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Style & Design

'Face Off' exit Q&A: 'It's not my forte'

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Image Credit: Nicole Wilder/Syfy

In the latest episode of Face Off, the contestants turned trash into art when they were tasked with incorporating items from a junkyard into a cyborg makeup look.

Nicole Chilelli scored her second win in a row with her feminine cyborg, a creation that guest judge Gale Anne Hurd (writer/producer of The Terminator) said inspired her to write a story. On the other end of the spectrum, when Sarah Miller presented the judges with a makeup look that wasn’t believably functional, she was eliminated from the competition.

EW chatted with Sarah about what it’s like to work when you’re surrounded by cameras, how to make yellow pirate goo, and how Face Off’s “Monster Twist” challenge was surprisingly similar to a professional project she recently completed.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You said in the episode that you don’t know a lot about cyborgs. Did that put you at a disadvantage for this challenge?
SARAH MILLER: It would have been helpful if I had known a little bit more. It’s a genre that I enjoy watching, but it’s not my forte in my creative realm. I definitely don’t gear towards stuff like that. So, I think that’s more what it was for me than not really knowing all of the movies. I’ve seen a few of the Terminator movies, and I knew of the Borg from Star Trek and stuff, but I think it’s more a style that doesn’t come to me as easily. What Nicole did is something that’s definitely more like what I would do, but that’s not the first thing that came into my head.

If you could do it over again, what would you have done differently ?
I’m not completely sure, but obviously I’d change things. I think I’d probably go more towards creating an elegant, beautiful female character. I think that I would have taken about 15 minutes and walked outside and just sat in the sunshine for a little bit to think instead of just trying to make [an idea] come. Sometimes it’s just better if you step away, and I didn’t do that and realized at the end that I should have.

During the episode, you noticed that the other contestants were going bigger with their designs. Do you think the judges prefer a “more is more” approach?
I don’t think it’s always more is more. [It's] sometimes what catches the eye first. There were a few times where I did some things that they completely ignored. Like with my Cheshire Cat, I did everything head to toe, made the entire costume, and they didn’t seem to care about it. And that’s fine. It’s a personal opinion by the judges on what they do and don’t like. Sometimes it’s the subtle things that can really make it happen. Nicole’s piece… she had the big costume and stuff, but if you looked at hers compared to the other ones, hers was pretty simple and the pieces on it were much smaller. So it’s just kind of the overall look and how it completely comes together.

On your sea urchin pirate design, how did you make the yellow goo and get it to ooze out at just the right moment?
The yellow goo was actually K-Y Jelly, water and coloring. There was a syringe with a latex tube that went underneath and out of the prosthetic, so at the right time, [the model] just squished the syringe that was in the side of her dress and made it come out. I was very clear to talk to her, and say, ‘If you feel any resistance, don’t push!’ because I didn’t want it to squirt all over the judges. That could have been comical. That could have also been problematic.

Which of your Face Off makeups are you most proud of?
One of my absolute favorites that I did this season actually didn’t get much airtime. It was the Sweetie Stealer from the kids episode. I don’t know what exactly it is about him, but there’s something that I really, really liked. I think she is a really good embodiment of my style – the kind of beautiful, grotesque where at first glance it’s pretty then after a second glance, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, there’s just something wrong.’ I’ve done a lot of characters kind of like that.

What did you think of the twist that saw eliminated contestant Nicole return to the competition?
I think I have a different opinion than a lot of people on that. I was really happy to have it happen. I think it was cool to give someone another chance when things just went kind of wrong for them. It would have been awesome to have anybody back. With Eric, he had a very small amount of time on the show, and it was just the challenge that he and I did together – just too many things went wrong, and it wasn’t what I know he can make. So it would have been awesome for him to have another chance. I think it’s kind of a cool twist. And Nicole and I are pretty good friends, so I’m really happy to have had some more time to spend with her.

Did it take some time to get accustomed to having cameras on you while you worked?
To be honest, you just get so engrossed in what you’re doing that everything kind of disappears around you anyway. There were some times I would get a little annoyed. If you’re getting stressed out, then the cameras kind of come around you a little bit more ’cause that helps create a little bit of drama. And so sometimes in that situation it would be a little bit frustrating, but for the most part, it was just part of the building, part of the surroundings.

How many cameras would be on that studio stage with you?
I don’t know how many, maybe four or five. But as [more contestants are eliminated], there’s a smaller contestant-to-camera ratio. The final episode I was in there were five of us. Pretty much you could have one camera on you the whole time, and a couple times when Nicole was trying to sculpt – we were sitting beside each other – she’d try to step back but there was a camera guy always standing right behind her, so she’d walk into him. There were a couple times where some of that happened with me too. They can be in the way a little bit, but they’re for the most part pretty good about it.

What was one of your favorite off-camera moments during your time on the show?
There’s not anything specific that jumps out at me. We always enjoyed our evenings just sitting around the house and talking and getting to know each other. As the [number of contestants] got smaller, there was a little more individual time with each other, just a smaller group sitting around. Jason and I did a lot of cooking together in the kitchen. That was really fun, to get to know him. He’s actually pretty crazy and hilarious.

What makeup projects have you done since Face Off?
SM: Since I’ve been home I’ve working on getting into the [IATSE] union. I am a permeate in the ACFC [Association for Canadian Film Craftspersons] union, and I had my first union day on set with that in September, and that was really exciting, on a show called Arctic Air. That was cool to be able to meet some of the cast. Adam Beach is the lead and Pascal Hutton is in it too. It was just a day call, so it was just doing background actors. But it was really fun, and since I want to be an on-set applicator, it’s a step in the right direction for me.

I was working on a web series called True Heroines. Felicia Day has a YouTube channel called Geek & Sundry. One of the directors I work with quite a bit up here, Nicholas Humphries, got the bid to do an episode of Written By a Kid, so we filmed that at the end of August, and that’s going to [go online] on Halloween. It’s a special Halloween episode. I got to do a fun cowl and full face prosthetic and make a really skinny 13-year-old kid look like a fat 13-year-old kid with a fun Mohawk and all kinds of stuff. [The episode] is called “Zombie Spider.” It reminded me of [the “Monster Twist” challenge on Face Off]. That was definitely one of my absolutely favorite episodes on the show. It’s probably one of the things that we did on the show that was the most close to real life because you never, ever work on a project in real life without a group of people, and it’s not 100 percent your vision on a project. It’s always other people involved in it. So that was really cool to be able to have a client to work with.

What are you looking forward to about your return to L.A. for Face Off’s live finale?
I’m so excited to see everybody. I’m the only person that hasn’t seen anyone since we finished filming. Everybody else has been able to go to a convention or two or somehow see each other, and I haven’t, so I’m really looking forward to seeing people. Just seeing everybody again and finding out who wins. I know who I want to win, but I don’t know who it’s gonna be yet.

[For the record: A previous version of this post incorrectly listed the web series True Heroines as True Heroine and misspelled Nicholas Humphries’ name.]

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome

Read more:
‘Face Off’ exit interview: Alana Schiro
‘Face Off’ exit interview: Rod Maxwell
Gallery: Special makeup effects designer on how to create a ‘Grimm’ monster — EXCLUSIVE

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