Nicole Nicolaou is one serious artist. From Human Centipede 2 to X-Men First Class, she has run the gamut of feature work in a short amount of time. Recently she completed work on the Santoro Brother’s hot short feature; The Other Side, and spoke to Sinful Celluloid about her career in horror…
1. What movie or memory really shaped your love of horror?
Child’s Play and the Halloween films were the horrors I grew up with and from that young age I was always fascinated with the special effects, often creating my own gory scenes with my brother in my bathroom, much to the horror of my mother!
2. Most of us start off doing whatever we can just to get on set. What was the first project you remember working on?
Well through my teenage years I studied Media Makeup at various different colleges, helping out on a variety of fashion shows/ catwalks (mostly at different colleges or schools), school plays etc. Then I went to University of Hertfordshire and studied Character Creation and Special Effects, where I had the most amazing 3 years of my life but felt like I learnt minimal! During my 2ndyear I had my work experience module and I was very, very fortunate to land a placement with John Schoonraad, Creative Director of Lifecast at Elstree Studios. It is here where I worked on my very first film The Human Centipede the Final Sequence.
3. How did you get into prosthetics effects?
After a few years studying Art and Makeup courses I found my passion in the two combined, sculpting, painting and the applying of makeup, so what better course to take than a Special Effects course!
4. Tell me about the Human Centipede 2 shoot. What was the atmosphere like?
The Human Centipede 2 was my first ever real budget shoot; it was a small cast & crew and the location was very fitting for the nature of the film. Everyone was amazing and although it was a disturbing film and the cast were naked in the freezing cold half the time, it was a bundle of laughs and I will always cherish my first real experience on a film. Just a little story, I was known as the ‘ball watcher’ on set as when the male cast were laying down about to shoot I was on the look out to make sure their balls were tucked away!!!
5. Many people find the film upsetting. Did you find the subject matter difficult or was it easy to divorce yourself since you see it through different eyes?
I found it very easy to remove myself from the film as I have grown up watching many films alike, maybe even worse, I watch films now and think ‘how can I make that violent scene look better?’. I admire directors/writers who come up with even more disturbing, frightening ideas to upset and scare the audience isn’t this reason why we work in the horror genre?
6. In a short amount of time you have been blessed to work on small independent feature and mega budget films. Is there a difference in your department and which do you prefer?
I have to say when I am working on a film I like to be a big fish in a small pond! You have more input and I like to be in charge so for this reason working on the Santoro Brothers short ‘The Other Side’ was my favorite.
7. There seems to be a bit of distain among practical make up and special effects arts when it comes to CGI. Rightfully so. Do you ever feel that CGI is the way to go, even when it comes to effects that you can achieve organically?
No! haha, as a Makeup Artist I would obviously have to say that the effects you can achieve with makeup is so raw and it feels real, not only to the audience but the cast member, allowing them to fully get in to character and enhancing there acting. CGI is amazing and I know that it will only get bigger and better, but there will always be a use for us makeup artists, at least I hope otherwise I’m out of a job and it will be a shame for the next generation of creative, artistic people wanting to create masterpieces on the flesh rather than on a computer.
8. You’ve recently completed the short “The Other Side” with Directors Alex and Oli Santoro. What is this film about?
I’ m terrible at explaining stuff and I don’t want to dampen the story, so here’s a brief synopsis;
When a fresh faced nanny arrives at her new job on a creaky farm in the English countryside, she is instantly caught up in the turbulent relationship of her employers. James is struggling to provide for his family and Rachel, an inexperienced mother, is unable to cope with the demands of her new born baby. Unaware of his wife’s decision to hire help, a disgruntled James leaves them alone in the secluded farmhouse. When night falls and he fails to return, a sinister intruder invades the property, unraveling a night of gruesome blood-shed and unprecedented terror. But who is behind it? What do they want? Can anybody escape alive?
9. A horror film really relies on all aspects of presentation. I believe this starts with the poster, which is wicked sinful! Who is the artist?
Grahame Humpreys was the designer of the poster. I hear he is one of the best.
10. You stepped up to supervise the Make-up department on this film. Did you find it hard to change hats and not get into the thick of things?
I was make up supervisor but I was also the head makeup artist so actually I had an even harder job doing both but the harder the better and that’s the best kind of experience, especially if you want to make it in the film industry.
11. There is talk that if the film does well, it may have additional shooting to expand the film to feature length. Would you be interested in continuing with the films journey?
I would love to work with the Santoro Brothers again, they are truly amazing. Oliver Santoro is one of the most creative individuals I have ever met, often ringing myself or other crew members at 2am with crazy requests like ; ‘I think we need more black on Death Face’s jacket?’ then we would be up fixing the coat before we were on set the following day. He went with the flow though on set allowing people to put in their ideas. Alex Santoro on the other hand was very direct with the crew, he had his vision and wanted to go with it, but when it came to the actors he was very organic and trusting allowing them to feel comfortable in their roles and playing them how they felt best, for example, Jennie Jacques (Sophie) made a whole back story on her character which Alex absolutely loved.
12. Do you hope to get into writing and directing in the future?
I must say I have no desire to get in to writing or directing, maybe I would like to get in to casting one day as I feel I have a good eye for spotting upcoming actors.
13. You know that in our business things don’t always go as planned. Do you have any on set horror stories to share?
The re-shoot for The Other Side was very low budget, I had been asked to come down and do multiple jobs; hair and makeup, body double (for Sophie and Rachel) and runner. The filming started at 4pm and finished at 3am, bear in mind that there was no heating in the house, we had rain machines and it was the middle of winter. After the 11 hour shoot I had to stay behind and help clean up the set for 3 HOURS!!! Now that is a horror story, for me at least. The only good thing was we had Dominos pizza and loads of sweets and snacks which I took home at the end as more payment!! I managed to put the jelly beans on Ebay, I’ m still waiting for a bid!
Other Horrific Musings: