All posts for the month January, 2016

Face Off Season 10 Episode 3: Ancient Languages and Artifacts

Published January 30, 2016 by vfdpixie


This week’s Spotlight Challenge was really great!  The gang met at a hillside ruin, complete with ancient looking statues flanking the entrance.  Once again in teams of two, they would have to create a member from a long-lost race from one of six sets of artifacts found in the ruins.  The major factor would be to use a custom language created by language expert David Peterson, who created Dothraki from Game of Thrones, as well as languages for the shows Dominion and Defiance.  He created phonetic clues for each language in the challenge, and wanted to see them in the characters.  He would also be on the reveal stage to see if the makeups held up to their languages.

Kaleb and Mel picked a headpiece with snakes on it.  Their language involved lots of inhaling and exhaling, so they devised a bladder and breathing mechanism for their Snake Elder.  Mel sculpted the ears and hated them.  She waited until Mr. Westmore came around for his verdict, and he loved not only the ears, but the whole concept.  After that vote of confidence, they went full steam ahead and got to the mold room quickly.  They created a bladder with a tubing and a pump which worked well with the neck appliance.  I loved this makeup!  The face and whole costuming made it a complete character.  The judges loved the paint and bladder idea, and Glenn liked that it was the embodiment of the language, and that they made superb choices that shouldn’t have worked but did. David ignored the fact that the fangs would make speaking the language impossible because the look was so cohesive.  They were in top looks.

Walter and Rob had a lot of “K” sounds in their language.  they used their artifact to create a Nordic, feline warrior that battled wolves and wore their pelts.  They created a wolf skull headdress.  They were told that they needed a magnificent paint job to pull this off.  The guys went to work on casting Walter’s feet for a lion-like foot prosthetic.  Walter ended up painting the wolf head because he had no time to add hair like Mr. Westmore suggested.  their makeup turned out really well.  I liked the look, but the judges felt that the cowl wolf head and the quality of the face differed.  David thought he lips worked well with the language.  They were safe.

Robert and Johnny’s artifact had an octopus on it, so naturally, they went for an “Octo-man”, in Robert’s words.  The language was aggressive with clicks, so they also decided to go for a beak.  Mr. Westmore told them to be careful of the beak and paint.  They ran into trouble with the cowl mold because it was too heavy, so they used popsicle sticks to hold it up.  It came out well in the end, but their tentacle fabrication didn’t work out, so they had to scrap them.  The guys had different ideas about the makeup, and it showed.  The cowl and face weren’t cohesive, and the judges felt the face was muddy and looked inflamed. David said the beak prevented some sounds from the language. They also thought the squid was too literal.  They were in the bottom looks.

Yvonne and Anna’s language was fast and stern.  Their character was a tribe member who found a headdress in a cave, and became a powerful evil god after he put it on.  Mr. Westmore warned them against a caricature of an old man, so they took that advice.  Yvonne worked on the cowl, creating an intricate bejeweled look with a notched popsicle stick, and painted it black and gold.  The artists worked well together, and their final look was really beautiful.  It matched the language and the judges were wowed by the cowl.  This look put them in top looks.

Melissa and Kate created a Mother of Death from their language because it had a prayer-like cadence.  She had a facial anomaly that made her beautiful and terrifying.  The artifact was a winged figure, so the incorporated them on the character by creating wings on her back with scarifications and on a headdress.  Mr. Westmore thought it was a unique idea.  They worked well together, and Melissa did a great job with the scarification wings using alcohol paint to blend the edges of the prosthetics.  The judges thought the helmet was cool and the makeup was nice up close.  They were safe this week.

Njoroge and Ant got a sibilant language and they felt it was reptilian sounding.  They wanted a futuristic yet ancient creature with big eyes and ears.  Mr. Westmore was concerned with the concept and told them it may come out too cartoony.  They needed to give the design some thought.  Njoroge was freaked and knew there was no room for error.  The eyes were changed to a large almond shape, and Ant did the cowl.  He was concerned that the colours were too bright in the paint job, and toned them down.  The final look was a creature with a large head too bright paint.  The judges weren’t pleased.  they thought it looked rough, masky and too big.  The paint was too flat, thee details were confusing, and a good paint job could have saved the look.  They guys were in bottom looks.


