A version of this post appeared on Crew Connection.
Special Effects Makeup Artist Antonina Henderson is making a name for herself in the industry by creating elaborate creatures and transforming talent for film, TV and live events. The one-time U.S. Army firefighter turned artist found her calling in college and has since turned her passion into a blossoming career.
While Antonina’s resume ranges from weddings to Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No, we really wanted to get in the Halloween spirit and showcase some of her creepier work. Be sure to check out the eerie time-lapse of her ghoulish creation, Fluffy the Demon, for Six Flags’ Frightfest at the end of this interview.
PH: Let’s dive right into the good stuff. What’s your favorite horror movie?
AH: I have to say, the best horror movie that really gave me the shivers was The Exorcist (1973)!
PH: How about your favorite makeup effect you’ve seen in a movie?
AH: My favorite makeup effects that I have seen in a movie is the transformation scene from An American Werewolf in London (1983), hands down!
PH: What was your first professional makeup project and how did it affect the course of your career?
AH: My first professional makeup project was on the film Cotton in 2012. I was hired to assist the Makeup Department head. I told her that I was a makeup enthusiast who did a lot of theater makeup in high school; and moulage (injury simulation makeup) for the local fire department and EMTs. Under her mentorship, I learned set etiquette, sanitation, and HD makeup. In exchange, I taught her how to make camera-ready vomit and realistic bruises.
PH: What are your career goals?
AH: My career goals are to be a department head on a studio feature with lots of fantasy or alien creatures.
PH: Can you tell us more about your process to create your characters?
AH: A lot of planning and a lot of love goes into creating my characters. It starts with a design concept, finding a model who fits my vision, maybe even a costume designer. Next, I have to determine if I am going to create my pieces or buy them. This decision usually comes down to my time and cost-effectiveness. When it comes to a production, I am usually pressed for time and have to find the quickest and most cost-effective method to match the producer’s/director’s vision.
PH: How is CGI currently changing or affecting the makeup effects world?
AH: Overall, I think audiences are tired of straight CGI. We are witnessing a resurgence of practical effects in the film world. Directors are finding that sweet spot between CGI and practical makeup. Too much CGI tends to look fake; not enough CGI limits a director’s creativity. I think Special Makeup Effects Editor and Creature Designer Rick Baker made a good point about CGI when he said, “CGI is an amazing tool, and it’s only as good as the artist behind it… If you have a crappy director and give him good tools, he’ll still make a crappy movie.”
PH: How you do you prepare differently when working on a project with CGI?
AH: The preparation includes meeting with the visual effects artist and the director to collaborate one cohesive look, similar to any other creature design.
PH: Can you speak a little about the projects you work on that don’t require effects makeup?
AH: Other projects that I have worked on that don’t require effects makeup have been what we makeup artists call the “no-makeup” look. Which means I use makeup to blend away any perceived flaws, like uneven skin tone, acne, eye bags, tattoos, etc. to give the illusion of a fresh face or natural beauty.
PH: How would you describe your signature look?
AH: I don’t really think I have a signature look. I do like to see real skin instead of layers of foundation and contouring. I try to stay away from trends and be inspired by nature. I minored in biology, the study of life! I like to study the facial anatomy of the person in my chair. For example, do they have amazing cheekbones, juicy lips, or longer than average eyelashes? What’s unique and special about them that I can enhance?
PH: What is it that sets you apart from other makeup artists?
AH: I believe what sets me apart from other makeup artists is that I am forever a student of the arts, always looking for new opportunities to grow my craft or learn a new skill. I love collaborating with other artists because I get to see what’s in their kits, see how they may use products differently than I do. Or see what out of the box application techniques they are using.
See more of Antonina's work on her website.