AFTER FINISHING high school in Seattle, Miranda Jory went straight to Los Angeles. At the age of twenty-one, Jory became the youngest contestant ever to appear on the Syfy channel’s special effects makeup program, Face Off. Last year, she returned to Face Off for the veterans versus newcomers season. She won four of the weekly challenges. Jory has also won international makeup competitions, and her creations have been featured in Make-Up Artist Magazine. Jory took a break from her busy freelance schedule to reflect on monsters and makeup.

One of Jory's hallucinatory characters, created for Syfy's Face Off.

One of Jory’s hallucinatory characters, created for Syfy’s Face Off. All photos courtesy of Syfy/Nicole Wilder.

What are a few favorite monster projects you have worked on?
JORY: I’ve been lucky to have worked on a lot of cool projects, from music videos to movies. Very soon out of school, I got a job as a makeup production assistant for X-Men: First Class for the Mystique makeup team under the very talented Lufeng Qu. That was a really cool experience since it was such a big movie and the materials we had were endless. There was a whole storage trailer with boxes and boxes of supplies just for Mystique. I did an MGMT music video through B2FX where we made a disfigured tree man with dozens of warts all over his body. I also got to create Hunger Games-inspired makeup for the E! channel’s red carpet Oscar countdown, which was a lot of fun. And, of course, Face Off was a very crazy and fun life experience filled with monsters every day. I’ll never forget that.

When did you become interested in monsters?
JORY: It’s hard to pinpoint an exact age. I think they kind of just came with the territory of having a big imagination. A lot of my favorite movies as a kid were very fantasy-based and involved fantastic creatures. A few of my favorites included The Dark Crystal, The NeverEnding Story, and The Last Unicorn. Looking back through pictures of myself as a child, I would paint my face like my pets down to the little spots, and I used to play with my older brother’s monstrous Halloween masks. There’s a photo of me when I was about three kissing one of them. Another photo from when I was maybe five is of me in the front yard sitting under an umbrella on an inflatable alligator with roller skates. I’m holding some of the seven dwarves. Sitting next to me are two of my brother’s scariest Halloween masks with their own umbrella. I was always kind of a strange kid with a larger-than-life imagination.

Was there a specific moment or event when you realized that you wanted to be a special effects artist specializing in monsters?
JORY: In high school, when The Lord of the Rings movies came out, I got really into the behind-the-scenes videos of Weta Workshop making all the creatures and costumes and miniatures. I was just amazed by the whole process of creating these things. I thought the people who did that had the coolest jobs in the world, but I don’t think at the time I ever thought I’d be one of those people one day. It was later on, after I had graduated high school and started watching YouTube how-to videos of people doing all different kinds of makeup that I started looking into going to makeup school. And when I saw the special effects programs, I knew I wanted to give it a shot. I moved to L.A. to go to special effects makeup school fulltime.

How did you transition from makeup school to a makeup career?
JORY: I took classes at two different makeup schools in Los Angeles. The first was called the Make-Up Designory or MUD. I went there for maybe four months while I lived in student housing. I took beauty and character at MUD, and then I went to Cinema Makeup School to take prosthetics, special effects, and a sculpting class. Lee Joyner, director of admissions at Cinema Makeup School, took notice of my sculpting and gave me the opportunity to sculpt in the school’s booth at the second Monsterpalooza, an annual monster art show in California where I have since demonstrated five times.

Lee also encouraged me to enter the Battle of the Brushes at the International Make-Up Artist Trade Show the summer after I graduated. The Battle of the Brushes is a competition for recent graduates of makeup schools around the world — anyone from anywhere who graduated in the last twelve months is eligible to enter. Out of those entries they pick eight students who get to compete. There are two categories: beauty/fantasy and character/prosthetics. I was chosen to compete in the Los Angeles Battle of the Brushes in 2010 for the beauty/fantasy category, and I won second place. Then I was selected again to compete at the Toronto 2010 Battle of the Brushes for both beauty/fantasy and character/prosthetics. I ended up winning both categories which only one other person has done in the history of the IMATS student competitions. That was a very exciting moment!

I went back to Cinema Makeup School to take the creature maquette sculpture class with Jim Kagel, an incredible sculptor who shaped me a lot as an artist. He sculpted Chucky and designed and sculpted characters such as the clowns in Killer Klowns from Outer Space. He recommended me to be an intern at a very big, Oscar-winning special effects shop called Amalgamated Dynamics. Since then I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities. The fun thing about being a freelance artist is that every week is a new adventure. I hope there are many more fun, crazy, demanding, and wacky jobs in my future.

Are there differences in creating monsters for film versus live theatre?
JORY: Unfortunately, I haven’t designed anything for a theatre production yet, but having grown up in that world, I’d really like to. I would think the main difference would be the practicality of the makeup. For a film or video, they may shoot everything that involves prosthetics in several days, since most prosthetics only last though one use because they are damaged during the removal process. A theatre production puts on many performances — sometimes twice a day — and that would mean the makeup would have to be re-applied each time, which is a very time-consuming process. On the set of a film, we also have the ability to call “cut” and touch up prosthetic makeup whenever needed. You can’t really do that during a play. These days, in larger budget theatre productions which involve a creature, they can use silicone pullover masks and gloves which move really well but don’t involve lengthy application and removal. I’m pretty sure they did that on Shrek The Musical.

Why do you think your generation is so fascinated by monsters?
JORY: I think we have always been fascinated by things that go bump in the night, and we always will be. Monsters are so fascinating because — as far as we know — they only exist in our imaginations. They can be absolutely anything we can dream up.

This story appeared in the October 2014 print issue of Dramatics. Subscribe today to our print magazine.

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