As the co-founder of MillenniumFX, Europe’s largest provider of special effects makeup, prosthetics and animatronics for TV, film and stage, it’s safe to say that Neill Gorton’s job is a little unusual. We speak to the man behind the aliens of Doctor Who, the blood and guts of Saving Private Ryan and the supernatural creatures of Being Human…
What made you want to work in special effects makeup?
I grew up in the 70s and 80s, when it was all the big special effects films, and I became interested in that kind of thing. So I started reading about it and trying to make things myself from about the age of 12 onwards. It just developed into a passion and an obsession that ended up being a career.
Did you go through any professional training?
I’m pretty much self-taught. At the time, there really wasn’t much training around. Everything you could learn really was from bits and pieces in books and magazines, odd snippets here and there. I spent my youth sculpting and making things in the garage. I got a job on a film when I was 17, as a runner, based on that.
What’s been the weirdest brief you’ve been given?
They’re all weird! [laughs] There are unusual things though. I did a lot of work with Lady Gaga, which was different. I’m used to going on a film set, but we came up with something for her album cover and went and did the Grammy Awards, making up all the dancers’ hair and makeup. That was something completely different, which was fascinating.
What’s the best part about the job?
I’m getting paid to do a hobby. There is still hard work involved – a lot of people coming into this thinking it’s fun and you’re just making monsters, but there’s deadlines and budgets and schedules. At the same time, it’s exciting, there’s something new every week and it’s creative.
What’s been the proudest moment of your career?
I’ve been very lucky to win a bunch of awards, things like BAFTAs, but there have been some projects which really stand out like the first series of the Doctor Who reboot. It really had an appalling budget, and even within the BBC, people were dismissing it – it was a risk. But then the press and audience reaction was fantastic. It was an absolute joy to see that series run.
What advice would you have for anyone who’s dreaming about getting into special effects makeup?
Stop dreaming, start doing it. There’s a lot of courses, but also a bag of clay costs £10, there are lots of good books you can get for another £20, and some very basic sculpting tools. You can start making sculptures and taking pictures of them – there’s your portfolio. When I was a kid, I got involved in the school drama club and amateur dramatics – I could do makeup, paint sets and make props to a deadline with a team. That kind of thing shows you’re absolutely serious and passionate about it. Doing this and a course is the way in.
On the web
Check out more of Neill and the team’s work at www.millenniumfx.co.uk