Hollywood effects makeup artist teaching his craft in St. Anthony
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ST. ANTHONY — Chances are pretty good that you’ve seen Rob Burman’s work if you’re a movie buff. In his four-decade-plus career in the special effects makeup industry, Burman’s work has graced the screen in films like “The Thing,” “The Fly” and “Ghostbusters.”
Now, Burman is visiting east Idaho this week and sharing his knowledge. His class in Special FX Prosthetics, hosted by the Idaho Art Lab in St. Anthony, an establishment that offers the public educational opportunities in a vast number of artistic disciplines, from ceramics to sculpture to stonecutting and vac-forming. This volunteer-run maker space aims to enrich the community by teaching visual arts, as well as providing a space where people can come to create.
Burman’s class is educating and inspiring kids who want to peek behind the curtain of the magic in their favorite movies and might be interested in pursuing a similar career or making movies themselves.
Teaching his craft is something Burman loves doing.
“I love watching a student’s eyes light up with recognition of ‘Oh, that’s what you’re talking about,” Burman told EastIdahoNews.com. “That kind of stuff just thrills me.”
Teaching gives Burman the opportunity to pass on the knowledge he’s accumulated over his career. His family has been involved in the special effects makeup industry for three generations.
“My grandfather did monuments in the Midwest, in Nebraska and things like that, moved to California and got into the movies,” Burman said. “One of the things he got to do was sculpt the silver-headed cane that kills The Wolfman.”
Burman’s grandfather made many masks for sequels to the classic Universal Monsters films. Burman’s father followed those footsteps, landing an apprenticeship in 20th Century Fox’s makeup lab. Within six months, he was working on makeups for “Planet of the Apes.”
Burman’s father initially hired him to clean up his shop after school. Before too long, Burman was working on films like “Cat People” and “The Beast Within.” When makeup effects legend Rob Bottin called looking for artists who could work with foam latex, he recommended his son.
“(My father) said ‘Hey, take my son. He’s perfect at it,’” Burman said. “So I went over and worked for Rob Bottin on ‘The Thing.’ And after ‘The Thing,’ it was like ‘I guess I know what I’m going to do for a living.’”
For the next forty-plus years, Burman worked in the makeup effects business, accruing knowledge and learning all kinds of techniques.
After decades of hard work and early mornings, he decided to transition into teaching and passing on what he knows. That is what brought him to east Idaho.
Idaho Art Lab proprietors Kara and Daniel Hidalgo found Burman through video tutorials he did for the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. Their goal was two-fold: First, add makeup special effect to the myriad of disciplines the Art Lab teaches and help build the local film culture by hosting someone who’s had success in the business and can inspire aspiring filmmakers.
Burman was only too happy to help.
“I hope it grows more interest for (filmmaking) in the area,” he said. “The thing I find that’s interesting when people say ‘They don’t really do that kind of thing here.’ Well, everyone in Hollywood who’s doing it, except for me, who happened to be born there, came from these small towns in Idaho and Indiana and Iowa and all of that.”
“I think (the industry is) growing,” he said. “I think that everywhere is going to be able to have everything. Everybody’s got a Go Pro now. Everybody’s got a camera on their phone. Anybody’s a filmmaker. And if all you need to know how how to make molds for prosthetics for monsters, that’s a really small investment for something that could be a life-long endeavor.”
Plans are in the works for the Art Lab to host more events like the Burman class. Burman said that institutions like Art Lab are critical in helping spread not just love for filmmaking, but love for the arts as a whole.
“I think Kara and Daniel have a great thing going here,” Burman said. “They’ve diversified into a lot of different areas. If they can find a little niche, let’s say in the Halloween market, where they’re suppliers and things like that and they’re training local people this could be the hot commodity. This could be the thing that puts the area on the map.”