MUD Talks: Eryn Krueger Mekash

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Photo: Deverill Weekes

MUD: Talk about your early life and how you became a MUA?

EKM: My early life was spent in the hospital. So I’ve had kidney problems. I’ve had a lot of surgeries, which I think very much led to my imagination running wild and escape tactics to get out of the hospital. I had a huge support system with my parents and my brother who is younger than I am. My family loves Halloween, so I think in an effort to have this normal childhood when I was home, we had big Halloween parties and Christmas was a big deal.  So I was exposed to not only so much realistic horror but also you know monsters and all kinds of stuff because my parents loved that. I’d been doing make up on myself like little funny things since I was 7 or 8. So I always loved it and it kind of started leading me in that direction as I went to do art classes and things in Junior High School.

I started High School in 1982, which was the year of American Werewolf in London, Thriller, and The Thing were happening.  Make Up Effects were everywhere. It was booming. So I got see a lot of behind the scenes things on television and I just knew that was what I wanted to do. So I slowly moved in that direction and was in college taking art classes and taking Sandy Berman’s Make Up Effects school, which was this 4 week course where I learned the basics. Then I quit college and got a job but the make up and the monsters had always been there my whole life.  Whether it was creature features on Saturdays or my brother making horror films and me helping him, it just was something that was always a part of my life so it seemed like “oh of course that’s what I want to do.” Although it took a minute, because I didn’t know that was a real job!

Also there wasn’t much access back then. I mean you could write letters and send up a smoke signal, but there wasn’t any internet. There wasn’t any way to contact people and say “I want to work for you.” You just had to make a lot of cold calls. There was a lot of men and not very many women. Initially it might have been a token thing to have a girl working in the shop. John Beakler took a chance on me. That was my first job I had. So many people have worked for him that have started their careers there and I’m so grateful to Sandy Berman and to John. They both know that. 

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Eryn doing make-up on Jane Lynch for Glee
Photo credit: Eryn Kruger Mekash

MUD: Talk about working in the shops and how your career began?

EKM: I started off at John’s shop and quickly moved to other shops where I didn’t realize that at John’s shop you could do everything.  You were doing whatever he had available to work on. So the sculpting, foam running and going to set with it were all things I did. However, the bigger the shops you worked at, the less you got to do that. It was more of a specialized area and I was not a good painter, not a good sculptor and not fast but I was a good mold maker.  So I started doing that as well as doing seaming, finishing work, and some hair work.

Those kind of propelled me along but I wasn’t really getting on set the way I wanted to. I really wanted to be doing application. Of course, I would just practice on the weekends and do little jobs. I worked in the shops like 4 years and it was really hard but I loved it. After that time, I finally decided to start moving away from shop work and doing beauty make up, because I knew that would eventually help move me into being on set more and getting to do more prosthetics.  So I worked on General Hospital and got all my Union days. That said, it’s invaluable having worked in the shops. I mean at least four to five times a week I’m referring back to that or how to correct an issue or how to talk to a shop owner or an effects person on how to do something. I know exactly how hard it is to create a piece and deliver it to set because I have all that background.

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Make-up on Evan Peters for season 1 of American Horror Story
Photo credit: Eryn Kruger Mekash

MUD: Talk about working with Ryan Murphy?

EKM: Ryan and I started working together about 14 years ago when James McKinnon was the Department Head on a pilot called Nip/Tuck.  James was going to go back to do Alias and he wanted someone that he knew that he could trust to take over Nip/Tuck for him. So he did about four or five episodes of the first season and I was the key. Then I took over from there. After that, Ryan and I just had a really good connection and he would ask me to do other projects. I’ve done almost all of his projects. It’s been an incredibly rewarding relationship. I can’t say enough about him. He’s an incredible boss but he also loves make-up, hair and costume so much. It’s rewarding to be with somebody like that who values what you do, because I’ve been on jobs where they are just so put out with having make-up or hair there at all. In those situations it really is just a paycheck and it doesn’t feel great to be involved with people that feel that way. So I just feel so rewarded and grateful to have found a relationship with somebody like Ryan.

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Make-up on Sarah Paulson for American Horror Story : Asylum
Photo credit: Eryn Kruger Mekash

MUD: You had a pretty amazing night at the 706 awards. Can you speak about the awards you won and what happened when Ryan Murphy spoke when he received his lifetime achievement award?

EKM: I was very excited that Zoe and Heather were honored for the People vs OJ. I designed that show and stayed on as designer but Zoe did the day-to-day after the first two episodes the last eight episodes she was Department Head. She ran all of that with Heather, who was the key. They did such a terrific job. I was so pleased that they won for that.

The other one was for the prosthetics and that was really surprising. I was excited that we won! It’s really so cool to get an award from your peers for something that you’ve always loved doing. It was really neat. Plus I get to work with my husband, which is really cool. So he won for that as well. I have an incredible team and I wish we could share it with everybody. I wish there were more award spots available that we could have everyone up there.

