sue upton makeup designer

 
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My very "low rent" version of a scalping effect for Florentine Films' forthcoming documentary: The War of 1812

We've just wrapped up shooting part 3 of Florentine Films' 1812 documentary.  The previous two shoots I've done for them have been somewhat guerilla style shoots due mostly to the fact that our locations were pretty challenging and there really was no place to set up for makeup - let alone any of the practical stuff like access to water, electricity or the ability to do decent clean ups.

However, this time, I had to create some kind of scalping effect (the plan was to recreate a particular painting) and figure out some way to do it as quickly, cheaply as possible - and most importantly - something that didn't involve massive clean up on actors.

I think I was given about 45 minutes to get 3 guys into scalp gear, and about 15 minutes to get them out of the look and onto our next scene - that's what the shooting schedule had provided.

There's no way around it:  it has to be some kind of prosthetic appliance.  I remembered having seen an article in the LA Times about the spfx scalping scene in "Inglourious Basterds" - they essentially made generic scalp appliances for the extras, and the actors were taught to "sell" the effect by faking a struggle in lifting off the scalp.  Great in theory, but I hardly have time or budget on my side.  However, I do have a good stock of wigs, and that seemed a good starting point. I figured if I sculpted and cast a scalp, I could just insert it into one of my cheesier wigs, so the scalp could pretty much be popped on and off with no big deal.  The only one that would require a little more effort would be the "hero scalp" which unlike the others, didn't lift off at the crown, but was supposed to peel back from the front of the hairline.  That one would have to have the seams blended onto the actor - however, all scalps were prepainted with acrylic paint and high gloss glaze.  On the day, I topped off the scalps with some ultra-slime and a few dollops of fake blood for good measure.  The "hero scalp" was fitted onto the actor, slimed & bloodied, then covered back up with the wig piece that had been originally removed and replaced with the latex scalp.  A velcro tab at the back of the scalp kept the hair piece in tact so that it stayed in position for the top of each take.
It took about 3 days total to plan, source, sculpt, cast & complete the scalp wigs - and in the end, they didn't look nearly as cheap as they really were.

Gotta love those LAT articles - the fact they mentioned the use of ultra slime - that was brilliant.  It really added to the effect, and I'm not sure I would have thought to use it - in spite of the fact I've had a container of the stuff in my inventory for years.  So, to the effects guys on "Inglourious Basterds":  thank you for the great idea.  Mine was the "low rent" version....but in the end, it did the trick.
 


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