VAMP Alumni Spotlight: Hillary Zinks
Tell the world a bit about yourself!
I’m a makeup artist graduate from VAMP 2018! My passion has always been film and when I was introduced into FX I knew that my job would be in the film world. I’ve also dabbled in writing and directing films as well. I’m originally from Orlando but have lived in lots of places including Albuquerque, Las Vegas, LA, DC and many of them twice! My life is crazy, and I love to travel.
From what program and when did you graduate from VAMP?
I attended and graduated from the Spring 2018 Modern Effects Makeup Artistry program.
What was your favorite thing to learn about while attending VAMP and why?
My favorite thing to learn was sculpting. I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy the sculpting process, but it proved to be very relaxing to me. I also loved that the makeup looks we are creating are LITERALLY started from a brick of clay. The feeling of accomplishment you have when you make a whole mask from scratch, and then you finish it, is like “[WOW] I just did that?!?!”
How many production sets have you worked on? For what films?
I have probably worked on about 50 productions in my life as I was working in film before VAMP. Some of my most recent films that I’ve worked on are Netflix’s Army of the Dead, Wander, and The Marksman. You can see my full list of movies on IMDb https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4088451/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
What is a piece of advice you’d give to someone who is thinking about joining the SFX industry?
Do it RIGHT! Before going to VAMP, I had taken a film tech class and thought I knew all the makeup I needed to know from YouTube tutorials. It wasn’t until I took [the VAMP Modern Effects program] where my career really took off. I finally knew real techniques, using the airbrush etc. But not only that, I found out exactly how to get into the IATSE Union. I took every opportunity. Not only that, I always had my resume and portfolio and told them I was available for work. Don’t be catty in this industry. You must be friendly and fun to work with. People will choose the artists who are willing to learn, pleasant and easygoing to work with over talent anyway.
You never know when or where your next job is going to come from, so be nice to everyone. Most importantly, when you’re working on set, make sure your actor always feels comfortable, safe, and happy when they’re with you. I cannot stress this enough. If an actor has a bad time in your chair you set the tone for them the entire day, and possibly for the entire shoot. Be respectful of their thought process as well. Some actors want to chat and have fun, others need to completely focus in silence.
What is something in your kit that you didn’t think was necessary, but you end up using all the time?
LOL – Hair, wigs, and beards. Sometimes on smaller sets you have to help out with the hair department or even be the hair department as well.
Who is your favorite artist that inspires you the most and why?
Brian [VAMP’s Modern Effects instructor] is so knowledgeable and willing to help. [Also], I worked with Frank Perez who’s been in the industry for years and worked on the Goonies Sloth character. He taught me some great techniques and it is amazing how many ways there are to do certain things.
How do you seek out new job opportunities?
I put myself out there. I don’t sit around waiting for a job to call me, I reach out to Department Heads and Key Makeup Artists with my resume and portfolio to let them know I’m available. I reach out to any friends in the industry to see if they have any leads on jobs. I see what they’re working on and let them know that I’m available to be a Day Player if they need extra hands. I hustle.
What are you working on currently?
I just finished a movie called Fry Bread and I’m currently working on my art studio, getting it in shape to reopen after Covid and looking for my next big gig!
What do you geek-out about?
I geek out when I get onto huge sets and I get to work with makeup artists from around the US. [Netflix’s] Army of the Dead was INSANE. There were at least 20 artists just for the background characters, and then there were the artists in the trailers for the main zombies. I also geek out when I get a department head or key role. I LOVE it when I’m hired to make all the special effects and prosthetics for a film.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement thus far?
My greatest achievement was never giving up on myself. When I was at VAMP I was going through the hardest time in my life at home. I was so close to quitting with only 3 weeks left in class. Heather, the School Director, and Brian, my instructor, were so willing to help me get back on track and helped me find the strength to finish. Not only that, when I got my job at Universal Studios working Halloween Horror Nights, I was having a difficult time getting the vampires out in 25 min without them looking awful. One day I got to work and told myself “It’s sink or swim,” and that day I just figured it out and I swam. (Editor’s Note: Heather was Hillary’s Lead at HHN that year!)
What advice do you wish you could give yourself 3 years ago?
Practice more on the airbrush, practice more at home, practice putting on prosthetics faster. JUST PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Not only that, I wish I would have started practicing beauty makeup sooner and making a portfolio for beauty. FX is my passion but not every movie needs special effects, every movie does need beauty artists. I lost a department head job for a low budget feature film because my beauty portfolio wasn’t large enough and I didn’t have my IMDb up to date. Be as well rounded as possible while having your specialty.
Edited for grammar, content, and clarity. AUGUST 2021.
MAY 2021—Lifecasting is the process of creating a three-dimensional copy of a living human body, usually limited to a section of the body at a time, through the use of molding and casting techniques. After the students learn all there is to know about how to perform a life-cast they partner up and get to cast-away (pun intended). Hopefully no one is claustrophobic as it can get a little tight while waiting for the molds to set.
When all is completed, each student has a perfect replica of themselves and their partners to then start the process of sculpting their creations for future applications – both foam and silicone prosthetics.
*Fun fact; it has quickly turned into a tradition for current students to leave their discarded plaster face molds outside and around the facilities to leave their own mark for posterity. A little creepy? Yes, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Behind the mask…
FEBRUARY 2020 — Raven Baker, Fall 2019 Modern Effects Makeup Artistry graduate, put in a lot of hard work and technique to bring her character to life on her model, Tony. Her process included lifecasting her model, sculpting her creation, creating epoxy-fiberglass molds, and creating multiple encapsulated silicone prosthetics.