As for the lifetime achievement award… that was a total surprise for the most part from Ryan. I had no idea.  I had just spoken to him over an email where he wanted to know how many characters we developed for Feud, so I told him and that was it. I thought maybe he was just going to mention it or something. Remember it was his distinguished artisan award so it’s about him and how amazing he is. Yet he pretty much spent the entire time talking about 706 and how amazing make-up and hair are to the craft of filmmaking. So that was so moving in the beginning and then he started talking about Feud and how honored he was to have all these crews that were so diverse.  Then he said I was going to get a producer credit this year and I couldn’t believe it! I’m still in shock about it. I’ve pretty much had a similar role for these last few years where I’m the mouthpiece for him. He said “You know what I like. You make sure that I’m represented on set.” So that’s what I do. I make sure that what directors ask for is in the realm of what he wants being shot.  My whole team is like that though. It was a surprise and I’m super excited and honored.

 

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Eryn with Taissa Farmiga 
   Photo Credit: Eryn Kruger Mekash

 MUD: Have you discussed what this means now you are a producer for his company?

EKM: I had a meeting with him yesterday and some concept meetings. What would be cool is that I get to have more time with him. Ryan’s so busy so a lot of our relationship in the last few years has been an email relationship. So I don’t get to see him all that often. Once in a while we’ll connect in a meeting or he’ll come to set and chat with me but it’s very brief.

I don’t know how much more than what I’m already doing is going to fall under a producer title. I think it’s just more of an honorable thing that he gave me. A couple of years ago, I moved up to having a make up designer credit. So I think it’s going in that direction which is showing my responsibilities. We’ll see. Its always exciting around the Ryan Murphy world.

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Make-up Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon for Feud
Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

MUD: Any advice for up and coming MUA?

EKM: Early on, try and focus on which way you’re going and not be super spread out. It’s hard in the beginning, because you want to just take every job to pay the rent. I understand you have to kind of do that, but I think once you start working a little bit then you should try and fine tune exactly which way you want to go with thing. Don’t stay out there drifting. I knew that what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to do it. So I think focusing and being more proactive on what you want is key.

MUD: Any final thoughts?

EKM: You are only as strong as your weakest link. It’s your team members that propel you to do these great projects so I have this great base of people I rely on. Mike McCash and Kim Airs are my two main people that help me move forward through all these different projects. Ryan has a very unconventional view on how to do things and not everybody would support that but my team does. I feel very fortunate for that.

 

 

 

Industry Speaks: Vincent Schicchi

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Vincent Schicchi with NY students

Thank you, Vincent Schicchi for stopping by our NY Campus to chat with our students! Vincent has had a long and successful career spanning over 2 decades as a special effects makeup artist. In that time, Vincent has racked up a multitude of movie, television, and Broadway credits. These credits include Spiderman 2, The Heat, SNL, The Fault in Our Stars, The Wiz Live. He also runs the New York based state of the art Creature FX Shop.

vincent quoteThough, he has found a great deal of success as a SFX makeup artist Vincent continues to sculpt and create as much as he can in his free time and stressed to our students the importance of practice stating “Get your name out there, you’re going to learn that there’s ten different ways to do one thing. When you get bored and you’re at home still practice to keep your skills up” We’re sure our students will follow your advice Vincent!

MUD Talks: Alex Noble

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We recently had the opportunity to speak with Alex Noble! He swung by our LA campus in Burbank to tell students about his career thus far. From “Desperate Housewives” to “Fear the Walking Dead,” Alex certainly had a lot of wisdom to share!

MUD: What was your first big break?
Alex: My first big break was coming out to Los Angeles. Because that was a hurdle that I had worked hard to overcome. I was in Cincinnati, Ohio at the time. Getting into the Union was also a really a big break for me.  Movie-wise though? That’s a tough one. There was a movie I worked on that has a $1.3 million budget. I got in on a recommendation from a friend of mine already working on it. They took a chance on me. I was co-department heading with another artist. It was called Forbidden Warrior. Yeah you’ll never see it.

MUD: What’s the best way for somebody to ask if they can assist you?
Alex: Erin Krueger Mekash had a fantastic one. Don’t ask if you can clean my brushes. If you want to assist me, I want to know how good of a make-up artist you are and not how good of a brush cleaner you are.

MUD: Talk about your work on “Desperate Housewives.”
Alex: I did a movie many years ago called “Without Men.” It starred Eva Longoria among others. I was department head so I did Eva’s make up. She looks at me one day and she says “Have you ever thought about coming on Desperate Housewives?” I said, “I’d love to, but I don’t think they would touch me.” She’s like “Why not?”  I replied, “Because no one knows I do beauty make-up.”  Keep in mind, at this time I was doing “Terminator” make-up.  I was doing a lot of effects-based make-up for independent movies like “I Am Number Four.” She looks at me and says, “Well you’ve been doing my make up for about 18 days and I think I’m a pretty good reference.” I loved her for that. I told her “I appreciate the opportunity, but I don’t want to replace anybody or make any ripples in the water at all. If you’re willing to do this then I want an opportunity to prove myself.” She said “Done!” Four months later, I was on the show and I didn’t replace anyone or ripple any waters. I became their regular addition for the next two seasons and I didn’t do a touch of effects make-up.

