Written by Patricia L. Terry ad Gary Christensen, it’s the first book that offer a biographical view on 26 female special effect artists:

The Authors:

Gary Christensen, designer and makeup artist for theatre and makeup professor, has taught in various Colleges in the south of California among which: California State University, Fullerton and Riverside City College; he has also been backstage columnist for the Makeup Artist Magazine.

Patricia L. Terry, theatre director with over 100 productions under her belt and artistic director of Orange County’s Alternative Repertory Theatre for 13 years; she has also been the producing artistic director of the Pandemonium Word Ballet and Literary Circus and acting teacher in various universities in Orange County.

The book’s idea started in 2015, says one of its authors in the introduction, when a friend told him that his editor, which got to the eleventh print of Richard Carson’s famous book Stage Makeup, was looking for new ideas.

From there the debate opened on what would the perfect subject be. Many books in the last 30 years have been written on very famous individuals inside the makeup and SFX world… what could be the right road for this one?

After he was added to Neill Gorton’s Facebook group Neill Gorton’s Make-up FX 911, the author was struck by the universe of pictures made by makeup and SFX students from all over the world, and in particular by very high level pictures that were mainly produced by female students. He then started to dig deeper, and it became clear that the industry’s future would be filled with female professionals. The numbers made more and more clear what route was to be followed. Talking to his co-author, who is also his life partner, they reached the conclusion that it would have been important to create a text that could have inspired these future industry workers. The problem began with how to choose the area on which to focus: union makeup artists? Non union? Or only the head of departments? After long thoughts, the choice went for the awarded ones.

And then, at the end of 2015 the interviews started, 26 artists which open a window on the backstage of movies, which have made history: 12 Academy winners, 9 Emmy winners and also an eye on the future with 5 upcoming artists from the south of California. The writing process took 2 years ending in an incredible result.

A bit of numbers and fun facts that may be important to tackle the issue: from 1981, when the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling was first instituted, the ambitious award has been won by 17 women, while from 2004, when the Emmy Awards added the category for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for Series, Mini-Series, Film and Specials, 15 women won it for the best Makeup and Special Effects. Many of them also won the BAFTA (UK) and the Makeup and Hairstylist Guild Award (Los Angeles, Local 706).

Every day there are things we tend to take for granted, like for example women’s emancipation in the workplace, and in our sector in particular, but this process did not start since a short time ago and it’s important to remember the fights, the milestones and the people that allowed us to live the present we have today.

In the book’s introduction, written by Michael Westmore, he told about his first years: his 3 years as an apprentice at the Universal Studios, and the fact that there weren’t any women that worked in the makeup field, not to mention in the special effect department of the time, except for the body makeup applications, which were the ones done from the neck down. Then, in the 1960’s, thanks to the quality of the work done by independent artists and to the lower costs, the first special effect shops started to open outside the main studios, and the first women started to approach the department. In the second half of the 70’s, the movie industry’s rules changed, and it became possible to hire people from outside the studios, it was then natural the inclusion of female workers that were already employed in sales, formation, designing and painting. From the opening of the work market for women, more or less 40 years ago, to this day, over the half of the Union members are women.

This book’s importance is in the uniqueness of the stories it tells, each one is worth a consideration for the various aspects that it underlines. All the stories are very different from one another, right from the beginning of the careers, in some cases born by fortunate events that demonstrate, like Michelle Burke (two times Academy winner, once in 1983 for Quest of Fire and the other in 1993 for Bram Stoker’s Dracula) tells us in her interview: “there is not just one way to do things, the important thing is to experiment with the means that you have at your disposal”. I think that this sentence must be interpreted both in a theoretical and a practical way for the projects that we have to tackle, and also in our human relationships and technical choices.

In her story, Lois Burwell (Academy winner in 1996 for Brave Heart) instead tells us how “every choice needs courage”, in fact, choosing to follow your dreams and your decisions needs courage. Sometimes there are unexpected events that will change our lives, how Tamy Lane (2006 Academy winner for the Chronicles of Narnia) tells, since she has found the world of makeup among the many passions she had as a student, thanks to an orientation trip inside the movie industry organized by her school.

All these artists come form the most different cultural and artistic backgrounds, like Christine Blundell (Academy winner 2000 with Topsy Turvy), she was a punk bass player in the 70’s and used to cut hair to her band members, and she found herself starting a career as hairstylist that lead her to makeup, demonstrating the importance of plurality of skill-sets you need to become a complete 360° professional.
These are just a few of the many anecdotes that Leading Ladies of Makeup offers, a book that wants to be a good example and an encouragement for the ones approaching this world, and a push to continue in the direction for those that already decided to take this road, and is, like everyone, facing difficulties and struggling to emerge. After all, each career is a mix of variegated experiences that lead to the uniqueness of the single artist, without this multiple occasions that we must be in continues search of, it’s impossible to aim at a personal and professional growth, which inevitably needs time.

Thank you Gary and Pat for your research

Giulia Giorgi

The book is available on the author’s site and on amazon