Interview with Special Effects Makeup Artist Roy Wooley

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By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

If you’re like me, when you think Halloween, you think ghosts and goblins, haunted houses, and costumes. And what costume would be complete without awesome makeup? That’s just what Roy Wooley, special effects makeup artist and contestant on seasons three and five of Syfy’s Face Off, does best.

Wooley sat down at Dragon Con to discuss the show, his future, and all things makeup.

The Nerd Machine with Geeks Who Drink and you with Face Off are both part of the Syfy family. How has being a part of it impacted your life?

Oh, wow. It’s totally changed it. I went from being a guy working at a haunted house and a normal job at a parks and rec center to being able to do conventions all the time, work on films and TV shows. It’s greatly impacted my life.

For those that may not be familiar with your background, can you tell me what inspired your love of special effects makeup and how you eventually made it into a career?

I always liked monster movies. You know, the old Dracula, Planet of the Apes, Frankenstein, all those. But when I was 17, I saw An American Werewolf in London and the transformation scene in that movie, as with every effects artist that ever saw it, is like, “That’s what I want to do. That’s it.” And it’s like, somebody got paid to make that! That’s the kind of job I want! I just started teaching myself and finally got 30-some-odd years later where I can actually make a living doing it.

What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the business?

Never stop learning and always practice. You know, it’s an art form and if you don’t practice all the time, then you get rusty at it. Be constantly practicing and constantly trying to get better. It’s the only way. And have a good portfolio you can show people so whenever they say, “Hey, let me see some of your work,” you can show them. Because if you just tell somebody about it, they’re having to take your word for it and they don’t know you from Adam’s cat. So you have to be able to show that you can do the work.

How did being on Face Off help you in your everyday professional life? Did you find any skills that were transferrable that you learned on the show?

I learned that in real life, I actually procrastinate a lot.

Yeah, the show is so fast-paced!

Yeah, it is and if you break it down, you’re given roughly 21 hours to do a makeup from concept to showing it to showing it to somebody. In the real world, that’s unheard of. Well, it’s not unheard of. It’s asked for all the time, it’s just doesn’t happen that way! But in the real world, if you give me three days, I can get it done in three days. If you give me six weeks, I can get it done in three days. So I’ve realized I do procrastinate a lot. Which I’m working on! I’m trying to get better at it.

So were there any specific skills you learned?

You know, the skills I have now are the skills I went on the show with. But I had a long time to get those skills. So I felt it was my job to help because there were so many people there that had so much less experience than I did. It was my job to give them technical advice and say, “This is a good way to do this. If this is what you’re trying to do, this is how I would do it.” The first thing I told them was I will answer any technical question that you have. I will not give you creative advice, because that’s what this show is about is your creativity, so I don’t want you going home because you lack technical skills. So that’s what I did. Because I felt like I had at least more technical skills than a lot of them that were there at least for the first time I was there on season three. There’s a lot of them that were just kids straight out of makeup school.

And they have a lot of them even on current seasons straight out of school.

Yeah, that’s one of the things about the show is that it wants to show a variety of skills levels. Because sometimes it’s the kid directly out of school who is so talented and he can take it and beat the person that’s been doing it and actually working in the industry for 20 years. It’s amazing how far the makeups have come along.

You touched on your involvement in a haunted house [called Netherworld]. Are you still involved there?

Yes, this will be my 18th year at Netherworld.

For those of us that love Halloween, that is the place to be. How do you top yourself every year and what can fans expect this year?

At least as far as the makeup in the show, we always try to go bigger and better every single year. We’re always checking on other [haunted] houses in the industry and other businesses in the industry like Disney and Universal and we try to keep up with what…the whole thing is like, Kevin Smith has this great story about Wayne Gretsky. “Why are you so good at it?” “It’s because I’m always looking at where the puck’s going to be, not where it’s at.” And that’s what the owners at Netherworld are really great at, looking at and seeing where the haunt industry is going to be, rather than where it is at the moment. They see what it’s going to be like three years from now and that’s what they start working toward now.

Yeah, the float y’all had in this year’s Dragon Con parade was amazing!

Oh, that was nothing. In years past, it’s been bigger than that.

This is my first year here, so I didn’t know that! You know, what’s so funny, especially with Halloween, is I love doing the scaring, but I hate being scared.

You know, whenever I was in high school and younger, I hated haunted houses, just because they would scare the crap out of me. The first time I went through Netherworld, it was with the lights up, but I was still terrified.

Even with the lights up!

Even with the lights up, because you never know what’s going to happen! [But] after working there the first night and you figure out all the tricks, it doesn’t scare you. I’ve been to haunted houses all over this country and have not been scared since.

Because you know what’s going to happen.

Yeah, you know the mat on the floor, that’s going to be what triggers certain things and you know about where someone is going to come from and you get used to hearing chainsaws crank behind you after a while. Especially being in the South!

I really just have one last question. I know you’ve worked on makeup for TV shows and movies that shoot in Atlanta. You did Hunger Games…

Mmhmm.

…and I think Constantine?

Yep, I worked on Constantine.

So what is next for you?

Actually, I just wrapped up…I got to do five days on Captain America: Civil War.

Oh, wow! What was that experience like?

Oh, it was incredible! I was totally geeking out because I’m a huge Captain America fan and always have been, so just a chance to work on it! Two of the days were doing background makeup, which was basically in the middle of summertime and putting people in sunscreen. But it’s like, you know what? I don’t care! This is Captain America! I’m here and I get to watch Captain America and Crossbones fight all day long. And it’s like, “Yes!”

Is there anything beyond that?

That was the last thing I worked on, but I’ve got a couple of more conventions this year that I’m doing.

For more information about Netherworld, check out http://www.fearworld.com/. Follow Roy on Twitter at @roywooleyFX.


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