I can tell you right off the bat it scared the hell out of me. Here I am, new kid on the block and I’m working on the glamour show of the decade. I’m confident in my beauty make-up, but my confidence means nothing if the people that hired me aren’t confident.  So that was the big concern. I like to do natural look. I don’t like to do glamour or high fashion. It really pushed me personally and professionally to go outside my comfort zone and boundaries. While I never had to do high fashion make-up, I did have to do high-end make-ups.

MUD: How much pressure was there on “Desperate Housewives” to make sure everyone looked amazing?
Alex: There wasn’t that much pressure because all of the pressure on the make-up was being directed to the five girls. As long as they were flawless, everyone else was okay. (Not that I could slack off!) Yes, I was there for two seasons, but at no point in time did I ever think I was safe. Because of that, I continued to be on top of my game. I’d always think, “Okay this will keep me on the show or I’ll get fired.”  That was every day.

I never thought I would be on that show. It was the kindness of Eva and my abilities as a make-up artist that allowed that to happen. Every aspect of the show was magical.

MUD: Talk about working on “Fear the Walking Dead.”
Alex: Again, it’s magical to be a part of the Walking Dead family. It can be difficult, but it’s like I asked my dad, “Was it hard to get that good?” He said, “It took work, but it was it hard? No, because I love it.” Is it tedious? Yes!  You can be in the trailer for five hours doing make-ups with nothing but airbrush or prosthetics and airbrush.

MUD: Do you prefer to work in TV or film?
Alex: I prefer working on either film or television. I like film because you are able to establish a family, a bond and it’s almost like summer camp. Whereas TV, you still have families and bonds but it’s more like a school year. I’ve never department headed a TV show so I don’t know what that’s like. I know plenty that have and they enjoy it. It’s a steady paycheck and they love what they do.

MUD: What is your favorite make-up you’ve ever done?
Alex: There’s three favorite make-ups. What I’m working on now, which is “Fear the Walking Dead” because that’s a dream come true for me. My favorite project was “Desperate Housewives” because that’s an amazing experience with amazing people. It was an incredibly well-oiled machine. And lastly, “Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles” because that fulfilled a bucket list in the sense that I always wanted to work on a Terminator Series.

MUD: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Alex: My uncle had the best advice. “Don’t ever consider a long term relationship with someone you wouldn’t consider being a business partner with. If you trust them with your business, you can trust them with your heart.” If I can’t trust someone personally, then I can’t trust someone professionally. If I can’t trust them professionally, I sure don’t trust them personally. Nobody can accuse me of being a liar, cheater or thief. Honesty is so important to me because I want people to be honest with me. If I do something wrong, tell me. But if you don’t tell me, I don’t know how it’s gone wrong.

I do believe that you get what you deserve. Every decision you’ve ever made in your entire life has led you to be where you are right now. It’s decision making. That’s one of the truths that people don’t really like to hear especially when they fall on hard times. Look, I‘ve been on hard times, guess what? I caused it! Every decision I made.

There’s no point in looking back and saying “What if?” What you do now from this moment forward will affect the rest of your life. Every decision you make now affects every other decision. So make the right decision.

MUD: Where would you want the career to go next?
Alex: Oh god, to walk on stage at the Kodak Theater.  I would like to do a war epic. I’d like to something like “Saving Private Ryan” or the Iraq war. I like doing dirt and blood and bringing light to situations if it helps the troops. I may not support why we’re doing what we’re doing, but I sure support the people doing it.

MUD Talks: Ray Shaffer

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When you ask anyone about Ray Shaffer, industry professional or student alike, they will tell you that he is the kindest, most genuine, and hard-working man they know. He is the gentleman of this profession. His road to make-up wasn’t a direct course, but that’s what has made him an excellent artist and a phenomenal teacher.

MUD: What was growing up like? And what led you to make-up?
Ray: I was born at the Submarine Base in Groton, CT. My Dad was in the Navy at the time and worked on nuclear submarines. Part of my childhood was very residential, and part of it was moving around a lot because I was part of a navy and a coast guard family.

I first got interested in make-up when I was very, very young. My mom was and still is a nurse. She’s been a trauma nurse for about 54 years, and she’s finally going to retire this spring. She used to work the 3-11pm shift at St. Vincent’s Hospital. She would get off work around midnight or so, and come home to get me out of bed to watch Mission Impossible reruns together. There were lots of disguises in the show and my head just smoked at the idea that people could be different people. My dad wasn’t into monster movies, but when I was 5 or 6 he would stay up with me to watch the Creature Feature at night. That was really cool because he’s a very down to earth guy and monsters really weren’t his thing.

