Costumes and makeup have been big in Star Trek since the beginning – how else to get all those alien and futuristic looks pre-CGI? Fans chime in, having a glorious time with cosplay (costume play). STLV50 teamed up this year with cosmetic giant, MAC Cosmetics, both at the Star Trek Beyond premiere at the San Diego Comic Con and at the 50th Anniversary celebration at Star Trek Las Vegas. Their exhibit re-booted the whole vendor area with an Enterprise feel.
Look that this huge display! You’re only seeing a third of it here – the engineering section, complete with “warp core” – and with “Seven of Nine”, an actor wearing the original hideously uncomfortable costume. She posed with us fans and surprised us with scenes from Star Trek Next Generation. She’s a good actress! Stayed in character the whole time. When I posed with her, I asked if the suit was hotter than H…. Seven replied, “It is very efficient” in those unmistakable Seven tones.
Engineering was one of the make-over sections, with artists giving free make-overs to feature the new Star Trek theme line. Yeah, I know. The blue light is hideous for doing make up. But Nicole did a great job on me. But before I tell about that, look at the rest of their “ship”!
Another third was like the bridge of the Enterprise, complete with Data and Deanna, actors made up with MAC cosmetics who posed with fans and periodically enacted scenes from STNG. In the main hall – The Leonard Nimoy Theater – MAC demo’d make up for their new looks, based on Uhura, Deanna Troi, and Seven of Nine. They also showed the layering that created Data’s and Gaila’s skin, how it followed the contour of the muscles with shadows and highlights. Let’s face it, Star Trek fans aren’t generally looking for personal make up tips, but wiggle cosplay tips under their noses and they’ll sit up and listen!
The third section was the transporter. You could pose on the transporter pad for photos. And pick up any makeup you bought.
Of course I had to try their transporter effect myself! Cool, eh?
I’m not so much into cosplay myself, but I’m vain as a peacock. I wanted to see what MAC’s new Star Trek line of cosmetics would look like on me. The make over’s were free – and the lines weren’t overwhelming so I bellied up.
It was fun! Being in the Star Trek world for a few days I threw restraint to the winds, telling artist Nicole to “go for it!” I’m no spring chicken so I held my breath. The starting me is here on the left – and behold! Nicole created magic! Day 2, she went for a dramatic look. Wow, those eyes! Great fun! Thanks, Nicole!
The colors are inspired by Uhura, Deanna Troi, and Seven of Nine. By the end of the convention they had sold almost everything they brought. Sorry folks, these won’t be available to the public until fall 2016.
Speaking of make-up – but totally unrelated to STLV – I found this interesting tidbit about the history of Spock’s hair and brows: http://www.vogue.com/13461690/star-trek-beyond-spock-hair-eyebrows-history/
Live Long and Prosper!
There seems to be some common spirit that links the people attending the Star Trek 50th anniversary convention being held this week in Las Vegas, but I couldn’t pit my finger on it. Whoopi Goldberg did, here at her very first Star Trek convention. Interviewer Scott Mantz asked her , “Why Star Trek? Why are we still here 50 years later?” Whoopi’s answer -“The thing that Star Trek never let go of was hope” – points to Roddenberry’s dream that we could solve our problems eventually and build a society in which all races would participate as equals, with enough resources for all.
The feeling here is exuberant. I’ve meet people who have come to STLV since the beginning and some here for the first time, drawn by the 50th anniversary. Many are from the US, but I also met a Brit, an actor from France, a scientist from Spain. Costumes abound – “cosplay”- such as a delightful group in starfleet uniforms who get together to play out different scenarios.
The look of this convention is gorgeous! The ones I went to in 2009 & 2010 felt a little…well, dusty, worn. In contrast the entire wing of this convention is brightly decorated & full of interactive photo ops. You can pose with a pile of Tribble, in a Borg regeneration station, coming through The Guardian of Forever, and more.
The exhibit area is lit up with a huge display by MAC – engineering bay, transporter room, bridge – where Make-up artists do makeovers using the brand new Star Trek inspired products. Plus there are scenes and photo ops with actors representing major Trek characters and a neat transporter effect. (see http://www.startrekmagic.com/2016/08/10/make-up/)
Whoopi had wonderful stories about her experiences – what a wise & delightful person! I’m very glad I came. This is a treasure box experience I will long hold in my heart.
UPDATE 11/2/2015: A new Star Trek TV series will start Jan 2017 on CBS All Access. Is it Gummelt’s? No idea! For more see here.
