There’s more to a film’s success than just a handful of marquee stars and a big-name director. Dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of artists and technicians from all walks of life lend their expertise to what you see in front of the camera—and there’s even more that you don’t see happening behind the scenes.
There are the Foley artists who create believable sound effects to enhance the film’s world, the grips who specialize in camera movement, and the editors who cobble the whole thing together at the end. You may not know their names or realize just how much excruciating detail goes into their jobs, but any film would fall apart without them. And that’s just scratching the surface of what it takes to get a movie across the finish line.
To get just a glimpse of the small details that go into a film, look no further than the recent comments by Christopher Nelson, the special effects makeup artist working on Michael Myers’s iconic mask for director David Gordon Green’s upcoming Halloween.
It's been 40 years since the original movie, so Nelson wanted the mask to have a believable amount of wear and tear to it. But to do that realistically—and without going overboard—would require a study on just how a mask of that type would break down over the years. Here’s what he told Halloween Daily News (via Cinema Blend) about the painstaking process to make the mask look believable, four decades later:
"The film takes place 40 years later, so you're not going to have that same mask, it's not going to be this pristine, beautiful thing that it was in 1978. You have to approach it from that standpoint. I had 40-year-old masks that I studied and looked at how they broke down, how they wrinkled, how they did this and how they did that. I also took into account the context of the film. Where is the mask now and where has it been for these 40 years? Without revealing anything, I took that into context. I had hundreds of photos and books."
How Nelson will accomplish the aging isn’t known, but the art of distressing—sometimes done by someone called a breakdown artist—does have a few universal techniques, including sandpaper and specific paints. Some strategies are a bit more improvised, though: When costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis had to age Indiana Jones’s famous leather fedora, she simply covered it with “Vaseline, fool’s earth, and mineral oil” and stuck it under her mattress. And for the jacket, she took a Swiss army knife and some sandpaper to it as she sat at a hotel pool "while Harrison had a drink." Small touches like this—whether you're actively noticing them or not—come together to help these movies look more believable.
That same meticulous eye for detail is present in every department working on a film. It's why it took special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and his team three months to make Rey’s portion bread rise realistically in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and costume designer Lindy Hemming over a year to get Bane’s "French Revolution frock coat" just right for 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.
So when you go to see Halloween in theaters on October 19—or anytime you go to the movies, for that matter—take a little extra time to appreciate all those tiny details that help draw you in.