MUD: What was your first introduction to make-up?
Ray: I remember when I was 12 or so, Dick Smith had a Monster Make-up Kit that you could buy at toy stores. I was saving up from my paper route to buy it, and I would go into KB Toy Store and look at it longingly. My birthday is in October and I was hoping to have it in time for Halloween, but I knew I was going to be a few bucks short. Well, on my birthday, my grandparents came over. My Grandpa drove a big green Chrysler and I was feeling bummed when he called me over to it. He pulled out a box and he had bought me the Dick Smith Make-up Kit!

Basically, the kit was vacuform molds and you made your own appliances out of gelatin (Dick called it flesh flags). He was looking for something easy to use and relatively non-toxic, which it was. The whole heating it up thing was a little weird. You probably couldn’t get away with that now. But the first make-ups or appliances I did were out of the Dick Smith Kit. Later on, I found “Stage Make-up” by Richard Corson in the library and that put me up on a different level.

I remember the first appliance make-up I ever tried to do on my own was a Rocky Balboa make-up. I was 14 or 15 trying to recreate the boxer damage makeup. I remember being very happy with it at the time. I lost the pictures, but I’m very glad because it was probably awful. It was a lot of fun. Later, I remember what a thrill it was to meet Mike Westmore when he came out to MUD to talk. He had been the make-up artist on the first few Rocky movies, and on First Blood and Raging Bull, and all these cool films, plus Star Trek. It was really cool!

MUD: How did you turn your interest in make-up into a career?
Ray: I started out wanting to act. I’d always loved make-up, but being from the east coast, I may as well have being talking about being a rocket scientist or being a ping pong player in China. I didn’t understand enough about the field to figure out how to make that happen. Because I wanted to act, I used make-up to augment my range as an actor. I’m a pretty unique looking guy, so unless I just wanted to wave a steak knife, or be the guy yelling, “die, grandma die!”, I needed a little help to make me believable as other characters.

In the course of working in theater in college, I was working on a type of play called a reconstruction. It’s where you take a classic text and rearrange it. It’s usually experimental theater. My college did Hamlet, and my roommate was playing Hamlet’s Father. Our director had the idea to make him a Viking Chieftain. And what do they do when a they die? They’re put in a funeral pyre. So we needed to have this crispy critter corpse kind of guy. A role like that is an awful lot for a 20 year old actor to wrap his head around. He tried different things, but wasn’t happy with what he was doing. So I built the mask for him.

I remember him putting it on and staring in the mirror and being very, very quiet about it. When you see your face burnt down to the skull, the whole idea of how much you’ve been violated hits you. That night at rehearsal, he was a whole different cat! I remember him walking off the stage and hugging me. I was so emotionally overwhelmed by that — it was probably at the point I jumped ship. I felt I was doing better work influencing other performers than I was enjoying acting myself.

MUD: How was your career starting to take shape at that point?
Ray: I sort of divide my career into East Coast and West Coast. My first prosthetic makeup job ever was in a theater in Massachusetts. I remember they thought I could age a whole cast for $50. And I did it! I ended up having to augment it with cotton and latex.

My first job on the west coast was for Rob Burman. It’s funny because it just got released! Andrew Getty, who was the grandson of John Paul Getty, was a sort of auteur. He wanted to be a film director. He had some very nightmarish visions and he tried to write a narrative around it. Basically, he picked away at this film for a long time. He would shoot it a little bit, then he would get upset and stop, then he’d start again with a different crew…and so on and so forth. He passed about 2 years ago or so and his estate had the work completed since he was in post-production, and just released it on DVD and Video on Demand. It’s called “The Evil Within.” There was some creepy stuff in there. There was a spider that was stitched together from human body parts. Lots of practical gags and lots of in-camera tricks, things with perspective. I’m not sure if there was any CG at all. But that was my first film. That was also my first job for Rob Burman.

MUD: When did the transition to teaching begin?
Ray: I came out to the west coast in the summer of 2000 and I worked intermittently then continually was a make-up artist, but primarily as a lab technician. That means I made molds, I did hair work, I did castings, sometimes when the sun shone in the right direction, I even sculpted. I did that for 10 years. In the late 2000s, a lot of things really depressed the film industry. SAG went on strike, and then the WGA went on strike. And then the banks crashed, and I navigated that as best I could but nobody was working.

I had to look for another opportunity. Also around this time my mother started getting sick. Mom is a tank so I knew if something was wrong with mom, then I wanted to be there. So I went back to the east coast to try to be of use to my family. In the course of wanting to stay busy, I was going through Craigslist, and there was an ad that the MUD NY was looking for instructors. At the time I didn’t even know MUD had a campus in NY! So I contacted them.

I know that I’m a patient guy, and I hoped that I’d be descent at teaching. I was surprised by how much I loved it! There was an adjustment. It’s challenging to take 20 people who are all at different motivation levels, ability levels and artistic levels and to guide them as a unit through things they sometimes don’t believe they can do. So there is a learning curve. What started out as something I wanted to try, turned out to be something I love very, very much. I think of friends back home who are knocking rust off of boats and making t-shirts and working in fast food stores, and I’ve got the best job on planet earth.

