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Yes! Questions to those frequently asked makeup effects-related questions!
(See also the FX Glossary for definitions of industry jargon!)

last updated 08/17/07

Q. Are there schools there for this type of thing?

There is now! There are a lot of Makeup Schools, but until now, there had been no School or Training Program dedicated specifically to designing and creating Animatronics.

We aim to change that. 

TCS has starting an Intensive Animatronics Study Program. It can be based on a Private Study or Group Study Basis. You could choose from 3, 6, or 12 month long courses, at a basic cost of $2,500 per month, including lab fee. In brief, we'll cover all the cool technological aspects of Animatronics that most Makeup Schools don't even touch: Cable Control, Radio Control, Machining, Electronics, Mechanisms, etc. Advanced courses of study will entail Hydraulics and Computer Control. All Hand tools and any electronics that become part of any personal projects must be purchased by the student.

You'll see our ad in the September 07 issue of Fangoria magazine. See our the official Animatronics Institute website page at: for the latest info.

While some talented people come our way from the existing makeup schools with a good amount of information, we find that they've learned very little about the way Animatronics are really created in Hollywood.

It's time for Animatronics to be taught (and learned) the Right Way.

Q. How do I get started in the business?

First of all, get the hell out of Jersey! Seriously, the surest way to get into the field is to come out to L.A. And while it would be nice to do so based on an offer of work, it usually doesn't happen that way. You see, all the folks that do this stuff (sculptors, painters, moldmakers, hair people, mechanics, etc.) are freelancing gypsies, and go where the jobs take them. I never know what my next job is going to be, and when I do, I have to grab the best crew that is available, right away, before someone else does. So, to get the job, it depends on your ease of availability. Living in New Jersey (or Pittsburgh, or Minnetonka) doesn't make it easy for you or the shops that might hire you. Now, I can't definitely promise you work here if you come. "Staff" positions don't really exist, again, most positions are temporary freelance for the duration of the job, then you're out on your butt making phone calls again. But I can guarantee that you will tremendously increase your chances at employment if you do relocate here. If you end up in a shop and they like your style, and the price and the chemistry are right, you just might find yourself a home. Make sure, if you come out, that you come with enough money to live off awhile, addresses of people you know out here who you can mooch off, and/or a willingness to sleep in your car 'til you get established. I'm serious!

Meanwhile, here are a few things to do to further yourself in the makeup FX field: Go to the library, look in the Theatre Arts and Arts and Craft sections. Get ahold of every book you can on moldmaking, casting, stage makeup, etc. A theatrical supply house would be a good source, too. Any natural history museums around you? Ask to visit behind the scenes, see how their dioramas are set up. It's okay to duplicate things you've seen on film or T.V. at first; it helps you get a grasp of how certain things were accomplished. If your work is rough at first, don't worry. If you have the talent and the drive, you'll get better. Study form, color, texture, anatomy, lighting, and movement. Set up a lab in a shed, garage, a kitchen. Experiment with different materials, keep a lab notebook, make a hellacious mess. Make big, costly mistakes! You'll learn from those well.

When you start to get confident, contact a theatre group and offer to observe or help with makeup chores. Make short videos showcasing your creations and FX. Take pictures of your progress, and be your own worst critic. Make an ambitious Halloween project for yourself or someone else. You will be impatient to get better, try not to be. It takes years to get proficient, and there are no real short cuts. Even finding a school with classes is no match to actually doing a project under the constraints of time and money. Keep at it; if you have the talent, drive, charm, stamina, intestinal fortitude, and competitive edge, you'll do just fine. Good Luck!

Q. I'm fresh out of school and want a job in special makeup fx. What do I do?

Do you have a portfolio of stuff you've done? No? What are you waiting for, permission? Go get a job at a Burger King or a record store, and get your butt busy in your spare time making stuff. See, there's a big difference between the people who SAY they're interested in the field and the ones who really are. The ones who really are don't let the lack of info or access to proper materials get in their way; they'll make creatures out of bread dough if they have to. You will NOT get a job unless you have good pictures of good work you've done. If you are only starting now, you are already behind. The excellent players in this field are the ones who've been making monsters and monster films since they were 12 years old. So don't even bother us with only a resume and a professed "interest" in the field. We'll want to see those pictures;we'll want to see a good body of work you've done on your own. Where to start? About three years ago. If you can't show evidence of a long-standing passion for this craft, you're probably not meant for it anyway.

