Tag Archives: Ottawa

Skull Makeup Tutorial Inspired by Pixar’s Coco

k7for2glzmz8mqdcanmhPixar’s Coco is about a little boy who crosses into the colourful Land of the Dead in order to resolve a family issue. To celebrate this movie’s release, and to learn a little more about the culture behind it, I visited local makeup artist Tammy Fonseca, and had my own transformation into a Catrina.

Dia de los Muertos is a national holiday celebrated in Mexico on the first two days of November. On November 1st, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead is believed to be thinnest. It is an occasion to celebrate your dead loved ones – not a time to be sad or scared, but to be joyous, as you would be on a birthday. Families make altars called ofrendas that are decorated with marigolds, photos, and ornate sugar skulls. They might bring gifts to their loved one’s grave, basically all the deceased’s favourite stuff. If you were visiting my grave, you’d have to pay music way too loudly, and toast with extra-dry martinis in my honour. If I was visiting my grandmother’s grave, I’d wear knit slippers and say shitty things about my mom. It’s just a nice way to remember the person you loved by doing the things they loved. You laugh and tell stories and play music.

If you get dressed up, a calaca is a skeleton, a calavera is a skull, and a calavera de azucar is a sugar skull (which is a frosted, skull-shaped treat made from sugar paste and colourfully decorated). The most famous calavera of all is “La Calavera Catrina,” a high-society skeleton lady dressed in a big flower hat, from a 1910 etching by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada. It was meant to remind us that money or no, we’re all the same in death. She has become the most iconic symbol of Dia de los Muertos. Since death is viewed not as an end but as the continuation of life, dead relatives are not mourned by celebrated. Painting your face as a calavera or catrina is a way of telling death you aren’t afraid.

This Mexican ritual is a loving tribute to their ancestors but is also an essential part of aa95ddf7325204f319fad2427ee0bd0c--book-of-life-sugar-sugarkeeping the old ways alive and vibrant in their culture today.  So when we watch a movie like Coco, or the similarly-themed The Book of Life, we can think about where this dazzling imagery comes from, and know that each of the bold colours in Coco’s vibrant palette means something:

Yellow – Represents the sun &unity; like in death, under the sun, we’re all the same

White – Represents spirit, hope & purity.

Red – Represents blood and life.

Purple – Represents mourning, grief and suffering.

Pink – Represents happiness.

A face with lots of purples may therefore be a tribute to someone more recently passed, or gone too soon, whereas a face of pink might mean that their loved one’s suffering is alleviated in death and the family is ready to celebrate and honour their life’s accomplishments.

Tammy is an accomplished makeup artist who got her start studying architecture. Now she draws blueprints of faces before she begins painting them. It took her 2.5 hours to paint mine.

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Tammy has been making people beautiful for a long time but started painting skulls when she was inspired by an episode of American Horror Story (The Walking Dead has also inspired her – guess what else she paints?). Aside from your typical horror, she’d love to get her hands on a comic book movie to really make her mark, and her dream is to work on a Cirque du Soleil production.

Tammy’s favourite celebrity makeup looks are Kate Winslet and Liz Taylor. A lover of art, she of course finds inspiration all around her, and when I asked about the temporary nature of her work, she was nonplussed: “people and bodies are my canvasses.” True, and yet I felt true sorrow when I watched it rinse down the drain of my shower. Her work has been featured in Imira and Luxe Ottawa Magazine. She looks to beauty bigwigs Lisa Elbridge, Vanessa Davis, and Argeni Pinal for inspiration.

I was really pleased to have met Tammy and to experience what it’s like to sit in the makeup chair and become someone else. Now it looks like I belong in the world of Coco, which is out in theatres this week. Feel like seeing how the sausage is made? You can watch a slideshow here.