MUD: With having a career sculpting, molding, applying, and painting, what part of the process is your favorite?
Ray: What do I love doing? I love sculpture and molding. What is it that I love about make-up? I just love the whole idea that we can make things that never existed before, that you can sit down with a motivated actor, and a little artistic vision and hard work, and combine it with a bag of cement and a block of wax clay and turn it into people, and species, and creatures that the world has never seen before. It’s so creative and only limited by your skill set and your imagination. And there’s not a lot of that left in the world anymore. Everything is prepackaged. For us to be able to make something that is so unique and individual in this world is something else.

MUD: What has changed about the industry from your perspective?
Ray: I think computers have become a bigger part of it, but even that is cyclic. Now, there’s a big push back. I think make-up and computers are both awesome tools, provided they are used appropriately for their strengths. If I use a hammer to hammer a nail, it’s a wonderful tool. If I use a hammer to saw a table in half, it’s sort of a mess.

When all of the changes started happening was when Avatar came out. That scared the begezus out of all of us. There had been fun CG characters for some time, but Avatar was the first instance where a director could look through the viewfinder on the camera and in front of him were people in motion capture suits. In real time, he was seeing blue kitty people in the jungle. Basically when everyone saw that it was a huge hit, it freaked everyone in the industry out. Everyone making films at the time stopped and went into turn around mode. They wanted to evaluate this new option, and there was only one studio in the world that was doing work that good, WETA. Other studios caught up, but it took a while and in the meantime, nobody was working.

There was a time when every action or adventure film you saw was just filled with lots of cartoons. Then, there was almost a backlash against it. People were tired of watching confused looking actors standing around monsters that clearly aren’t there. The Star Wars prequels are a great example. People standing around in a green room looking confused. I think people missed what make-up brought to performances, like the physical space that they fill on screen. There’s a real tangible quality to them. If you look at the cast of Phantom Menace, they are clearly great actors but you look at how they struggled in that movie. Then you look at a movie like Alien, you have Sigourney Weaver in a real space with a guy in costume in a smoky alley with drool dribbling on her — that affects your performance.

Great make-ups in your presence effect your performance. All of a sudden, you feel like you’re in the presence of an alien, or a senator from another planet. That effects actors in a way that someone standing and talking to a mark on the wall does not. They’re effective in a way that CG often is not. It’s nice to see it come back. I think everything runs in cycles. In some ways, opportunities have declined, and in other ways they have not. There are far more people making movies these days — whether it’s a YouTube movie, Netflix, a feature, or a low-budget thing. In some ways, there seems to be more work!

MUD: What does the future hold?
Ray: I would be happy teaching as long as MUD is happy having me. I would be happy sculpting and creating make-ups. I’m getting better and look forward to continue to get better all the time. There are things I think are good or bad, but there’s always improvement that can be made.

MUD: What advice for make-up artists do you want to share?
Ray: Work hard and don’t quit. I know that sounds like such a stereotype. A lot of these pieces of advice you hear so often tend to lose their meaning, but I’ve seen wonderfully talented people not succeed when they only need to try a little built harder and not quit. A lot of time common sense and a work ethic are super powers. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.

If I have no other gift, I hope as teacher, I have a gift to help someone who’s straight out of high school, or wherever they are in life, believe that they can get through a sculpture. And then they can get through fiberglass. And if you keep on trying, doors will open. All luck is your preparation meeting the right opportunity. So, don’t quit, and believe you can do it. The whole idea of being able to make something from nothing is very empowering. Rob Burman used to say, “once you learn you can make stuff, you’re never the same again.”

Graduate Spotlight: Nicole Faulkner

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“Be positive, be grateful, make art, and be nice to each other!”
Nicole Faulkner 

MUD: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from? What did you want to be when you grew up? What led you to MUD? 
Nicole: I’m a Cali girl! I grew up in Corona, CA — about an hour and a half south of Los Angeles, actually. I always loved art growing up. I toyed with the idea of fashion school, tattoo artistry, architecture…but I never really considered make-up artistry a real career until probably my junior year. I had to do a project for my Career Choices class on a topic that interested me and that’s when I really dove into the world of make-up, learning about all the different career options and understanding what being a freelance artist meant. I started doing research on schools and fell in love with MUD! Everyone said it was the best so I thought to myself, “this is it, I HAVE to go here!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.00.53 AMPentatonix at the 2017 Grammys by Nicole Faulkner

MUD: What are you doing now? 
Nicole: I graduated from MUD in early 2010, and since then I’ve been a freelance working artist here in LA! I live in the valley, near Sherman Oaks. I have a 2 bedroom so I could turn one room into a little studio for myself! I now work with some of the biggest directors, musicians, social media superstars, celebrities, actors, and make-up brands! I’ve worked with Def Leppard, T.I., 5 Seconds of Summer, French Montana, and toured the world all last year with 3 time Grammy award winners, Pentatonix. I work with TV stars like Leah Remini, Raven Simone, Eddie Griffin, Michelle Visage on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, VMAs, CMAs, Grammy’s…etc. I’ve done make-up on internet superstars like Tyler Oakley, Jeffree Star, Todrick Hall, Joey Graceffa, MannyMUA, Jaclyn Hill, Nicole Guerrero, TheGabbyShow, etc. I work with award winning director, Hannah Lux Davis who is so incredibly in demand — I’m lucky to be her go to girl for every music video she does! I also work closely with different makeup brands like Morphe Brushes, MAC cosmetics, Benefit Cosmetics, and Jeffree Star cosmetics for collaborative video content or campaign ads for new collections! 