Q. What will look good in my portfolio/on my resume?

Resume, schmesume. A necessary evil. Once you have worked at a number of pro-fx shops, a resume will mean something. What I want to see are pictures. Let's see at least 5 different pieces. Show me great pictures that show off your sculpting, painting,technical or mechanical prowess. Were you working on a self-imposed deadline, or were you able to noodle away on that project endlessly? It makes a difference. Put your name on EVERY page you send to us. Caption your pictures. State clearly what you did or didn't do on a project. I see far too many people with the same pictures of projects who don't volunteer what exactly they did. Be honest. State what you didn't do, and who else worked on it with you.

Q. What are the educational backgrounds of you and your associates?

The best I've seen are seat-of-the-pants, learn-as-you-go-folks. There is no one area of schooling that will qualify one for every facet of this multi-disciplinary craft. However, we have hired folks with degrees in and from: art, film, engineering, electronics, and many others. Some of our machinists, welders, and mechanical designers have gone to trade schools, others haven't. Myself, I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and TV (Communication Arts) from Loyola Marymount University, en ah's ken tawks reel guud!. A degree from a liberal arts college will help indicate that you are a learned, intelligent person. A technical degree or certificate from a trade school will indicate that you're technically competent. All that is nice to have, but it shore ain't a prerequisite to get started in *this* business...

Q. Can I send you my resume? Maybe get a job at your shop?

Of course! You can also find a needle in a haystack! And you can also become the President of the United States, provided you've got the proper background, weather the media storm, and win the election! Now, getting a job at TCS isn't THAT tough, but some times it seems so. First of all, you've got to be qualified. Second of all, I've got to have a position to fill that requires your qualifications. Third of all, you've got to beat out those 30 other people with equivalent or better qualifications. Fourth, you have to be available when I need you, for as long as I need you. Does any of this sound discouraging? Good! If I've discouraged you, then I've done us both a favor! We now both know this isn't really what you want to do, or that you're really not cut out for it, no matter how much you want it. But for those of you who stick it out, who have the talent, who have lucky will get a job. At my place, Stan Winston's, ADI, Mike Elizalde's--any of those places. I personally can't think of any job more fun, or one more stressful. Maybe we'll see you in the arena!

Q. Can I arrange to have an interview with you?

Not normally, no. I only interview when I'm looking to fill a particular position, as it opens up. Otherwise, I'd be interviewing people all day, and quickly forgetting who I just spoke to. But we do accept resumes and color laser copies from your portfolio. Send in your info. It'll go into our computer, and when we're looking for people, your category will come up. You just might get a call!

Q. Well, if I can't get an interview, can I at least come by for a visit? Wait, you haven't printed your street address anywhere on your Web pages! Where ARE you guys?

You may communicate with us via email to the address at the bottom of the page or snail mail to The Character Shop, 1464 Madera Road, # N-310. Simi Valley, CA 93065. That's a post-office box. We don't publicize our actual physical location. We do not have a walk-in, storefront type of operation. Please respect our ongoing business by not digging for our street address, dropping by unannounced, or asking for tours. Thank you for being considerate.

Q. Wow, you sure can get crabby! What about internships?

You ARE persistent, aren't you? The double edged sword is this: It's a pain in the butt to train new people. It costs a lot in terms of time and money. New hires make all kinds of time-consuming and material wasting mistakes. BUT! Where else am I going to insure a good stream of well-trained people? Why, from people who have attended the Animatronics Institute, of course! The real answer is that I'd prefer you took the AI course instead of someone else's, because people who come in either completely fresh, or recently graduated from another school, need lots of re-training in how it's really done. From time to time, I do hire cheap, ambitious, bright, intelligent, talented, hard working beginners. Many work out, many don't. Have you got what it takes?

Q. Can you send me more information about what you do? About Creature FX?

Well, what's this whole web site, chopped liver? Do you know how long it took to put this together? There's more info here than on any literature we send out by mail! And you want MORE?!?!?? Seriously, our web site and FAQ is all we have to feed that fx appetite, for now. We're going farther than any other creature fx house to educate people about the realities of the business. Given that we are an actual working shop, we get so busy that site updates may not be that frequent. However, it is our intention to maintain the most information-laden site in this field. Your suggestions are welcome, but please be patient, it may take awhile to get back to you or post a page with the info you need.

Q. Got any other reference materials, as far as books, magazines, sources?

Uh huh! Ayup! That would be the Reference page!


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