Mike Spatola is a makeup and effects designer with over 30 years of professional experience. His work includes such films as “Terminator 2,” “Stargate,” and “Tales from the Crypt.” Spatola has been recognized for his achievements with 2 Emmy award nominations and 2 CableACE award nominations. His book, The Monstrous Make-Up Manual is labeled as the “single most illustrated step-by-step guide on monster make-up … ever!”
Q. First of all, tell us a little about the “Monstrous Make-up Manual.” It’s labeled “Book 1” – is there a Book 2 on the way?
The Monstrous Makeup Manual was a true labor of love for me. As a kid I found a copy of Dick Smith’s Do It Yourself Monster Makeup Handbook, which at the time was about the only book to detail how to do monster makeup. It used simple materials to make incredible creatures. My book is a respectful nod to Dick, the godfather of FX makeup.
I took a similar path and started the book with simple but effective paint and powder monster makeups, but quickly proceed beyond the kit construction makeups, and on to the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art prosthetic techniques. My readers overwhelmingly agree that the book is written in a super easy to understand manner that makes the tasks seem like anyone can do them. And, it’s completely light hearted, with humor, and it’s written conversationally, exactly as I speak. So, it’s like I’m there in the room with you teaching you how to do each technique.
As far as your Book 1 question: Yes, it’s labeled “Book 1” for a reason. Book 2 is in the works, and I promise it will blow away the first. Even though Book 1 is pretty darned complete, it’s like Book 1 is the appetizer and Book 2 is the main course. Book 2 will go into very advanced techniques, expanding on the groundwork laid out in the first book.
Q. You’ve done some excellent monster make-up, as well as non-monster work like “Gettysburg” and the upcoming “Saving Lincoln.” Which do you prefer?
I prefer making monsters to any other kind of makeup. Interesting and imaginative characters and monsters are far more fun than ‘beauty duty’ any day of the week. But if I have to do anything but monsters, I love realistic age and character makeup.
Q. What is an average day like for a make-up artist and creature effects crew member?
An average day? Hmmm. They are not average at all. I’m certainly not going to glamorize it, and I won’t pull any punches either.
On-set makeup, even for straight and beauty makeup artists can be 12-14 hours long. But prosthetics and FX can be even longer on set. Some makeup sessions can be 3-4 hours long or more, and take up to an hour or more to remove. So, if they need their monster to start work at the crew call time of say 6 AM, then you have to have the makeup completed by that time. Effectively making your call time 4 hours earlier than the rest of the crew. At wrap time, you’re there at least an hour later than the rest of the film crew.
If you’re in the shop building monsters- you know, sculpting and making molds, and such, the job can be fairly normal hours if the schedule allows it. But, that is not often the case. Sometimes the shop hours can rival the on-set hours.
Q. How does it feel to be recognized by your peers with Emmy and CableACE award nominations?
It feels amazing! To think that all the people you respect voted your work to be the cream of the crop above all others for that year is a wonderful feeling. And, even if you don’t win, it’s pretty okay to lose to one of the other nominees. I know it’s pretty cliché, but it really is an honor to be nominated.
Q. What was your favorite Halloween costume?
One year I did this sort of punk rock Frankenstein’s monster on myself. I was totally unrecognizable and tortured some of my friends. Ahhhh, good times!
Hmm. I would probably choose the home of a past client that owed me money. There are a few of them, so I would have to say the one that owed the largest amount.
Q. Did you ever consider another career? What was it?
Sure I did. I was a professional magician when I was younger. I loved magic and performing. But sadly, magicians starve. I also owned a photography studio for a number of years that specialized in boudoir portraits of women. That was fun for a while. I did their makeup, posed them, lit them and made them all feel, and look amazing. But making monsters is my first, best destiny.
Q. Anything else you want to talk about that I failed to mention?
Well, as of this writing, my book has been sold in 20-some countries and continues to sell well. I have been named a limited partner at Makeup and Effects Labs, which was the first place in Hollywood to hire me almost 30 years ago. I teach from time to time at Cinema Makeup School and generally, life is good.
Hey, I have the best job a guy could ask for.