With almost 20 years in the special makeup effects industry Justin has been a part of, designed and made effects for some of the most ground breaking films and TV shows in recent years including True Blood, American Horror Story, The Knick, Vinyl, Supergirl and Rosewood. Justin, and his company Fractured FX, is dedicated to developing cutting edge special makeup effects and it really shows in the work we see from him and his studio on screen, his work is amazing. He is also the designer and Department Head of my favourite show, The Knick, which if you know me you will have have heard me rave about non-stop for the past year.. it truly has the best casualty and surgery effects I've ever seen, and to be so blown away by new and impressive casualty effects is not easy at this stage in TV and film. I'm thrilled Justin took some time to tell me about his career, his work and share some of his best tips. 

Snapshot of Justin's career

MANW: How did you start your career and what was the progression it took?
JR: I’ve always had a love for movies, sculpture and design. I was fascinated by the idea of creating a living breathing character so I think it was a natural path for me to move into some type of artistic field. I started as a beauty make-up artist for print just so I had a place to start learning and I was lucky enough to take an internship at a small effects studio in the mid 90’s and then from there I was introduced to some artists who worked at several other large make-up effects houses. From that point forward I continued to work with some of the top names in the business at that time such as ADI, Stan Winston, Steve Johnson and many other effects artists. In 2005 I formed my first effects studio called Quantum Creation FX and was the lead artistic and technical director there until 2010 when I sold my shares to my then partner so I could create my current company Fractured FX. I needed a place where I could focus on what I believe this industry is moving towards and being the sole owner of Fractured FX I can really focus on new approaches and ideas with my incredible team of artists who call Fractured FX their home.

MANW: You work as a special effects makeup artist and designer for film or huge TV dramas, did you ever want to do straight makeup for TV or film?
JR: My background is in print and fashion before I ever picked up a prosthetic and I still work as a department head on film and TV where I handle both the regular make-up and the special effects design. Recently I did this on The Last Witch Hunter, and 300: Rise Of An Empire where I started as the Effects designer and ended up taking on the full department for the month of reshoots we did.

MANW: Do you have a preference for the type of jobs and makeups you like to do? Do you prefer to be designing in the workshop or on set applying?
JR: I love to be in the workshop designing and focusing on the process of the creation from the technical aspects, but most of my time in the studio is making sure we have the jobs coming in and all the other business aspects in running a corporation with many employees. So it’s hard to find the time to do a make-up or character from start to finish like I used to, but I’m very lucky to have an amazing team that I trust here at Fractured FX. One of my favorite aspects is being on set and finishing the look of the design, and I couldn’t do it and be away from the studio if I didn’t have the team I have in place who support me.

MANW: What is your process of creating character looks and how much say do you have in the designs?
JR: I think the initial impression when I read a script and my mind starts to flush out what this character is all about is my favorite aspect. From there working with the director to finalize the look on paper and 3D maquette is where all of the creatively starts to open up. Then it's the technical process of making that design become real. And finally the make-up test and knowing that you actually pulled off the design in front of camera.

I love each aspect and each for a deferent reason. The first, the initial impression, its all about what you envision and it’s like seeing something unfold and reveal itself in your mind. The second, the collaboration, this is where you have to compare your vision with others and allow it to evolve by outside influences. It’s challenging but also exciting. The third, the technical aspect, is the part where you now need to figure how to actual make this work in reality, I’m always driven to make new techniques and try something new to better the craft. The forth, the test, is the make or break you. It’s a lot of stress to get to this point and if successful t's the biggest relief that the idea is sound and you’ve made everyone happy.

MANW: How much do logisitcal issues come into play with designs and how do you keep continuity on characters with heavy/intricate effects?
JR: That’s always a concern in the design making sure we can match and how well it will function. Do we use VFX to augment and help some of those area etc. These are always early design elements that have to be addressed before you ever show up on set.

MANW: You worked on some incredible TV shows, including three of my favourites; American Horror Story, True Blood and The Knick which has the best casualty and surgery effects makeup I've ever seen in any film or TV show. Can you tell us about some of the stand out moments of your career?
JR: The Knick has been one of the best and most challenging experiences of my career. It’s like block shooting a 10 hour movie. Steven Soderbergh is so fast paced to work with, I have never seen anything like it before, so everything has to work, be ready and look perfect because you never know how much he might want to see on the day and you want to make sure he has all options available to him. The nice thing with that show is we usually have a lot of prep and time to do all the reasearch and deveoplment required to recreate all of these turn of the century surgeies. Most the time on TV you’ll never get that luxury. Creating some of the effects for American Horror Story: Freak Show was also a lot of fun and challenging because of the needs and timeline, but cool characters.

MANW: You've been in the industry a long time, how do you think it has differed and what advice would you give to new artists starting out?
JR: Ok now I feel old, haha. Yes, this industry is very different from 20 years ago when I first started. I think now it’s more important to be focused on realism, 3D design, and advanced materials and less on creatures and animatronic effect. Years ago we were still making full scale dinosaurs and Queen Aliens as mechanical physical effects, now 90% of those effects would be VFX because of time, cost and limitations of those effects. I have a firm belief that more and more we will return to more physical make-up effects with augmentation by VFX and less full CG characters because there is such an amazing migration of the two together that compliments both and creates a beautifully realistic character without limitation, or greatly reduced limitations. On the tech side more and more of our focus at Fractured FX, and over the last 10 years of my career, has been in 3D design and 3D printing, it's now a staple at my studio that we can’t live without. Nearly all of our effects have something 3D printed that has been used on them, for the most part, because of speed and accuracy. 

MANW: All artists have the "wish list'; a face they would love to work on or a show or film they would have loved to have worked on. One of mine is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, while everyone was into Tim Curry, as a kid I was obsessed with Little Nell and Riff Raff's weird makeup. But more recent has been The Knick, the hair and all the makeup are incredible, and I'm also really enjoying Mercy street, I do love sweat and blood. Who or what are yours?
JR: I would love to work with Gary Oldman or another actor that has a love for the transformative process of makeup and see what it adds to their character. Gary has been the master of disguise, like Jonny Depp, I need to have one of those actors in my career.

MANW: On to the good stuff, what are your tricks for flawless looking skin?
JR: For me it starts with the proper prep and skincare. From there I like to use a combination of base tones by hand or brush on a beauty make-up then refine with some airbrushing on top. Everything very light and smooth contours.

MANW: What are your top 5 holy grail kit products?
JR: My airbush, good well made brushes for beauty (I use Hakuhodo exclusively), hand sanitizer, a label maker for all of my palettes and goodies, and some type of well thought out organizer for kit and set bag. I’m a bit OCD in my organization and sanitation. 

MANW: What's your best make-up artist tip to give women?
JR: Choose good skincare products and know exactly how to use them, more times than not a breakout is caused by over usage of a product especially those with retinol and alpha hydroxy acids. Also, clean your brushes regularly and use new make-up sponges daily.

MANW: Finally, false eyelashes - the longer the better or enough already they look ridiculous?
JR: I prefer demi lashes that I trim to fit and then add some clusters if needed. I also prefer clear duo and when I put on the lash I let it slide a bit on the lid above the lash anchor point, then when dry you can fold the skin down that tiny bit hiding the lash band and making them look like they are growing from the lid. The duo bond to itself and actually anchors it in place better.

For more info on Justin you can see his IMDB page here, his studio Fractured FX here and their Facebook page here.

If you liked this interview and would like to read other leading industry makeup artists stories have a look at the rest of the series here.

You can follow me on Twitter here and Instagram here (@anniemakeup).


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