March 21st, 2017
With an Oscar, two Emmys and a string of nominations, Trefor Proud’s body of work spans the big screen and the small, and he’s constantly in demand for his immaculate character work. Zimbabwe born, once a resident of the UK, now US based, Warpaint’s US contributor, Michael DeVellis, Founder of The Powder Group, shares with us the interview he first ran in On Makeup Magazine.
MDV: Where were you born?
TP: I was born in a very small town called Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe.
MDV: Where do you live now?
TP: I live in Palm Springs, California.
MDV: What is your sign?
MDV: What did you want to be when you grew up?
TP: Believe it or not, a make-up artist. My mother has an essay written by me when I was nine years old stating that I wanted to live in Hollywood and paint the faces of people like the wicked queen in Snow White. I was also interested in old-time Hollywood glamour at a young age.
MDV: How did you know that the make-up artist industry was where you wanted to be?
TP: I come from a family of artists. My grandfather on my father’s side is a painter in Zimbabwe. My Mother also paints still lifes and flowers. My brother, Hayden Proud, is the curator of the South African National Art Gallery. He has three major works hanging in the National Gallery there as well. With all of this creative energy surrounding me, on top my fascination with the world of movies and transformation, make-up just seemed a natural fit.
MDV: What was your first memorable work as an artist?
TP: My first memory of make-up artistry was being on the set of Alien 3 as a visitor and being blown away by the scale and vision of the project. I was there to meet a make-up artist, Jane Royle. She was working on the project and ended up becoming one of the biggest influences in my career. I knew she was shooting at Pinewood Studios in the UK, so just called her to ask if I could come meet her and she said, “Yes”. When I arrived, she showed me around the set. I saw all these wonderful bald heads and burn make-ups and special effects. I was also able to meet Linda DeVetta, the artist who was making up Sigourney Weaver for the film. All this changed my life and set me out on my path.
MDV: What are the things about working in the make-up industry that you love?
TP: I love seeing an actor transform completely into a character and become that character through make-up, hair and wardrobe. Coming from a theatre background, I was always taught a great deal about the character of the person I was making up. My basic forte is character work.
MDV: You have worked on a lot of iconic projects with very memorable characters. Do you have a favourite character you have created?
TP: The best character I ever made up, in my point of view, was Paul Giamatti as John Adams. Taking him from the age of 80 to 95 years old, and taking into account various social and physical conditions that he used to live in, was challenging and very rewarding. For example, John Adams had a small cancerous sore on his head that started in his early 40s. By the time he was 90 it had spread over a large portion of his forehead. That was a pretty intense project.
MDV: What are the challenges you face working as a freelance make-up artist?
TP: As a freelance artist I always feel you are only as good as your last job. It’s only human to wonder where your next job is coming from and have that affect your energy and motivation. You have to know you are solid and that the work will come. I try to place a lot more emphasis on my personal life than on my work life so that there is balance if there are times when work becomes leaner.
MDV: Do you have a signature style or type of work you are known for in the industry?
TP: My signature style varies from extremely natural to extreme character work. Appropriateness of the look and accuracy to the period and character are the reason that I believe I get hired to do the type of work I do. I find character work to be incredibly satisfying and love to be involved in the creation of the character from start to finish.
MDV: What should someone who is looking to develop a career in make-up know before getting into the business?
TP: Anyone who is looking to work in the make-up business today needs to concentrate on getting the best possible training they can get. Keep up with current technology, keep your manners and professional conduct impeccable. To me, it’s always about trust, behaving professionally and setting a good example – not only to production and to the actors, but also to your colleagues. It’s important to remember that a solid reputation is the hardest thing to gain and the easiest thing to lose.
MDV: How do you continue to grow your career as an artist?
TP: I feel to grow you need to be humble, learn from every experience and realise that you absolutely cannot be the best at everything. Sometimes releasing things – jobs, areas of work – that you don’t find fulfilling can be critical to your growth and development as an artist. Tom Smith has said, “Your biggest strength is knowing your weakness.” This is so important. My biggest weakness is glamour make-up and I know that.
MDV: Do you have a project that you’ve done that you are especially proud of?
TP: The project I am most proud of is John Adams. That combined all my favourite aspects: extreme naturalism to extreme character ageing.
MDV: How did you get involved with that project?
