Last August I was approached by director Nello DeAngelis to work on his newest film, Phantom Mary. Here we are almost a year later and the film is about to premiere in Seattle! This project was such an exciting challenge for me so I thought I'd create this post to provide a little more insight on what went on behind the scenes! Please keep in mind that the following imagery contains depictions of blood, gore, and may not be suitable for all audiences.
Phantom Mary had an ambitious script in terms of makeup and achieving all the desired effects while remaining within budget would prove to be challenging. I was in charge of all special effects while Genevieve Noonan tackled all hair and beauty makeup. The script called for multiple vampire bites, slit throats, loads of blood rigging, devil horns, and the biggest challenge of them all, a pair of beautiful angel wings that would need to be gruesomely sawed off.
First of all, let's talk about the blood. We used a little over a half gallon of blood during production and walking into set with a giant jug of blood everyday was probably my favorite part of filming. I used the My Blood (mouth blood) in Dark Red because the color reads beautifully on film, the thickness is perfect but easily manipulated with water, and best of all - it doesn't stain! When we did scenes that called for eye blood, I used the tried and true eye blood from Kryolan in red. Both of these bloods have been longtime favorites of mine so I was so excited that I was able to use them both so heavily. We poured it on our actors, made them bathe in it, put it up their noses, in their eyes, made them eat more blood capsules than they probably would have cared for, cleaned it off, and poured it back on, but hey - that's what you do for the love of film.
The biggest challenge of this film for me was the angel wings. Nello wanted a close up shot of the wings being sawed off, leaving behind some cute little bloody stumps. This presented a few problems, the first of which being that wings are heavy and difficult to attach without some sort of harness. The second challenge was that these wings needed to bleed as they were being cut into which meant that there would be some blood rigging involved. After several hours of researching wing anatomy, I began the construction of the wings. I used thin sheets of craft foam, wire, rubber tubing, hot glue, and sooo many feathers. After shaping a skeleton out of wire, I cut the foam to fit and glued it in place. The rubber tubing was then attached to run down the base of the wings so that blood could later be run through. I then wrapped the spines of the wings with cotton pieces dipped in latex to get a nice organic texture (this also helped to conceal the rubber tubing). Once the base was done, I painted the spines with acrylic paints and painstakingly glued each feather in place for the final look!
The next challenge would be attaching the wings to the actors in a realistic way. Nello and I both agreed that realism was essential for the shot so I wanted to make the attachment as stable but also as lifelike as possible. I decided to create a custom prosthetic piece to give the illusion that the angel wings really were growing from the skin. Sculpting and fabrication aren't something that I usually have the opportunity to do so this was really exciting! This mold required a few steps to be taken because I wanted enough room underneath the prosthetic piece to run the base of the wings and rubber tubing through. First I created a positive from Ultracal Plaster using a tube shaped mound to simulate where the tubing would be. I was then able to sculpt what I wanted the piece to look like directly on top of this using clay. Once that was done I created the negative of the sculpture and voila! A mold was born. I used gelatin to run these pieces and was pretty happy with the result!
When it came time to apply to effect for filming, I had an assistant holding the wings in place while I glued the prosthetics over the bases using prosaide and a healthy amount of bondo. The prosthetic provided a good amount of support but we still used the actresses' bras to help with stability. I painted the pieces using Kryolan RMG paints and Skin Illustrator alcohol based paints. The tubing was then run underneath the bra and off camera to where I was sitting with a giant syringe full of blood hooked up to the tubing. As soon as our actor began to saw into the wings, I began to pump the blood. When he hit the rubber tubing, the blood spilled just as it would from a large vein and the effect was a success!
Angel wings aside, there were also lots of small injuries that had to be simulated. So. Many. Vampire. Bites. I originally set out to make a small mold for the vampire bites but I wasn't satisfied with how it turned out so I ended up using 3rd Degree (a 2 part silicone product) and sculpting all the bites by hand. I'm glad I ended up going this route because it made the bites look much more realistic. For Braidon's slit throat, I used a bondo transfer which made the whole process really quick!
I also had the opportunity to create a bunch of really fun character makeups. In order to create the faun, I ran a few more gelatin pieces in various horn shapes. We ended up going with the shape in the middle for filming for a subtler look. It was really fun but not quite as fun as depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in a later scene. I created a puss-filled boil look to represent Pestilence, which rendered just the gag inducing effect I was hoping for. The stitched mouth and heavy metal queen were quick but effective looks and watching Tasha smoke a cigarette through her stitches was honestly gold. Speaking of Tasha, her vampire fangs are from Dental Distortions and she had so much fun wearing them! The last part of the makeup that was integral to the film was Nello's tattoos. He had designs drawn up by a tattoo artist and then had me create transfers for them. I painted over the transfers with Skin Illustrator, sealed with prosaide, again with green marble, and then powdered them. Sealing the tattoos like this allowed them to wear really well.
All in all, this film was a blast to work on. I learned lots along the way and was able to work with a really talented bunch! A huge thank you to Nello for trusting me with your vision, Braidon for introducing me to Nello, Frends Beauty Supply in North Hollywood and Reynolds Advanced Supplies in Kent for always having the supplies I need to get the job done, and my family and friends for dealing with my cranky, sleep-deprived self last October 😂
Phantom Mary premieres on August 6th, 2019 in Seattle at the SIFF theater and has already garnered some attention on the film festival circuit. Phantom Mary won best makeup/hairstyling, best screenplay, and best editing at the Hollywood North Film Awards and was nominated for best drama and best cast. It was an honor to be involved in this film and I'm so excited to see what future projects may hold!
Thanks for Reading!