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The top team was Yvonne and Anna for their compelling character that showcased the language.  The winner was Yvonne for the headdress that was symmetrical, artistic and framed the makeup.

The bottom team was Njoroge and Ant.  They thought the green Halloween mask was rough.  Ant went home because of his cowl.  The judges saw how passionate Ant was, and he was proud that he took risks.  He was fueled up to continue his journey as a makeup artist.  At the very least, he made it to the show, where I’m sure he learned a ton from the experience!

Black Mountain Side DVD Release and Interview with Michael Dickson

Published January 25, 2016 by vfdpixie


Black Mountain Side (2014)

One of my favourite film events in Toronto is the Blood in the Snow Film Festival, where you’ll get to see some of the most unique, intriguing and exclusively Canadian horror films around.  One such film, Black Mountain Side, has resonated with me since I first laid eyes on it at the 2014 BITS Fest.  The tale centers around a team of field researchers who find a mysterious artifact on a remote mountain.  They are soon affected by an unknown force and slowly succumb to an insidious madness.  Directed by Nick Szostakiwskyj, this psychological horror is an homage to The Thing and The Shining.  Although it definitely conjures up memories of the horror classics, the film approaches mistrust and madness as an unexpected creature feature with fantastic production value and camera work.

I’ve been wanting to add this film to my collection as soon as I saw it, and my horror prayers have been answered.  This festival favourite is coming out on DVD January 26, a most fitting release date for a horror shot in the dead of winter amidst all this snowbound craziness, don’t you think?  I got the happy news from my Twitter friend, Michael Dickson, who played Piers Olsen, the professor sent to verify the artifact and ends up in a snowy Hell on Earth in the film.

Originally from Manitoba and now based in Vancouver, Michael has been going strong on the Canadian acting scene from a young age with a long list of theatre, TV and films on his resume, like TV series Northwood and Neon Rider.  Along with acting, he is a singer/songwriter with 2 albums under his belt, and has also begun producing for both film and music.  I got a chance to ask the busy actor a few questions about his experience on the set of this Canadian indie gem.


Michael Dickson

I’m excited that more people will experience this film now that it’s available on DVD.  Despite the obvious influences, what do you think makes the story unique?

When people see the film there are always, understandably, comparisons made to the original The Thing and The Shining but I think that there are plenty of differences that set the film apart and make it more of an homage than anything.

I think the introduction of “the creature” combined with the archaeological and mythological aspects, make it quite unique. A lot of work went into keeping the story fact based and I know they were consulting with an archaeologist on a regular basis through the writing process for just that reason.

Another thing that I think sets it apart is the style. There is no soundtrack, the takes are all quite long and the cinematography is widely framed and beautiful-shout out to Cameron Tremblay, the D.O.P. [director of photography] on that one. Nick [Szostakiwskyj] and Cameron had a very specific vision for how they wanted the film to look and feel, and I think they pulled it off wonderfully.

I also like that the special effects are all practical, not CGI. When I first read the script I assumed that there would be a lot of CGI involved [because] it has just become so common these days. When I learned that there would be none I was nervous initially, but dealing with the practical effects added certain challenges that I quite enjoyed.


I felt your character, Professor Piers Olsen, was the sole anchor as everyone around him descended into madness.  How did you prepare for the role?

Initially, it was some research into archaeology and Mesoamerican history and mythology. Before we began filming, I met with Nick a couple of times to discuss the character and kind of, flesh him out.

Except for 5 days of filming in studio. the entire film was shot on location and everyone lived and worked on site. That allowed ample opportunity to prepare for scenes and rehearse them with the other actors. Before shooting certain scenes Nick would often pull the actor aside, talk through the scene with them and help them get in the right head-space. As an actor, it’s great having that opportunity and a director who spends that kind of time with you. I’m still amazed when I think that Nick was only 21 when he directed Black Mountain Side.

