Make-up master Savini's program going strong in Monessen
With an artist's flair, Richard Brennan meticulously applied “blood” — a potion including corn syrup and food coloring — to complete a demonstration of zombie make-up believable enough to startle passersby in Monessen.
Brennan, 21, practices his special effects skills as a student at Tom Savini's Special Make-Up Effects Program, a part of the Douglas Education Center in Monessen.
The 13-year-old program named for local actor, director and special make-up effects guru Tom Savini has educated more than 1,000 students. October is a big month for enrollment, Savini said, possibly with Halloween as a contributing factor.
Savini, 66, a Pittsburgh native who now travels worldwide to help bring films to the big screen, serves as a consultant to the program.
He looked on as Brennan, a New York native, applied make-up on fellow student Zack Graham, 19, of Michigan.
“Clean edges — that's great,” Savini told Brennan.
The first step to transforming a student's face into a believable zombie: Creating a foam cast of the subject's face, then molding it to fit just right.
Students learn how to create and bring sculpture to life.
“We call it the Frankenstein system,” Savini said.
No matter how outlandish the character — even an alien or zombie — Savini reminds his students to pay attention to bone structure.
“The trick is to use the real person as much as possible,” he said.
Students study disciplines of anatomy, animatronics, art appreciation, painting and cosmetology.
Indeed, Brennan said: “You learn everything from sculpting it, molding it, applying it.”
Students leave the program with skills to work in the film industry, talents that also translate to work in prosthetic industries, dental labs and mortician's offices.
Graduates of the 16-month degree program have appeared on TV shows, such as SyFy's “Face Off,” TLC's “Cake Boss” and Food Network's “Sugar Dome,” said Katharine Kellar, the center's public relations coordinator. They've also worked with “Saturday Night Live” and AMC's “The Walking Dead,” among a “large variety of TV and movies,” Kellar said.
Students travel from as far away as Budapest, Paris, Colombia and from across the United States to study at the Savini school.
Graham said he dreamed of attending the Savini school since eighth grade. He hopes to work in the film industry in Los Angeles.
Classmate Brennan, too, aspires to work in film as a sculptor and creature designer.
For Halloween this year, they'll both re-purpose costumes they made in class.
Students work with lead instructor and technical director Jerry Gergely of Charleroi, who concentrates on sculpture and mold-making. Gergely served as key special effects makeup artist for TV series “Babylon 5,” and also assisted with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The X-Files.”
“I've wanted to make movies since I was probably about 9 years old,” Gergely said.
Since the program began in 2000, school buildings have expanded and so have class sizes. The first class numbered 13, and the most recent class boasts 60 students, Savini said.
Savini, a self-taught special effects wizard, remembers studying books to learn the tricks of the trade.
“I started when I was 11,” Savini said. “You go see a movie, you go home to experiment on yourself.”
He'd talk to renowned makeup artist Dick Smith on the phone, listening to Smith “share his secrets.”
Savini has published two books about makeup effects.
He's also racked up a laundry list of film credits, including serving as director for the 1990 version of “Night of the Living Dead.” Among his movie credits, he's acted in “Django Unchained,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Dawn of the Dead” and “The Simpsons.”
In addition, he's created special make-up effects for films including “Friday the 13th,” “Maniac, and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre II.”
Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Retail theft suspect takes off, leaves baby
- New Charleroi cameras helping cops catch criminals in the act
- Belle Vernon man who allegedly offered drugs to young girls jailed
- N. Belle Vernon hires police officers
- Donora woman picked up on drug charges
- Valley men accused of burglary in Charleroi
- Rostraver man sent to jail, faces new drug charges
- Birthday milestones give California Community’s Class of ’57 reason to celebrate
- Monessen man faces another trial
- Visiting Italians welcomed to sister city of Monongahela
- Stockdale fire, N. Charleroi crash keep emergency personnel hopping