February 9th, 2015
With a resume stretching back to the late ‘80s, Craig Lindberg has worked on some of the biggest shows on American TV. With the unusual ability to create both prosthetics and beauty make-up, Warpaint chats to the double Primetime Emmy nominee about his love of horror, beauty and the challenges of live TV.
WP: Firstly a little background: where did you train? What was your main motivation to become a make-up artist?
CL: I grew up in a household where my parents were big movie goers. My mother especially loved film and TV and her favourite genres were horror and comedy. I was one of those kids that liked science fiction and horror films. The model kits I made were of monsters and spaceships. Growing up in New York we had several networks that would screen these types of films almost every day, so I would constantly get my dose of the fantastical and macabre. When I was a child the motion picture association rating system was much less restrictive, which is why I was able to see horrific and scary movies at a young age. Think I saw more beheadings by the time I was 12 then most kids my age. When I started there really wasn’t too much for budding prosthetics and beauty MUAs, just a few cosmetology schools and some workshops. Most of my early education was through a few books and good friends to experiment on.
WP: You cite The Exorcist as one of the first movies you saw that ignited your passion for prosthetics, how old were you? (I read 9 years?!? That was young!!) Can you elaborate on what it was that excited you?
CL: The Exorcist was released in 1973 when I was about 10 or 11 years old. What I remember most about it – and if asked it’s one of my favourite make ups – is Max Van Sydow as Father Merrin. My cousin said he was in make-up, that he really wasn’t that old and I just couldn’t get over that. He really looked old – naturally.
WP: Reading through your resume, you have worked on some of my favourite shows: Special Victims Unit, Rescue Me, Royal Pains, Boardwalk Empire and Elementary. The type of prosthetic work here, you’d assume, would be more real life casualty work as opposed to sci-fi in the likes of Sleepy Hollow. What are the different processes in creating This World and Out-of-this World prosthetics?
CL: Doing a realistic make-up or prosthetic requires the study of photos, documents and the effects of ballistic on the human body. To achieve believable casualty or cadaver make-up, I look through all that research and study what I see. When I consider doing a make-up based upon reality, I think about the damage, the layers of skin, how it happened, where it happened, and so forth. I want the audience to believe in what they are seeing. Many times on productions there will be an expert and I’ll ask them about things to make it look as real as possible. If it looks too much like make-up or a mannequin then there’s a possibility the audience will view it as such and it will get pulled out of the show. Out-of-this World-type make-up can be a total complete fabrication and not based on any reality at all. However, it will always be believable if there’s something real in it. Many artists will always add features from living creatures, to make that connection, and that helps sell it to the audience.
WP: You have been nominated for 2 Emmys for your work on Saturday Night Live and Boardwalk Empire. What does it take to get nominated? Do you know when you start a job that the make-up is going to be of a level that could be award-winning?
CL: I never really approach a show thinking a nomination is warranted and expected, I just want to do a good job. If I’m blessed with a nomination then it’s, “Wow? Really? It was that good? Cool!” I’m extremely proud to have been nominated alongside Michele Paris, Jeremy Selenfriend, Mike Marino, Michael Fontaine and David Presto for Broadwalk and Louie Zakarian, Josh Turi and Tom Denier Jr for Saturday Night Live.
WP: Tell us about your work as an educator. You have lectured for Michael DeVellis at The Powder Group. How important is it for you to pay it forward and teach the newbies to the industry, and who were your teachers in the beginning?
CL: I love to teach, I feel it’s my duty to pass on and continue this knowledge. One of my major influences is the most revered of make-up artists: the late, great Dick Smith, who believed in the advancement of the art. In some way, because I teach I feel I’m doing him a service. It’s super cool to see that light of acknowledgement turn on in a student’s eyes and that I had something to do with it. I never trained formally but I have been fortunate enough to work with the likes of Tom Surprenant, Richard Snell, Neil Gorton, Louie Zakarian, Alan Weisinger, Josh Turi, Tom Denier Jr, Amy Tagliamonte and Steven Kelly. These artists have changed the way I do things and have shared their passion with me.
WP: Obviously Saturday Night Live is live – how does that work with the all the elements needed from the make-up team, and the time frames you have to work in?
CL: Saturday Night Live is an incredible place to work. With so little time it makes you not think about the little things and forces you to think of the necessities of the job. Questions include: How to make it look good with barely enough time, working around, and with a hair and wardrobe person, at the same time. It forces you to scrutinise the whole process and how it can be made quicker, faster and still make it look good for high definition.
WP: Judy Chin is longlisted by the Academy for her work on Noah. What part did you play in the team? What were the unique challenges of this movie?
CL: For the film, Noah, I really just worked with the background actors, putting dirt looking make-up on them.
WP: As it’s so unusual for a SFX artist to do beauty make up, could you expand a little on why you enjoy doing make-up that’s so different to prosthetics?
CL: In all honesty I really, really like to do both. If you look at many of the artists that work on US TV Shows it’s pretty much the same. When I wanted to begin my career in make-up I knew I couldn’t just do one thing. So many jobs I have done have needed both sides of the coin. Having the capability to do both straight and effects really came from two places: the passion for make-up and financial survival. I like to think of myself as a make-up artist and not just an effects artist. On several shows I’ve had to do both and it was because I can do both that I was hired.
WP: You’re on record as a big fan of Make Up For Ever, was is it about the brand that appeals to you?
CL: Make Up For Ever is a company that holds with that same philosophy. They have products that will line the eyes as well as products to make them look bruised. There just isn’t another company around that attempts to do that.
WP: What are the hero products that never leave your kit, both for prosthetics work and beauty make up?
CL: I always carry 99% alcohol. I have effects palettes that need that and it’s good for disinfecting. I always carry stage blood, aforementioned alcohol palettes, foundations, a beauty kit, shaving kits, and disposable products like sponges and cotton swabs.
WP: Tell us about General Mayhem FX.
CL: I came up with the name General Mayhem after seeing Godzilla 1985 (A Japanese film released in the US) in the movie theatre. I thought about the general mayhem I observed on the screen and thought what a good name for what I’m thinking to get to….
WP: Finally what are you working on at the moment? When and on what will we see your work on screen in the near future?
CL: Currently, I’m working on the starz program Power and more of Saturday Night Live.
In a closing note I want all the artists reading this interview to believe in themselves. It’s never easy, it’s not meant to be. If you have a passion for this then stick to it. And learn! If you don’t evolve, you go extinct.