4bee7a_26717dbd05d74cce9bc2284d953f918fJeffree Star by Nicole Faulkner

MUD: What did you do right after you left MUD?
Nicole: Right after I left MUD, I immediately started freelancing. I was actually freelancing while I was still in school at MUD! I started working with students from LA Film School and just networking a lot, taking every job I could even if there was little to no pay. I was also test shooting with different photographers, just trying to get my name out there and build a reputation and I knew that would take years so I wanted to start ASAP! But when I did graduate, I started booking more stuff — music videos with new upcoming artists, short films, and small feature films. I also got a job part-time at MAC Cosmetics.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.09.03 AMTodrick Hall by Nicole Faulkner

MUD: What do you remember most vividly about your time at MUD?
Nicole: I remember how clean everything was, the white walls, white countertops, fresh scent. Everything felt clean and new every day, like each day was a fresh slate. I liked that a lot. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.13.52 AMBy Nicole Faulkner

MUD: Do you/will you stay in touch with the friends you made at MUD? Why do you think that is important in your line of work? 
Nicole: My whole class was really cool — we would all hang out after school and on weekends but after that, we all kind of lost touch. Some people moved back to their hometowns or went on to hair school, etc. I did make one life long friend Barbra. She lives in Utah but we talk often and I go visit her about twice a year and that’s cool to have MUD as our memory of where we met and reminisce on that experience with her!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.15.58 AMBy Nicole Faulkner

MUD: Tell me about your best day at MUD!

Nicole: My best day at MUD was my last day at MUD because I remember reflecting on everything I just learned and that whole experience and just being so proud of myself and feeling READY for whatever, I have always been super ambitious and my MUD experience gave me that extra juice I needed to get out there and hustle.

Screen-Shot-2016-04-08-at-6.06.42-PMRuPaul’s Drag Race judges, Michelle Visage and Todrick Hall. 
Make-up by Nicole Faulkner

MUD: What are some lessons you learned at MUD that you think will be most beneficial in the “real world?” 
Nicole: Sanitation! Number one most important thing you can ever learn in this industry! But also that hands-on experience working on all of my classmates — some with perfect skin and some with not-so-perfect skin. There’s so much variety and each face is different. Everyone’s eye shape, skin texture and skin tone are so different, so it was nice to sort of face everything you’re afraid of in class so when your out there working, you never feel insecure or scared of not being able to manipulate your product to work for a particular client. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.23.08 AMJoseph Gordon Levitt with Nicole Faulkner on the set of “Hit Record.”

MUD: Would you have done anything differently? 
Nicole: I specialize in avant garde make-ups and “heavy glam” type of looks and in school I would always try and do too much! In beauty class for example, I wanted to bust out all my tricks and crazy colors and big lashes. I thought basic HD beauty make-ups were boring, but when you really get out there, A LOT of jobs require just simple clean beauty make-ups and I didn’t really understand that. Being 18, I just thought “Oh, glitter, cut crease, huge winged liner on everyone!” I would have really taken that section more seriously because I ended up having to really train myself in the art of holding back and just executing clean, camera-ready looks. Just because you can do stuff doesn’t mean you have to do them all the time! There’s plenty of time to do all that fun, wild stuff with crazy colors and flex all of your creative muscles, but it’s also important to really understand and perfect the basics too!

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.30.21 AM Nicki Minaj at the VMAs. Backup dancer make-up by Nicole Faulkner.

MUD: Do you have any words of encouragement for those considering applying to MUD?
Nicole: You get what you put into the experience. If you come, really come. Like, be there mentally, physically, emotionally, all of it! Soak up all the knowledge you can and then get ready to work your butt off!



Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.32.52 AMNicole Faulkner and Frankie Grande

MUD: Lastly, what advice to you have for today’s MUD students? 
Nicole: Just enjoy the experience! Always come to school with a good attitude, never bring personal life problems or stresses into the classroom — treat it like you’re on a make-up job. Clients look to us for constant good energy, good vibes, and positive words of encouragement and it’s so important that you project that. At the end of the day, it’s make-up. MAKE-UP! How fun is that? I feel lucky and blessed to have been so successful in a career I love so much and I’m so passionate about! Be positive, be grateful, make art, and be nice to each other! 

