As always, I am very excited about my In Depth interviews, and my return to them is pretty effing triumphant: Heather Henry.
You may not recognize the full name, but I have a feeling you will. Henry was a finalist on season 2 of the insanely popular SyFy smash, FaceOff, and is working on some pretty fantastic projects.
Hear about how it all began, where she’s going and whether or not FaceOff’s editing makes me look like a big, fat, jerk.
Junkyard Arts: Let’s start with the easy stuff – how many years have you been a special effects makeup artist? How did it come to be?
Heather Henry: I’ve been working as a make-up and make-up fx artist for about 9 years. I was an only child, and my mother worked at a video store when I was little. It was back in the day when nobody thought twice about using the tv as a babysitter, so I watched a LOT of movies. Jim Henson was absolutely my biggest influence. I’ve always been artistic, but for some reason, it never occured to me to do make-up as a career.
JYA: Jim Henson was the reason I went into acting…I continue my deep desire to dance with Muppets and hang out with David Bowie, but I digress. Is FX something you always knew you wanted to do? How did you end up in the field?
HH: I also have a love of animals, so I decided to be a veterinarian and do art as a hobby. I got a job as a vet tech when I was 15 (a job I should not have had!) and I quickly realized that it was not something I would want to do. Too much sadness and heartache.
I was a hobbyist aquarist, so I decided to redirect my energy toward becoming a marine biologist. I took every science class and art class possible in high school, and got into Texas A&M University in Galveston. After college, I got a job opening the Shark Reef at Madalay Bay… I hated my job. Again, heartache.
So I went back to Dallas and started taking every class that interested me at a community college. I helped some frieds make a fake head for a short film, and LOVED it. I took every relevant class at a community college (like make-up, set design, lighting) and snagged an internship at the Movie Studios at Las Colinas. Then I took out a loan and went to Joe Blasco MakeUp Center East in 2004. I loved it, and I was tenacious.
JYA: I’d say!
HH: You have to be in order to make a career out of make-up FX.
JYA: So after all that soul-searching and inevitable dead animals, you land with FX. Excellent! What was the first thing you ever did?
HH: The first FX I ever did was helping my friend Ralph Prodoti make a fake head for a Star Wars fan film that our friends were making – this was a contest held mefore the release of the newer movies. We did a head cast of the actor using alginate, filled it with cold foam and painted it and stuck hair on it. It’s nothing I would be too proud of now, but it turned out pretty well considering it was our first time.
JYA: And that led to your first big job?
HH: I had only worked on low budget films before I got hired on Prison Break (on Fox) It was absolute kismet that I got that job to begin with. I emailed my resume after hearing about it. I met a guy in a bar a few days later who said he worked in the office, and they didn’t have their internet up yet.
JYA: This sounds like the beginning of a horror movie, bu go on…
HH: He gave me the address to the production office, and I took my resume and portfolio in the next day. The office p.a. told me the make up dept. head wasn’t in town yet. She was coming from L.A.. but she would pass my resume along. As I was leaving, she ran down to tell me that the dept. head had just arrived. Would I like to meet with her? heck yeah!
She told me that I looked very much like an angel that she had painted over her bed after her mother had died.
HH: She believed that when her mother passed, she had left her a guardian angel named Heather. She asked me my birthday. I told her, and she said “Honey. That is my mother’s birthday. You’re hired.” She never looked at my resume. After that, I was determined to be her angel. I worked my ass off on that set. The conditions were difficult. I got yelled at. I cried soemtimes, and I learned a lot. It really toughened me up to be able to advance in my career.
JYA: That’s probably the most outrageous ‘hiring’ story I’ve ever heard. I mean, it’s incredible, and it’s crazy. Honestly I’m not even sure where to go after that. How about – what was the biggest mess-up you’ve had on set?
HH: I’ve had plenty of things not go the way they were supposed to. A few years ago, I was hired to make a fake hand that needed to bleed when it was stabbed. It worked in every practice run, but then on set, the blood would bubble as it came throught the skin. I was really embarrassed, and actually returned the money that they had payed me.
JYA: You are quite generous.