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Monster Pool: Seven Deadly Sins

Was it really two years ago that Jay and I furiously drove back from New Hampshire to Ottawa to see the first Monster Pool Horror Anthology?  Apparently so.  As this site evidences, we have seen a truckload of movies since then, but very few of those have been as gory as the latest Monster Pool entry, titled Seven Deadly Sins (and even fewer have been as Ottawa-centric, considering this effort comes from a team of local filmmakers).

Monster Pool: Seven Deadly Sins wastes no time in getting to the gore.  Like, insides falling out kind of gore, and skinless body in a bathtub kind of gore, and cannibal eating dinner kind of gore.  And while these effects don’t have the gloss on them that a $200 million budget can provide, the fact they are still convincingly disgusting is a great credit to these talented filmmakers.  This is a well-polished effort that fits together well, and builds on the previous two Monster Pool entries (all three of which are available online through http://monsterpool.ca/ – and the first two films can be viewed for free!).

All these filmmakers put their talent on display and the result is a polished and cohesive product.  The quality of the effects was a highlight for me, as they were consistently good throughout each of the seven short films plus the “wrapper” story that linked them loosely together.  The acting was less consistent than the effects, though I’m not even sure that is necessarily a criticism (overacting is arguably a staple of the horror genre).

All in all, Monster Pool: Seven Deadly Sins ended up being an excellent and, um, festive way to spend my Halloween after handing out candy to 191 kids (Jay had to work so I manned the door by myself!).  My only regret is not saving more candy for myself.

 

 

 

Short Films Galore!

Candy Skin: Ottawa’s own Kyle Martellacci has a short film that preys on our fear of the unknown. The protagonist, David, wakes up to find himself alone in a deserted world. Visibly alone at least  – something unseen is hunting him, but finding out may be more than he can handle. Watch the trailer here.

Lookouts: a team of young woodland scouts are training in order to defeat a mythical, Opening_Run_Master_2500_v2.jpgdangerous beast called a basilisk. Pehn depends on the guidance of his mentor and the memories of his mother to give him the courage to confront the monster he can scarcely define, let alone identify. Shot in lush coastal California forest, Lookouts is about as beautiful and accomplished a short film as I have ever seen and the acting is superb. It uses practical effects and real locations to elevate this period fantasy based on Penny Arcade’s Lookouts to something truly unique and special. Director David Bousquet has tapped into real magic, and you can share in it by watching the film here. You’re welcome. 😉

Pigskin: a cheerleader’s romance with a football player leads to a walking-nightmare manifestation of her body dismorphia. This body-horror short is stunningly shot, with beautiful, throwback cinematography that will hearken 80s nostalgia while communicating a present-day message about body consciousness, brought to you by the creative team of director\writer Jake Hammond and cinematographer\writer Nicola Newton.

Night of the Slasher: from director Shant Hamassian, this 11 minute short depicts a young girl determined to commit all the usual “horror movie sins” like drinking and dancing half naked in order to attract a serial killer. Why do such a thing? Well, that scar on her neck and the glint of revenge in her eye might serve as clues. Excellently executed and impressively shot in one take, Hamassian wants us to rethink the slasher genre and hopes to turn this short into a full-length, high-profile cinematic piece. You can watch it here, and see for yourself:

Where Talent Blooms: Pt 2

When people call our nation’s capital a “government town”, they don’t mean it as a compliment. As much as I have loved living in Ottawa for the last ten years, the city has earned a bit of a reputation for being a little too conservative, even boring and uninspiring. Even though Pearl Jam will be playing here next month, I chose instead to travel four hours to see them in Toronto so as not to have my buzz killed by a bunch of Ottawans and their polite applause.

How inspiring it can be when talent blooms in your own city, especially one that is too often written off as unexciting. Not that the entertainment industry is any stranger to Ottawan talent. We have the dubious distinction of being the first to hate Tom Green, who used to try out his bits on unsuspecting citizens before moving to Hollywood. Alanis Morissette and Sandra Oh were born here. Even Tom Cruise went to elementary school in Ottawa for three years. Back in August, we had the pleasure of interviewing a young local filmmaker who has renewed our interest for local talent and strengthened (if that’s even possible) my passion for the medium. Even more than Tom Green.