MUD Talks: Kato DeStefan

Design2Kato DeStan 2

We recently sat down to talk to make-up artist, Robert Kato DeStefan.
Below, you’ll find out about his work on Guardians of the Galaxy, NCIS, Teen Wolf and more!

MUD: Where were you born?
Kato: Rockville Center, New York.

MUD: What was it like for you growing up?
Kato: Fun! Also I was a shy kid, so it was kind of lonely but at the same time, I grew up in an Italian American family. Even though I was an only child, I had a lot of cousins around so there was always somebody to mess with.

MUD: Where do you get inspiration?
Kato: It’s totally from my friends. I’m very fortunate that my friends are really some of the most talented make up artists out there constantly pushing the bar setting it higher and higher. I really need to look no further than them. Whether it be Margaret Prentice, Eryn Kruegar Mekash or Richard Redlefsen here in Burbank they are all such brilliant artists. Surround yourself with good people and it makes you want to be better.

MUD: What drew you to make-up as a career?
Kato: Growing up watching Star Trek and Planet of the Apes kind of set things in motion. I also watched a lot with the Universal horror films and Hammer horror films. Not being a sports related kid, I would sit inside all weekend and watch all those movies on TV. Then once the movie The Thing came out, that was the absolute final nail in the coffin where I said “I have to do this for a living!”

MUD: What was your first big break?
Kato: That would be getting a job at SFX working with Steve Johnson. Prior to that, I had done while still in make up school, I did a job with the director of the school. It was a little short film for Saturday Night Live called Sleep Tight where you had a sandman character. One of my classmates was Louie Zakarian who runs SNL right now. Louie was still working on his project when mine was done so he took me on set and I got to work on that for a couple of days.

MUD: Who are your heroes and mentors?
Kato: I would have to say Rick Baker because he really set everything in motion for all of us. Dick Smith on a personal level as a teacher and a friend. Steve Johnson as a boss and friend. Michael Westmore really was tremendous, because I was a huge fan of his work prior to meeting him. He taught me how to be production friendly and how to be good on set with etiquette by watching how he treats people. He is an incredibly kind human being and is very generous not only with his knowledge but with his time.

MUD:  Tell me about working on Suburban Commando and Batman Returns.
Kato: Oh God, yeah. That was the early days I was at SFX. Suburban Commando I was pouring dental acrylic into molds so you can get those little spines that came off the little suit or alien. I’d also be taking all the disinfectant and cleaning out the suit when it came back from set. Batman Returns was originally only going to be Bill Corso doing it. He was working on the burned corpse of Christopher Walken at the end of the movie that gets exposed. Steve had sent me since I was the runner down to Warner Brothers to pick up the sketch that looked like Jack Skeleington only with hair from Tim Burton. Bill was going to work on it and he realized it was more than work than he expected. So he was like “What are you doing this weekend? Do you want to help me?” So Bill was really the artist, I was just an extra pair of hands.

MUD: Tell me about your work on Con Man and The Guild.
Kato: It was great. It’s just like working on any other kind of set. Your still with professionals, it’s just the budgets are different. On The Guild, Felicia Day is an amazing producer and she did a great job writing on everything. She always knocks it out of the park. It was almost all straight make up with a little bit of character to it because of the steampunk characters for the season they did the convention. I wound up being in one of their convention shots actually.  They were like “Okay you guys can sit there but just don’t look at the camera.” So we tucked our set bags on the other side of the chair so the frame had just me sitting there texting on my phone in the background.

Con Man was great and some of the same people there had worked on The Guild.   I only did the one alien that we shot for two days on that show but I got to see Nathan Fillion again. I got to do his convention scene on the Guild. My friend Debbie Zoller is and was Nathan’s personal. I called Debbie and she told me how his make up is normally done. She even set it up so I went over to her house and picked up his bag so I had all the right stuff with me.

MUD: Tell me your work on Horrible Bosses 2.
Kato: That was actually something that was a break. I didn’t expect to work on it as much as I did. I started out as a day checker doing tattoos on Jamie Foxx’s stunt double who worked a lot more than Jamie Foxx did because it’s a lot of driving scenes. I think Jamie himself only filmed for a couple of days but his stunt double was used more. I believe it was Greg Nelson who started with Jonathan Banks’ character and they eventually gave me Jonathan to do. The Department Head, Debby La Mia Denaver, and I got along really well and she knew I needed days. So she brought me in whenever she could even if it was an eight and skate down in Irvine.  Because of that I got to work on the poster shoot. There were two artists who did Jamie’s tattoos and one was off on another project. Since I did the double, I was familiar with the tattoos and I would help Kantaro Yanno with Jamie for the poster. That established me with Kanaterro working together and he gives me work all the time now.  So that was really a very important film for me.

