Monday, February 12, 2024

Looking Back: Working on the The Chicks video for Goodbye Earl

It is funny how I can be reminded of something I did over two decades ago. Last week, I was reminded of my work on The Chicks' video of Goodbye Earl. This was early 2000 when I was still fresh out in Los Angles making monsters - so nearly 24 years ago to the day. As all this happened 24 years ago, I do not have much to show for my work during this period. While I tried to keep a camera with me and get some photos when I could, there just wasn't the speed and ease we have now to take dozens of pictures and videos without care. So, I will be sharing a total of two pictures and hopefully the stories will make up for the rest. 

It was a Friday morning when the shop got the call. They needed a zombie/dead makeup for the actor Dennis Franz on set and ready to go by 6 am Saturday morning. This is a good time to mention that at this time in the industry, it was not uncommon to have EXTREMELY short turnarounds for video and commercial projects. I have no idea if it is still like this today, but twenty years ago, it was typical for us to have various commonly needed items ready to go so we didn't have to pull all-nighters. But when you get a call for a custom makeup that has to be on set in less than 24 hours, well, you know you are going to have a long day, and night, ahead of you. Needless to say the boss took the job and the two of us made a zombie makeup overnight. I was still just a pup of 25 years old, so an all-nighter was not the issue it would be today. I have never been a fan of them, but I could do them when needed, and this was definitely one of those times.

Dennis Franz in our "Dead" Earl makeup.

They couldn't get Dennis Franz to us in time to make a life case so that the makeup would perfectly fit his face. To be honest, I am not sure we would have had time to fit a life cast into the day if we wanted to. We selected a face cast that we hoped would be close to Dennis' face and went from there. The boss was focused on sculpting the makeup. It was a strightforward makeup: one piece that included the forehead, nose, checks, and chin - basically all of his face. While the boss was sculpting I was busy getting the set kit together and orginaized. We had one chance to do this right, and as we would be on set far from the shop, I needed to ensure that the set kit had 150% of what we needed. Paints, glues, makeup of all kinds, various extra application pieces to hide edges, and all the other gear and equipment required on set to solve any and all emergancies. The sculpting took hours, as they usually do. Under ideal, or even average, conditions the sculpting could have easily taken days to get all the subtle forms figured out and to add the level of detail needed for up close inspection. But we didn't have the time for all that, and the boss did his thing and sculpted the makeup at lightning speed. If I recall correctly, I was also running errands to get things we might need or were running low on, as well as picking up meals for the two of us. 

Finally, when the sculplure was completed it was time to mold it. Molding a sculpt was always... ALWAYS the most stressful part of the process for me. This was the time you could really mess it all up. To this day, I do not miss making molds. I prepped for the mold process, and the two of us knocked it out as quickly as possible. That said, the process does take a certain amount of time, no matter how fast you would like it to go. At the end of the day, you still have to wait for the plaster to set up so that you can move to the next part of the process. We were slinging plaster in the wee hours of the night, but we finished it, and the mold was sound.  

One of the things that really saved us was that we were already commonly using gelatin for makeup. We would have never had the time if we needed to use foam latex and bake the makeup for hours. With gelatin, you only needed to microwave it till it was liquid, pour it into the mold, and VERY quickly close it and clamp it shut. You had to be careful to watch out of the molten gelatin ozzing out of the seams when the mold clamped shut. The gelatin would be set and ready in minutes if you were in a huge hurry to get it open. We gave it time to cool and de-molded the makeup. It looked good and had good edged. To safegaurd the day we removed the first makeup and poured a second that we kept in the sealed mold that we brought with us, just in case something went wrong. You ALWAYS had to cover your butt in situations like this, you only got one chance, and if things went wrong, it was horrible for you.

Again, Dennis Franz doing his best to be a good "Dead" Earl.

We had two makeups and a complete set kit, so the only thing left to do was head to set. We ended up there around 5 am, if I remember correctly, which meant we were there early and had time for breakfast. One of my consistent memories of LA was how good the food was on set - no matter how big or small the project was, there was great food to be had. After breakfast, Dennis arrived to the makeup trailer and it was time to start our day... that had already been going for nearly 24 hours. 

Dennis was super awesome and a real treat to meet. He was the biggest celebrity I had encountered at that point in my time in LA. I was a big fan of his protrayal of Spike in the live action Popeye movie, so meeting him was a great experience. He shared stories with us and in the middle of us putting his makeup on he let us know he was alergic to latex. An allergy to the most common material used in makeup effects should really have been one of the first things conveyed to us the previous day, but it wasn't. It was a good thing we used gelatin! One of the interesting things about being in the makeup trailer is that depending on the shoot you can hear everything happening on set. It was hard not to hear the music tracks contuiously being played as different secitons of the video were filmed. While the boss did the face makeup I was able to work on Dennis' hands to make sure they were appropriately dead looking.

By the time we got Dennis in his "Dead" Earl makeup to set, the boss and I were getting a little goofy from lack of sleep. The portion of the video with "Dead" Earl did not require a lot of filming as he just needed to shuffle a bit as the ensemble danced and made merry all around. We listened to one small section of the music over, and over, and over, and over, AND OVER until they got all the coverage for the sceen. And with that, it was a wrap for Dennis and Earl. Makeups generally come off quicker than they go on, and this was no exception. I think the three of us wanted to have it off ASAP. As we had been up for over a day and a half, things were getting a little blurry both in the moment and looking back at my memories. We got one last meal as we left set and returned to the shop. I actually do not remember where we filmed that video. We dumped the set kit and equipment at the shop to deal with on Tuesday (we worked Saturday, and the boss decided we should have a whole weekend), and we both headed out to find some sleep. I slept till Sunday afternoon, and it was glorious. 

In time, we got a copy of the video sent to the shop to see the fruits of our labor. It was a lot of work and two full days, but for a few moments, you can see our work in the video. The makeup was not bad, and in fact, we reused it for the zombie chef in the Bogus Witch Project, but we had to make it very quickly, and the boss had always wanted more from it. It was a fun time in the middle of a very crazy part of my life that I am happy to look back on and share with you. Let me know if you have any questions about this!

That is all for another exciting Monday on the blog. See you back here on Wednesday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability, head over to my website:

No comments:

Post a Comment