Oh wow! I may hold my breath or at least cross fingers and toes, hoping for this one.
“According to Trekkie Michael Gummelt, he has officially been asked to come in and formally pitch a new TV series based on his own fan-creation Star Trek: Uncharted:
“I can now officially announce that I do, indeed, have an invitation to come pitch Star Trek Uncharted at Paramount this summer! As far as I know, this is the first time a fan (not an established industry insider) has been invited to pitch a Star Trek TV series. This is, obviously, extremely exciting and I’m doing my best to get support for it from industry professionals. One of my concept cast members has read the script and expressed interest in supporting it, which is fantastic!”
For more on this, go here: http://www.latino-review.com/news/star-trek-returning-to-tv-possibly-on-the-pitch-of-a-trekkie
Or go directly here for a taste of the concept: http://www.startrekuncharted.com/
I love Kickstarter projects! They’ve been a way that folks like me can participate in creating the magic – and here’s one I can’t pass up!
For the Love of Spock – a documentary film! By son Adam Nimoy. With Zachary Quinto narrating!
I’m on board – how about you? Spread the word on twitter with the hashtag #SpockDoc.
How did comics get from here to there?
Sure, I read comics as a kid. And while munching pizza in college. A few since. The ones based on the new Star Trek movies got me re-dedicated. I could get my Star Trek “fix” between movies, especially my Spock fix. Minor characters in the Star Trek 2009 movie, “Cupcake” and Keenser, had their own issues, giving them more depth. That was cool. But even more cool was that the next movie had “easter eggs” from stories in the comics!! The screen writers and comic writers apparently talked to each other. Maybe not just Star Trek folks – these days a whole lot of the movies and tv shows are based on comics, way beyond Superman and Batman. What’s that all about?
I asked Bram Meehan, a graphic designer, comic author and aficionado who teaches classes on the visual language of comics. Bram laughed, “The producers and writers themselves grew up on comics. Loving comics. Now they’ve gotten into the positions that they can get funding for what they love.” Aha. That might also explain why everybody and his brother signs up for even small parts in movies like the Avengers. Granted, it’s a job. But they seem to be having so much fun!
Poking around Big Adventure Comics, my local comic store, showed me that the genre has changed. When I admitted my ignorance of the visual and story changes, they kindly took me in hand and directed me to Alan Moore’s Watchmen. OMG! I see why they now call them “graphic novels”. Complex plots and brilliantly complex art! A lot more blood, yes. Also symbols like that little smiley face that clued linkages. Shifting points of view. Multiple subplots & time settings intermingled, but I could follow because each had their own graphic style. Graphics in the comics of my youth pretty much showed people doing static stuff while saying words. Here the graphics carried the story even more than the words. Some such as Moore’s Promethea illustrated sophisticated metaphysical concepts. Plus there are now “trades”, collections of related issues in a single volume – a real book, ideal for people like me who get impatient at the cliffhanger serialization of individual issues.
I asked Bram: How did all this happen? The sophistication, and also the proliferation of comic inspired movies & shows. Bram answered that not only have comic lovers moved into positions of influence but also the technology became available to realize their visions. As I mentioned, Bram teaches the visual language of comics. He got me looking at how comics have developed over the years.
Those in my long ago youth were not very different from the first full page comic in the early 1900’s.
I read Donald Duck, but it was Superman and Batman who had my heart. The superheroes I grew up with developed from Superman’s first appearance in the 1930’s and became their own genre. Even these days, many people associate comics with superheroes.
I had crushes on The Challengers of the Unknown. Bram pointed out that while the Challengers were a team of four, there were none of the interpersonal dynamics that came later with teams like The Fantastic Four.
The hunger for superheroes comics prompted Jack Kirby, co-creator of my beloved Challengers, to create more heroes, from Captain America (1940s) to all the guys and gals we now see as The Avengers, appearing on your movie and TV screens! In his early years, Kirby also developed romance comics, which in the 1950’s seriously warped most of my dating life. Kirby and Stan Lee co-created many of the Marvel comics, each bringing their own skills. Stan Lee boosted sales by giving superheroes issues and challenges. Aha! That must have been when I switched my affections to Spiderman and Daredevil! Kirby’s visual motifs influenced young artists to produce to the Marvel style and more efficiently meet the horrendous deadlines. Writers and artists had to produce 22 pages every month/per issues, some working on multiple issues. Any conventions that helped them be more efficient were readily adopted! Bram pointed out that Kirby moved comics to more abstract visuals, where “the nature of the art reflected the excitement of the story”. That set the bar for the whole superhero genre.
