From horror films to corporate commercials, Complections graduate Emily Skoggard has proven her skills in many different areas on the makeup industry. We sat down with Emily and asked her about her work over the past three years on major productions such as Resident Evil: Retribution and Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, as well as her future career aspirations.
What first interested you about makeup artistry?
My story is one of happily stumbling into something I grew to love. I was originally an equestrian competing internationally in show jumping. Over my career I sustained a lot of serious injuries and found that the decisions I would have to make to get to the top would almost certainly result in me becoming a person I didn’t want to be. I came across the Complections’ website and went in for an interview, thinking that the 8-month course would give me the space and environment to be creative.
Why did you choose the 32-week program?
I came into the program with a completely open mind. I remember on the first day of the individual courses, our teachers asked everyone what they wanted to do. So many people had such specific goals and dreams. I always said “I’ll see when I get there.”
What was the first makeup job you took after graduating?
I had a few going even before I graduated. I worked on some student theatrical productions on my weekends and volunteered at a Halloween animatronics shop to gain experience in the prosthetics field. My first job out of school was the film The Collapsed, an independent horror feature.
Tell me about your experience working on The Collapsed.
I remember meeting with the Artistic Director Kevin Hutchinson who was also a graduate of Complections. We talked about the film, the script, what he wanted to achieve and told me that he was impressed with my portfolio and wanted to bring me on. I was thrilled until I realized that I would basically be keying it (Kevin would be focusing on the major effects). At that point my heart stopped! Luckily I am someone who organizes to within an inch of her life and I was able to hit the ground running. The crew was small, tight-knit and fantastic. Everyone was helpful and hard working which made the entire experience very rewarding. Since its release, The Collapsed has been acclaimed by such horror authorities as Fangoria and Rue Morgue and has been shown at several international film festivals.
You were also key prosthetics and special makeup effects for a 5-part advertising campaign with Skittles. Tell me more about that.
Special effects are tricky because people want them but don’t really know what they entail. I collaborated with a classmate and colleague of mine, Sharon Yoo, for this opportunity. It was an extremely ambitious project and it was our job to bring to life what the agency, director and producer had envisioned. It definitely gave me a lot of respect for large-scale prosthetic departments. Working in advertising is a very different environment. You’re dealing with a lot of very finely tuned background research, marketing and targets that you don’t really get anywhere else. Sharon and I had to learn fast as we went. Everyone at the agency was happy with the result, which is really the end goal.
How did you get involved with Resident Evil: Retribution? What did you work on as part of the special makeup effects team? What was your favourite part of working on this film?
An important point about working in this industry is that you have go get it. I cold called and emailed Paul Jones (Special Effects Makeup Designer & Supervisor for RE:5) a number of times after graduating. He asked me about the possibility of working on Silent Hill 2 but unfortunately I had booked other clients. Luckily, with Resident Evil 5 the timing worked out and I got myself a spot in his shop. Being a part of something that large scale was a new experience for me. There is so much incredible talent in the shops. As silly as it sounds I think my favourite memory was doing a blood screen test for Nurse 3D (a film we were working on at the same time). I went to the studio and got to pour fake blood all over my arms and different fabrics and watch them shoot it in 3D. I remember coming back to the shop and telling Paul how much fun it was. Little moments where “movie magic” comes flooding back to you is a really special thing.
Tell me more about your experiences with Todd and the Book of Pure Evil.
Todd was a hilarious show to work on just because it’s so out there. The effects were really varied and funny. Working for David Scott (Key Makeup & Creature Effects Designer) was a real pleasure. He has such incredible talent and is so kind, patient and willing to teach you everything. David also had a really interesting mix of people working for him, from those who were just starting out to artists with 20 years experience like Ray Mackintosh (Cube) and Russell Cate (Jacob’s Ladder). These artists have all the experience in the world and are still so supportive and willing to take the time to help newbies and advise them. It was a really fabulous group of creative people headed up by a really excellent key who always produces outstanding work.
What other exciting films have you worked on?
Two other jobs worth noting were Wolves and Alive. I was hired for Wolves by Academy Award-winning makeup artist David Elsey and his wife Lou Elsey (The Wolfman, X-Men: First Class, Where The Wild Things Are). Working with them will always stand out as a highlight in my career. They are outstanding artists and two of the kindest, most encouraging and supportive people I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I have kept in touch and look forward to working with them again in the future. Alive was a MuchMusic film that I keyed featuring Canadian recording artist Shawn Desman. I also worked with Kaitlyn Leeb (Total Recall), Bree Wasleynko (So You Think You Can Dance Canada) and Melinda Shankar (Degrassi). The cast was a ton of fun: Shawn is always upbeat, ready to take on anything and so appreciative of how hard everyone works on set.
To what do you attribute your success to-date in the industry?
I attribute a lot of my success to the things I learned in my previous career. Riding gave me a discipline and a tenacity that I draw upon every day. I also feel that throughout my career I’ve made a point to really listen to the people around me and, most of all, the people ahead of me. From the day I started at Complections I really focused on my teacher’s experiences and took them to heart.
What has been your favourite job to date?
I can’t say that I have one. Each job comes with its own series of hair-pulling moments as well as its own triumphs.
Do you have any cool upcoming jobs?
I do! I’m currently working as a part of the special effects makeup team for two feature films: Frozen and Debug. I am a permittee member in both unions (IATSE and NABET) and I hope to be a part of some of the bigger shows coming to Toronto. I am working with a new independent recording label developing looks for artists as well as shooting promotional material and videos. I have a residency with a fabulous new photography studio. I love to feel that I’m a part of building something, especially with people who are creative and driven.
What are your future plans and goals for your career?
I think I still have the same mentality from when I was in school: I’ll see when I get there. There is so much diversity and so many different challenges within the makeup world. My efforts in keeping myself open and flexible have led to many exciting projects. Turning down a fashion job “just because you aren’t a fashion makeup artist” is a shame. Closing yourself off to an opportunity only hurts yourself. At the end of the day it’s not about what you’re doing, it’s about the people you’re working with. A lesson I learned from a riding coach of mine is that “The second you admit you know everything, you’ve lost.” Work hard, harder than most, and keep yourself open to the experiences and people you meet, whether it’s the model in your chair, the head of the shop or the grip you chat with. There is something to be learned from all of them.