When we last spoke with Morgana McKenzie, she had just turned 16. She had already written, edited, and directed three award-winning shorts and was in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for Ellie, her most ambitious project yet, which she was about to start shooting. After our interview, we’d been as impressed by her contagious enthusiasm as we had been by the knack for storytelling and attention to detail that she’d shown in her films.

Ms McKenzie premiered Ellie at a private screening yesterday for friends, family, and donors. As visibly excited as she was to share her latest project with us, she first took the stage to introduce us to eight short films by other local filmmakers to further highlight the exciting things that are happening right here in our own hometown. If you’re interested in reading up on any of the films or filmmakers that she selected to showcase on her big day, I’ve listed them below. For our purposes here, I’ll just sum them up by saying that they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The weak points of each film, I’m assuming, are a result of the limited experience (in some cases) and resources that are par for the course as independent filmmakers start out. The strengths of each film (and there are many) can only come from a palpable passion and unquestionable creativity that no budgetary constraint could ever suppress.

As for Ellie, Ms. McKenzie is clearly a fast learner and is working for the first time with ACTRA actors and her biggest budget so far. It comes as no surprise then that Ellie is her most impressive film yet. Telling the story of two young people held captive in a mysterious cabin, it’s darker, more mature, and more confident than anything else I’ve seen from her. A stand-out performance from local actor Sebastian Labissiere is also worth noting. If Ms. McKenzie keeps doing what she’s doing with the same eagerness to learn and grow as a filmmaker, I am quite confident that I will be reviewing her movies for years to come.

I am proud to be living in a city where talent is blooming.

 

For anyone interested, here is a complete list of the short films we saw yesterday.

The Garage– (dir. Patrick White) A young woman discovers that the case of her stolen car in a parking garage may be more complex- and spooky- than she ever could have imagined.

Eyetooth– (dir. Cory Thibert) A creepy stalker is faced with a moral dilemma.

The Canvas– (dir. Adrie Sustar) When faced with some hurtful criticism of her work, a young painter becomes more emotionally invested in her work than ever before.

Ignite– (dir. Lora Bidner) A music video set to original music. Sparks will fly.

The Clean-Up– (dir. Kristian Larieviere) Two former best friends must work together to dispose of a body after a hit gone bad. But can they resolve their differences in time?

Connections– (dir. Nicole Thompson) An incident involving an old lady being pushed to the ground and having her purse stolen is examined from multiple perspectives.

Pieces of You– (dir. Derek Price) A young girl copes with loss through poetic voiceover and beautiful cinematography.

Primary Colours– (dir. Derek Price) A woman’s experience with domestic violence is told directly into the camera with disarming poetry.

We All Go the Same– (dir. Morgana McKenzie) A music video for Radical Face’s We All Go the Same set to images of brutal fairy tale murder.

Ellie– (dir. Morgana McKenzie) Two teens are held captive in a mysterious cabin. One makes a daring attempt to change his situation.

 

 

 

 

 

Lest We Forget

November 11th is Canada’s national day of remembrance, and is a memorial day observed by many Commonwealth nations to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. It marks the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the end to hostilities of the first world war (in 1918). At 11am we stop, as a country, whether at work, play, or school, for two minutes of silence, just a small slice of our lives for such a large sacrifice of theirs.

Lest-We-ForgetWe wear red poppies, the flowers that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of WWI (commemorated in the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian John McCrae), that have come to symbolize the blood spilled during war. They are worn as an emblem of peace – so that we don’t forget, so that no more blood is spilled. The poppy campaign actively supports retired veterans and their families.

