Science Fiction Filme) Dear Mister Farley. Your life for the film is unique. You started with such films as KINGDOM OF SPIDERS (1977), FORCE OF DARKNESS (1985) or ARENA (1989). Could you please tell us how you got into makeup or SFX in general? What did you do before you entered the film industry?


Jeff Farley) Growing up in La Crescenta and finding out that some of Equinox had been shot there gave me an idea that the film industry wasn’t far off and later, moving to Glendale, where one of my neighbors was Oscar winning Star Wars editor Richard Chew really cemented that idea. It never really dawned on me at that time, even with films like Ed Hunt’s Bloody Birthday shooting a block away from my house that I was that close as I grew up in a pretty conservative household and none of it seemed possible. I though was into horror films and soon to become friends with Famous Monsters editor, Forrest J Ackerman.


With KINGDOM OF SPIDERS at age 14, that was my first actual job… though my friends and I weren’t paid. Eventually, I went to work for my father’s Sheet Metal company though I dreamed of working in the film industry. In 1984, I was hired to fabricate two props for Danny DeVito’s directorial debut, THE RATING GAME. I had a small studio space on Santa Monica Blvd. at that time and built the props there. Seeing actors like Danny DeVito, Ronny Graham, Steve Allen & Jayne Meadows carrying my the pieces I

fabricated was a thrill. It wouldn’t be another couple of years before I entered the business full-time.


SFF.) At the beginning of your career, you worked for movies like SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II (1987), GHOST TOWN (1988) or THE BLOB (1988). What did you take away from that time that influenced your future work?


J.F.) After 10 years of working part time in the industry, I was hired for a couple of weeks at Makeup Effects Lab who were desperate for extra crew and I happened to call on the right day as they put me to work immediately. We did all nighters for what seemed like the coldest winter in ages but ending up on set for one night on THE STEPFORD CHILDREN was what I had been waiting for. Finding myself working with Barbara Eden made that night perfect. Afterward, most of the MEL crew were heading over to Kenny Myers’ for RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 2 and it seemed like a natural that I’d be hired on over there but that wasn’t to be and I ended up over at Lance Anderson’s studio on THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW and MOONWALKER for three months. When that finished, I went over to John Buechler’s shop and worked on Empire Pictures films like PRISON and ARENA where I went to Italy for three months and then, over to THE BLOB when I arrived. After 10 years of part-time, I finally was working where I had put my efforts.


SFF.) You were starting your career in the glorious decade of the 80s and 90s. What do you think about that time? Why do people love this period of movies?


J.F.)  I can personally say that we had more time and budgets to work with. Though we did have to work quickly, the pressures weren’t as apparent. This resulted in films that feel dated, but still age like a fine wine.


SFF.) What is your opinion about education to become an expert in make-up? Is there any requirement or talent you need to have next to enthusiasm?


J.F.) It all depends on the individual. I never received a lot of education prior to entering the industry though I was able to practice on my own with information that a lot of the professional guys in the industry I knew would tell me. Magazines like Famous Monsters, Cinefantastique and the “how-to” bibles of our time, The Dick Smith Do-It-Yourself Monster Makeup Handbook & Cinemagic were indispensable. On the formal side, I found Richard Corson’s Stage Makeup & Lee Baygan’s The Technique of Three Dimensional Makeup incredibly helpful as they concentrated on true technique. Early on during the 1970’s, the only two school’s that concentrated on film makeup techniques were in Los Angeles and they were far too cost prohibitive for me, so I gave myself hands-on training.


It is important to receive some sort of training whether it be educational or on-the-job. Enthusiasm is a must as the days can be long. Talent can be latent as I’ve seen only a few enter with born abilities and abilities can improve over time.


SFF.) How is it, in your opinion, that earlier in the makeup industry only some women get great reputations like MilicentPatrick or Ve Neill with which you won the Oscar for BETTLEJUICE?


J.F.) I recall meeting Ve Neill during KINGDOM OF SPIDERS  and I had already heard of her from seeing her credit in Laserblast. I guess that form of reputation does proceed and I have always respected her as she is a consummate makeup artist. Millicent Patrick was a revelation when I heard of her involvement in the design of THE CEATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON suit. The studio system was to blame as even the most talented technicians never received credit due, but knowing how her hand was responsible for such a classic design, she deserves her place in history.


SFF) What do you think about awards in general? Does make-up get more attention these days than it used to?


J.F.) It’s been a long fight to get recognition in this industry in the way of awards though most seem self-congratulatory. There is merit, but it’s all work that should be rewarded for its own achievements. I am grateful for the nominations and awards I have received, but I think of those who also deserve their praise.


SFF.) How exactly did you go about planning the make-ups? To what extent does the make-up support the individual characters?


J.F.) Reading the script is usually the first place to start. Usually, my duties only fill a portion of any films descriptions, so I will only consider those elements. Creating a breakdown of how the effects will be achieved as well as budget is next. Design is the last piece before any physical work is begun. Sometimes though, you get called for something that has none of those luxuries and you wing-it.


