Blast had a chance to speak with Ben Bornstein, a Boston native, who has contributed to over fifty projects as a special effects makeup artist. He founded Creative Initiative Makeup & FX Studio in 2005 and has worked on films like “Acts of Violence” with Leelee Sobiesky, “The Fighter” with Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg and television pilots for VH1 and Tru TV.
Now, Bornstein is back in Boston. He’s set up shop and working with the growing local film business.
Blast: So we see that since 2003, when you moved to LA, you’ve contributed to over 50 projects in the film and television industry. How did you get your foot in the door in this industry?
Ben Bornstein: I actually had gone to LA with two hundred dollars in my pocket and I didn’t really know anybody out there at that point … I had sent out 30 press kits to makeup fx studios. I got one call three months later. A lot of people didn’t want to hire new people because they’d have to train them. It was really hard to get a job. (Eventually) I got a job creating some fake money trees for a commercial on set at Universal Studios.
Blast: What was the most exciting project you’ve ever worked on?
BB: Tough question. To be on the makeup department for “The Fighter” was a huge difference for me. (There’s a) difference between being a shop technician and doing makeup on the set with the cast and crew. I’m most proud of doing in shop for 300.
Blast: What was your most stressful project?
BB: They usually all are. It’s a high stress business and the deadlines are seemingly impossible. But it was for a short film we shot at Paramount. 18 hour days, zero days off for six weeks straight. It was crazy!‚ A huge deadline. We had enough work for 15 crew members with only five of us.
Blast: And what is your current project?
BB: Just finished up with “The Fighter.”
Blast:‚ What advice do you have for people interested in getting into special FX or film in general?
BB: As far as makeup FX, get as many books and DVDs online and research it. I don’t personally think you need to go to school for it. If you want to take a course, get the Dick Smith Advanced Makeup Course. Study anatomy the best you can. It’s all about knowing the human form to the best of your abilities.
In film, start out as a PA. If you can get a PA job-especially in a union production you might have a good shot. … Have a great attitude, never show up late. Show up early.
Blast: And you founded Creative Initiative Make-Up & FX Studio-can you tell us a bit more about that?
BB: Basically I had done a couple of little jobs while in LA. I was there a little over five years and moved back to Massachusetts. It was basically that I felt that my skill level had gone up enough to handle the fx in film.
Blast: How do you feel about the future of the film industry in Boston with Plymouth Rock Studios being built and the whole Hollywood East movement?
BB: I have a really strong feeling about it. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have moved back to Boston. I have really high hopes for this city.
There were 13 features shot in Boston in 2008, and Plymouth Rock Studios is due to open in 2010 , with plans for another studio to also open in the South Shore within that time frame (http://www.mafilm.org).
Work had really slowed down in LA, because of the strikes. I got‚ a job a week after I decided to start packing (for Boston). I was lucky enough to get a job over there to work on tThe Surrogates”¦(but I was) working in LA when I wanted to go home, for a film that would be shot in Boston. I was there six weeks and the whole crew was great. I worked on The Final Destination and Shorts, and after that I had a couple of small jobs and then decided just to move. And I’m really glad that I did! Work has really picked up a lot here. It was difficult to be a nonunion fx guy, everything is union here. Since I moved home last August I had applied to be a union makeup artist. It took me between October and February to see if I was getting in. Once you get in the union it can really change your life. And when I was in LA, my last day there I got a phone call saying I’d gotten into the Union.
Blast: Anything else you’d like to add?
BB: I’d like to thank the local makeup artists in Boston who’ve given me a chance to prove myself and thank you and good luck!