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Making Faces

Until now, special effect makeup practitioners were not given much recognition in the Nigerian film industry. What do you think is responsible for this new turn of events?

Makeup artists in general weren’t given enough recognition. Initially, the industry was based mostly on straight to DVD type films with very few going into the cinemas. However, over the last few years we’ve had a rise of directors and producers who have their sights on international film festivals, cinema screenings and online pay per view channels. The overall quality of the production had to be considered. Makeup and costume were two departments, which dramatically benefited from this awareness as the talents of those individuals were now far more appreciated. It was no longer a case of just making do with white powder and standard beauty makeup. The advancement of HD cameras meant that the standard of makeup also had to be upgraded.

How would you currently rate our practitioners and what is the future of this small niche in the Nigerian film industry?

We’re still a very small minority within Nigeria and Africa in general. Most of the time when people think of makeup, it’s for weddings and events. Only a small number of makeup artists have a keen interest in special effects. But those who have an interest are mostly selftaught artists who aren’t able to easily access the professional products and as such just use their determination and imagination to create their effects. My main aim and focus in the next few years is to increase the availability and opportunities for the education and retail of specialist products to help those interested achieve the best out of their work. Many directors and script writers would love to do more in their films if they had the confidence that there were artists capable of delivering the kind of makeup illusions, prosthetics and characters they envisaged.

What does SFX entail and what is the relationship between SFX, beauty and health?

SFX is a very technical field. Good SFX relies heavily on knowledge about anatomy and physiology. Many people create bruises or scars using memory or their opinion on what they think it should look like. But you need to study human biology so that you understand what colour the blood should be if it came from an artery or a vein, how a bruise discolours over time and how the skin sags due to aging. Sometimes when you see an image, your brain tells you that something just seems off about it. To create realistic effects, you need to be able to deceive the brain based on what it “knows” an injury should look like, not just what the eyes see.

In 2015, you won the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award for Best Makeup Artist, how did you feel?

I felt like a mother hen proud of her entire brood. The award was a group effort my team made possible. They worked so hard on the film October 1, which is why I asked for the award to be given under the name ‘Sacred’ not just my own name. I was Head of Department on both October 1 and MTV’s Shuga, shuttling between the two sets. It was an extremely strenuous period for everyone involved.  I had just returned from London after giving birth to my daughter; she was only 2 months when filming commenced and I had a 21/2 year old son.  So I have to say I’m extremely grateful and feel blessed to have an amazing team and a fantastic family supporting me.

How do you source your material, have you had to improvise on what is available locally?

I import nearly all my products, even the ones I make myself use elements of the imported materials. This is why there is such difficulty for many new artists to easily source the products they need.  Using the wrong SFX makeup products can be hazardous to your health and the actors’ as well. I’ve seen people use the same wax that plumbers use to create effects. Though they may seem to have the same composition and ingredients, the two are very different. This is why we have now launched The SFX Store. It’s the first dedicated film and TV makeup boutique in Nigeria. We launched online at first with a physical location opening in the next few months.

The Gotenborg Film Festival that took place from January 29 to February 8, 2016 in Sweden featured three films that you worked on as the makeup artist; October 1, Flower Girl and Fifty. Did you ever think they would be screened at the festival?

To be honest, I didn’t even think all three would be screened, but it doesn’t surprise me. The directors and producers who I’ve chosen to work with since moving back to Nigeria are truly the most visionary creatives in the industry. They are hard working and proudly Nigerian with international goals. We have a lot of amazing content that the world would love to see!

You were the makeup artist on the set of Shuga from 2013 to 2015, how did you earn the role and what was the experience like?

A very close friend of mine, Bose Oshin recommended me for the job. She’s one of the best production managers in Africa. She had previously recommended me for Half of a Yellow Sun with Biyi Bamdele but I was unfortunately out of the country at the time. So when the opportunity came up to work with him again on Shuga, I jumped at the chance.  I’ve worked on projects with Bose since my first film in Nigeria, The Figurine – Araromire. She is a gem in the industry. Recommendations can come from anyone and everyone on set, from the production manager, director, producer or crew hands. You never know and as such I make friends with everyone. Shuga was one of the best productions I’ve worked on. Both seasons we’ve shot in Nigeria have been some of my favourite projects.

You were the makeup artist on the set of The CEO produced by Kunle Afolayan, which is to be released later in 2016. How did it feel working on set with him again, and compared to October 1, what did you do differently regarding the makeup?

Everything changes but everything also remains the same. Kunle and I have been friends since 2008.  He was the one person who convinced me that I could work in the Nigerian film industry. I once said I could never work on a Nollywood film while growing up in London, but when I read the script for Araromire, I saw he had a vision and the determination to create a piece of work that could be taken on tour around the world.  I’ve never looked back since. The stories of all his films have been very different; the characters and the locations all have their own challenges. Filming outside in extreme heat conditions on both Araromire and October 1 both brought different unique problems as one was set in modern times and the other in 1960. The looks of the makeup and hair were very different. For The CEO, we had a widely varied cast from different countries.  Some were Caucasian skin-toned, some mixed and others dark African skinned. So my team had to be trained on making sure we were able to fully create looks which would represent each person’s heritage just by looking at his or her makeup. For example you can tell a Middle Eastern woman from the way she does her eyeliner and brows from a lady from Ivory Coast. Our job was to interpret each character through makeup and hair.

Do you sometimes sketch before you begin; Please explain your working methods?

I create mood boards based on each character. We research what the director and writer envisage the actor/actress to look like and get visual comparisons from either existing movies or real life people. That way we have guidelines. We look into what colours the character would identify with and their emotional states through the different parts of the movie. We then put together set bags containing specific makeup colours for each actor/actress. I usually always head both the hair and makeup departments on projects I work on to ensure everything is noted down for continuity as we don’t always shoot in sequence. We may have to return to a scene we shot 2 weeks earlier and recreate the same day over again. So it’s very important that in pre-planning, we map out all the different looks throughout the entire film with the costume department. It’s very important that everyone is in sync with each other and that the director also knows what looks will be delivered in front of the camera. It’s our job to help him bring the vision in his mind to life!

What new projects are you working on?

I’m focusing most of my time and energy right now on launching and building The SFX Store. We have a training schedule starting in Lagos and travelling around the country. It includes special effects and creative makeup training, as well as professional makeup artist courses for film and TV, beauty and weddings. There are films we’re in talks about but we’ll see how the year goes. I have worked on several movies, which are still waiting to be released. Fifty did exceptionally well but we’re still waiting to see The CEO and 93 Days. I’m trying to spend more time at the school than on set filming, unless it’s a major project. We need to grow the industry and that can only be achieved through education and the availability of materials and products. My students come on set with me so that eventually they can take over and I can help others achieve their dreams.

 

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