The performer must bring the character to life along with the director. Makeup does add importance to the visualization. If the performer though is not invested into the role, despite any hardships that makeup provides, the result can be less than satisfactory.


SFF.) What is the difference between working on films for cinema and television?


J.F.) With the current climate, there seems to be little difference as a theatrical feature can be released solely to streaming. Or that same film can be in both theaters & the small screen concurrently.


Sometimes, it was the medium. A lot of the low budget films I worked on were shot in 35mm, but on “short ends”, with each roll holding about 400 feet of film, whereas a television film might have the budget for full rolls.


There are times that working on a television series can feel like working on a low-budget feature for weeks-in-a- row or even the other-way-around. There are films though that do transcend their mediums and turn out very well done.


SFF.) Can you please explain to the readers the difference between a prosthetic makeup artist, a special makeup effects artist, a visagist and a key makeup artist?


J.F.) Makeup and its processes can be broken down into;


1.        Makeup Artist- This area encompasses everything from Beauty Salon through Weddings and onto stage/film/tv work. The duties involve addition of product to enhance a visual image though stage/film/tv work can also involve; character work, aging & de-aging techniques, hair work & light injury.


2.        Special Makeup Effects Artist- This involves the addition of prosthetic pieces and more advanced lab techniques such as sculpture & mold making.


3.        Special Effects Makeup Artist- This area requires more advanced techniques as it gets into more involved pieces such as full-body suits and animatronics.


All areas require some form of visualization to achieve your ideas. Each production department has it’s own set of “staff roles” and Key Makeup Artist generally works alongside the department supervisor to maintain the proper continuity and etiquette on set as well as bring their own personal talent & expertise.


SFF) Your Portfolio is a wonderful compilation of fantastic work. Do you have some favorite works of yours and is there a project that, unfortunately, never came to fruition, even though you had already designed a lot for it?


J.F.) Throughout my career, there have been too many “close calls”. I can’t mention many, but one that comes to mind is when I was involved with Fiend without a Face producer Richard Gordon.


During the mid-1990’s I had purchased the license to the iconic creature design as a 1:1 scale garage kit and while I was working out the details, Richard brought British genre director Norman J. Warren over to my place and they brought a copy of the Fiend remake script with them and handed it over to me. Like that, I was involved. Though I did do a couple of designs, Richard wanted to keep the original design and I was fine with that. It would have included stop motion for the creature work as well as some more modern makeup/creature effects and would have been fun working with Norman & Richard, but unfortunately it never came to be.


SFF.) Instead of being in the fantastic realm, how do you create "human" make-up like scars or injuries. To what extent is the difficulty with such make-up? What are the one or more challenges at such shows?


J.F.) Realism is standard for this type of work, though I’m never really satisfied doing anything too realistic… I want things to be fantastic as opposed to slavish. But it all depends on who you’re working with.

I can say that two examples of realism I’m personally satisfied with was the Greg Kinnear injury makeup that I sculpted for Michele Burke in As Good As it Gets and the obesity prosthetics & suit I made for Evil Bong 2. As low a budget as that show was, I had plenty of experience sculpting those types of pieces and it all came together beautifully.


SFF.) For example, if you need to prepare to show aging processes of a character, how do you go about it?


J.F.) You prepare pretty much the same way as any other makeup. The script may provide clues but communicating with the director and performer(s) will iron out any details. Designs, fabrication & testing of prosthetics, wigs, etc.

 It all depends on the level of aging and the amount of effort required. There have been films in which aging makeups were fully prepared and shot, then altered or excised completely.


These days, there are new techniques which are pushing the boundaries.


SFF) You also worked for a long time on the TV series BABYLON 5. What were your tasks and challenges there?


J.F.) Though I had a short period working on the pilot, I ended up over at Optic Nerve Studios working for John Vulich toward the end of the fourth season and for some reason, I was asked to take over as studio supervisor for Babylon 5. This was before we knew about a renewal for the fifth season and we were all fairly nervous as the show was being dropped by its network. Once TNT had picked the show up, we knew that we had jobs and my experience was like “walking into a well-oiled machine”.


They were very organized and a joy to work with. Though my job as makeup effects supervisor meant that I had to be around for production meetings and make sure that everyone was doing their jobs and staying on the same page… and even I got some work in myself, I felt my job was to be in the background as much as possible and only come forward when necessary. The lab and set crews were outstanding and some of the best people I’ve worked with. With John Vulich gone, I wish I could thank him again.


SFF.) Please tell us something about the project THE PRIMEVALS. how did it all start and how does it end?