TP: John Adams came about because I was doing the TV series, The Company, which Matthew Mungle had recommended me for. One of the producers from The Company asked me to come on and he was also producer on John Adams. I had a series of four interviews with the director and for each one I had to fly to Paris or London. On my final trip over, I was offered the job, and of course the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Yes!”
MDV: What are some of the most important qualities that a make-up artist can have?
TP: The most important quality for a make-up artist to have is discretion in every area of your professional life. Keep your personal and private lives separate. I find with the younger generation, they are too forthcoming with details and tend to share too much about the projects that they work on that have nothing to do with the production they may be on at that time. Also determination is key, especially in our industry today, which is more and more competitive. Ask yourself how badly you want a specific project, or how badly you want to be a successful make-up artist. How hard are you willing to work? And then say yes to everything you can say yes to.
MDV: What project did you have the most fun working on?
TP: I feel like I’m being a bit redundant, but the most fun project was John Adams. I had the chance to work with Tom Hooper, one of my favourite directors I’ve ever worked with. He gave me great freedom and flexibility and just wanted everyone to look real. That was his only direction, “They need to look real.” It was an amazing team and I was lucky enough to work with Christopher Burgoyne and John Bayless; they were both keys. Chris was more in charge of the prosthetic side of things. John was more on the side of maintaining characters, etc. I oversaw everything and designed – but they are both such fantastic make-up artists that I basically let them do what they wanted. There was never one moment of tension.
MDV: What inspires you?
TP: I get inspired by everything. Everyday life, music videos, fashion magazines, old horror movies, new fantasy movies. Everything.
MDV: Whose work do you admire?
TP: The list of artists I admire is endless. It includes Rick Baker, Ve Neill, Linda DeVetta, Jane Royle, Tom Smith, Dick Smith, and Matthew Mungle. I am simply in awe of the range and quality of their work, their professional integrity, their technical expertise and artistry.
MDV: What has changed most about the industry in the time that you’ve been working in make-up?
TP: There have been many changes in my field. Film sensitivity and high definition for example. I did a job with Michael Caine and I was called into the director’s office. There were black dots along Michael’s hairline and the director wanted me to fix them. They ended up being the roots of his hair. HD is that all-seeing. We have to think differently about our process now and be even more detail oriented with our work.
MDV: What about the changes in product available to you as a make-up artist? Has that changed the way you do make-up?
TP: Product ranges as well have changed so much. There is so much product out there now. When I walk into a shop, I can’t believe the range of make-up now. You get confused, things are moving at such a rapid pace that it’s mind boggling. Often you are expected to, or think you have to, bring so much stuff with you. I go on some projects and artists are there bringing six laundry bags of make-up. The range of product has made artists lazy and fussy. The product I use is the highest quality. I still just carry six bottles of liquid foundation and six pan sticks. For John Adams, I did most of my work with two Premier Products palettes and Kryolan Supracolor grease paints.
TP: The advances in technology have meant you have to keep on your toes more than ever. It has affected the tools and the product that I choose for specific jobs as well. For example, I use airbrush much more now than I did before. The main thing when it comes to technology though, which is unrelated to the project filming itself, is the Internet and the accessibility of information that didn’t exist when I was starting out. When I needed a reference in the old days, it would be about going to the library, watching films and so on. You would have to research materials through all kinds of resources. I have a huge reference library that was at one time a critical part of my design process and is now more for decoration than anything else. Today all I need to do is a few quick online searches and I have more information than I could ever need right at my fingertips. That, to me, is something that the younger artists these days sometimes take for granted.
MDV: Has social media affected your career or work?
TP: Well for one thing, suddenly the world, and our lives, has become one huge open book. You are able to promote yourself and your work in ways never dreamed possible and have access to global information for reference and knowledge. The negative in social media however, is that it’s not always used in a positive way. It can be the easiest way to attack people on a professional level or speak negatively about someone’s work. Reputations can be made or lost with just a few random comments on social media. I have also seen it resulting in a disturbing trend of people taking credit for other people’s work, or just not crediting those whose work they are sharing. It’s misleading and inappropriate.
MVD: What are you working on next?
TP: I am currently working on a film called Spivak. It’s a comedy that follows a writer who’s in the middle of an existential crisis as the battles with a case of writer’s block. Then I’m going on to Montreal to work on the TV series called Bellevue, with Anna Paquin. All in all, pretty exciting stuff I think.
Photos provided by The Milton Agency and Trefor Proud