April 16th, 2014
If you were to ask any SFX or film MUA, you can almost guarantee they will have a piece of Kenny Myers knocking about in their kit. The inventor of the hallowed Skin Illustrator series, the famous palettes every top artist we interview raves about, Kenny is perhaps the least egotistical person we’ve ever met. His love for his craft shone through when Warpaint sat down to chat with him at United Makeup Artist expo recently.
WP: What got you interested in make-up? What inspired you?
KM: I started with a Masters Degree in Communication Arts Theatrical Design. Originally I wanted to work in theatre, that was my first love. My grandparents were in the circus, in Canada, and I just loved all of that. But the theatre industry took a real dive in the 1970’s, so I turned to my second love which was film. Film requires an extra level of finesse. I think all make-up artists, all good make-up artists, have the same quality in them – the need to create, to invent, to collaborate. Especially collaborating with actors – some of the most exciting times I’ve had are when you’re collaborating and trying things out with an actor who is willing to experiment.
WP: You graduated from college with a degree in Communication Arts Theatrical Design. What are your thoughts on traditional teaching versus learning from hands-on experience?
KM: You need both. It’s essential to have both. You need the grounding of the traditional learning, but once you’ve graduated you’re nothing more than kindergartener. That’s when the real learning can start. But you need the mixture of both to stop you from just mimicking – to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, as well as how to do it.
WP: You were an apprentice to Academy Award winner Chris Walas (known for ‘The Fly’, ‘Gremlins’, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark‘). What was the experience like?
KM: Chris and I actually knew each other since about the seventh grade (12-13 years old), because our fathers knew each other. I worked with him for about a year, after graduating, and that was enough to ignite me. He’d moved out to California before I did, but the SFX industry was still very new. There were a lot of theatre types, a lot of experimentation.
Make-up has always been a transformational tool for me. I used to watch my girlfriend apply her make-up and find it really strange, but also interesting somehow. That she could put this stuff on her face and change it. ‘Star Wars‘ was what really kicked everything off. It lit the touch paper for the SFX industry, but there was nowhere teaching it really. There were just Rick Baker and Dick Smith, people like that, doing their own thing. After a very short time we were the leaders, we were the inventors.
WP: You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the film & TV industry. Is there anyone you would still like to try working with? Or a type of project/genre you would like to work on?
KM: Honestly, I’ve enjoyed working with everyone. I love doing publicity runs with Harrison Ford – I consider him one of us. He gets it. My wife does Harrison’s hair, so I know him really well.
To be honest my bucket list is dwindling quickly. It’s like I’ve been to the mountain, and from there I can see forever. Anything else I get to do from now on is just a blessing.
WP: As the creator of the Skin Illustrator range, how does it feel to know that probably every make-up artist going has either used or owns one of your products?
KM: Odd. Very odd. Because I still think of it as an evolving tool. Todd McIntosh actually presented me with a gift the other day – the second Skin Illustrator palette ever made. I made the first one for me, as a tool. He spotted it when I was on the Buffy [the Vampire Slayer] set – I was one of the MUAs. He spotted it and wanted to know what it was, and I said I’d just mixed it together for myself. And he said “Can you make one for me?”
Skin Illustrator exists because of him. Because he wanted it. I still think of it as a tool which I needed, which I couldn’t buy, so I made it. But he wanted it. It’s bizarre. I don’t think of it as anything else. I’ve had people come up to me and say thank you, I won my Emmy, or my Oscar, because of you. Which is great – it makes me feel like I was in their trailer!
I love working in the extras tent, because I love working with other MUAs. I love the conversation, the ideas, the new artists. The first trade show I ever went to was a revelation – we needed a place to collaborate and to touch base with the other pro’s. People you might have worked with 20 years ago, but your circles have never managed to overlap since. It’s a true necessity for the industry.
WP: How do you go about preparing for a project? How much time do you have in advance?
KM: The prep really varies depending on the type of film. A good film will contact you way in advance. You pay if you plan, but you pay especially if you don’t!
WP: Do you have any on-set saviours? Products which you could not do your job without?
WP: Do you have a favourite character look you have created, or one which you are particularly proud of?
KM: Chris Lloyd, in ‘Dennis the Menace’, was a lot of fun. Working with him is more fun than almost anything! Creating Doc Brown, over the years, was great. Chris did a cameo in Seth McFarlane’s new film, ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’, and he must have spent more time talking to people and signing autographs than filming!
WP: Do you have any advice for aspiring MUAs?
KM: That’s a tough one. Just that it’s not an easy profession. You have to persevere.
WP: What exciting projects do you have planned for the rest of 2014?
KM: I have stuff in the works, but I can’t necessarily talk about them. I’m really enjoying working on ‘Teen Wolf’ right now. The director really appreciates what we do, he gets it. Me and my partner Eric and Chris, who is head of the SFX department, have a hell of a good time. We’re working with a really enthusiastic, really talented cast, and it’s great fun.
And working on Skin Illustrator, of course. It’s a 24/8 job!