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Interview with special effects artist and Face-Off contestant Eric Zapata

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Any fan of film, special effects, monsters, or reality TV knows of the SyFy hit series Face-Off. Over the 5 seasons these amazing artists have created some of the most memorable characters ever seen. While hanging at Space City Con in Galveston, TX. I had a chance to speak with special effects artist and season 4 and 5 contestant Eric Zapata to talk about his time on the show and career in the industry.

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Bobby: Before getting into your time on Face-Off, how long have you been into the make-up and modeling work?

Eric: I’ve been into the make-up effects industry since I was in middle school, so in the last 10 years or so. I have been into art since I was born, so have always fancied myself and artist so when I was in middle school started watching films and got my first job at a mom and pop video rental shop and that’s when I really started realizing my love for film and realized I could put my love of art and love for technical things together in the film industry, so I wanted a job in that ever since.

Bobby: I know there is usually an audition process to get on shows like Face-Off, what did you have to do to get on the show?

Eric: They actually called me, I didn’t want to try out for the show at first because I was a little nervous, but I got a call from the producers saying they were looking for people and specifically asked if I was interested so I thought that was a good sign that I should audition. From there you send in a video audition where they send you a sheet of questions that they want you to answer on camera and they want a make-up demonstration of an original design and original piece that you have made. They want you to apply it to yourself on camera, finish it, and then finish the interview in your make-up to show them you know what you are doing.

Bobby: How did they know to reach out to you, were you already working in the business?

Eric: I had been doing some work in the business already, but I had some friends that were in other seasons and they usually ask past contestants if they know anybody. There is also a different pool of people that they haven’t contacted yet, because they are constantly looking for artists to be on the show.

Bobby: We all know TV shows are cut up for the best entertainment and with Face-Off you guys have your issues, but a lot of people seem to help each other as well. How true to life is what actually happened and what is shown on TV?

Eric: The way they edit the show is pretty true to what happened in real life. The people are really kind for the most part. We are all artists so pretty much are all introverted like most artists are and take a while for us to get to know each other, but everyone’s really great. In my season there was only one bad apple and her name was Autumn and she was just kind of difficult to work with and everyone just kind of agreed on that. I had to work with her a few times and the best way to deal with that was to just keep my head down and handle it in a calm and collected fashion. It was a little difficult and I didn’t want to look weird on TV and lose my mind or blow up on camera or anything like that, but I tried my best not to do that and I think I handled it well. For the most part it was kind of breeze working with everyone else and just a fun time.

Bobby: I know on the show they tell you the amount of time, but with TV you don’t always get the real feel of the time. How much time were you actually given for the design work?

Eric: We only have 30 minutes to do our initial design which is really no time at all. I don’t really fancy myself a designer first and foremost, but most of the guys on the show who have a background in design can spend weeks and months designing a character and we have to do it in 30 minutes. Most people don’t realize that is where most people’s projects will rise to the occasion or fall is right when we design them at the beginning. Once you’re past that 30 minutes, if you haven’t something interesting or better than what you have then you are stuck with that design. A lot of people just don’t understand how frustrating that can be because we are capable of so much more than we can show on the program, but it’s a competition.

Bobby: One of the things they really don’t show on TV is your materials, do you guys have just everything you would ever need or is it limited?

Eric: The way they shoot the show you don’t really get a good look of the layout of the shop, but when I went in I was floored and had a field day in that shop. It was filled with all the materials I could have ever asked for and I just looked at it as a big playground. The materials are just everywhere, you don’t really get to see everything. There is the red room full of wigs, fabrication tools and every little make-up accessory you could ever want. Your kit is jam packed with every material you could ever want and they are probably worth 3 or 4 grand alone. It’s not a cheap industry to be in and that’s why I loved being on the show because every material and every piece of equipment I have wanted in my shop I had on the show.

Bobby: You guys had to make your own costumes as well and they don’t really show too much of the stitching or anything.

Eric: Every design that we have, all of the clothes and stuff, a lot of times people will go and make those designs. I remember House on my season had a really interesting costuming design for his werewolf and they thought he was going to do it out of fabric and he ended up doing it out of latex. So it was a skin tight latex costume that he made for his astronaut werewolf and I was floored, I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. It’s a ton of work.

Bobby: What have you been doing since the show? Are there any projects you are working on?

Eric: Yeah, I am based out of Austin and since the show came on I have gotten a lot of gigs and it’s opened a lot of doors for me. I run my own production company out of Austin called Archimedes Media Lab and we are a collective group of artists and we make genre films in the Austin area. Anything with a monster, a puppet, or a creature we’re going to make it. On top of that I have my special effects shop EZMUFX and I do custom prosthetics and work in the film industry doing make-up application big and low budget. Staying pretty busy.

Bobby: Do you have any particular films or anything that we can all go check out to see your work in action?

Eric: It’s already been out, but if you are interested in seeing my name in the credits and all that fun stuff there was a film adaptation of the book John Dies At The End that came out a few years ago.

Bobby: That movie is awesome.

Eric: Yeah it’s great. Paul Giamatti produced it and I had the pleasure of working on the effects scene for that. We were working in Ohio at the time and I got to help create meat creature with the team that brought it to life and that was my first creature suit that I worked on in the film industry.

Bobby: That is a good one to start with.

Eric: That is a great one to start with and I got to see the premiere of it out at South By Southwest and I saw my name roll up on the screen and got a little emotional, it’s pretty cool to see that up there.

Bobby: I bet. I thank you and hope you have a great time here at the con.

Eric: Awesome thank you very much.

After the interview I noticed he was in the middle of sculpting what appeared to be a ninja turtle (that can be seen in out photo). When I asked him about it he brought up a design that some of you may recognize that went around for some time on the web that people thought was a part of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and it turned out just to be some amazing work from Eric that can be seen here as well. This is just another level of proof that Eric is an amazing artist with a sure to be amazing career ahead of him and someone in the industry that you should keep your eye on.

For more information on Archimedes Media Lab head over to http://vimeo.com/archimedesmedialab

For more information on EZMUFX head over to http://www.ezmufx.com/

For more information on Space City Con head over to http://spacecitycon.com/

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