Last week, on an invitation from the MA Costume Design program, renowned special effects makeup artists George and Roulis Alahouzos taught an intensive weeklong course to students at Otakaari 7.
Brothers George and Roulis demonstrated a number of different techniques for preparing both realistic and fantastical special effects with makeup. From their home base in Athens, Greece, the two have enjoyed a steady, 34-year long career in film, television, and commercial production. Among their numerous credits is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2, in which the brothers joined a team of nearly 70 other special effects and makeup artists to bring life to the mythological wizarding world.
That was exactly the kind of engaging experience the students were looking for. 15 or so students — and staff — from costume design, production design, and design for performing arts spent the week learning and practicing the tasks the Alahouzos brothers demonstrated. They started with small face molds to show realism, and by the middle of the week, took a mold of one student’s entire head.
If there’s any one lesson George and Roulis have tried to impress on the students this week, it’s how to improvise to achieve the effect you want. “After all these years, it’s a way of life — just thinking out of the box and coming up with all these weird solutions,” says George. But that’s what he likes most about it, adding that “sometimes it’s more interesting coming up with a weird solution than seeing the finished product.”
Back in Athens, the brothers work out of a 250 square meter studio complete with a machine shop and any kind of equipment possible to bring their ideas to life. Sometimes they’ll have to improvise to find a solution “…even if we can’t do it in the shop,” explains Roulis. George adds “You have to improvise, be innovative all the time, and that’s what keeps the whole thing fresh.”
The brothers showed their process and encouraged the students to take part. By the end of the week, the students and several members of the staff were practicing creating particularly realistic (and gruesome) injury and infection makeup.
“They’ve been watching me for three days, and then I said ‘Okay, go for it. Play with the stuff,’ ” George said. “It was incredible, some of the results I saw today […] I mean, one of the girls actually made a very professional prosthetic piece.” The combination of the expertise and experience from the Alahouzos brothers and the talent and ingenuity of the students produced quite promising results by the end of the week.
On Friday, everyone left happy, armed with new techniques and inspiration and — in one case — a fake nose to surprise her friends with. While they’ve held teaching sessions before, this was the brothers’ first time demonstrating their craft at a university level. George and Roulis were satisfied. “I’d consider it probably the best seminar or teaching we’ve done,” George said, “For four days, we got a lot done!”