Dickson as Olsen in Black Mountain Side

Dickson as Olsen in Black Mountain Side

We learned at the BITS fest that this film came from a nightmare director Nick Szostakiwskyj had.  How was it for the cast to bring this to life for him?  Were there any scary moments that were too close to home for him, or yourself?

I got the feeling that by the time it went to film, Nick had spent so much time with the writing, rewriting and pre-production that he had a good perspective on it all so I’m not sure he had any of those moments.

The actors put a lot of faith in Nick and his vision for the film and he, in turn, put a lot of trust in the actors. Bringing the story to life was really rewarding and A LOT of fun.

For me, the scary moments were in the actual filming of some of the scenes. As I mentioned, the special effects were not CGI and there was not much room for error in some areas [like] the ARM [sic] scene in the doctor’s office, for example. In these situations it was more just being afraid you would screw up. In the end it just added to the adventure. [The arm scene in question involved only one shot for the use of a prosthetic arm and an axe.  Luckily, they got it!]


Since you were so isolated, and things get really intense in the film, I imagine you formed a brotherhood with your co-stars.  How did that affect your performances and were there any cabin fever hi-jinks that occurred?

There are some very intense scenes and there were times when the actors had to go to a rather “dark” place. For those scenes we would prepare and then just… give each other space. Afterward, yeah, we would definitely need to decompress. We spent many hours in the evenings drinking beer, playing cards and having a lot of laughs.

It was nice that everyone got along really well; cast and crew both. Many of us still keep in touch now. That whole atmosphere sort of carried over onto the festival circuit.

Of course, two weeks in a cabin with the same people, there was a certain amount of cabin fever but we just…channeled that into our scenes ;).

The cast one snowflake away from a real bad scene.

The cast, one snowflake away from a real bad scene.

Were the conditions as bad as they looked?

Well…truth be known, it was not as cold as we made it out to be. The temperatures were actually unseasonably warm. We were fortunate that the temperature would drop at night and we would usually have a fresh snowfall by morning.

Of course, dealing with the snow and being in such a remote location did have some challenges. The location was near a town called Lumby [in British Columbia, Canada]. It was up a very remote valley and you would have to drive half an hour out just to get cell reception. Navigating the terrain was an ongoing challenge for everyone but definitely made more work for the crew. They would have to get the equipment up and down the hills through some pretty deep snow. Everyone pitched in where they could but the crew were great.


What struck me the most about the film was the quiet of the landscape and lack of a soundtrack.  It made things so much more frightening because it felt like you were there in the action instead of an observer.  What was your first impression when you watched the film?

Well, I know when I heard that there was not going to be any music my reaction was…”Huh?” I know how much the soundtrack can set the mood of a scene and work to build tension, so I thought the choice to not have ANY was…well…bold, to say the least.

Having now seen the film, I can say that it works really, really well.  Adam Pisani, who did sound, managed to capture the sounds of the elements [like] the wind in the trees, footsteps through the snow etc. really well and I think that does engage the viewer more. That, combined with the beautiful, wide framed shots and the long takes, works to draw the viewer in and hold them within the scene.


What have you been up to since Black Mountain Side?

This summer I worked on a film called “The Surveyor” directed by Kristian Messere. It’s a gritty film about a guy trying to do the right thing and seeing it all go wrong. I play Walter, a bar owner who becomes something of a mentor on the main character’s path to revenge. That film is just going into post production and I will let you know more when I have more info.

Another film I am involved with is called Surftopia (working title). It might be more in line with your readers’ tastes. It is the story of an isolated surfing commune and has elements of immortality, cannibalism and psychological horror. A cool concept and should be a lot of fun to shoot. It’s currently in pre-production and I expect it will start filming early spring.


Do you have a favourite horror movie?

In recent years I’d kind of gotten away from horror movies. Truth be known I’m just kind of a pussy and the really spooky ones keep me up at night and the slasher ones make me queasy. That being said, the whole experience with Black Mountain Side has really brought me around. Doing the film festival circuit and meeting both the film makers and the fans has given me a whole new appreciation for the genre. I actually want to do more horrors/thrillers because of it. I’ve started watching them more, too…averting me eyes as necessary.

