Last weekend was the IMATS (International Makeup Artists Trade Show) LA convention in (technically it was in Pasadena, but close enough…) Five years ago, my wife and I attended our first IMATS LA, and it’s been a staple event we now attend every year. My wife (and our friend Ali) attend primarily for the cosmetics and other goodies that are exclusive to the convention. I go for the makeup artistry; specifically, the incredible pieces on display throughout the dealer halls as well as the IMATS ‘makeup museum’.
It’s also a chance to meet makeup legends, such as Oscar winning legends such as Rick Baker (“Star Wars,” “King Kong,” “Ed Wood”) Michael Westmore (“Rocky,” “Mask” and various “Star Trek” TV series) and Ve Neill (“Beetlejuice,” “The Hunger Games,” “Edward Scissorhands”). All of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at this event in previous years.
Every year, it’s something new and exciting.
The recent DC film “Aquaman” (starring Jason Momoa) was well-represented in this year’s IMATS Makeup Museum, including reproductions of the creature “Trench” as well as diving suits used in the film (full disclosure: I’ve not yet seen the “Aquaman” film, nor am I overly familiar with the source comic books, so forgive me in advance if I don’t caption the Aquaman pics accurately).
There were also pieces from HBO’s “Westworld”, including a full-size ‘drone’ as well as props and other pieces from the series.
Also on display were masks from last season’s “American Horror Story: Cult” (2018), which were worn to terrorize the lead character played by Sarah Paulson.
Many affectionate homages were on display to the ‘creature features’ I grew up watching on television as a kid, including a recreation of the apelike ‘caveman’ mask worn in the cult camp classic “Trog” (1971), which starred no less than Joan Crawford (!) as a scientist who tries to communicate with a murderous thawed caveman roaming the suburbs of England…
Like many of the older makeup artists whose talks I’ve attended, I was a huge monster fan as a child; inspired by the Universal monster movies (“Frankenstein” “Dracula” “The Wolfman” “Creature From The Black Lagoon”) and the late Forest Ackerman’s “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine. The IMATS Makeup Museum speaks to my inner child–correction, it screams to my inner child. It’s like being lost in three-dimensional pages of some of the old monster magazines and books I collected as a kid.
This convention has many varieties of attendees; makeup artists, drag queens, models, filmmakers, actors, and even a few everyday nerdy old fans like myself. We usually attend only one day of the three-day event, but there’s still plenty to see and do, even in a single day.
After I made my initial beeline of the dealer hall to check out some of the makeups-in-progress at the various booths (a staggering display of talent, by the way), I find my way into the main theatre, where they have the “Battle of the Brushes” amateur makeup competition in full swing; a row of makeup chairs with artists spending their few precious hours making up their models; this year’s theme was “Misfits”, and the entries were (as usual) put on a hell of a fun show…it was like a real-life version of the circus of Dr. Lao (“The Seven Faces Of Dr. Lao” 1964, MGM).
The winner was a young makeup student from Japan named Makato Honda, whose model changed wardrobe mid-show, tossing his waistcoat for more traditional Japanese garb, still sporting his tattooed face and eerie, white-eyed gaze.
There were also many fascinating makeup demonstrations going on at various vender booths throughout IMATS LA, including an amazing creation from makeup artist Lisa Hansell (“Star Trek Continues”), which seemed inspired by the living statue of Talos from “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963).
I also attended a makeup tutorial by Mike Marino (“True Detective” “Birdman” “Gotti”) who, with a very resourceful assistant, was applying a horribly disfigured mouth to a very patient young model. He gave many useful tips to would-be makeup artists, such as using very light acetone mixes on a Q-tip to gently remove the edges of a prosthetic piece, as well as blending makeups using a lightly spraying airbrush instead of sponges, which tend to blot more heavily.
Sadly, Marino’s demonstration ran overtime, and he was forced to vacate the stage for a panel on the makeup of the 2018 movie, “Vice.” “Vice” saw handsome British actor Christian Bale (“The Dark Knight”) transformed into overweight, balding, former vice-president of the United States, Dick Cheney.
The panel was moderated by IMATS executive producer Michael Keys (who’s moderated nearly all of the panels I’ve attended at the last few IMATS conventions), who interviewed “Vice”‘s wig designer Patricia DeHaney, makeup artist Chris Gallagher and 12-time Oscar winning makeup legend Greg Cannom (“Curious Case Of Benjamin Button”, “Titanic”, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Bicentennial Man” and many others).
Cannom and Gallagher talked about the daunting challenges of using carefully blended silicon pieces to transform Bale into Cheney, as well as using stippling and other aging techniques to subtly transform characters from their early 20s into their mid 70s.
Having just seen “Vice” the day after the convention, I can vouch that the makeup effects are flawless, and Bale completely disappears into the role of the former VP.
The last panel of the day was also the one I’d looked forward to the most; the 15th anniversary panel of the 2004 movie of Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy”, with Ron Perlman (Hellboy himself), Doug Jones (“Abe Sapien”) and the makeup team, including Mike Elizalde, Jacob Garber, Steve Wang, and Norman Cabrera.
A few minutes before the panel started, as my wife and our friend held my seat, I roamed around the convention getting a last round of pictures when I ran into Doug Jones himself, whom I’d also had the pleasure of meeting back in San Diego at 2012 Comic Con. He was talking to a beautifully made-up character who stood on hoof-like heels propping up his feet (much like Jones’ own “Saru” on “Star Trek: Discovery”).
The character was created by talented makeup artist Vlad Taupesh, who with both his creation and Jones, graciously posed for a couple of pictures for me. Jones and I were both amazed by Taupesh’s creation. I then told Jones I was huge a fan of his work as well (“Hellboy” “Shape of Water” “Pan’s Labyrinth” “Buffy” and many more), and that I truly believed he was a latter-day Lon Chaney (the silent screen’s legendary “man of a thousand faces”). Jones was genuinely moved by the compliment (he’s a Lon Chaney fan as well) and he gave me a hug. I can’t say this enough; Doug Jones is quite possibly the most humble, good-natured and genuinely kind actor I’ve ever met. He’s done everything from crowd-sourced independent films (“Space Command”) to Best Picture winners (“Shape Of Water”), and he’s always eager to talk to his fans; I also saw this at the Star Trek Vegas Convention last summer, as he beamed a big smile for each person that asked for his autograph. To endure the heavy prosthetic (often full-body) makeups he’s worn over the years, I’d say that patience is something of which Doug Jones has an unending supply.
The “Hellboy” panel was the last event we attended before we left, and it was an entertaining final piece to the menagerie of talent and artistry on display throughout IMATS LA.
If you’d like to see more pics? Here is my Flickr album to the entire event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/18703657@N03/albums/72157702380833562