March 28th, 2018
You may have noticed a certain viral story on every news site and even trending on Twitter over the weekend featuring Prince Harry and a severed foot. The maker of that foot – and the prosthetic baby that caught Meghan’s eye – is Nuala Campbell, pro makeup and SFX artist who is the founder and MD of award-winning Belfast school, Titanic Creative Management and its spin-off store, Titanic FX which was set up to produce and retail all the essential materials needed by local artists. We caught up with Nuala as she was about to head off to the US for Monsterpalooza – and a well-earned holiday.
WP: What’s your background and were you always fascinated with SFX industry?
NC: I actually started out in a beauty and fashion makeup industry. I worked a lot on editorial, theatre and fashion campaigns over a ten year period before going on to work on the likes of London, Milan and Tokyo Fashion Week. Even though I loved creating fashion looks, I always had this niggling thought to try SFX; it just really peeked my interest and fascinated me how you can create so many different dramatic effects and changes to someone’s appearance. I took my first introductory course in SFX Makeup Design at AOFM in London and that was me hooked and I went on to take a lot more courses in different countries to learn and specialise in SFX and Prosthetic Makeup. I still do the odd Fashion Week here and there, but they are more of a break from the norm for me, I look forward to them like I do to a holiday. They are a fun escape from my own work, but I pour my heart into in SFX and Prosthetic make-up for sure (pun intended!)
WP: Tell us a little about Titanic.
NC: I opened Titanic Creative Management in 2014 to provide training for prosthetics, SFX, props and wig making. It is also Northern Ireland’s only management company for artists working in TV, film and theatre. Two years later, after struggling to source products without paying high shipping charges, we added a retail arm called Titanic FX which not only imports and exports pro FX brands, but we now manufacture and export our own range. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved.
WP: How did it feel to firstly meet Prince Harry and Meghan, and secondly for the story to go viral?
NC: Meeting Prince Harry and Meghan was one of the most surreal experiences ever. There was a lot of hype, security and protocol that I had to go through beforehand which got me a bit nervous. I didn’t want to mess up on the correct etiquette, but I have to say once Prince Harry and Meghan arrived they made me feel completely at ease. What I do is so normal to me and I forget that people are fascinated by it. I was absolutely amazed at the response the world took to the images. Every day hearing I was on more and more major news stations across the world was incredible. It was an unbelievable experience, and still is. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.
WP: What’s your top tip for advice would students wanting to break into the industry?
NC: Try to figure out what it is you actually want to do. That sounds a bit silly, but I ask people what exactly they want to do when they say they want to work in SFX makeup, and more often than not, they don’t actually know. There are a lot of different areas, do you want to do them all? Do you want to be a sculptor? A mouldmaker? A wig-maker? Do you want to make prosthetics as well as apply and colour them? It’s fine if you want to do them all, but you will have to invest a LOT of time, effort and money in training in all the areas. What I look for is that special spark of creativity and passion, I want to see that someone has immersed themselves in what they want. So make sure to practice, create and document your work. There are people out there who are entirely self-taught and are some of the best in the world. However, you can be damn sure they have practiced and ‘played’ with the craft almost all their lives. It’s what they do in their spare time for fun. Those are the people who make it. You need to be able to show people what you can create. Show your BEST work to the world, not necessarily ALL your work.
WP: It is clear your work makes an impact on people; what’s the timescale to create a piece and what’s the most challenging brief you’ve ever had?
NC: I generally don’t get very much time at all to create pieces for jobs. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve stopped getting stressed about it too much now. Really the timescale to create a piece of work will vary massively depending on the brief. It’s gone from having a couple of weeks to create prosthetics for four stages of leprosy to having less than 24 hours to sculpt, mould, make and paint prosthetics for theatre. I suppose you just have to be realistic with what you can do yourself. Since opening Titanic Creative Management and Titanic FX, I will say “no” to quite a lot of jobs now as I know to take on the last minute unrealistic jobs will stress me out too much so I just pass on them. When I was a bit younger, I’d have accepted ALL work and then lived in a state of panic – haha! Time really is the biggest challenge I face with my work; any brief I’ve had is entirely do-able, but when you mix that with not enough time, it can be a no-go.
WP: What are the pitfalls to look out for when attempting SFX make-up, particularly when working with prosthetics?
NC: Safety first. I’ve seen so many horrendously frightening YouTube and Instagram tutorials which literally could destroy people’s lives. The prosthetic makeup industry is full of chemicals, you MUST know what you can use and when or you could end up doing irreversible damage to yourself or someone else. It’s also a very expensive hobby or love to have, the products in this industry are not cheap, so be sure to shop around and build your kit up bit by bit. Start off by having smaller quantities and a bigger selection in your kit than trying to buy big straight away.
WP: Hygiene and safe removal are extremely important when working with SFX in the professional environment. What’s your key product to ensure work is created and removed without problems?
NC: Again, it comes back safety. I always use a barrier cream before applying SFX or Prosthetic Makeup, as it will help protect the skin, but also make removal a whole lot easier. I have actually developed a product for use after removal of makeup, it’s called Recover & Revive Skin Therapy. It’s a gorgeous product which is 100% natural and filled with beautiful essential oils, essential fatty acids, key amino acids, natural proteins, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals so it literally feeds your skin and helps regenerate skin cells which have been damaged in the process of application and removal. I also use it as a daily moisturiser too, your skin will thank you for using it.
WP: Which film or television director would you love to work with?
NC: I love Tim Burton’s work. I like how he doesn’t conform to the usual standards, his use of colours and shapes in his films really capture my eye, so to work on anything with him would be a dream come true for me.
WP: What are the top five best-selling products from Titanic FX?
NC: Our Prosthetic Gelatin is our number one seller, if you’ve used it, you’ll understand why. If you’ve not used it, what are you waiting for?
Since launching our Titanic Pro-FX Brushes back in 2016, I’ve been totally blown away by the response. It’s not that I’m surprised by the response, as I put a lot of time and effort into designing and perfected each individual brush, but I just love seeing that other people love them as much as I do. We have a number of best sellers in the range. They would be our 102 Angled Liner Brush, the 109 Duo-Fibre Stippling Brush and the recently launched 111 double-ended synthetic chip brush. Every tradeshow I go to, these brushes sell out.
Our new Click-lock containers have proven to be extremely popular too. They are also a sell-out at shows, we’ve had a few big name makeup artists use them and since then I can’t keep them in stock.
WP: What is your favourite product for Titanic FX that you have designed and why?
NC: That’s like asking someone to choose between their children. Because I have been involved in the concept and design of every single product we have in the Titanic FX range, I really do feel a personal connection to them all. But if you force me to choose, I’m very proud of my new Pro-FX #111 Brush. It took a lot of work to get right and the response from our customers has matched my love of it. Ask me in a couple of weeks and I might say something else – I have to spread the love evenly.
WP: What are your plans for the future, do you have any exciting projects in the works?
NC: Argh! I wish I could tell you what I’m working on at the minute, I’m SO excited about it. I firmly believe if you’re not pushing forward in business and innovation, then you’re pretty much dead in the water. So you can be guaranteed I always have something up my sleeve. I’m working on a very exciting new product which is going to take the world by storm across multiple industries. For the meantime, you’re going to wait as it’s top secret. You shouldn’t have to wait too long on it though. Stay tuned!