As for a favourite, I’d probably go back to the classics like Psycho or the Godzillas [sic films]. I know The Omen scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. Oh and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark [the original 1973 made for TV movie].  My sister and I watched it as kids and we talk about it now and it still gives us the creeps.


A big thank you to Michael for taking the time to answer some questions.  I’m looking forward to checking out his upcoming projects, and you can find Black Mountain Side on Amazon here, or buy the movie on ITunes here!

You can follow Michael on twitter @1MichaelDickson and check out his IMDb page.

Follow Black Mountain Side on Twitter @BMSFilm ;

and on Facebook:

Black Mountain Side on IMDb


Face Off Season 10 Episode 2: Wacky, Whimsy and Pee Wee!

Published January 22, 2016 by vfdpixie

Fresh off of their first challenge, the artists met at Culver Studios where films like Gone with the Wind and E.T. were shot.  They found resident judge Ve Neill and McKenzie waiting for them on a soundstage filled with giant toys.  Their Spotlight Challenge this time was to create a wacky, larger-than-life character inspired by the toys.  They had to think Toy Story, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and go with a magical feel for their designs.  Ve, who won an Emmy for her work on Pee Wee’s Playhouse, told them to think outside of the box and channel their inner child.  She wanted colourful instead of a darker whimsical look.

The artists were randomly teamed up, and after they chose their inspiration toys, got straight to work.  The best surprise came on the reveal stage, where Paul Reubens, Mr. Pee Wee Herman himself, joined the judges to choose the winner!  I have to say that I loved that show, especially Pteri the Pterodactyl.  It was zany, completely original and created a pop culture icon before we knew it.

Walter and Ant picked the race car.  They wanted to create a cool, female car/human hybrid.  Instead of a facial prosthetic, Ant was confident he could create a compelling beauty makeup for the character that Mr. Westmore stressed had to be great.  The guys worked hard on making a smooth cowl, but the mold looked like “Swiss cheese”, so they spent a lot of time patching the holes, as well as some thick seams.  The judges weren’t thrilled with the lack of facial prosthetics, but the guys ended up safe.  Katie and Kaleb did a character based on a skeleton key.  She was a ballerina that unlocked creativity and love.  Mr. Westmore told them to make the design look more like a key, and Katie created a chest piece to do that.  It was a pretty makeup, but they worried that it wasn’t on challenge.  Paul thought it was an artistic idea that got lost in the execution, and the judges didn’t like the muddy colours.  Luckily, this team was also safe.

Anna and Mel created a watchman who literally was a watch.  He alerted the toys when kids were coming back.  They had trouble with the concept, and Mel was really frustrated, but after chat with Mr. Westmore, they knew they were on the right track.  They were told to keep the face flesh-toned and not muddy, and Anna created a cool watchband cowl.  They worked out a plan for the face paint, layering and speckling colours for a rosy look.  Paul thought the final look was beautiful and that the model sold the look, and the judges loved the character, especially the work on the paint job.  They were in top looks.

Njoroge and Jennifer decided on a yellow crayon.  They had to make sure the character wasn’t too human looking.  They worked well together, and made some curly hair from crayon paper.  Unfortunately, the makeup didn’t turn out as well as they wanted.  The paint wasn’t opaque enough, and the colour had no dimension to it.  There was also a big issue with the neck peeling.  Although Paul liked the character’s eyebrows, the judges thought it was incomplete and visually uninteresting.  They were in bottom looks.

Melissa was the winner from last week, and so got to choose her group.  She went with Johnny and Rob, and they picked a lollipop.  Their character was a lollipop king who helped a boy run his father’s candy shop.  This team really worked well together, and the division of labour, from Johnny’s fabricated vest to Rob’s molds and everyone getting into the paint job, worked out quite well.  The judges loved the colour palette and headpiece.  Because they kept the character child-like yet still sophisticated, they were in top looks.

