May 14th, 2014
The life of a make-up artist is a strange one. Who else would feel the same excitement about finding a great brand of fake blood? But inevitably that is exactly how we feel about bloodymarvellous, the brain-child of experienced MUA Claire Williams, who has over 20 years experience in film, television and theatre design. She certainly knows her stuff – and her bloods. Warpaint embraced this excitement and dived head-first into the bloodbath.
With the abundance of blood-soaked media – from horror and thriller films to the whodunits of NCIS and Criminal Minds – it’s hard to imagine a situation where these were few and far between. Claire got her hands dirty early with the first TV drama to depict scenes of pathology, A Mind to Kill. The love of SFX make-up took hold as she worked at ITV studios, and as her skills developed rapidly she became increasingly aware of the lack of realistic and, more importantly, safe blood products, which appear true in both colour and consistency on camera, particularly as the camera equipment was becoming more advanced all the time.
“When creating special make-up effect, blood was always a problem,” Claire explained. “It was too thin, and too orange. To achieve medical accuracy, the one-size-fits-all approach just didn’t work, as of course real blood varies in shade depending on the length of time it has been exposed to the air, and takes various forms depending on the wound – from a runny liquid to congealed blood clots. And it always stained the skin terribly.”
The lack of clear ingredients was more of a worry for Claire: “We never knew what the fake blood was made from, because it’s classed as a cosmetic, and the law didn’t require the ingredients to be listed. How can you ask an actor to put a product in his mouth or near his eyes when you don’t know what’s in it?” And with few options available to her, Claire decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I really felt there should be a brand available to all industry professionals in make-up, costume and design; a product that was competitively priced, didn’t stain the skin or fabric, that listed the ingredients and didn’t just claim to be safe and that, above all, was totally realistic. I spent weeks mixing various ingredients in my kitchen, experimenting and writing lots of notes detailing quantities and cooking times, noting the different colours and textures. It has definitely been a labour of love, and the range has evolved and developed over a period of several years.”
bloodymarvellous was the result of all this experimentation, a range of blood products which have a covetable USP. “Our bloods are entirely unique in that they don’t stain,” explained Angharad Gibbs, the company’s Communications Director. “We use only natural, food-grade ingredients in our bloods and gels, and they wash easily from skin, fabrics and sets with warm soapy water. We don’t use alcohol, or any nasty toxins, so make-up artists can be rest assured that our bloods can be safely applied to skin, around the eyes and held in the mouth.”
Their products are so safe that they were chosen to be used on BBC’s Call the Midwife, used to coat the babies and mothers alike. “What’s great is that the brand has been created, and improved continually, by a working make-up artist, so the products reflect a true understanding of stage and screen,” Angharad continued. “We are constantly learning from Claire’s work on set and from the feedback she receives from her peers. It is very much a range created for make-up artists, by make-up artists.”
The unique properties of the bloodymarvellous range has meant that it has been used in countless film, TV and theatre projects, including Casualty, Holby City, and the forthcoming James Franco and Kate Hudson feature film, Good People. One of Claire’s favourite projects to be involved with was Da Vinci’s Demons, as part of the make-up and prosthetic teams under BAFTA and Emmy-nominated MUA Jacqueline Fowler and Paul Hyett, the Make-up and Prosthetics Designers respectively. bloodymarvellous was the principal blood used in all departments, after passing extensive costume tests sun by renowned Costume Designer Tricia Biggar. “She was a real advocate of our non-staining products,” she revealed. “It was paramount that the bloods did not stain the costumes as they were largely hired from Italy and were beautiful, elaborate and irreplaceable ornate Renaissance garments, and would have cost a fortune should they be damaged or stained in any way. Many of them were one-off pieces – to damage them would have been a disaster!”
Away from Renaissance-era styling, talk turned to the rapidly escalating technology and higher-definition cameras which were part of the reason why Claire felt the need to create the range in the first place. As the products are all hand-made at their workshop in Cardiff, Wales, bloodymarvellous is able to supply many leading artists and productions with bespoke blends to suit specific camera lenses and effects, including the latest BBC Sherlock series.
When asked if they had noticed changes in the business over the years in relation to the technological advancements, Angharad replied, “Absolutely. There has been a huge increase in demand for bespoke colours as make-up, props and costume designers have extensively camera-tested blood products before the production even commences, to ensure they are compatible with the filters, lighting and even the atmospheric ambience on set. It’s no longer a one-colour-suits-all product. To our knowledge, we are the only brand to offer a custom tinting service!
“Also, with HD, close-range shots really have to stand up to scrutiny. Our range is developed in consultation with medical professionals to ensure the accuracy and realism of the colour and texture. Our wound filler gels are a great example of this; many university hospitals even buy our products now for training medical professionals.” Their products have also been widely used for casualty simulation in tactical medical, firearms and first aid training.
The team also offered some advice on how to achieve truly believable injuries. “Always put the blood on in situ- so if someone is lying down in the scene, don’t apply make up to the actor in the chair- as all the blood drips will be running in the wrong direction! Also, using Opsite Sealer Spray is great for sealing wound effects: putting a thin waterproof membrane over the effect to protect it from sweat and weather, which is great for outdoor filming or rain effects.
Using a variety of bloods and gels is the best method of making realistic effects, as the layering creates depth and texture. For example, an arm laceration is best created with something like our Congealed Clot filler gel at the base, as it’s so dark and has a coagulated effect, then applying Liquid Blood in the light shade over the top.
Our Thick Bloods have a huge following as they are really easy to work with, and the treacle-like consistency makes it great for continuity; on skin, the effects remain intact for hours, saving numerous timely touch ups. Our new Prop Blood is also becoming a real favourite for on-set effects, when a thinner blood is needed for larger scale areas for blood splattering and pools – and that people can be confident washes away easily.”
bloodymarvellous is kindly offering samples to all Warpaint readers. To claim yours, simply send an email to INFO@BLOODYMARVELLOUS.TV with “WARPAINT” in the subject line and include your name, address and profession to receive a free sample.