Face to Face with a Monster

While creating an elaborate mask, makeup artist Dan Phillips turns a guy into a ghoul
Photographs by David Lewinski

Like a mad scientist in a 1950s horror flick, makeup artist Dan Phillips can turn the mildest man into a monster. That’s what he accomplished in the above step-by-step photos with model Tom Schulte, just in time for Halloween.

That transformation took talent — and time. At his D.P. Studios (dpmakeupstudio.com) in St. Clair Shores, Phillips, who has more than 15 years of makeup experience under his belt, gradually turned a gentle Dr. Jekyll into a hideous Mr. Hyde, aided by his assistant, Christina Newman.

First, Schulte was fitted with a bald cap (3-4), a seemingly simply task, but Phillips says it was challenging “because you have to get it perfect around the ears.” Next, alginate, a derivative of kelp, was applied (5-6). “It’s the same type of material used for a teeth cast when you get braces,” Phillips says. Then, a plaster bandage was put on (7-8).

“The alginate dries to the consistency of wet dough,” Phillips explains, “so I wanted an outer shell to maintain that structure.” Photo 9 shows the inside of the alginate casting after it was pulled from Schulte’s face, and No. 10 reveals a fiberglass mold made from the alginate casting.

“I needed a hard structure from Tom’s face to sculpt the monster on top of that,” Phillips says. No. 11 is the fiberglass mold after Phillips sculpted it. Those stages were the most laborious. “Making the sculpture and mold took me 50 or 60 hours,” he says. “Once I had the fiberglass head of Tom, I took clay and sculpted a head on top of that fiberglass replica. Once that’s done, we inject silicone and paint it.”

In addition to adding scars and other ghastly facial adornments (12), Phillips gave the head a monster hairdo — no mean feat. “I had to hand-punch each individual hair in with a punching tool, which looks like a sewing needle,” he says.

Schulte returned to the studio for the mask application. In preparation, Phillips applied an adhesive to Schulte’s face, then powdered it (13-15). Through adjustments (16-17), Phillips ensured the piece fit properly. “When we glue it, the idea is that his face will fit inside this prosthetic piece. And everything moves, so when Tom was sitting there, he could talk and his face would move.”

Images 18-19 show the scars and blood that are in- tegral to any spooky Halloween visage. Now, Schulte was ready for his close-up (20).

“In the last picture, we added separate chin and lip pieces that were added after the face was glued down. Then it’s blended in and colored.”

Not surprisingly, Halloween is a busy time for Phillips, although he also creates pretty faces doing fashion makeup work. “I have a company called Ultra Effects, and we supply the Halloween industry with scars, blood, and so forth. We have a couple of employees at my studio who make them.” (See Halloween mask and makeup tips on this page.)

But Phillips’ work in the movie industry keeps him jumping all year. His timing was spot-on after taking a buyout from Chrysler in 2008, because the Michigan film incentives kicked in, giving Phillips ample work. And having studied with Oscar-winning effects and makeup artist Dick Smith is paying dividends for him.

Movies filmed here that Phillips has worked on include Intent, with Eric Roberts, scheduled for a 2012 release; the sci-fi flick Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, slated to premiere this month; Return to the Hiding Place, about the Dutch resistance during World War II (release to be announced); and Detention of the Dead, which Phillips describes as “a comedy-horror film starring some of the people from Glee and Twilight.” It’s set for an early 2012 release.

But Phillips’ time this fall will be largely consumed by his work on the much-hyped spectacle Oz: The Great and Powerful, directed by metro Detroit native Sam Raimi and scheduled for a 2013 release. “I was hired to do the prosthetic stuff,” he says.

Like the title sorcerer character (played by James Franco), Phillips will no doubt create his own form of makeup wizardry.

Halloween Tips

Phillips has some advice for the amateur who wants to create his or her own mask or makeup for Oct. 31. In short, keep it real.

“My biggest tip, from a technical standpoint, is to stay away from black and white,” he says. “I teach classes [through Macomb County Community College and the Center for Film Studies in Madison Heights], and the first thing students want to do is make the eyes black and the face white. But they should steer away from that, because our skin tones are made up of  a multitude of colors.”

Phillips also advises novice wolfmen, witches, and Draculas to troll the Internet for how-to instructions. “YouTube is filled with tutorials on doing things the right way.”

He says most tyros don’t make the cut when they apply fake blood because most of it is unnaturally bright. “If the cut is fresh, the blood has to look that way; if it’s supposed to be an old wound, it has to be dark,” Phillips advises. “There are recipes online, and for the most part, they give a good-quality blood. In the makeup world, each artist is very particular about their blood, but I don’t mind saying that I make the best blood in the business,” he says, chuckling.

Finally, practice making up your face well before Halloween. “Keep experimenting,” Phillips says. “The more you do it, the better you’re going to get at it.”

If you enjoy the monthly content in Hour Detroit, “Like” us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter for more frequent updates.