Our remembrance ceremonies happen right here, since we live in our Nation’s capital city, Ottawa, at the National War Memorial. An honour guard – unarmed soldiers – stand by the War Memorial, and the tomb of the unknown soldier year round as a tribute to their fallen brothers and sisters. Last year Sean, Matt and I attended the ceremonies just as our city was still 4829_duck_boards_1020mourning the attack on Parliament that had occurred just a few weeks before and resulted in the death of one of the honour guard right on that very spot. Thousands of Canadians came to watch the solemn parade of veterans march in, the road being opened for the first time since the attack. The city was still a little shaky, but there is something so dignified and uplifting about those veterans and their determined entrance. The pack dwindles every year; many who remain have to be supported by others, or rolled in wheelchairs, but their presence is invaluable for young Canadians who have never known their country at war. At the close of the ceremony, we leave our poppies on the tomb of the unknown soldier and we file out to the sounds of the bells day-inphotos11rb1tolling at the Parliamentary peace tower (a 53-bell carillon, in fact). The peace tower was erected after Parliament burned down in 1916 as a tribute to Canadians who gave their lives to the great war. The memorial chamber up top is a vaulted room with stained glass windows illustrating our war record, and brass plates made from spent shell casings found on battlefields inlaid into the floor. There’s also a book of remembrance containing the names of all Canadians who gave their lives in service of their country. Every day a page is turned to reveal more names. Sean and Matt both have family members listed in that book; every year their families will receive notification of which day those names will be seen publicly.

Canada is a small country that fights hard for what it believes to be right. 110 000 lives were lost 141106_8i2mz_rci-m-duckboards_sn635between the two world wars (619K served and 65k died in WWI alone when we had a population of less than 8 million), but Canadians played invaluable roles overseas, notably in battles at Ypres, Vimy Ridge, and Passchendaele during WWI, and Dieppe and Normandy during WW2. We are often forgotten in blockbuster war movies, but not by the people who benefitted. All these years later, a Canadian travelling in France will always be greeted warmly.

Passchendaele is “our” war movie, likely overlooked by anyone outside our borders, written and directed by Canadian Paul Gross. Gross’s grandfather was a veteran of the first world war, and he incorporates a lot of personal touches into the script, including his grandfather’s deepest secret and greatest regret: having bayoneted a young enemy soldier in the forehead. His imagesCA82C4IAgrandfather was still muttering for forgiveness on his deathbed. It’s crippling to think not just about all the young men who died over there (and whose bodies remained over there), but think of those who came back, having done their duty, but paid a very high emotional price.

The film is no technical achievement. Gross pays his respect by sticking to historical fact within the constraints of a Canadian budget. It can’t have been easy to balance those things, and the unevenness shows through. But I’m going to forgive the flaws because when a man goes awol  because he can’t cope with the fact that he’s received a2717_1 medal for having bayoneted a kid, it’s kind of a powerful thing. And because our very real war contributions have tended to be forgotten by film, this is a story that needed to be told, and deserves to be seen. I wish it was better but I’m glad, at least, that it exists.

Passchendaele (now called Passendale) is only 12 km away from Boezinge, where Canadian war physician John McCrae wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Fields”. Lt.Col. McCrae died of pneumonia in 1918 near Boulogne-sur-Mer, and lies buried in Wimereux. The battle at Passchendaele was for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres, about T070412-IMG_83028km from a railway junction vital to the Germans’ supply system. The allies fought the Germans but were unable to clinch because of unusually wet conditions (the mud was a defining characteristic), the onset of winter, plus the diversion of British and French resources to Italy. The campaign ended when the Canadian Corps arrived and captured Passchendaele with a series of well-executed attacks. The Canadian Corps is commemorated with a memorial in a small, keyhole-shaped area of land on the fringe of Passendale village, aptly dubbed ‘Canadalaan.’ The park is lined with maple trees.

Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for my freedom.

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Interview with Horror Makeup FX artist Ashley Robinson

Little Linda Blair, tiny star of The Exorcist, didn’t roll up to the set in her mom’s station wagon, fresh from a spelling test and a bologna sandwich, looking all demonically possessed. Someone had to paint her that way. Doing makeup special effects is someone’s job.

