Chris Devitt is an Emmy award-winning special effects makeup artist who always knew that this was what he wanted to do, even when he didn’t know that it was an option. After a series of dead-end jobs out of high school, Chris Devitt asked himself what he really wanted to do: make monsters for a living. Now a Special Effects Makeup Artist, Chris has a slew of creepy creatures at home, an Emmy under his belt, and a job he loves. You’ve seen his work in the shows Supernatural, Fringe, and CW series such as Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. While working under Todd Masters MastersFX, Devitt won an Emmy award for his work on R.L. Stine’s Monsterville: The Cabinet of Souls, and now works with Lindala Schminken Effects. After finishing work on the new Predator movie, he sat down with us to talk about monsters, his favourite horror movies, and the one piece of industry advice that has always proven to be true.
When did you get into this theme of scary monsters and horror films?
I thank my parents for letting me watch horror movies super young. I remember watching Frankenstein with my Dad when I was five. I think they could see that even at that age, that it was entertaining to me, and it wasn’t warping me. That was great.
What were you doing as a kid to embrace this obsession?
I would do a lot of drawings of monsters. I remember my friend let me do his makeup, and it was basically just blood on the face. I think we were about six, and we went into the back yard and there were two little girls playing next door. They screamed and took off, and we just thought that was hilarious. It was one of my earliest makeup experiences and makeup applications.
What do you especially love about makeup?
The prosthetic makeup—it’s a sculpture, and you put it on someone’s face, their face drives that, and essentially it feels like your sculpture has come to life and you’re seeing it move. That’s a pretty weird experience. It’s like having child for a few hours. Something you created from nothing is now this living, breathing character. That’s quite a thing.
After high school what direction did you take?
I was a dishwasher at an old lady’s tea house, then I wound up selling mattresses at a Sears bargain center in Regina. I was a warehouse shipper/receiver, I got laid off. At that time my Dad just kind of said, “What are you going to do with your life?” To his credit he helped me out, and he looked into the makeup schools for me. He made me realize that it was actually possible to get training for this. That was the next big step for me, contacting a school in Toronto and heading out there.
What school did you go to?
Complections International. At that time, they were one of very few schools that were teaching the real creature making prosthetic side of things. That’s where I went, and it was great. I had the best time of my life, to be honest. Getting to finally find my flock of people—”Hey we’re the same.” That was really cool.
Then once you graduate from makeup school, how did you go about finding a job?
While going through makeup school, you do different makeups and photo shoots, so you’re essentially building a portfolio. At that point, I just started making phone calls to the different shops in town, and going for interviews. I was lucky I got hired quite shortly after makeup school graduation.
What kind of work do you do?
I’m really into characters. I’m not all about just gore. The hardest things to do are old age makeups because we see old people every day, and that’s a really challenging thing to do. That said, we do demons, devils, making someone look fat, full animatronic creatures, creature suits, teeth. Little subtle things, little scars. All kinds of stuff.
“Make friends in the industry. If you have a problem with someone, sort it out because there’s a long road ahead and you’re going to be working with those people for a long time.”
What career advice would you give your younger self?
I would say don’t listen to people that say you can’t make a living drawing monsters in your notebooks, because you can. Keep going man, you do get there eventually. I’m not saying I’m at the top, but this is exactly what I wanted. Be open-minded, study whether it’s sketching or sculpting, just keep practicing. Keep practicing.
Has there been any advice that’s been given to you that has stood out through your experience?
Make friends. Make friends in the industry. If you have a problem with someone, sort it out because there’s a long road ahead and you’re going to be working with those people for a long time.
What are your favourite movies?
The Lost Boys, Legend with that big, crazy, rubber red devil in it. An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, The Thing. Again, I got to say it, that new It really blew my mind. And The Shining.
Would you say this is your true calling?
This is absolutely my true calling, yeah. Without a doubt.
As told to Amy Huynh. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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