Oscar-winning make-up artist Barney Burman talked to Make-Up Arist Magazine about his experiences working on NBC’s Grimm, which airs its sixth and final season on March 31st, 2017, including how he got the job, the challenges on Grimm, his inspiration and process in the creation of the monsters, his thoughts about Grimm ending, and more. Source: Make-Up Artist Magazine
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MA: Jumping ahead, you worked on several episodics and movies, such as Tropic Thunder, Star Trek, Medium and Teen Wolf—and then came Grimm. What were you doing right before you got the call from NBC?
BB: It was 2010 and I’d just won the Oscar for Star Trek and, despite that, business could hardly have been worse. There had been a writer’s strike and the threat of an actor’s strike loomed across the land. On top of that, the economy had collapsed, so very few movies were being made. I had to close my previous studio, Proteus Make-up FX Team, and moved into a live/work space.
On the heels of designing and creating the werewolves for the first season of Teen Wolf, I wasn’t really interested nor looking for TV work. Old friends of mine, John and Natalie Drouillard, were directing/producing a version of The Elephant Man and asked if I would make—for the first time mind you—a full-body John Merrick make-up for stage. Afton Adams and I took on the project as a team and were having lots of fun.
And then I got a call from the producer Steve Oster …
MA: But you didn’t initially get the job?
BB: I bid on episode two—they’d already made the pilot with another make-up effects house and were looking for a different take on how to achieve these make-ups—but my bid was too high so they went with someone else. Apparently that didn’t go so well (lol). They called me again and asked if I could bring my “per character” budget down a little. I try to be a reasonable guy so I said, “Sure.” Next thing I know I’m off to Portland [Oregon] to turn my friend, actor Daniel Roebuck, into a pyromaniac pigman!
MA: The entertainment business is so fickle—but did you have a feeling Grimm would become a hit and run for so many seasons?
BB: I did. Not to say I “knew” but I felt it was a very well done show and had the right mix of darkness and humor. The cast was great and the people on the production team were really just amazing so it would have been very surprising if it didn’t do well. Of course, I’m very happy it did.
MA: How much flexibility or license is there in creating the character(s) while also meeting the vision of the EP’s?
BB: Before I came onto the show, production had been wise enough to contract two of the best concept artists in the business, Constantine Sekeris and Jerad Marantz. I mean, come on! If they had asked me to do the concept art for these characters those are the first guys I would have called, so I knew I was in for some fun designs. And they have absolutely not disappointed. That said, a concept design can often be extreme and the producers expressed to me how important it was that these creatures work as make-ups.
MA: Grimm volleys between using practical make-up and digital effects. What is the deciding factor when it comes to an actor wearing prosthetics versus all of it done in post?
BB: They got a formula down pretty quickly; if there was going to be three shots or less of a creature, including the “morphs” in and out, it would go to visual effects. Any more than that—or if it was something that would be too difficult for them to track—it would land in my domain.
MA: Old school versus new school techniques—are there technologies being developed that are guiding how practical effects are created?
BB: Yeah, all the time. And yet, there’s still a very basic connection to what we, as make-up artists, have been doing since The Wizard of Oz. Everyone has their preferred techniques and favorite materials but in a very real way it’s still basically the same thing.