Meet Ashley Robinson, an emerging Canadian freelance SFX artist and a filmmaker in her own right. You might expect that someone who creates stab wounds all day would be a little bit twisted – and you’d be right. Matt and I had the chance recently to not only sit down with Ashley but to undergo “the process” and it turns out that not only is Ms. Robinson incredibly interesting, self-taught, and artistic, she’s funny as hell too.

Jay: So how did you get into this line of work?

FX1Ashley: I started by working with my brother (Andrew JD Robinson, founder of WORKOBEY Films). I’ve been his go-to makeup effects consultant for whatever project he is working on for some time now. It’s only recently I have decided to dabble more into the gore FX and showcase my creations on social media. [You can find her on Instagram @ash_fx] At the moment I’m working exclusively for his production as well as whatever project I have up my sleeve, but am open to expanding in the future if the timing is good and the right project comes along.

Jay: What kind of work is available for you in Ottawa?

Ashley: Indie films, Halloween events, building a photographer’s portfolio, etc. are all different opportunities for an FX artist. Ventures like that can exist anywhere; you just might have to dig a little deeper in some areas.

Jay: Were you a creepy kid? What I mean is – did you make your dolls look like monsters? Give your friends gruesome makeovers? Look at books of accident photos?

Ashley: If filming a feature-length called “Slaughterhouse” with my Barbie dolls (blood pumps and all) is considered strange…then yes.

Jay: What’s more fun – to make someone look beautiful or hideous?FX2

I think there is something beautiful about transforming someone once attractive into what we view as repulsive or ugly. It requires a type of vulnerability to welcome others’ disgust.

Jay: What kind of reference materials do you use for inspiration?

Ashley: Depending on the type of wound that I am interested in creating, I will research real images. This can be really gut-wrenching. Nothing beats the real thing though. Accuracy is the force behind a positive (aka disgusted) reaction.

Jay: Obviously there’s some artistry involved in the process as well. We know you write and direct films. Do you do other kinds of art ?

Ashley: I was definitely that quiet, weird, artistic girl in high school that doodled on every binder. Drawing, painting and writing have always been things I enjoyed. So I guess naturally the next step was disfigurement?

FX4Jay: What are some of your favorite makeup effects that you’ve created?

Ashley: One of my first attempts would have to be a favourite. It was cuts across the fingers using my homemade molding wax (which can be a pain to make yourself). I was proud I was able to blend it the way I did and thought it came out well for my first time.

Jay: Do you go all out for Halloween or is that too much like work for you?

Ashley: My go-to costume as a kid was always a witch- every single year. Surprisingly I haven’t gone all out for Halloween since then. But why mess with a classic?

Jay: What movie do you wish you could have worked on?

Ashley: I would have loved to been a part of ‘Excision’- in any way shape or form. The visual dream sequences, the blood…oh the blood. I just wish I had beaten them to it!

Jay: Were you a fan of horror first, or did that interest come as you started with the FX?

Ashley: I have lived and breathed horror since I was about 10 years old. My brother and I would somehow get away with renting stacks of VHS horror movies from a local video store down the street. Watching horror movies literally consumed the majority of my life growing up and still does to this day.

Jay: What actors or directors would you most like to work with?

Ashley: Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino. They can make anyone look fucking cool.

Jay: In such a CGI-heavy time in the movie industry, do makeup effects still have a place?FX6

Ashley: When you look back at the 70’s and 80’s makeup FX, it is mesmerizing how artists, with their own hands and pure talent could create something so amazing. I believe they will always have a place in a true horror fan’s heart, but industry wise, I’m not so sure anymore. It’s a rat race to make the quickest dollar as opposed to creating as a fan for the fans. Animatronics are the shit. Stop Motion is the shit. CGI is just crap.

Jay: Does what you do ever affect you emotionally? Do you get nightmares?

Ashley: Gore FX is oddly therapeutic to me. If I’m having a stressful day at my full-time job for instance, I get excited with the thought of coming home and putting boils on my face…It’s like any hobby, it’s a great and fun distraction.