HH: As far as unconventional materials, I use ’em all the time. We needed edible brains for a shot and the other artist sorgot to bring the oned made, so we ran to craft service and squished up bread with some mouth blood. I think it looked better than what was planned. Solving problems is one of my favorite aspects of the job.
JYA: You think it’s harder being a woman in this industry? Or even just a newbie?
HH: People do seem to assume that men can do the job better, but that just makes me work harder. Low budget producers love newbies. They can get free work out of them. So, it’s not hard to quickly meet people. It’s hard to get the jobs that pay better.
You just have to stay friendly, professional, and easy to work with. I’ve gotten plenty of good-paying jobs from working my butt off on a low-payng job. You never know where you are going to find connections.
JYA: Tell me about FaceOff. It was no secret that I was rooting for you all the way. What made you want to audition for the show?
HH: I was working on GCB (Good Christian Bitches on ABC), and realized how far I had gotten from my dream of being an fx artist. Auditioning for Face Off was my conscious effort to return to FX.
JYA: How difficult was it to work under the conditions of a tv competition show? Did you find the process creatively invigorating? Terrifying? Stifling? Super Awesome? All of the above? None?
HH: All of the above, I think! It was the best time of my life! I work well under pressure and with a deadline. I was worried going into it that my creativity just wouldn’t be there when I needed it, but was happy to find that I felt more creative while there.
JYA: What was your favorite project on the show?
HH: I really loved the aquatic challenge. I do wish that they had shown that we had to take our fins off for safety reasons. (Our model was unable to grasp the safety bar) All they showed was our model picking up the fins we had discarded and Athena taking them out of his hands.
JYA: You know, that was one of my favorites too – and I don’t remember thinking something went wrong with the fins so I wouldn’t worry about it.
HH: I have plans of recreating this challenge as it originally intended. I really loved the fins! My least favorite challenge was the old age challenge. It didn’t involve any creativity, so it wasn’t that much fun for me. I was sick on that challenge too, and our pieces turned out really gummy. I just had a really bad couple of days.
JYA: Such a bummer. Seemed like everyone struggled on that one. Did you have a favorite judge?
HH: Patrick was always the nicest, but I didn’t want to disappoint any of them! I really admire the guest judge Greg Cannom, so it sucked that I failed so miserably in front of him.
JYA: What were you feeling when you were told to pack your things and go?
HH: I knew my piece was bad, but I didn’t think it was the worst. I didn’t realize I was going home until I was standing on that circle. My reaction was genuine. “Damn!”
JYA: I was totally bummed when you were booted, but I have a feeling you are going to land pretty well on your feet. Do you feel like you have gained valuable exposure and experience?
HH: I think I showed that I don’t let my emotions or pressure get the best of me. I played the game to be hireable. I’ve gotten to meet so many people that I may not have met otherwise. Just getting to work with new people, I learned new tricks. The exposure is priceless.
JYA: I’m really looking forward to seeing your name in the credits of upcoming movies and shows – thanks so much for taking the time to chat!
I’ve got one more question for you: I was pretty hard on Beki and believe I called her a ‘Bitchy McBitcherson’ or something along those lines…and more than once. Is she really that sour or was she edited to look that way?
HH: Beki was one of my favorite people in the house. I admire strong women, so I had a natural affinity towards her. She was always really helpful. She was a vicitim of editing in my opinion.
JYA: Ugh. I’m such an asshole.
THE SAME 5ISH QUESTIONS WE ALWAYS ASK
JYA: favorite materials to work with?
HH: I love silicone. That’s what made it hurt that much more to get eliminated for it!
JYA: favorite work of art?
HH: I have a lot of Gabe Leonard pieces in my house, but having just visited St. Louis’s City Museum, I have become obsessed with Bob Cassilly !
JYA: favorite music to work to?
HH: probably the Kinks or Raul Malo. I like to put my ipod on my Happy Time mix.
JYA: favorite place to travel?
HH: I haven’t gotten to go to Europe, but It’s next on my list. But I love City Museum in St. Louis and Islands of Adventure in Orlando. (guess I’m a 10 year-old at heart.)