Mob City, Thor: The Dark World, The Lone Ranger, Max Rose, Lincoln, X-Men: First Class, Thor, Drag Me to Hell, Yes Man, Spider-Man 3, Domino, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Last Samurai, Seabiscuit, Ali, Independence Day, Sister Act I & II, Star Treck: Deep Space Nine, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Police Academy II, Magnum P.I., Buffalo Bill, Bonanza, The Addams Family, Bewitched...
Michael F. Blake born in Hollywood, California, comes from a family of entertainment professionals.
He has successfully accomplished professional careers as an actor, a writer and make-up special effects artist.
In TV, it has been for his outstanding work as a make-up and special make-up effects artist that he received an Emmy for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a nomination for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
A long-standing player in the entertainment industry, his incredible curriculum also includes acting roles in series such as:
The Addams Family, Bewitched, Kung Fu, Project U.F.O, Magnum P.I. and Bonanza.
His most recent work for TV as a special make-up effects artist has been for Mob City, the three-week/six-hour series by Frank Darabont (also creator of The Walking Dead & screenplay writer for The Mist, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption…) set in 1940s Los Angeles and starring Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Neal McDonough (Justified), Alexa Davalos (Reunion), Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead), Gregory Itzin (24), Robert Knepper (Prison Break), Jeremy Luke (Don Jon) and Ed Burns (playing Bugsy Siegel).
Michael F. Blake has worked as a key special make-up effects artist for many of the blockbusters listed in his filmography, above, and has had acting roles in:
Carousel, One More Train to Rob and Future Cop.
As a writer, he has published four books to date: Lon Chaney: The Man Behind the Thousand Faces, A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney’s Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures, The Films of Lon Chaney, Code of Honor: The Making of Three Great American Westerns, one of them having been adapted to film: A Tribute to Lon Chaney.
Nowadays, Mr. Blake combines his work as a key make-up and special make-up effects artist for film and television with master classes at one of the world´s leading cinema make-up and special make-up effects school, the Hollywood Cinema Make-Up School, located in Los Angeles, California.
From its admissions director, the also special make-up effects artist Lee Joyner (Godzilla, Mimic, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Stargate SG1) to its multi-award winning tutors and collaborators such as Michael F. Blake and Joseph C. Pepe (Lead character designer for Avatar and Alien vs. Predator), the Cinema Make-Up School has positioned itself at the forefront of this important artistry field within the entertainment industry, a dream academy gathering the very best masters to prepare professionally the very best talents (national and international, Cinema Make Up School assists with international I-20 form for student visas).
It is thanks to Lee Joyner, from Cinema Make Up School, that we have the pleasure and honor to interview Michael F. Blake, on his facet as an award-winning make-up and special make-up effects artist.
Thank you Mr. Blake for taking the time for this interview, we truly appreciate it.
WONDERLANCER: From your books and your collaborations in several documentaries, we know that you are a profound admirer of the silent-film star and special make-up effects artist Lon Chaney. Was his work that inspired you to take the route to specialize in this highly creative field within the entertainment industry?
MICHAEL F. BLAKE: Oh yeah. Chaney was, and still is, my hero. What he created with material we would consider today to be outdated, is amazing. I am also a big admirer of the old time makeup artists Jack Pierce, Cecil Holland, Jack Dawn and Perc Westmore.
WONDERLANCER: Which are more fun to design, aliens or vampires?
MICHAEL F. BLAKE: That is a tough decision. I enjoyed doing the vampires on BUFFY, but some of the aliens on STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9 were a lot of fun, too. On DEEP SPACE 9 you had the chance to do different characters. One show you’d be doing Kilgons, the next show you’d be doing something else. So that kept things fresh, it wasn’t the same old, same old.
WONDERLANCER: Are computer-generated characters competing with traditional special make-up effects and actors or does this comparison come from a narrow perspective on what should be offered the audiences to experience?
MICHAEL F. BLAKE: Definitely the CGI stuff is taking over some of what we would normally do. When the STAR WARS film came out with Jar-Jar Binks character, I said that five years earlier it would have been done with make-up, remote control head and a suit. So, CGI has come into “our territory” somewhat. I think CGI is the “new toy”, like the current 3D films, of the industry. Filmmakers like to play with a new toy until they get bored with it. But I do believe that CGI is here to stay, and each film will determine how much CGI is used relating to a character’s look.
WONDERLANCER: How many hours of work daily can a special make-up effects artist expect to put on when working in a TV series of success, like the ones you have worked in?
MICHAEL F. BLAKE: Oh boy! The hours on a TV show or a film is the hardest thing. Doing a TV series is the toughest, as the hours can be VERY long. I remember putting in a 21-hour day on BUFFY once. That was a killer. Generally, on a TV series you can expect to do 60+ hours a week if you’re a regular makeup artist on a show. On films it can vary. I was in Las Vegas for a week on DOMINO and we put it 85 hours in six days!
WONDERLANCER: For you, which is the most enjoyable process/moment, the conceptualization of the character make-up, the process of applying it or seeing the results on camera?
MICHAEL F. BLAKE: Applying the makeup. If you come in on a show like BUFFY or DEEP SPACE 9, the makeup department head has already designed the look of the character. But then you get to apply the pieces, and literally make the character come to life. That was one of the fun things about Kligons for me. You could usually pick a different style head piece and facial hair, so your character wouldn’t look like the other Klingon. Things like that are fun because you get to be creative. You’re not just slapping on a piece of rubber on an actor’s face.
WONDERLANCER: In your opinion, what are the techniques that a make-up and special make-up effects artist need to master if he/she wants to become professional in this field?
MICHAEL F. BLAKE: I tell EVERYONE who wants to enter the film/TV industry to LEARN EVERYTHING! I have a saying that I firmly believe in: “The more you know, the more you’ll work”. For example, when I started out in the business in 1978, there were about 6 fellas who were the “go-to” makeup artists for appliances. Back then we didn’t have the term “special makeup effects artist,” you were just a makeup artist. Anyway from 1978 to 1989, I did just one appliance in my career, it was for a episode of BUCK RODGERS TV series.
In 1989, the techniques had changed a lot, and I hadn’t kept up with them. My buddy, Mike Mills, was dept. head on BACK TO THE FUTURE II, and I asked him if I could come in on my own and shadow him so I could learn the new techniques. He called me in one night and, as he said, “threw me to the wolves” by applying a facial piece on an actor with Sonny Burman. So, I just followed Sonny’s lead, and he was very helpful to me. After that, I started doing more and more appliance work. With the STAR TREK series, my being able to do appliances kept food on the table when things were slow.
(CONTINUE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL F. BLAKE on Page 2)