya created Godzilla in 1954, and that was like — that was the iconic creature to me. My mother loved monster movies. I hated baby-sitters. So she was taking me to movies when I was one year old. I saw ‘Mothra’ and ‘Gorgo,’ but when I saw ‘Godzilla vs The Thing’ in, like, ’65 and that was Godzilla fighting the giant Mothra, it was like, from that moment on, I knew who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Godzilla. And I finally got to be Godzilla because I did ‘Peewee’s Big Adventure’, and I got to play Godzilla in that.”

Question: “But I just wondered if you could talk about, what’s the premise going to be? Are you going to do kind of like one movie or one effect per episode, or how does it work out?”

Cleve: “Well, the structure right now I believe the show is going to follow is that we have one A build, we call it, one main creature that we are working on, and then there’s usually a B build, which is another project we are doing at the same time. And that’s like, you know — the only thing that lacks realism there is there’s actually three projects going on at once. Yes, it has us losing our minds and ripping our hair out, trying to get everything done by the deadlines, but the show will focus on one main creature and then a secondary project going on at the same time.”

Roy: “And the way we work, there’s literally someone at our shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s no way we would ever get the things done in the time schedules that we get.”

Mark: “I will say that it’s been very interesting shooting this show, at least from what I’ve heard, as if I’m standing on set with you guys, that so much happens in your head that getting it out on paper to see your process has been a very interesting experience.”

Cleve: “Yes. It’s really different for me because I am very much — I do build things in my head. I’ll stare at foam for two hours and build it in my head. And working on a reality show, that doesn’t make for good television. They want me to explain what I’m doing. So I’m like, ‘Help.’ Yeah. The first three days, I locked myself in my room, and then I finally came out and was like, ‘Okay. I can do this,’ and it was awesome.”

Mark: “Constance, was that like wish fulfillment for you? Like, finally, he gets to have to put it on paper?”

Constance: “Well, he doesn’t even actually put things on paper as much as I do. Like, he just — You just kind of like — he’ll tell you what to do, like, ‘Oh, make this. Make that,’ and it will be like, Where is this going? until the very last moment. It all comes together. I like to draw things and try to, like, plan it out and have schematics or whatever. I just like to plan it and have it there.”

Cleve: “The reason for this being also — sometimes I don’t have a finished thing in my head. I have a visual idea in my head what I want, but I create as I go, and it’s not until the last 48 hours, okay. Bam. It suddenly hits me.”

Roy: “And that’s not great to have a series of.”

Cleve: “Yes. That’s why I was having a hard time. He’s crawling across the floor, touching his chest.”

Roy: “It’s like, ‘Hey, Cleve, Tony Randel wants to come over and see his creature.’ It’s a pile of foam sitting on the table. But the other thing, too, is that’s what’s magical about it is that you’ll see it go from a pile of foam on the table to a creature that’s in a movie, and that’s — But for all of us that have been doing this — Cleve has been doing it for 30 years, and I’ve been doing it for almost 30 years. And to this day, that still magical for me to see this pile of stuff turn into a monster.”

Watch the monsters come to life starting next March!


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