December 31, 2015 Interview – Special Make-up Effects Artist Mark Garbarino
It is often those behind the scenes that go unseen that make the movies what they are. Dedicated to the art of crafting something unique, these individuals are the make-up artists and the special effects artists. One whom has devoted a life of work to the passion of this creativity is Make-up and Prosthetic Illusionist Mark Garbarino. With a resume of credited work that is a mile long, including Hollywood Blockbusters like 2006’s 300, 2009’s Star Trek, and more, Garbarino has a wide range of talents that should not go unnoticed. Passionate about the art of practical effects, Garbarino has been dazzling fans of Sci-Fi and Horror for decades with his work. Recently we caught up with the ever-working artist for a look into his career in special effects, the work on new film Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, CGI vs practical effects, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in makeup and special effects for over three decades. In that time, you have worked on some really great Horror, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi films. Tell me, what has this journey been like for you?
Mark Garbarino – It has been a lot of hard work. I got my wish. There is a couple of things I have not achieved yet, but I always wanted to work with Rob Bottin. I did work with Rob, but it was kind of like in and out. I did not really get to get the gist of him. It was sort of later in his day and he did that big octopus arm for some kind of sea monster thing, it was a CGI creature. I have met tons of cool people. For me, it has always really been the craft and the science of stuff. That can set you back sometimes. When the award winners are kind of the person holding the ball, the last person holding the football crossing the touchdown line gets all the glory. There is a hell of a lot behind the scenes, artists and people, passion, working, and intelligence that goes on to get all the stuff to the screen. I came from there. If I am in a good position, I am real appreciative of it and respectful of the people behind me that are still digging it deep in the trenches.
CrypticRock.com – You understand what it has been like to be behind the scenes, so you respect those who are just starting out.
Mark Garbarino – Absolutely, and I understand to give credit where credit is due.
CrypticRock.com – Now clearly you have worked in a lot of Horror films. You have worked on Night of the Demons (1988), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988), and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989). Do you enjoy working within the Horror genre?
Mark Garbarino – Yes, early in the day, when I wanted to get into it, you want to get with the best call. Let me say, without being disrespectful, blood is easy. There are things like Friday the 13th (1980), I was not a big fan of them, the cleverness of a gag was more intriguing to me. I wanted to see like a Rob Bottin thing, something crazy like a sculptural entity rather than just Slasher, blood, or gore. I like weird stuff, such as Seven (1995), was cool. If there is an element of bizarre to it; I do not mean bizarre like Saw (2004), I am not a fan of that stuff, there are too much mass murders and Ted Bundy’s for real out there. I did love the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), that was insane, that was high art in its bizarreness. I love Eraserhead (1977). I still see what we may call a Horror film, but I want something more from it than just somebody getting tortured and killed, you know, it is sadism.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, it makes perfect sense. More of the artistic elements of it, the creativity rather than the shock effect.
Mark Garbarino – Yes, the bizarre. It is not such an abstract word, but something weird. A weird movie. You walk away from a weird movie with a weird feeling.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and very true. You had recently worked on this film Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. What was this project like for you?
Mark Garbarino –This one was good, it was definitely a lot of work. You are under the gun to quickly come up with a solution. Me and ADI, we are equally responsible in failure if we cannot solve the problem. ADI had the job, they brought me on and they are sorting out a bunch of options, feeding them to the director. I am the makeup artist that is overseeing the application aspect of it and the evolution of what we are all trying to accomplish. It was a real challenge. Right up to the gun, right up to the last minute, we were saying, “Ok let’s go. Work, work, work, work, work.”
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like an intense experience. Anything worth achieving is worth a lot of hard work, right?
Mark Garbarino – Yes, for this, my favorite things were things that are a little more challenging. The main stuff became work for us. Still, everyday, my team are able to sling and do something creative and different, that was fun to say what did you do today? Now I have to challenge my skills to keep up with you, or match Dave Snyder, and Leonard MacDonald. Those are two guys I was working with, as well as a bunch of other good guys I was working with. They are my main creative guys that I compete with, if you will.