The 50’s, when I was cuddling up to superheroes, also saw the birth of Mad, which later became a guilty pleasure for many of my college mates. Gaines started a trend in letting his creative team develop their own styles. And he credited them for it.
Creative rights are still a big issue for comic creators.
Censors ruled the 50’s – which of course led to an underground movement in comics as well as everything else.
Comics had other subjects as well. Will Eisner’s Joe Dope was used as a training tool in the military. Eisner wrote training comics into the 70’s and also expanded to short story cycles about Jewish characters in a tenement in New York City, stories about their struggles and disillusionment. The comics with these self-contained stories started being known as “graphic novels”.
The 1980’s were a hotbed of innovation for comics. Maus won Art Speigelman a Pulitizer Prize. It was political commentary based on his father’s experience as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. People were depicted as animals. (Hmm, remember Orwell’s Animal Farm?)
Bram said Speigelman “.. raised the profile of comics with a book that really rattled the public perception of what comics are. ”
Bram continued, “The comics creators that eventually formed Image Comics in the ’90s, despite their business problems, started the rise of the value of the creator (in their case, generally the artist) in the mainstream. Fans formed around the characters, but now also around the people that made them.” I’m not familiar with Image Comics, so I went to Wikipedia:
” In the early 1990s, several freelance illustrators doing popular work for Marvel Comics grew frustrated …that the artwork and new characters they created were being merchandised heavily, with the artists receiving only standard page rates for their work and modest royalties on sales of the comics... In December 1991, a group of these illustrators approached Marvel president Terry Stewart and demanded that the company give them ownership and creative control over their work. … Marvel did not meet their demands.
“In response, eight creators announced the founding of Image Comics….This development was nicknamed the “X-odus”, because several of the creators involved …were famous for their work on the X-Men franchise. Marvel’s stock fell $3.25/share when the news became public.” According to Image Comics, “The majority of the comics and graphic novels published by Image are creator-owned.”
Marvel and DC still dominate monthly comics, but Bram points out that “.. a revolution in the printing and production technologies … led to more powerful tools being put in the hands of more content creators, with more cost-effective ways of distribution to smaller audiences, both print and digital.” Going to some Comic Cons and walking down crowded aisles in the comics section certainly showed me the truth of that!
My favorite comic con find has been Mouse Guard. The glorious images grabbed me as I wandered past. No surprise that it won an Eisner Award! Creator David Petersen was sitting there with a stack of books, under the banner for Archaia Entertainment. Archaia started as a small independent publisher which has since merged with another publisher. I’ve since found that it’s published several graphic novels I follow: Lucid and Mr. Murder is Dead.
Drawing Words & Writing
Some of the comics I saw puzzled me. I couldn’t read them! Words & images swirled all over the page in a baffling manner. Heavens, am I that out of sync? Bram grinned. Apparently I’m not alone. The proliferation of independent producers means that some don’t know what’s needed to guide the reader through the story. There are rules. Not all comic creators know them. Bram sent me to an article by Eddie Campbell in The Comics Journal: http://www.tcj.com/campbells-rules-of-comprehension/. Campbell’s rules address context, completeness, sequence and timing. Ahhh, the comics that baffled me violated those rules!
Bram recommends that those interested in creating a comic dive in. That’s what he and his wife Monica did. When they started, they realized that they may not have specific training in making comics, but knew how to complete a visual project. “With the changes in technology and our training in it, it wasn’t necessary to follow the traditional method of making comics (the writer/penciler/inker/
Whew! This is a whole complex area of art! If you want to know more, take one of Bram’s classes: http://www.brammeehan.com/
When I took a voice class last summer, I found that one of my classmates was a trekkie – a dedicated trekkie, with a huge collection of trekkie memorabilia! As we chatted I found that Joe has been an extra on a lot of movies & TV shows – and was a double for Bryan Cranston, the star of the acclaimed “Breaking Bad”. Wow! I know folks who dream of getting on a set in any capacity! How’d he get there? So I asked him.
When the original Star Trek aired, young Joseph Griffenberg stayed up late to watch. He’d stage Star Trek scenes using a local cemetery as exotic set locations, with him playing Capt. Kirk (of course). He’d use lines he remembered from the series, already showing a love for acting.