In addition to this she created a custom fit set of character dentures, as well as a rigid mask for her menacing phantom. All the learning, planning, creating, and applying took countless hours, but resulted in a stellar finished product for her final project in the program. Way to go, Raven!
All of our students learn the how to create and apply silicone prosthetics in our Modern Effects Makeup Artistry program. For more information about our Modern Effects program, click here! Think you’re ready to take the plunge? Apply now!
Our First Shot!
This is Us, VAMP
We honestly aren’t sure where exactly to start with this, but it’s us, VAMP. Our love for makeup is far and wide and nearly outshines our love for buying things we don’t need from the clearance Halloween aisle at Walgreens. Do we start with our favorite types of brush cleaner? Our favorite makeup from a busted 80’s film? We don’t know, but I assume by the time I’m finished pulling things from my imaginary Freddy Krueger fedora that I’ll have something figured out and you will be back for more before you know it! Muahahaha!
We want to be the makeup school that takes learning the most crucial ins-and-outs of the industry and makes it fun. We want you to WANT to show up to class and try out new things. Creativity and art have no boundaries, and we are here to push you to be your weirdest, most creative self when you’re in our classrooms. You can run in a lot of different directions in this industry’s playing field, which can seem daunting at times but can also be very exciting. You wanna do makeup for a B-rated horror film? AWESOME. You wanna sell homemade sculpted crafts at your local county fair? AWESOME (…just make sure to grab some fried Oreo’s. ) We are here to help push you in the right direction and help you navigate the wild world of working in creative fields like makeup and fabrication.
So how have some of our students made out after taking our Modern Effects Makeup Artistry program, you ask? Well, we contacted one of our totally radical graduates, Victoria Fox, to see how things were going….
When did you graduate from VAMP?
I graduated July 2017(!)
What got you interested in the industry?
Watching the classic Universal monsters with my grandmother and hearing her stories of how they paid 5 cents to be terrified by Bela Lugosi still has a hold on me to this day. I was astounded to find out that making people look like monsters was an actual job! Growing up with Star Wars and E.T. also really got me interested in effects and creature design.
What was your favorite part of school?
My favorite part had to be sculpting in general. It was what I was most nervous about, having not done it much before, but I fell in love with it pretty quickly.
What was your least favorite part of school?
I would have to say mold making, solely because it’s kind of a one shot thing which I found very stressful. And ironically enough, that’s a large part of my job right now and I love it.
What was your most funny moment in school?
Hands down, it had to be our demo day for beards. I volunteered to be the model on the condition that Brian, our instructor, gave me a Gandalf scale beard. At the time I had pink tips on my hair so he even gave me a little pink tint to the beard. I kept it on for lunch time and went through the Krystal’s drive through with it on.
What do you feel was most beneficial to your career that you learned here?
As cliché as it sounds, I think the most valuable thing I learned is that I can do anything I set my mind to. My confidence level prior to attending VAMP wasn’t very high at all, but learning all that I did really gave me the push to go for the things I want.
Did you ever have to wear the class Dunce cap?
I pride myself in that I never had to wear the Dunce cap. I couldn’t believe it never happened!
What are you up to now?
I currently work for a scenic fabrication shop in Orlando called MAD Creative Fabrication. I’m also working on a lot of personal projects, the occasional makeup job, and I do a monthly makeup tutorial show, Blue Sky Beauty, for Attractions Magazine on YouTube.
What’s a typical day like for you at your job?
Our shop does carpentry, metal work, and fiberglass among many other things so as you can imagine, it can be pretty random. I’m currently working with the fiberglass department casting pieces in molds that we made a few weeks ago. It can be exhausting work but it’s so very rewarding.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope that I’ve mastered fiberglassing more fully, as well as carpentry and welding. I’ll be doing makeup more regularly on the side, ideally for a place like Universal. I also plan to have mastered programs like ZBrush and Blender for the purposes of character design.
What is you dream job in the industry?(…I mean it doesn’t have to be in the industry…)
My dream job would have to be working for Lucasfilm in some capacity. If that means working on makeup/masks for a movie, I’m there. If that means being a part of the creature design department, sculpting maquettes and generating characters through computer programs, I’m also there.
Are there any films with makeup effects that really spark your interest?
Of course, and I know I’m being repetitive here, Star Wars. Always Star Wars. Star Trek Beyond and Mad Max: Fury Road will always be full of infinite amounts of inspiration for me as well.
What is your favorite kind of ice cream?
Mint Chocolate Chip all the way.
Favorite brand of brushes for both FX and Beauty?
I had a giant array of brushes before school but I have to say the Bdellium Tools FX brushes VAMP has as part of its kit are the absolute best. For beauty, I’m a big fan of Crown Brushes.
What is a must have in your kit?
Qosmedix has these amazing small fine tipped disposable brushes that I use for so many different things. They’re very convenient, especially for tooth effects! I also invested in a cross body brush holder from crown brushes that is perfect for working on set.
Do you have any advice for new and aspiring artists in the industry?
Just DO IT! Don’t be afraid of failure or let the “what if’s” in your head stop you from trying. I wouldn’t have most of what I have going on if I didn’t take a chance.