J.F.) I first met David Allen in 1978 and personally witnessed some of the pre-production on The Primevals and remained friends with him. I introduced Chris Endicott to Dave and that started a great professional relationship and in 1994, we were all in Romania working on the production. I was hired to supervise the makeup effects department for the items fabricated by Steve Neill and Mark Rappaport’s units. In my spare time, I would put on a hominid suit and perform in the film so I was able to get involved in some way. Now, in 2024 and sadly, though Dave is no longer with us, the film has finally been in release for a while in festival screenings as well as select Alamo Drafthouses across the US. I’ve seen the film and since it will be released formally in a few months, I’ll keep my expressions to myself. I can say that it is great to see a film with this much stop motion.


SFF.) ABRUPTIO is a horror film that has made quite a splash. You did the SFX for it. How did that come about and please tell us something about the "Lead Puppet Fabricator".


J.F.) My involvement with Abruptio came as a referral from Brian Wade who had passed on it. I had spoken a few years earlier with the films director Evan Marlowe on a project but hearing from him again about this project that required all of the characters to be performed as puppets was to good a challenge to pass up… even if I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. The main character of Les had been made by Mark Villalobos, it was apparent that with the amount of scenes it would be needed for, more than one copy was required. I ended up duplicating the sculpture and remolded it and made the copy as well as a mask, that seemed like that was it. Maybe six months later, the mother character was needed and again, I was asked to fabricate the puppet.


At this point, it was revealed that a number of puppets would be required and there was no clear plan on how this would all come together but Evan and his wife & producer Kerry, were determined to keep it going. There was a period that a few more puppets were made by Alicia Berry. These designs really pushed the boundaries and had a really great, surrealistic edge to them. Honestly, I thought my part was over and I moved on. It wasn’t until the end of 2019 that I was contacted again and told that the film was back up-and -running and that a huge amount of puppets would be required and would I be interested. I was very enthusiastic and began on what ended up being approximately 15 months of work making the rest of the characters. Due to the sheer amount of work I did myself, I was given the “Lead Puppet Fabricator” credit though I also did the physical designs of the characters themselves.


I had so much to do that I couldn’t make it to set and attempted to make the puppets as light and strong as possible to allow lead puppeteer Danny Montooth maximum flexibility. Though I did fabricate the gore gags also, the on-set duties were handled by Evan & Kerry.


SFF.) Is there any work you are particularly proud of or any that you would do better with today's opportunities and if so which and why?


J.F.) I am very proud of the Python character for Stan Lee’s Lightspeed. Though we had only 18 days to get it all done and to location, everything worked out well. Of course, more time and budget would have helped everyone.


SFF) CGI nowadays could be a curse or a blessing. What do you think about it comparing to “old school”- films back in the days? Does it make the progress easier?


J.F.) Digital post-production work is an offshoot of optical effects and a necessary tool for any successful production though it became a crutch. There are some wonderful moments though but like anything, it should be in service to the storyline.


SFF) If we look back to the movies you have done, we see that you did a lot of genre-movies. I am really into science fiction (or fantasymovies in general) because I think, that those kind of movies are the best way to show actual political and socialevents. For example, SOYLENT GREEN or SILENT RUNNING. Do you believe that these genres can transfer something to the people?


J.F.) I agree that any Science-Fantasy film can transcend ideas to the public if handled properly. The Andromeda Strain is a perfect example of the mixture of a realistic “what-if” scenario and a low-key action film in which smart dialogue replaces fists.


SFF.) Do you take some (personal) fears into your make-up? Where did you take your inspiration from for this design?


J.F.) I have personally witnessed a few “horrifying” moments and honestly, I prefer to “anti-realism” as creating a shocking image has nothing to do with realism. Unless you are looking to reduce it to the mundane.


SFF.) Imagine you meet an extraterrestrial one day. He wants to know why you were stuck into movies with just one movie to explain, which will it be and why?


J.F.) If the concept were relatable, I would choose Equinox (1970) as that particular film opened the world of stop motion and special effects for film as a career to my eyes. As life is given meaning by creating goals, at age 8, I had found my life’s profession and it became my goal. I’m not saying it was easy and there haven’t been problems, but it kept me focused.


SFF.) I held up with one of the most important question to the end: What was the most difficult effect you were working on and why?


J.F.)  Every project has something that could be described as “difficult” but most recently, I’d have to say that Abruptio was the most difficult as it was the longest time I have ever put into a single production and though every puppet was individually hand-made, I had to follow a day-by-day schedule for over a year straight to make sure that I had everything ready for each phase of production. Due to the sheer amount of work I did by myself as well as the fact that given the situation, I couldn’t be there for the production as I would like to have been, making sure that the puppets were maintained, they held up incredibly well… and there could have been a disaster at any time considering the efforts they put in.


But they really went above-and-beyond and pushed everything to the limit and honestly, I was thrilled they did. It really was a group effort and I’m rather embarrassed to say that I wasn’t aware of the six awards I won until after they had happened. It may be the final culmination of my career and I’m very proud and honored to have been involved.


SFF.) Dear Mister Farley. I thank you immensely for taking time doing this interview and wish you all the best for your future movie making.


J.F.) Thank you Till for taking the time to ask! I am grateful!