Perspectives: Verity Fiction on Designing & Applying Makeup for Frame 137

» Posted by on Jan 21, 2013 in Mainframe, Perspectives | 0 comments

Frame 137: The Makeup

James O’Barr is one of my all time favorite writers and artists, so I was actually familiar with Dark Horse presents #61 and the Frame 137 story before Judd had proposed adapting it, top that off with the fact I utterly adore science fiction, in particular films and books set in a Dystopian future and it’s easy to see why I had no hesitation in agreeing to work on it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

You see Judd wanted it to be as true to the world as possible, he wanted the makeups to feel real and justified as well as cool. This meant on top of the main key character makeups to design, there was around 50 extras, all of them needing to fit specific character types that belonged in Jonny’s world.

I immediately jumped on google and started researching cyberpunk makeup and hair, I was inundated with images of club kids in fluro dread falls with silly lines drawn on their faces and piercings galore. That was not what Judd or I were after. The people who inhabit the lower levels of Frame’s universe would be deadly hunters, stealthy hackers and brutal barbarians. It was a kill or be killed world.

The two main gangs in the film are The Bolt Cutters (Bolts) and The Raggedy Boys (Rags). The two gangs would have two distinct looks, the Bolts were older more of a “70-80’s biker punk” look and the Rags were the younger teched out “cyborg meets punk” more in line with Japanese anime then a Rave party.

We wanted a tribal feel to a lot of the makeups and body modification. We wanted the mods to have meaning and functionality. We didn’t want mods for the sake of mods. These are tough people and the scars on their flesh represent the position they hold in society. Like warrior tribes these people use body modification as a way of scaring off potential threats. “If someone is willing to do that to their own body do you think they are scared of what you might do to them”?

We were fortunate enough to get a lot of already tattooed and modified people to come along and be extras but all our stunt guys and girls were all very straight lace. I used a combination of silicone pieces that I pre made along with sculpting silicone pieces onto the actors faces on the day to create war wounds and scarification.

The world itself is a dirty world that rains soot and ash from the rubbish burning machines that patrol the upper levels so we decided that all the characters would be filthy and covered in soot. I referenced some amazing images of coal miners, to get the look of dirt and ash worn in over years and was able to use a combination of Ben Nye dirt powders and Skin Illustrator Inks to create different effects.

Along with the extras, our leads and featured extras had very defined and specific looks.


We had Archon, our resident Grey. The Grey’s are elite hackers. As the majority of the world has cybernetic implants and they can control a vast range of technology including cybernetics, the Grey’s are almost untouchable, and as a result they aren’t afraid to call attention to themselves, like rock stars they are both “glamorous” and intriguing. For Archon specifically, Judd’s description for what he wanted in the hair and makeup was “broken princess”, he wanted messy hair that looked like it had been styled once and then just left. Archon was also our only character to actually be wearing any “makeup”. Makeup does not exist in the lower levels, it’s a luxury for the rich upper levels, so putting eye shadow on her lids is a way for her to show she has power and connections.



Then there was Rico, our rough as guts bar tender and Jonny’s “father figure”. Rico supplies the alcohol and shelter, as a result people like him. He has a few old scars from his youth including a very large and very old burn scar to one side of his face. When deciding on what products to use for the scar I decided on using silicone as it did not require cooking time and the prosthetic itself could be reused if we required the actor for more than 1 day. Rico was one of the last roles cast, confirmed literally only a few days before we started shooting so I wasn’t able to cast his face and sculpt a custom made prosthetic. Instead I made a generic piece and just hoped to heck it would fit, and thank goodness it did.





Big T

Big T was another important role. The Character is a figure of mystery with a much larger role in the universe beyond the short, and Judd’s description of the character was that he had “a face full of scar tissue”. I had designed a very cool and intricate makeup involving acne scars and scars from years and years of fighting. Unfortunately our actor had extremely sensitive skin and was concerned about the adhesives effecting his performance so we ended up going for a simpler but more distinctive scar down his cheek.



Jonny Z

Then there was our lead, Jonny Z. There were a lot of discussions about Jonny’s look. In the comic Jonny has a big hair metal style mullet and an Adam Ant style line across his face. We wanted to stay true the the feel of the comic but decided that some things work better in comic form than in movie form. So we abandoned the big 70’s hair, but we wanted to stay with a more wild look and incorporated into that the idea that Jonny used his hair as a screen between his identity and the rest of the world, it became something to hide behind so he could watch what was going on without drawing attention to himself. We also talked at great lengths about the line across his face, we decided we did not want a solid black or white drawn on line that looked deliberate, we talked about it being a tattoo or a scar, but ultimately settled on a subtle dirt smear across his nose and onto his cheeks, created by the character repetitively wiping the ash away, we felt this payed homage to the comic, and played into Jonny’s nature.

I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the production and to this day it remains one of my favourite films to have worked on. The entire cast and crew felt like a big family and even though the hours were long and the work was hard no one complained and wherever you looked on set people were excited and smiling. The atmosphere was amazing and it truly felt like we were creating something very special.

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