Robert and Yvonne picked dice, and went with a game board man.  They made a game piece for the top of his head, and fashioned a clown-like appearance for him.  Mr. Westmore suggested exaggerated features, and Yvonne adjusted the nose to look bigger, but the team work wasn’t really there.  The end result was a rough-looking scary clown dude, with nipple-like game pieces on his body that freaked Paul out a little.  They were in bottom looks.

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The judges picked Anna and Mel as the top look, and Mel was the winner for her paint job and face sculpt that made the character shine.

Njoroge and Jennifer created the bottom look this week, and Jennifer went home.  The judges thought the cowl was disproportionate.  She learned a lot from her short time on the show and was inspired to carry on with makeup.  Can’t wait for next week!

Face Off Season 10 Episode 1: Alien Bounty Hunters!

Published January 17, 2016 by vfdpixie

Back for its 10th season, Face Off got the new set of artists going right away.  McKenzie presented the very first Spotlight Challenge of the season to the 14 eager contestants:  create a rogue alien bounty hunter, like that of Riddick or Guardians of the Galaxy.  Inspired by wanted posters with details of the alien’s ship and their last known whereabouts, the artists were split up into teams of two to work on the challenge.  Thankfully, Glenn Hetrick, Ve Neill and Neville Page would be back at the judges’ table to guide, critique and whip the artists into shape.

Melissa and Anna had Tolo Ezulon who lived a life of crime after his world dies. They worked well together and plotted out their game plan to save time.  Melissa sculpted some details for the alien’s armour that mimicked his ship, and even though they had issues in last looks with peeling lips, they were one of the top looks.  The judges liked the cohesive character and the nice profile.  They liked the subtle ship detail in the amour, and the “intricate and interesting” sculpting.

Katie and Robert didn’t work that well together.  Katie took charge after enduring Robert’s several ideas for their alien Honorin Fallador.  They came up with a decent character, but weren’t on the same page and didn’t really trust each other.  Njorobe and Rob worked on Sansar Ceptis, a bounty hunter who went after political targets.  Rob did some creative steaming and painting of feathers, and they worked well together.  The judges liked the profile even thought the beak looked stuck on.  Jennifer and Mel worked on Delta Indemna, an ex-military bounty hunter.  They created some sewn on dreads and although the judges were confused by the some details, they, along with the other two teams, were safe.

Yvonne and Greg picked Jinxx Bargess.  She was to be a bio-mechanical character.  They had trouble creating a cohesive design, and Mr. Westmore told them to make the jaw bigger and to make the character look more alien and less simian.  This put Greg into panic mode, and he re-sculpted parts of the face.  After molding, their edges were pretty bad, and they lost time fixing those.  The judges thought the look was unsophisticated and blocky.  This put them in the bottom.

Kaleb and Walter chose Maas Rossi, a reptilian alien who came from a dry planet.  Mr. Westmore told them to change the Jay Leno chin, and they wanted to have light-up horns, but it didn’t quite work, so they scrapped it in last looks.  The judges liked the decisions they made, from the paint to the eye cavity which looked very much like the Texan horned lizard they used as inspiration.  They were in top looks.

Ant and Johnny created a female bounty hunter called Yourek Jess.  They had to put their heads together after Mr. Westmore reworked their design.  Johnny switched up who did the sculpting as well because they were worried about the outcome.  They really didn’t work well together, and the judges saw it in the finished character.  The paint was flat, the sculpting didn’t reflect a proper biology, and the was no flow with the forms.  They were in the bottom looks.

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McKenzie revealed that there would be a one time immunity that the judges would grant if they thought the artist could redeem themselves after a bad makeup, but it would be used at their discretion.

The winning team was Anna and Melissa.  Their character was original, and Melissa won the challenge because of the great cowl she sculpted.

The bottom team was Yvonne and Greg.  They made bad choices, and Greg went home due to his poorly sculpted nose and chin.

This season looks like it will be great.  Every season I say “This will be my last recap season”, and then they go and bring people like Lance Henriksen and Paul Reuben on the show.  What can a gal do but watch, comment and recap?

See you next week!


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