Interview: SFX artist Tristan Dye

With the Halloween decorations and costumes firmly packed away, we recall the real people with real lives who made gory plans for their ghoulish parties. As a horror SFX artist, Halloween is just another day in the office. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun! It’s always a pleasure to meet others who like to experiment with devilish, horrific makeup ideas, so I was delighted to have the chance to talk to Tristan Dye of Dye FX. Tristan is an SFX artist from Oklahoma who has been bloodying people up quite brilliantly since 2007. Here is our transatlantic chat on blood, guts and gore  and how much fun we have with it!



How did you get started in SFX?

I started playing around with the idea when I was a child. I’ve been obsessed with horror films all my life, so I always went all-out for Halloween. I ended up doing makeup for several friends and family members, as well as friends in photography and film classes in high school. I went on to cosmetology school and found a true love for it. After that I started volunteering to do spook houses, festivals, plays, films, shoots etc. Anything that could help me sharpen my tools and anyone I could learn from. In 2009 I founded Dye FX and it’s been thriving since.


Was it something you always wanted to do?

Absolutely. I have wanted to be a makeup artist for as long as I can remember. I remember watching documentaries and behind-the-scenes on films, discovering what it was. How you can transform any being into nearly anything imaginable. The idea was more than tangible for someone who lives in a fantasy world themselves. I remember watching The Exorcist with friends when I was a child. While they cringed and cried I found myself wondering what food colouring I could use to recreate that vomit! If I could wet down bits of cotton balls and cover them in powder to recreate the pustules. It ‘s still hard to not run diagnostics in my head as I watch films and simply let myself enjoy the moment. It’s creating a piece of art that explains itself. This artwork takes over the artist. We dream it, we draw it, it consumes us. If I can make someone have a nightmare, a child smile, or even raise some eyebrows, it’s all worth it. To me, it’s the chance to make your art immortal. To inspire someone else or create a fantasy for them. It’s a living, breathing (or in some cases, once breathing) piece of artwork that leaves an impression. Or at least I hope mine does.


What is your favourite creation?

That’s a hard one. I’d have to say I haven’t created a favourite yet. I am proud of what I’ve done, but I have yet to create something that really sets the bar. I will say any model that has called me after a shoot or film with a story of how they’ve had an ambulance or police called on them for looking so hurt, or scary, always makes me feel like I’ve done my job well.


Who’s your favourite horror character, and why?

There are so many it’s hard to pinpoint them. My favourite character has always been Michael Myers. The simplicity of a William Shatner mask spray-painted white and the terror created by silence. It’s a reminder that the scariest things don’t have to have embellished bells and whistles. The core is what matters most. As a makeup artist, I find this character helps remind me that my job is to create an illusion that suits the ‘monster’ and its background, that the makeup needs to help tell their story, not take away from it.


If you could work with any horror legend who would it be?

I would absolutely love to work with Rob Zombie on one of his horror films. Of course, there are so many I would love to work on or with that have made the industry what it is today, but Zombie is a personal favourite of mine. I love all of his original films, as well as his music, so it would be like working with someone who influences me in several ways. I think all that inspiration on set would brew something incredible.


What’s your opinion of CGI? Do you think it’s a good replacement for stage makeup?

That’s definitely a hot button question. As a makeup artist I want to say ‘makeup artistry reigns!’ but it depends on the film. There are films such as Transformers and Avatar where it’s needed. CGI takes a lot of intellect and intense schooling. You have to memorise codes and programs and keep up with updates and the next big programs. Of course makeup artistry requires intellect as well, ours simply isn’t spent programming. However, I prefer makeup in the horror films. Always. CGI’s blood splatter and disembowelment simply doesn’t give the same satisfaction that a makeup artist’s touch does. It all depends on the film and how well it’s done. The makeup industry is constantly growing, creating new techniques and more realistic ways to portray other-worldly characters without the help of CGI. Until we master it, we simply have to appreciate each other for the hard work we all put in.


It’s great to read answers that ring so true with myself! What is your next project, or are you working on new ideas?

I’m being booked mainly for fall events and a few art shows, so I’m sure the next few projects I’ll have will be some crowd pleasing zombies or iconic horror characters. There is one show Nicki Nekro and I are doing and we’re going all-out with the choreography. But this one is a competition, so I can’t give too much information just yet. It involves five very influential characters so will be something to look out for.


If you are ever in England, fancy working on some blood and gore over a cup of tea and cake?

When I come to England you will be the first to know. Blood and cake sounds wonderful!


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