Interview with Katharine Kellar on Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program

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I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview a few really influential people now.  I have recently been granted the opportunity to interview Katharine Kellar about the Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program at the Douglas Education Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

For those that do not know about this program, it is a 16 month Associate in Specialized Business Degree Program.  Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program offers training in cosmetic make-up, eyes and teeth, animatronics, creature design, sculpting, anatomy, life casting, mold making, character make-up,painting techniques, appliance of prosthetics, air brushing techniques, hair and beard application and pretty much anything you would need to know to become a successful effects artist.

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Katharine Kellar Interview:

LBoH: How long has this program been available?

KK: Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program at Douglas Education Center (DEC) is now in its 13th year. The program began in October 2000 with 13 students.

LBoH: How did this course come about?

KK: Tom Savini had been approached by various individuals in the past regarding the possibility of starting a special make-up effects program, but none ever materialized for one reason or another. When CEO / President, Jeff Imbrescia approached him, Tom was expecting the same kind of response he had gotten in the past. But, because he had been introduced to Jeff by a mutual friend, Tom decided to give him an opportunity. Tom asked to see a business plan. Jeff put together a 3-5 year business plan that was conservative, realistic, and most importantly, possible. He sent it to Tom. Tom laughed and ignored him. After a few weeks of no response, Jeff called Tom up for a business dinner. When they met, Jeff asked Tom why he never responded to Jeff’s business plan. Tom said it wasn’t worth it. “I spend more on cigars than you’re offering me.” Jeff said, what do you mean it’s not worth it? That’s when Jeff pulled out his ledger paper and put in front of Tom. Apparently Tom had misread Jeff’s business plan. What Tom originally thought was a decimal number turned out to be a whole number.

LBoH: Would you recommend this program for beginners or is it more for students that have a bit more previous experience?

KK: Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program begins by teaching a strong foundation in basic special make-up effects and works up. We’ve had students from each side of the spectrum – students who have never sculpted before in their lives to students who are experts. The way that the program is set up our students, regardless of their experience level, are able to flourish. We start by teaching a strong foundation and continually add to their already existing knowledge.

LBoH: How many students are in this program at one time?

KK: Tom Savin’s Special Make-Up Effects Program has anywhere from 150 to 200 students at one time.

LBoH: Have any of your student’s works been featured in a movie or television?

KK: Absolutely! We’ve had quite a few students on Television in recent years. Just to name a few – SyFy Channel’s “Face Off” is a big hit right now. The 5th season just started and we have 4 graduates on the show. Over the course of 5 seasons of “Face Off” we’ve had 10 graduates on the show. We also have a graduate as a cast member on TLC’s Cake Boss. His name is Ralph “Ralphie Boy” Attanasia. We’ve had a graduate on Food Network’s “Sugar Dome.” Her name is Kirsten Cosgrove.  As far as movies are concerned, our graduates have gone one to some of the biggest special make-up effects shops in the industry. KNB Effects Group and Burman Industries to name a few. Brian Hillard, one of our graduates, for example, work don Emmy Award Winning shows, HBO’s The Pacific, AMC’s The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad. He also lent his talents to Academy Award Winners for Best Picture, No Country for Old Men and The Departed. He also worked on The Hobbit, Django Unchained, and Oz: The Great and Powerful.

LBoH: What do you see happening with this program in the future?

KK: Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program recently underwent an overhaul. We recently added ZBrush as well as the popular new course “From Page to Screen.” Digital sculpting has become an important part of the industry. Students utilize cutting-edge 3D modeling programs such as ZBrush to bring concepts into reality. At the end of this course, students will have designed a variety of 3D examples that translate in to industries such as: movie/VFX, video games, illustration, figure creation, concept design, scientific illustration, and jewelry design.  In the From Page to Screen course, students learn all aspects of filming as they relate to special make-up effects by transforming written words of a script to moving images on a screen. Students learn the fundamental business practices for artists, as well as the importance of compromising, collaborating, meeting deadlines, and staying within a budget.

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If you are interested in learning more about Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program or any other program at the Douglas Education Center, visit their official site, like the Facebook page, follow them on twitter and subscribe to the YouTube channel.

A special thank you to Katharine Kellar for participating in this interview.

Here is a video from the Douglas Education Center on Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program:

 

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*All links are functional and take you to their specified sites*

 

 

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