“I remember watching Gremlins and looking at all the practical effects,” makeup artist Debbie Muller tells Supanova.
“I watched it every day for about two weeks. When I watched the credits, I told my parents that I was going to meet the creature designers one day, to learn how they made the gruesome, menacing creatures.”
Since that moment, 28 years have passed and Muller has worked as a makeup, hair and special effects artists for many TV shows and films, including recent Aussie fantasy film The Legend of the Five.
Muller took on the role of prosthetic designer and led the makeup department for the film.
“The great thing about the fantasy genre is you’re not limited to your imagination as there are so many ways to approach creature and the character design,” Muller speaks of her mind process when working on The Legend of the Five.
“I look for habitat, quirkiness, whether it’s a predator or if it’s gentle and kind. All of those things will influence the final design,” she adds.
The Legend of the Five is about five teenagers on a school excursion at a museum. The group separate from their class and discover a broken half of an ancient staff. This discovery transports them to a magical world. This world is full of mystical creatures such as goblins, a fairy (Lola Bennett), an evil sorceress, Keeper of the Crossroads (Matthew Pritchard) and Marduk (Tiriel Mora), an ancient, wise, old tree.
“Marduk was my most favourite to design,” Muller notes, “His makeup was not comfortable at all! We created his beard, in the same way, we would approach an attached beard; however, instead of hair, we acquired sphagnum moss and fake mushrooms. It required a lot of glue.”
While Muller enjoyed the experience of the creature designing, she remembers the challenges she had to overcome.
“All the creature characters had never worn prosthetics prior to The Legend of the Five.
“We would usually work in a makeup trailer; however, as we were shooting on location our makeup room was within a drama school, which was cold and made application of prosthetics and glue a while longer to dry. By the time the actors arrived on set, the makeup team would have to re-glue prosthetics due to the cold weather.
“Also the actors could not eat, as any oil from the food would lift glue and paints.”
The Beast (Eric James Gravolin) was another mystical creature challenge that Muller and her team proudly accomplished in less than two weeks.
“The prosthetics and creature suit were applied daily and took three hours for SPFX and costume to get the actor into the suit. He also had to endure dental prosthetics and custom contact lenses.”
Muller’s advice to those wanting to become a makeup artist or a prosthetic designer in the film industry is to set yourself goals.
“Use your voice; you will end up making these dreams a reality. I would seek out a mentor and build a relationship with artists you admire. I would also travel as we have a global community of industry leaders who would happily educate upcoming artists.”