Now THIS was a cool challenge: the artists begin this week with a quest. Conlanger (professional constructed language creator) David Peterson (Game of Thrones, Defiance, Dominion) shares his experiences and explains his process to inspire a new language, often with up to 6,000 words each. He gave the contestants advice in the design of their new creature, whose features should reflect the sounds they hear on their selected recording. That, coupled with some “ancient artifacts,” set them on their way.
It was another team challenge this week, which means that David only had to create 6 languages for this episode instead of 12. Okay, we’ll give you this team event one more time for David’s sake, but after this, I’m interested to see an “every man for himself” challenge. The contestants paired off among themselves, made their selections, and got right into the collaborative design process. I like the added complexity of creating features that must explain the speech patterns they hear in the recording, and how they had to consider what other attributes need to be present in the anatomy based on these clues.
Michael Westmore reminded the artists to keep the language “front and center” in the design, and to take care that the character doesn’t get “too cartoony.” After this last bit of advice, Ant and Njoroge plucked the oversized vacuform eyes from their face sculpt and start over. Both of them having been on the bottom previously, they were highly motivated to stay away from that situation again.
There were some issues in the workroom when Johnny was creating the mold on his large cowl. Robert’s solution? Improvise! A few wooden sticks in the right places and they were able to keep the mold from collapsing back on itself.
Robert: “They call me the plaster whisperer.”
Johnny: “Well, you’d better start yelling at it.”
This week, the show featured more explanations of some painting techniques and information about the various materials the artists were using. Now THAT’s what I’m talking about! I love it when they include some educational bits like that — it answers the nagging “how’d they do that?” question that seems to be rattling around in my head all of the time.
It wasn’t all foam and paint this week, either: the inflatable air bladder that Mel & Kaleb placed under their creature’s neck prosthetic was a nice touch, providing a life-like anatomy feature to support his breathy-sounding language. For the most part the teams worked well together, but some of them were a little on edge in the final prep when their looks were less than stellar, disagreeing about paint application and compromising on final details, and it showed in their ranking.
The models had an extra challenge as well during this competition. Not only did they have to move on stage to sell the character, they had to deliver a line of dialogue in the character’s constructed language. This part was crucial in this challenge, and David was paying close attention to see if each team was successful in creating a mouth or other features to allow the defining phonetics of the dialect he wrote.
Walter & Rob’s Cat Guy with a dog pelt was a nice concept. Although they went to the trouble to sculpt feet prosthetics, the overall look lacked a dynamic stage presence. However, when we saw the details up-close and personal, we could see that they added many interesting details that made it an effective make-up.
Melissa & Katie’s angel witch lacked any special qualities to set her apart from the others, although, as with Walter & Rob’s character, the details and the finer points on the paint job kept them in the running for next week.
Robert & Johnny and their literal squid-head and poor face paint missed the mark, and they failed to correctly decipher the auditory cues in the recording, costing them points from David. Forget the language issues; this guy looked like a cross between Squidbillies and Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama. A last-minute change in the face design left them with a solid black beak jutting out of the face with no defining details. It looked like a black hole in the face from a distance, and “Octoman” ended up in the bottom looks.
As disappointing as the Squid man turned out, Njoroge & Ant’s amphibian-like character was a disappointment. Again, Ant got dinged on his paint job (remember the silver face paint from last week?), and they ended up using vacuform eyes, leaving the overall look very cartoony (didn’t Michael Westmore mention that in his walk-through?) Ant is sent to pack up his things, and he took his elimination with grace. He left with a great attitude and a strong passion to continue to create special effects makeup.
Ant: “I was on Face Off, and that’s something I’ll be able to tell my kids someday.”
Mel & Kaleb did outstanding work in incorporating the language and the story. The makeup was well-executed from the top of his snake-like head to the inflatable air bladder under his neck. Ve Neill was also impressed with their treatment of his eyes, which were covered with a black mesh, giving the illusion of a deep, dark soulless creature, with an occasional flash of a blink through the mesh. This creature was my pick for the win, but alas, my vote doesn’t count.
Instead, the judges picked Anna & Yvonne’s character for the win. They created a successful character story and Yvonne’s detailed work on the headdress put her in first place this week. As David pointed out, their makeup allowed the model to deliver his line without hindering his lips, which was likely the edge they needed over Mel & Kaleb to win. Yvonne seemed to be communicating better with Anna than with her last two teammates, and the results really showed in their creation’s polished and cohesive look.
I loved this particular challenge. It gave the artists another dimension to consider when designing creatures, and I’m sure that the experience will serve them well in their professional careers. I’m looking forward to seeing more challenges that stretch these special effects make-up designers to push the creative envelope like “Lost Languages” did this week: Bravo!
FaceOff airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Syfy.
[Also published on SciFi4Me]