CrypticRock.com – That must add an interesting dynamic to that fun competition. As you mentioned about working with a team, you have worked on films with big budgets and you have worked on films with small budgets as well. As an artist, someone that likes to create, do you enjoy the challenge of working with a smaller budget, or do you like working with a bigger budget and having more ability? What do you find easier?
Mark Garbarino – Well I know I have this skill to work a lot with a small budget. That may not be something to be so proud of, but it is just a fact. I hate seeing waste when someone is telling me they do not have money to do something and then they are throwing money away left and right. That is the only bitter pill that happens, sometimes in a big film. The bigger the film, the less your role a lot of times. It becomes delegation, bigger people, and chain of command. Of course there is more freedom in a smaller crew and a smaller film, or a big film with a smaller crew with specific assignments. The bigger it gets, there is a compromise that has to take place to get it done. You are dealing with the masses, it is like cooking for the masses, as opposed to cooking for five people.
CrypticRock.com – That makes perfect sense. Sometimes less is more when creating.
Mark Garbarino – Yes, a good sketch is better than you spending a ton of time and producing a turd. Sometimes the pressure helps you make quicker decisions that benefit everybody.
CrypticRock.com – Good point. Seeing that you have had the experience through the years, you have seen the development of CGI. You have seen the practical effects vs. the CGI effects. What do you prefer?
Mark Garbarino – Well, I think, like most of my peers, unless they already swung over like Gino Acevedo, I have to respect it and love it when I know a true artist switched over to that genre. Whoever hired him is getting gold. If they know the tool, then they got somebody that knows so much more than a Joe at a school that just did some drawing and now he is a programmer or whatever. Even the Stop Motion animators who swung over, they know gravity, they know what the challenge is. I think so much of new CGI has no grounds. There are a million films like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (2012), we thought that could have been good and sadly it was not. The CGI was poor on that, it was absurd. When perspective changes radically in a character, it is like who is watching this movie, who is editing this stuff? There is a lot of slack they get that we never get, so I am not happy like that. I kind of hold them to say, “If you are gonna play the game, at least play by the same rules that we did,” and we do by reality and believability.
It seems like the gamer curve has a greater curve of forgiveness. Maybe the games out there are getting more self-analyzing and critical than the movies are. The movies have these release deadlines, and a lot of them do not even care what it looks like. They just say forget it, put it out there, and you see the movie and say, “Wow, that is horrible CGI.” I appreciate it, I know it is necessary, it has evolved our tool. We have lost a ton of work, there is no more puppeteers doing mechanical puppets because they look mechanical, frankly, in a lot of cases. That is a dying art, sadly, a beautiful scientific part of our film history that is really not going to last. Mechanical engineering and great puppets under structures that were genius, but it is do or die, you have move on.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the positive thing is that now maybe they are stepping back a little with CGI and they are intertwining the two together a little bit more now.
Mark Garbarino – Smarter people are realizing that they are saving money, and also what is the gag. Just saying, I work a lot in China. I got twenty-five film credits in thirteen years. Some of these new guys get the taste of CGI and they just say, “Forget it,we will do it in post.” They are not even smart enough to analyze their shot. They do not even have a dude in a green suit, they do not even have a green screen, they do not have any of this stuff that makes that easier. They are getting rid of stuntmen, all these famous stunt guys from Martial Art movies. They are saying, “No, we don’t need that, we will do it in post. I am happy though that people are getting savvy and saying, “You know, you need everything to cook. A good meal uses a lot of stuff.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed with you totally. Our last question for you is pertaining to Horror Films. What are some of your personal favorite Horror or Sci-Fi films?
Mark Garbarino – The Thing from 1982 was just crazy great, the one from John Carpenter and Rob Bottin.I loved Influential stuff like Eraserhead. As a kid, my favorite werewolf is The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Oliver Reed is a werewolf. In modern stuff, there is a lot of cool things. Actually one of the most weird movies and impressive things I liked was what Patrick Tatopoulos did with Silent Hill (2006).