Follow the progress of the upcoming Epic Australia WWI Feature Film, Beneath Hill 60 as it goes overseas and onto DVD. From the Development, Pre Production to the Shoot and Post Production up to it's release in the Cinemas and now on DVD and BLU RAY, from Paramount, from August 19, 2010.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CREW PROFILE: Caroline Baum talks to Head of Makeup, Shane Thomas

There’s a reason that Shane and his team are known on set as The Beauty Department.

They always look good. Since the shoot has turned from the early civilian family and love scenes to the tunnels and trenches, everyone who goes into the make up truck comes out covered in mud and blood. But Shane and his team? Not a hair out of place.

Blessed with curls a Renaissance angel would envy, Shane fell in love with the movies as a kid. Growing up, his heroes were the Star Wars characters and The Wizard of Oz. ‘I also love Esther Wlliams movies’ he says.

After graduating from make up school in Sydney he got a lucky break into the business when he was taken on by seasonned make up artist Les van der Wal to work on Babe 2- an epic  shoot that lasted twelve months. ‘Because it was so long it was like an extra  year’s course, I learned so much’ says Shane, remembering that one of his jobs was ‘ to put wiglets on piglets. We had to glue these hand-

tufted hair pieces on to baby pigs while they were being bottle fed.’ 

Shane graduated from animals to children on Peter Pan - another unusually long shoot that lasted eleven months. ‘The huge luxury on that film was that we had a full time wig-maker on the team. She was old-school, London-trained and taught me how to set wigs. You wet them and then you bake them in the oven, which is great for period dos and finger waves.’

Working on Star Wars-  Revenge of the Syth was a career highlight,  given his childhood love of the characters. ‘It was pretty awesome to find myself turning Anakin into Darth Vader! We didn’t use any prosthetics for that transformation, just a lot of  subtle work on the eyes, shading them  as he crossed over to the dark side.’

Hill 60  is Shane’s first experience of a war movie. ‘There are two sorts of mud in the film: the blue clay type which the Germans dug through and the brown that the Australians dig.  We have to match the facial mud to the mud on the ground for the Aussies, but I like the blue stuff because it looks good when you add the contrast of blood from cuts and wounds.’

Like all make up artists, Shane has preferred  products but they are not the ones  in a traditional beauty kit. He uses a favourite brand of blood he imports from the UK. ‘ It’s from a company called Animated Extras and they offer different textures and colours’ he says, with the enthusiasm of a vampire. ‘I like it because it does not stain skin, hair or clothes and that’s really important from a practical point of view when you are having to do a quick touch up.’ He imports his wounds from a US company called Watermelon. ‘It’s latex painted into moulds   and it is particularly  skin friendly and effective,’ says Shane, who has to keep up with ever-changing techniques and technologies from suppliers as well as increasingly varied demands from directors.

Hill 60 has been challenging because the budget is tight  but the  film requires everything

 from the fresh faced beauty of a young girl to slit throats and stomach wounds that require pump rigs. Then there’s the fact that we are working under very difficult conditions, squeezing in and out of very tight, unfriendly spaces to get to the actors . There’s just no room for all of us to be doing touch ups in the tunnels at the same time so that’s an added pressure. We’ve had to become like a rapid response team, and work in quite an organic way’ says Shane, who starts a new job on the adaptation of John Marsden’s children’s classic Tomorrow When The War Began just one day after  wrapping Hill 60.

He’s in demand as much for his manner as his technique. The make up artist sees actors first thing in the morning, no matter what state they are in. Sometimes the truck is a confessional, sometimes it’s a therapist’s couch ‘In this job, you really have to love actors, make them feel safe and that you are there to help them on their journey. I often ask them how they want the atmosphere to be, whether they’d like music or not, to make them as comfortable as possible. Sometimes I am the last person they see before the camera rolls and I need  them to feel they can trust me completely.’ says Shane.

Asked who he’d most like to make up he replies Angelica Huston, Jake Gyllenhal (‘ he’s hot’) , Philip 

Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney.

And his favourite beauty product that everyone should have? 

Nothing fancy, not a luxury brand name. Just a jar of Paw Paw Ointment. 

Photo by Wendy McDougall

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Beneath Hill 60

Beneath Hill 60
Click on the DVD to visit the Official website