FX3Jay: What about this work do you think would surprise most audiences?

Ashley: Constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to throw your own spin on standard wounds can be challenging. In the end, a cut is a cut…but it’s a matter of how can I make this one stand out from the hundreds of others?

Jay: Is there any movie character or effect that you would have done differently? 

Ashley: Twilight. I think that says it all.

If you think Ashley’s work is pretty clever, wait till you see what she does with our FACES.

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The Monster Pool Horror Anthology

On Sunday Sean and I were wrapping up our coverage of the very enjoyable New Hampshire Film Festival, which means we were, you know, in New Hampshire. Which is about 700km and a border crossing away from home. But we had something we were anxious to cover back in Ottawa later that same day, so we drove non-stop (and when I say non-stop, I may or may not be glossing over a stop in Vermont at the Ben & Jerry’s factory) and made it to Ottawa’s Mayfair theatre with mere minutes to spare to see the anthology of horror films presented by Andrew JD Robinson and Vincent Valentino.

11264802_657555234375835_5559594398628765954_nMonster Pool rules: your 6-minutes max film must contain 1. a cursed skeleton key that “causes” the horror and 2. a randomly assigned monster or horror film trope – like zombies, or a cabin in the woods. Robinson & Valentino had an exhaustive job ahead of themselves, soliciting entries and cobbling the whole thing together into a 2 hour marathon of local talent, and they premiered the thing to a packed house and enthusiastic crowd. The Mayfair atmosphere was pierced with screams and roared with laughter. The great outcome: it was a non-competitive showcase, and it was obvious that everyone had a great time just supporting each other.

Unfortunately, there being 20 films on hand, I don’t have the space to review them all, so instead I’ll offer my heartfelt congratulations to all the filmmakers, and I’ll focus on just a few of the highlights.

First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about an 11-year-old director and movie star called Daniel Elston. He recruited friends and family for his impressive entry, which featured droves of zombie pigs and lots of kung-fu and fart noises. Any of you who were once little boys are probably groaning with envy right now. He was the only kid entrant, and I found it very moving to think about how hard he, and his family (and I’m thinking his mom) must have worked to put this piece together. What a wonderful thing to receive this kind of encouragement at a young age.

Pseudocoma, directed by Adrian Matthews & G. John Leslie, is about a girl who finds a strange key in a time capsule at her high school reunion, and then goes home craving blood (and worse), to majorly creep out her roommate, and me. I was particularly drawn to the excellent score, which I see is credited to Marcus Fong.

Pandora’s Box, by Vincent Valentino, about a victim getting her revenge, was maybe the blood-lustiest showing of the night. It had awesome effects, blood galore, and is it just me or did I see some vertebrae?

Gifted, directed by James Campbell & Nick Wilson, is about a wife’s birthday gift to her husband of an antique robot to add to his odd collection. But when his daughter uses a mysterious key to fix it up, the robot turns hostile. In this one I noticed the impressively gruesome sound design (Allen Roulston’s doing, I presume?).

Vlog #79 was an undeniable crowd-pleaser with a strong, punchy script that accomplished a lot in under 6 minutes. With Luke Gabriel at the helm, it confidently blended horror and comedy and maximized its effect. A charismatic Youtube star has a life-changing experience in the woods one day, and the effects are…other-worldly?

It’s actually really exciting to see so much local talent congregating together. One film, Engineers, by Tyler Williams, had great use of lighting and set design. One Small Step for Man, One Giant LEPUS for Mankind by Andrew Robinson was a fan-favourite work of mixed media shock & appall, while also garnering laughs between buckets of blood. The Golden Dawn had an excellent script. Marcello Varanda’s Room 666, was the sole animated contribution and managed to achieve quite a bit considering the constraints. Allen Roulston’s Very Bad Dreams had some really cool camera work, while Patrick Murray’s Scapegoat was visually stunning. Not a bad film in the bunch.

Thanks for having me along, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.