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Style & Design

'Face Off' exit Q&A: 'This was a chance to play the game the right way'

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Image Credit: Nicole Wilder/Syfy

On this week’s episode of Face Off, the remaining contestants looked to a higher power to find inspiration for the challenge. Host McKenzie Westmore and judge Glenn Hetrick met the group at L.A.’s St. Brendan Catholic Church — which has been used as a filming location for movies like Spiderman 3, Armageddon, and Fight Club — to tell them that they would create characters based on the biblical scenes depicted in the building’s stained glass windows.

Each contestant was then assigned one of the seven deadly sins and asked to incorporate the color associated with their sin into their makeup. “It’s so important to define the exact essence of that word before you start designing,” advised Hetrick. “I challenge you to bring it to life while trying to avoid the obvious.”

Day one went smoothly as everyone started to bring their ideas to life. Frank Ippolito joked that his gluttonous creation was inspired by “fat people” and began by crafting a huge fat suit, hoping that the ambitious scale of his design would distract from the fact that the words “gluttony” and “fat” aren’t synonymous. On day two, emotions ran high. Miranda Jory appeared panic-stricken, turning to her fellow competitors for help and butting heads with Ippolito. On day three, after the finishing touches were applied, it was on to judging. Writer/producer Bryan Fuller (Star Trek: Voyager, Heroes, Hannibal) joined the panel as this week’s guest. Jory and Tate Steinsiek wound up with the week’s top looks and Steinsiek’s creepy sloth was declared the winning look. Ippolito and Roy Wooley found themselves on the chopping block, but it was Ippolito who was sent home for failing to stick to the concept and ignoring the instructions.

EW spoke with Ippolito about what it was like being back on the show, what he would have done differently in his challenge, and what he’s been working on since filming wrapped.

Entertainment Weekly: What was it like being back on Face Off?
Ippolito: It was a cool opportunity to play the game again. The first time I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, none of us did. It was the first year. I don’t think I took it as seriously [the first time], so this was a chance to play the game the right way and to show a little bit more of the work that I can do.

How closely have you followed the show since appearing on season one?
Really closely. After season one, a lot of people can vouch for this, I was a big proponent of keeping us all together as a family. I’ve been close with most of the people on the show. There’s a handful of people who don’t care, but for the most part everybody is like a giant family.

What was the dynamic like being a veteran competing against newcomers?
I feel, personally, like the newbies kinda got gipped on this season. There was so much attention on us veterans and we already had a fan base. For better or for worse, people knew who we were. Among the newcomers, some of them are industry veterans who have been doing make-up for a really long time… and we overshadowed them. So they kinda got a raw deal as far as the amount attention you’d normally get on Face Off. Every chance I get, I try to spread the love to the people who were the newcomers and maybe got passed over a little bit. I know a lot of the people here in Los Angeles try to get together pretty regularly. Anytime other artists from other cities are in town, we all get together. I just drove across the country last week and I stopped in Tennessee to see Rick [Prince], who was eliminated in the third episode this season.

What was your initial reaction to this week’s challenge?
When you think of the Seven Deadly Sins, the first thing that usually comes to mind is that movie Seven. The sins were pretty well spelled out in there. So to not recreate what was already done, to reinvent it, or to even define it is kinda hard. My gluttony was an obvious answer to what that sin was. Pride or sloth might be a little harder to define. There’s that constant battle of: “Do you do what the judges want or what you think you should do?” For the most part, a lot of us just try to do what makes us happy. And I did a makeup that absolutely made me happy. I tell everybody, “It’s my favorite make-up that I’ve done on the whole show.”

Is there anything you’d do different if you could do the challenge again?
I’ve been in Los Angeles for 13 years and I’ve had a pretty good career and reputation out here among producers and directors and clients. If someone were to bring me a script and said… like a couple of episodes ago [on something I was working on] we had to do a Halloween creation and it asked for a “scarecrow monster.” That would be the first design I would throw out. Now it’s up to that director and you as an artist to either push things farther or reel it back. I don’t think it makes a ton of sense to give somebody [anything but] of the obvious answer. If somebody says they want a scarecrow monster, you’re going to give them a scarecrow monster.

Your sin was gluttony, was there another direction you should have taken?
Some people would throw out, “You should have given it a bigger mouth or done multiple mouths.” You start thinking about stuff like that. You can always go back to work and see how you can interpret things in a lot of different ways and it definitely can be taken and pushed really far, but the way I was taking it was… I wanted to push myself in a technical sense. To make a full body fat suit in the [time] we were given to do that? Not only to sculpt the head to toe body suit, but to do the back, the neck, and the face? And then to fabricate all of the under wardrobe elements? There’s a bonus video on the Syfy page about me making that fat suit and I call it the technical decathlon. I made this huge mold and this huge fat suit. I’m fabricating and sewing and making these spandex bags that are weighted so that they have weight and can still move. I think that resonates a little more among my peers in the industry than building some big, crazy parade float. At the end of the day, the thing that matters more is… It’s not necessarily about what the general public thinks of me, but how I portray us as artists and craftspeople to my peers in the industry. I’m going to get jobs from other producers or other directors… and those are the kinds of people that I want to cater to by doing competent makeups that are technically well executed. You look through my body of work through the whole season and I never had a single mold that locked or cracked. I never had any catastrophes. I was always good at time management. I was one of a couple of people that people would always come to for advice. That’s the stuff that I think matters.

How much did the judges’ opinions matter to you?
I worked for Ve [Neill] for about four or five years early on in my career. I worked [with her] on Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 and Chronicles of Riddick. She was like a surrogate mother. I learned so much working under her — like a lot of my painting techniques and my sensibility as far as how to do things and how to handle jobs [comes from working with her].

What are you working on now?
I’ve had my own shop for almost four years. I rent a big industrial space in North Hollywood and I have a couple of people who work for me. I’m working on three features right now and we have a costly commission for WonderCon in the spring. There’s a website called Tested.com, which is associated with the guys from Mythbusters. I’ve done a lot of stuff for Adam Savage in the past. I’ve built some of his costumes that he wears to conventions. So now they’ve commissioned me to do another project that’s just about to launch. We shot the launch video for it today. That’ll be a six month-long article series on how we make things. Then I have two horror features I’m working on. One shoots this month and the other shoots in December. I just finished a job for Penn and Teller, I work for them on occasion. Needless to say, work’s been good. As much negative press as I got on the first season of Face Off, it never hurt my business. It never discouraged me. I’ve always pushed forward and pushed harder.

What is your ultimate goal?
The past six or seven years, I’ve spent a lot of time directing. I directed two features. I have a partner, Ezekiel Zabrowski, that I direct all these things with. I partnered up with him about six years ago. We’ve done eight short films, two features, and a music video since we started. One of them starred Neil Patrick Harris and it’s called Dracula’s Daughters vs. the Space Brains. Another one stars Adam Savage from Mythbusters and a horror actor named Bill Moseley [and is called Night of the Little Dead]. And [I've worked] with Teller from Penn & Teller. If people are interested, I have a website. [My partner and I are] just pushing that uphill boulder, trying to get our next projects going. Ultimately, that’s what we really want to do.

Face Off airs Tuesday’s on the Syfy channel at 9/8c.

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