by Gabriel Valdez
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got about 40 feet of snow outside your door right now. You’re not sure if anyone is coming to get you. You’ve torn through your canned goods and you’re considering eating the cat while you’re still strong enough to take him.
Need something to while away the hours? Let me recommend Face Off. No, not the terrible Nic Cage/John Travolta movie where they toss doves at each other in slow motion. I mean the SyFy Channel competition where special effects makeup artists design new creatures and characters every week. They’re offering every episode free on the show’s homepage, and you should give it a try. I’ll give you three reasons why:
First off, many of the designs are incredible but more than any other competition show I’ve seen, Face Off delves into how they’re actually made. They make the design process accessible to laypeople and give you a sense of everything that can go right or wrong in the design, sculpting, molding, application, and painting phases. It’s an exciting look into the artistic process that shows like Star Trek and movies ranging from Beetlejuice to Guardians of the Galaxy employ.
Secondly, there’s no drama. Let me repeat that, because it’s so utterly rare in competition shows: there’s no drama. The show regularly focuses on artists helping each other save a design or a mold, even though they’re in direct competition with each other. Where shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model focus on (artificial) cattiness and petty sniping, Face Off just focuses on the creative process. There are occasional differences when artists work together, but Face Off presents those differences, shows how the artists work them out or fail to in relation to the design, and then moves on. It’s a big reason why I’m calling Face Off a competition show instead of a “reality” show. It’s a show about the artistic process of artists. If you’re looking for Real Housewives material, this is not the show for you.
Thirdly, the judges are people who make their living on their own designs. Glenn Hetrick has a practical TV makeup background including Angel and CSI. Neville Page is a creature designer and concept artist who’s worked on Prometheus and the recent Star Trek reboot. But they’re the appetizers. You really came for Ve Neill, who’s been nominated for 8 Oscars and won three: Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Ed Wood. She lost on Edward Scissorhands, Hoffa, Batman Returns, and two Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Somehow, she hasn’t been nominated for The Hunger Games franchise. Maybe the Academy fell asleep. They don’t judge off personality, but focus on the artistry and screen-readiness of makeups, pointing out what they look for when designing for TV and film.
But the designs. I could tell you about them, or I can just share a handful of my favorites. If this is a subject that interests you at all, if you’ve ever watched a sci-fi or fantasy movie and wondered how they create characters, check out Face Off while they’re offering all 7 seasons of the show for free. Jump in anywhere, you won’t be disappointed. It is, arguably, the best competition show on TV right now.