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The second body to fall on Syfy’s makeup FX competition show has now spoken to Fango. We caught up with him the night after his final episode aired.
San Antonio makeup artist Sergio Guerra discusses his FACE OFF experiences, his past work (examples of which are pictured below) and what’s up next…
FANGORIA: What had you done before you got on the show?
SERGIO GUERRA: I went to college for music education, but I’ve always been in love with making monsters and horror movies. So this is super-exciting for me. I’ve been doing monster makeup one way or another since I was 4 years old. My parents brought me here from Mexico for school and opportunity. So I kind of went the way of music education for a stable, little more normal [profession]. But halfway through it I figured out it’s better to put your time and effort into something you’re passionate about. In my case I figured if something went wrong, I could always go back to being a teacher.
FANG: Had you worked on any films before appearing on the show?
GUERRA: Yeah, mostly independent films in the San Antonio, Texas area. I formed a company called The Darkness, and as a company we’ve done at least 10 feature films and a bunch of short films. Most notable we worked on FIGHTING WITH ANGER with Willie Nelson. And a couple of the Mexican stars. We’re in San Antonio, so they’re Latino favorites here. So that’s pretty cool.
FANG: The film with Willie Nelson–I assume this wasn’t a monster movie…
GUERRA: It was actually more of an action film. Willie Nelson can move! What we ended up doing for that film was creating props and broken arms and legs. We did a pitchfork thru a guy’s chest, bullet holes.
FANG: Did you actually work on Willie?
GUERRA: We made a duplicate of a bolo tie that was very important to him. He was going to be fighting, so it was a last minute thing. The director asked us, “Can you make something up that looks like this?” It was 3 a.m. We just cooked up an extra with pieces we had laying around in my kit. We didn’t have to do any actual makeup on him. One of my girls braided his hair [laughs].
FANG: So the first time you walked on the FACE OFF set, and you see this group of people, what do you think?
GUERRA: The very first thing I noticed was people already had knowledge of each other and knew each other personally. Some of them had been working in Hollywood for awhile already, some had gone to the same schools. Some had taught others—Tom [Devlin] had been a guiding force for Gage [Hubbard]. They all kind of had their own language and relationship with each other, so it was nice to see that and become part of it overall. But it was kind of intimidating at the beginning, because I felt a little more like an outsider than I thought I would.
FANG: So, the first Foundation Challenge, where you have to use items from the room you’re in for a makeup effect. What strikes your eye immediately to use for this challenge?
GUERRA: It was funny, as we were walking around and talking before they announced the challenge, I noticed some of the decor was crepe hair. That’s used a lot in the industry. I thought it was strange and funny, and something they did just as an homage to the fact that we’re makeup artists and it’s a makeup show…When [host] McKenzie [Westmore] walked in and told us all [about the challenge], I went straight for [the hair].
FANG: What was your concept for the challenge?
GUERRA: The challenge was to create something inspired by the room. The architecture in that building is amazing. They had almost Greekish statues on the wall of females and these big, bearded men, kind of Zeus-looking. I saw them and I thought it would be really cool to create something that would blend into the wall…[But then] we had to keep them in line. So that kind of sucked. I don’t think [judge] Glenn [Hetrick] at first realized what I was going for, which was unfortunate because overall I think the work was really good.
FANG: Did you try to tell him you’d prefer to have your model stand next to the wall?
GUERRA: When we were told time was up, I was trying to get him over to that area, but they told us, “No, you have to stay here.” I’ve never been in something as big as this, where there’s tons of cameras and tons of people. And the AD had everything strictly under control, and I was like, “You know what, I don’t want to cause any problems already…” The work itself was what I thought we were going to be judged on. The story I figured was secondary.
FANG: For the first challenge on the first show, do you think you were portrayed accurately as moving a little slow?
GUERRA: We got a lot of stuff done, but the things they don’t show on the show, of course, are when I was doing more. There was some things I had to do that were outside the scope of what me and my partner had originally intended for each other. We kinda sat down and worked out a plan. Gage came up to me and said he had trouble making molds. So he kind of needed help. So there was a couple times I stopped what I was doing to go over there and help him out. And that’s kind of what slowed me down in the end. I think most of the time I was sweating from what I was doing. So I don’t feel that I was going slow.
FANG: In the end, were you truly happy with what you presented to the panel?
GUERRA: No. I definitely wasn’t happy with it, because the foot was a big–Glenn even mentioned it on the actual show that he had talked about symmetry, and one of the reasons the foot was important is because it balanced the rest of the creature out. That’s why we had so much stuff heavy on one side and then this giant foot was gonna keep it real, you know, and balance him. But without that foot, you lose that.
(Ed. note: In the episode, Gage attempts to mold a foot appliance, but the material sets too firmly, and the appliance is scrapped.)
And unfortunately there were a couple of things they don’t actually show on the show. What happened was when I was trying to work on the hair, Gage went in and airbrushed the face over all the makeup I’d done practically and created this really dark, solid separation between the human half and the elephant half. And that kind of draws attention to the prosthetic itself.
FANG: Anything you would have done differently on your end?
GUERRA: I chose the wrong clay to sculpt on. The faster way would have been to do it in water-based clay.
FANG: Can you explain the hair? What did it have to do with an elephant person?
GUERRA: I think that was a mutual mistake between Gage and me. The guy was going to be pretty much bald. I was expecting to have a bald cap to work on. But Gage said that there weren’t any. We were totally confused at that time because the shop was so huge, and we didn’t have the time to go in and inventory anything. So I think the point was to have him kind of sparsely haired, and then what happened at the end we didn’t have a bald cap to put on him. So the only thing we really had was that hair, and I was trying to hide his own hair with that other one.
FANG: In the second episode, the Foundation Challenge was the tattoo challenge. What happened there?
GUERRA: As I started off the show ,I saw everybody doing all these really great, amazing makeups. I’d never really gone to school for makeup. And everything that I’ve done has just been kind of one-sided. I quickly realized that all these other makeup artists are very well rounded. I’ve never done any kind of tattoos at all. I’ve read about the process, but that’s about it. Tattoos in general I don’t really like them. I respect people that have them, and that’s cool, but I don’t have any myself.
I probably wasted too much time just thinking…The only thing I could do that was special were my grandparents. I’ve lost a lot of family this past year. My grandfather had an anchor tattooed on his forearm. And I just thought immediately that would be a pretty good thing for me if I was going to have something on forever…
FANG: On the elimination challenge in the second episode, the judges said that it didn’t look like you’d done a lot to the model. And from a home viewer perspective, it looked like they were right.
GUERRA: I was actually really proud of that one. I was very careful with my selection, with what I wanted to do. I was sort of thinking a little bit more outside of the box. I saw this tornado, and I saw the model had these really big eyes. And I got this picture of something you might see in National Geographic. I was trying to go for this aborigine type makeup without making the guy, pardon the expression, blackface. So I took lots of time to bring down his skin tone a couple of shades darker. I didn’t want the makeup to be the main focus. I almost wanted the makeup to kind of fall into the background.
FANG: Who do you think should have gone home?
GUERRA: I think Frank’s [Ippolito] painting…unfortunately he treated that model really, really badly. I felt bad for him. But also he treated the artwork the same. He really did it all very fast. It really didn’t blend into the background. And the little lampshade he put over the poor guy’s head. He’s not only turned around completely, but [Frank] put a lampshade on his head. It didn’t look real…. I think it took some imagination to think it’s a lamp coming from the ceiling. And Megan’s, she had a really cool idea, but she really didn’t develop it.
FANG: Who are your influences as far as makeup artists?
GUERRA: I love Rob Bottin’s stuff. Like Darkness from the movie LEGEND. That’s why I named my business The Darkness because I love that character. Rick Baker also. He’s pretty much been a pioneer of all types of silicon stuff. Just the realism that he can achieve, he’s an amazing artist. Dick Smith and Jack Pierce…
FANG: What’s next for you?
GUERRA: Still working with my business here in San Antonio; small films and a couple of art projects. Right now we’re doing some murals at a restaurant. We pretty much do a little bit of everything in our company. Personally, it’s really hard trying to run a business right now in this economy, especially when it cuts into an art. I’m really trying to take some time to take what I learned from being on the show and applying it–becoming a little more well rounded.
FANG: Have you thought about moving to LA?
GUERRA: If I leave I have to shut down my business and start from the bottom up there. I’m trying to see if I can make my business work for me a little bit more for me money-wise, so I can take some time away from it and hire another makeup artist that’s confident to do the big stuff here. And then spend some time in LA. It was definitely a great experience, and I loved it. I’d like to go back.
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