After a tour in the Navy, he returned to his family in Las Vegas, New Mexico. American Playhouse’s “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” was shooting nearby and Joe got work as an extra. That led to work on the original Red Dawn, with then unknowns Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. Meanwhile Joe had gotten a camera and went around filming everything – even a praying mantis eating its mate! Yuck! He found he wanted more control of a film than he’d have as an actor. Actors play out the role of the writer/director’s story. Joe wanted to be telling his own stories, so he enrolled in the University of New Mexico, focusing his Fine Arts degree on television production.
Joe was still a trekkie, starting in the ’80’s a notable collection of action figures and Star Trek ornaments. Star Trek Next Generation came along. Like me, Joe resisted but got hooked. He’s also followed each of the Trek shows since – Deep Space 9, Voyager, Enterprise. And included them in his collection, filling a whole room! Thankfully, his wife colludes in this “hobby”.
How To Get Picked as an Extra
I asked Joe what advice he’d give to someone who wants to get picked as an extra.
“Persistence! I put in a picture for every call.” Joe said he follows social media, joining facebook groups that pass the word about calls coming up. He reminded me that in New Mexico the film industry has a website where casting calls are posted: http://www.nmfilm.com/Casting_Calls.aspx. Joe points out that extras don’t need any special qualifications. The casting director is simply looking for “a look”. When Joe hears of a production coming up, he finds who the casting director is and checks out their website. Most will say what look they need.
Joe also recommends building your own network of contacts and your own experience by volunteering to work with school groups and with small indie efforts. “You meet more people that way – and they remember you.” Joe says that half the things he’s done have been through word of mouth.
Joe also maintains a page on IMDb, a site where people in the movie and tv business post their resumes and contact information. Joe includes on his page pictures showing that he can adapt to several different looks. With all his experience and training, Joe’s page is very impressive! http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2445713/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 “I’ve been on set 50 times. Every time I learn something new.” For example, he watches the actors and how they adapt to different directors. “Some directors let actors do what they want, allow them to improvise. Others control everything, like Alfred Hitchcock did. Like James Cameron does.” Joe also continues to take classes, on the different aspects of film making. “Even if you know you want to direct, it will help you to know how to act.”
Do you need to have professional headshots? No! Joe points out that local film oriented organizations usually have a yearly general casting call. Also there will be open casting calls for each show or film, advertised on the local news or local film website. At a casting call, you stand in line, an hour or more. When you get to the front, they have you fill in a card with your name, contact number, type of vehicle (if you’re willing to have it used), your sizes. They’ll take a picture that will go into a file. They keep it forever! When a shoot comes up that needs extras, the casting director will scan the file for people who match the need. Aha! I did this once – and got called a couple of years later! Unfortunately at a time when I couldn’t go.
During our chat, Joe has mentioned several terms: background, stand-ins, doubles. I ask him what each means.
“Background is another word for extras. They are part of the background of shots – people walking by on the street, people in shops or restaurants, the crowd. They don’t speak and don’t need any qualifications other than fitting in with the scene. Let’s say you’re shooting a scene set in Manhattan. You need people who have the typical clean-cut look to be in the background, just as there are always people around on the street there. If you’re shooting a scene set in Eqypt, your background people need the darker skin tone you’d see there. If the people have particular clothing, casting will look for extras who can fit the costumes they have.”
So what is a “stand-in“? “A stand-in substitutes for a leading actor for setting up lights and camera angles. A stand-in doesn’t have to look like the actor, but needs to have the same height and build. The director or actor may first demonstrate the action needed – ‘walk from there to here”. Then the stand-in mimics that action over and over while the crew arranges the lights and angles.”
“A double has to look like the actor – same height, weight, hair style, general face type. A double is used in place of the actor for distance shots for shots from behind.” Joe ran in a Walter White look-alike contest Bryan Cranston held in Albuquerque, adapting his appearance even to shaving his head. He looked enough like Cranston’s Walter White that he was hired as his photo double. Having a double is a great relief to an actor since a 20 second scene may take 4 hours to shoot! Makeup and costume tried their effects on Joe first to get them finalized before replicating them on Cranston. So Joe got to hang out with Cranston a lot more than an extra or stand-in would.
Can you be an extra and still hold down a regular job? How much notice do you get? “The amount of notice depends on the situation. One casting agent called me for the next day. I couldn’t work it out that quickly with my day job. For ‘Night Shift’ I got several days notice. When they contact you, they’ll tell you when to be there and how many days they’ll need you. Maybe if you turn them down a few times, they’ll stop calling – I just make sure to send in my picture again.”
What’s It like as an Extra On Set?
