Interview with Kate Griffiths, award-winning theatrical make up artist
When I completed the screenplay for my latest horror movie WINTERSKIN, a major concern was how in the hell we were going to pull off the film's centrepiece ultra-gory practical monster, especially within the constraints of the budget. I checked prices for a custom full-body rubber suit, or for the effect to be created as a full scale puppet, but every option was thousands of pounds above our budget...
Enter make-up artist Kate Griffiths, who's work I've admired on instagram for a while. Kate said she could create exactly what I wanted, for a very affordable cost, and someway, somehow, she did!
Charlie Steeds: Kate, do you want to start by introducing yourself and explaining how you got into make-up FX?
Kate Griffiths: I'm Kate Griffiths, formerly known in the business as theatricalmakeupartist.com! I've worked as an SFX makeup artist for over 15 years now after having taken a year's course in Theatrical & Media Makeup in a search of finding something a bit more creative to do with my life. As soon as I started the course, I knew it was something that I would want to do as a career, not just for fun. I went on to leave the secure world of full time employment four years later to be a freelance MUA and haven't looked back since.
CS: Tell us how you came to work on my film Winterskin.
KG: I'm a huge supporter of indie filmmaking and have worked on many independent film projects where there are tight budgets.
I believe several of the actors working on previous Dark Temple Films had either worked with me on other films or seen my work on social media sites.
CS: You'd certainly been mentioned to me on my film shoots a few times.
KG: We first met when you contacted me to see if I'd be interested in creating something horrendous for your new movie. Of course I said yes, anything for a challenge to create something different and grotesque!
CS: The most challenging make-up effect on Winterskin was the creature that is known in the film as the "Red Man". Can you describe the creature, how you created it and where you found inspiration for its look/design?
KG: Red Man is something I'm really proud of - it's a live, skinned "man/creature" , in fact, I'm not sure if it is man or creature - maybe the viewer decides that?
CS: I can't spoil anything yet!
KG: I needed to make something that would be do-able for one day's filming and keeping it as cost-effective as possible which meant applying the makeup directly to the actor rather than make expensive and time-consuming prosthetics. I won't give too much detail away about the materials I used to make him, but needless to say, it wasn't a pleasant experience for my actor.
CS: Daniel McKee, who was a trooper! And we shot unit about 4am, then I spent an hour scrubbing latex off him in the bath.. All in a days work for the indie horror film director!
KG: And we filmed in January, in a freezing cold log cabin and he was covered in cold, wet blood as a finishing effect!
CS: I've made him do worse, on The House of Violent Desire shoot! Reading through the Winterskin script knowing you were on board, I soon realised there was potentially more work to be done than just the Red Man. Can you talk through what other gore effects you created?
KG: Winterskin was a perfect opportunity to get as gory as possible - characters were either shot at point blank range with a shotgun, or hacked to death with a knife or axe.... this means only one thing, BLOOD and plenty of it! I am fortunate enough to be sponsored by Pigs Might Fly South who provide me with gallons of filmblood. We used blood bombs (balloons filled with watered down blood) which were thrown onto various parts of the actors bodies creating massive blood splatter.
CS: And they often didn't pop, so this huge blood filled balloon would just smack them in the face. Dan took about 5 of them to the head, they didn't pop, and I was throwing them as hard as I possibly could. But they work incredibly when they explode! Tarantino style blood explosions!
This WINTERSKIN movie still is a little sneak peek at what Kate created...
CS: What are some of the horror projects you've worked on before?
KG: I've recently finished working on Invasion of the Not Quite Dead, which is a long term project that we've finally come to the end of - I've been the sole MUA and have created all the effects throughout the film.
CS: Which looks truly incredible! (see image, left)
KG: I think it's going to do well, it's quite horrific! I love horror - it gives so much opportunity for shock, not just for the viewer, but often the crew. I worked on Legend Hunter which is an American TV show, this one was about Jack the Ripper. In one scene the director felt sick and wouldn't come into the room!
CS: That's when you know you'e done a great job! Last question. What would your dream project be?
KG: My dream project is actually going to be the film I'm directing and producing myself (Perfect Twelve) as well as being the MUA... it involves horrific killings followed by intricate scalpings.... watch this space!
CS: Well, who doesn't love a good scalping!?
WINTERSKIN is currently in post-production and will be released via High Octane Pictures in the US/Canada this Winter.
You can find Kate's website link below, if you're a horror filmmaker do yourself a favour and check it out: