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Feature: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Buffy, Angel and Firefly may have some pretty weird characters in them but it takes the genius of a man with some glue, paint and pots of putty to make them come to life, make-up maestro Rob Hall...
Unlike a great many people, Robert Hall made a point of sticking to his childhood dream. Today, he is one of the most popular and sought-after special effects artists in Hollywood. Together with his team at Almost Human, which Hall founded in 1996, he delights in sending chills up the spines of film and TV audiences with a menagerie of monsters, demons, scarred victims, a host of body parts and much more. His creatures and effects can be seen nowadays on two of TV’s hottest shows, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. It was, in fact, Angel, that he first became involved in.
“I was employed as a union make-up artist when I met with Dayne Johnson, who’s the head of the make-up department on Angel,” recalls Hall. “He had seen some of the work I’d turned out for Roger Corman and a number of other low-budget film companies over the years. Apparently, Dayne was impressed enough with the prosthetics I had done to hire me as a make-up artist. Back then, another company did the prosthetics for Angel so I’d just come in every day and literally glue their creations onto the actors. I got to work with Dayne most of the time and was perfectly content doing that.
“Tim Minear [former executive producer] was familiar with my work, too. He came to see me one day and said, ‘We want to give this show a new look for the third season. I’d like you to meet with Joss Whedon [series creator/executive producer] and David Greenwalt [former executive producer] to talk about the possibility of you doing the job.’ I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting it, but during the summer of 2001 I met with Joss and David. The next day they called to tell me, ‘The job’s yours’. So I had to open up my studio [Almost Human] again – which I had closed down in order to focus on doing make-up/prosthetics application work – rehire my staff and basically shift gears. Granted, I was headed in a different direction but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
Although Hall was eager to make his mark on Angel he had no wish to disregard everything that had been established during its first two years on the air and start again from scratch. “I was very respectful of what they’d created,” he says. “My feeling was, ‘How can I make my ideas fit into that universe without completely bastardizing it or throwing out what’s already there’. Obviously, I couldn’t do a heck of a lot with the Vampires. They’re pretty much what they are, and to go in and fix something that wasn’t broken would have been a mistake. So we didn’t mess with the Vampires. Instead we focused on the demon-of-the-week. That’s basically our playground where we get to figure out ways to make them new and exciting.”
by Steven Eramo
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