Let’s say someone has done what you suggested and has gotten a call to be an extra on a picture. What’s it like on location? Joe laughed, “It’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’. You might arrive at 5am and sit for 13 hours without ever being called. At least you still get paid. Bring a book and your cell phone – just don’t take them on the set!” The tone of the location varies. Joe’s experience was that on Night Shift they were pleasant, knew his name. Others may treat extras like cattle. I ask about makeup. Joe says that usually background people need to come “hair and make-up ready” – looking acceptably generic. If it’s a western, someone from make-up may make you look dirtier.
Joe emphasizes that observing good location etiquette is key to getting more work. “How well you get along is more important that how good an actor you are. Make sure never to burn your bridges.” The rules of set etiquette include:
- Whenever you hear “Camera rolling!”, shut up. Don’t wait for the “Action call”.
- Never go up to the star and talk to them. Never ask for an autograph or photo. Some stars will chat with the crew, but let them initiate it. Not you!
- Listen and follow directions. For example, when you arrive you have to fill out paper work – W2 info, proof of residency. They’ll write on the form when you arrived. At the end of the day, you have to return the form or you won’t get paid. If you get props or a costume, they will take the form until you bring them back.
- Never look at the camera when on set! If the scene shows someone making eye contact with the camera, they’ll have to cut the whole scene. Be careful you don’t introduce any unplanned elements into the set – no whispering, even when you’re to look like you’re chatting in the background; no smoking; no ringtones!
- Don’t touch anything on set unless directed to. Don’t move anything. It’s probably a carefully placed prop.
So are you ready to go out and fulfill your dream of being an extra, just as Joe did? If you are, let me know how it goes – and where to look for a glimpse of you in the background! And if you hear of any Star Trek shoots in New Mexico, let Joseph Griffenberg know. He’s ready!
The Mecca for Sci Fi geeks – Trekkies & others – is the San Diego Comic Con. Over 130,000 people gather annually to celebrate graphic novels, TV shows, movies, cosplay, video games, Dungeon & Dragons – and heavens know what else! My very first San Diego Comic Con was overwhelmingly a blast! The people! The costumes! The panels! The exhibits!
If you don’t know about SDCC, a big part of the fun is that people dress up – “cosplay” – costumed role playing – and others take pictures of them and with them. One of my roomies, actress Laura Stephens, got nationwide coverage for her Lolita Capt. America costume. Costumes and SDCC go together!
In the exhibit hall I got to get a close-up view of an awesome and huge demon, complete with wings and horns. Whew! He was at the booth for the Cinema Makeup School. For a closer look, click this: http://youtu.be/4FTtCq2IQrw
I talked to Katie from the school about who they were and why they were here. Katie said the school is based in Los Angeles and teaches everything from beauty makeup through airbrushing, photo hairstyling, character makeup, prosthetic and more. Classes run from one week to 4 ½ months. Their website is www.cinemamakeup.com. Oh man, I wish I could go hang out in LA long enough to take their full course! So far my own makeup specialty is bullet holes and blood, small potatoes to this crew.
Makeup students were at the booth applying bruises and small injuries for people who stopped by. Apparently each day they demonstrated a major effect, like this demon and on another day, an arachnid femme fatale.
This demon is the creation of Wayne Anderson, a graduate of the school who was featured on SyFy’s Face Off. To get the actor into the makeup this time took only about 2 to 2 ½ hours, but it took a couple of months to put the whole effect together. The horns were made of resin. Each piece was molded. I must admit I was a little scared to talk to this otherworldly fellow directly, but I bet it was hot in there. He literally had a wing man, who made sure passersby didn’t impale themselves on the wings tips. I wonder how much the whole thing weighed!
..there is a survey of over twelve thousand Trek Fans!! Check it out here: http://startrek.com/article/following-fandom-the-ongoing-analysis-part-i
If it were not for the enthusiasm of Star Trek fans, the magic would never have gone beyond the first two seasons of The Original Series. Star Trek conventions are a long standing gathering place for these fans, but I’d also been hearing about the Comic Cons. Comic Cons??? Really?
The grand-daddy of Comic Cons in San Diego has capped attendance at 125,000 and I hear tales of long hours camping out for some panels. That’s too much for me to leap into, clueless that I am.
Phoenix Comic Con looked more accessible – manageable crowds, less expensive. The PR showed pictures of superheroes and figures unknown to me. But Leonard Nimoy would be there. I lost my heart to Spock back in the 60’s and renewed my dedication with the 2009 reboot. So off I went.
Any doubts I had about whether this would be a congregation of Star Trek enthusiasts was dispelled by the program. I scheduled myself for panels.