MUD: Tell me about your work on The Goldbergs and NCIS.
Kato: On the Goldbergs, I just get brought in to do background. Occasionally Bonni Flowers who’s Department Head will have me keep an eye on a principal actor on set. It’s standard day checking stuff. Kim Greene brought me in on the first season. Once Kim left and Bonni took over, she continued to bring me in when I was available. I’m very thankful for that because it was a special show having seen Sean Gianbrone, the little kid, grow up and watching the other characters grow into their parts has been a lot fun. Everyone on it is so nice. All the actors, all the crew really are family. I’m not as close there as I am with the Teen Wolf crew but close.

On NCIS, is a show where its “ok who’s the dead person of the week?”  You go in early in the morning, you kill somebody, film it, go back, you clean ‘em up and you’re gone. So it’s a quick in and out. Tina Hoffman who’s one of the keys on the show, is the one who’s been bringing me back and she got her start under Michael Westmore. So we’ve got a great connection there.

MUD: Tell me about your work on Guardians of the Galaxy
Kato: Guardians involved just four days of pick up shots being done over at Disney. I was going in and painting box circles around people’s eyes and doing a little bit construction worker make up on the miners with the yellow dust on them. Just day checking and doing background make up for people who will be composited into shots. It was a great experience to be on it, because the sets and everything were fantastic.

MUD: When you work only a few days on larger high profile projects do you find those bigger credits help you get better work?
Kato: I never know. There’s the part of me that says it looks great on my resume but does it look great to me or to other people?  For me, it’s great experience to be part of such a huge film. It makes me feel good. I also did Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I got to do an eight and skate on that. I got to make up some of Gary Oldman’s people, which were about 15 background players on that. I jumped at the chance! I was working doing all night on Teen Wolf. I got out at 5:30AM, and I had to be at Fox at 9:00AM.  I barely had time to stop home, shower, grab my kit and head down to the lot. I did it because it was Apes that was such a huge part of my life growing up. My mom took me to see the original five movies back to back that played all night at a drive in theater. I didn’t sleep! I was awake all the way through sitting in the back of our hatchback just glued. So the tiny bit I was attached to that film was fantastic for me.

MUD: Tell me about your work on Teen Wolf.
Kato: It’s a big part of my life for three seasons and a couple of episodes. It’s how I’ve paid my rent, how I’ve got my health insurance and how I’ve made some of the best friends I’ll ever make in this Industry. The show has a phenomenal group of actors and we actually do hang outside of work. It’s the only experience I’ve had quite like it.

I’m friends with Chris Gallaher who’s Department Head. He was in need of someone to come in and day check. I ran into him at Monsterpalooza and said to him “Hey if you’re filming I’m available” and he was like “Oh okay” so he brought me in for a few weeks to test me out. Gradually he kept bringing me back. I try to get along with everyone and I just wound up being a good fit.

MUD: What is your favorite make-up? Or If your house was on fire and you could only save one scene from all your movies what would it be?
Kato: By myself, my favorite is probably a Charlie Sheen look-a-like make up for the film that got me in the Union called Not Another Celebrity Movie. I got to work with the actor David Burliegh a good portion of the time and it was only a three week shoot. It’s a favorite because it was doing someone who’s a contemporary figure.

My second favorite was the Abigail Folger make up on Aquairus. It was a challenge because that was the first time I had to do a make up based on an autopsy report.

MUD: Do you feel there’s any difference working on TV vs Film?
Kato: I don’t think it’s any different. Time is maybe more of a factor but you still need same quality on the level of finishing a piece because most of TV is HD now. The only thing is you’ll do more scenes in one day on TV than you will in film. Film is about trying as many angles as you can. TV is more about how many scenes can you get done in a day.

Is there a paycheck difference on TV versus film? Depends on what level you’re working at. Department Heads will likely make more, probably a lot more, on film. For us day-to-day grunts, just going in on a contract rate it’s the same either way.  I made my best paycheck on a TV job actually. However, that’s because that FX shop I was with had negotiated a higher rate, and higher kit fee. On my own, I’m not really able to negotiate that rate. This is what rental is, our rate is and that’s it. As a Department Head you can get that higher pay but that’s dependent on experience and awards.

MUD: What has been challenging about make-up?
Kato: Having to match anything that Kenny Myers has worked on. Because we work next to each other on Teen Wolf and sometimes he’ll be doing the make up and I’ll be doing the stunt double. Kenny is a meticulous artist so it’s tricky for me to try and match anything that he’s doing. I can usually get the right side fine. Looking across at Kenny, I can see right side fine. It’s when I have to work on the left side it gets harder because it’s not the side I was constantly looking at. So it’ll be a lot of me stepping and running around to the other side looking at Kenny’s and then running back to duplicate it. This is especially if it’s the first day the make up is established.

MUD: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Kato: Strangely it’s don’t be a d**k. Just try to get along. Don’t think you’re the best because strangely enough those who are don’t think they’re the best. Check your ego at the door. It’s a matter of attitude. Don’t have one.

MUD: What Advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Kato: There’s a quote from Todd Macintosh, which is “Know your craft.” Learn as much as you can constantly. The Industry is always growing and it’s better you stay on top of everything that’s currently happening but don’t totally dismiss the stuff that’s come before.