Television shows, films, music videos, commercials and theatre productions all rely on the magic of special effects to enhance their storytelling. But who is painting the faces of the aliens, monsters and mutants we love to hate? And where do they learn the tricks of their trade?
Bolton University student Ryan Beaumont shone in British television series Glow Up in 2022, which will soon be available to stream on Netflix. Ryan is a creative artist, monster maker, character creator, sculptor, artist, and designer, who describes his makeup as “an extension of myself”.
Ryan was selected from thousands of applicants to be one of 10 makeup artists (MUAs) on the BBC3 show’s fourth series, having studied at Bolton University on the Special Make-up Effects for Film and TV (SMUFX) course.
The BDes (Hons) Special Effects equips students like Ryan with skills in design, physical model-making, and special prosthetic make-up effects. Cutting-edge 2D and 3D computer modelling and prototyping are also used by students in the creation of special effects for different media platforms.
Speaking to members of the Bolton University ‘family’, Ryan said: “I applied for SMUFX because it’s a passion I’ve always had. With special effects and prosthetics, you have an extra element to bring something new to life. You can create something otherworldly. I grew up reading fantasy books and watching Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and Lord of the Rings. I fell in love with movie make-up.”
Call The Doctor
Week after week, Glow Up viewers saw Ryan’s design and problem-solving skills put to the test, but it was episode 3 where the evidence of his studies and exceptional talent with special effects makeup really stood out. As part of a Doctor Who theme, Ryan was asked to create a new alien character – precisely the type of challenge his degree course had prepared him for.
Ryan’s response to receiving this brief was: “I’m actually super excited because it’s prosthetics that I’m studying at uni. That is where I want to end up.”
Glow Up is judged by Val Garland (L’Oréal Paris Global Makeup Director and a British Vogue Contributing Beauty Editor) and Dominic Skinner (Global Senior Artist for Mac Cosmetics).
Guest judging Ryan’s alien design was Doctor Who prosthetics designer Danny Marie Elias. Danny Marie specified that the prosthetics must have a flawless application and promised whichever MUA created the winning work would have the opportunity to work with her again in the future.
Danny Marie admired the fact that Ryan used the entire colour palette to create his alien. She said:“There was one makeup artist whose work really stood out, and I can see them working well with me on set – Ryan”.
Describing Ryan’s alien, Dominic said: “I just think it’s incredible. It looks so real.”
Outside the Box
Ryan went on to win the professional assignment in episode 3, and impressed the judges again when he was asked to create a mutated monster. He designed a human-rat hybrid from a dystopian future and received the very highest praise from Val, who uttered a phrase which has become synonymous with the series: “Ding dong, darling! Ding dong!”
Dominic said: “Your story really comes across in your makeup look because you’ve got the perfect balance of realism and over-exaggeration.”
Ryan showed that his studies have helped him develop both expertise and ingenuity, when he used an acrylic nail to create a rat-like tooth protruding from his model’s lips.
Think Fast, Work Fast
The speed with which Ryan can apply makeup (and prosthetics, false lashes, hair and gemstones!) earned him the nickname “pocket rocket” from Dominic Skinner.
Glow Up BBC posted on Instagram: “Make-up artist and ‘monster maker in training’ Ryan brings story, speediness and originality to his work.”
Later in the series, Hector Espinal joined as a guest judge. Hector is one of Rhianna’s personal MUAs and works with Fenty Beauty – the makeup brand Rihanna created herself “after years of experimenting with the best-of-the-best in beauty—and still seeing a void in the industry for products that performed across all skin types and tones”.
Hector’s brief to Ryan and his fellow MUAs was to create a “90s raver” look for DJ Jayda G, who was appearing in a photoshoot for Rolling Stone UK magazine.
Ryan played it safe, saying: “Because I’m so used to creating big characters, it’s quite difficult for me to tone it down to a nice editorial level.”
Unfortunately, his chosen look turned out to be too safe and the judges felt that Ryan’s “babydoll” lip wasn’t bang-on the 90s rave brief. This put him into one of two ‘red chairs’ (at risk of elimination) in episode 5.
Mind Over Matter
For his final ‘statue’ brief, it came as no surprise to viewers that special effects student Ryan opted to use prosthetics. Asked to create something which showed how he wanted the world to remember him, Ryan’s statue was designed to immortalise his unique mind. Applying metal cogs to his model’s skin to illustrate how the mind works, Ryan said: “I see my mind like gears turning in different directions and in different ways.”
Approaching the end of his time on Glow Up, Ryan said: “This has been one of the best experiences ever. I’ve learned so, so much since I’ve been here. The critiques have been amazing. They’ve been so fair as well.”
Fast-Track to the Future
Following his television appearances, Ryan was invited to appear at Look Good Live 2022 at the Coventry Building Society Arena, alongside fellow contestant Lisa Street. Ryan drew crowds at the event as he demonstrated brow blocking with glue vs using a prosthetic on the Warpaint Extra Makeup Stage.
At Bolton University, students like Ryan are provided with industry-standard materials, such as silicones and resins, at no additional cost, giving them the freedom to turn their own creative vision into reality.
Thanks to lectures from award-winning make-up artists Nick Dudman and Neill Gorton, and model-makers like Artem, Britain’s special effects masterminds-in-the-making are learning how to use innovative materials and makeup techniques that will land them out-of-this-world backstage roles in their future careers.