Face Off: Movie Magic Part II Season 9 Finale (Review)

Face Off - Season 9

It has to be said that Face Off, season 9 delivered a great group of artists and the finale, part two of the Movie Magic challenge saw Nora Hewitt take the prize and win for her excellent detail and hard work. Her positive attitude combined with great talent, and her total focus (sometimes so much that she got lost in herself) made this young lady a favorite from day one.

Nora says at the end of the finale that her dad will be so proud of her, he is not the only one, there cannot be many viewers who are not proud of her total professionalism and “go-to” attitude.

Last week saw the three finalists, Evan Hedges, Ben Ploughman and Nora learn about the end challenge. A two character film which they had to create character for to be shot by  director, and Jack of all trades film professional, Patrick Tatopoulos. After they had finished their characters, and had “last looks,” with Patrick doing a camera test and providing feedback, McKenzie Westmore revealed a last minute script change that included another character.

All three had to then come up with an additional creation and Evan had to redo his first two characters based upon the feedback from Tatopoulos at the screen test. The three projects were broken down as The Prey – Nora, Resurrection – Ben and Quarantine Zone – Evan.

Part Two of the Face Off season 9 finale took place initially in the workshops where the trio of finalists worked on the last minute things needed to complete the challenge. The next part of the episode took place “on set.” Filmed on location, at the Polsa Rosa Ranch,  each short film went through last minute adjustments and some creative license initiated by the director.

This was an incredibly exciting finale, filmed at the Santa Clarita Studios “ranch set” and it was easy to see that a lot of care and thought went into each film’s dressing and the scenario of the projects.  The camera work, along with Tatopoulos’ direction and editing, made the most of each contestant’s creations.

By the end of the final episode each one of the finalists were winners. All three brought something to the “table” and could leave the completion with heads held high.  While Nora took the grand prize; the trip, the money and the car, Ben and Evan took away a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work. Evan was especially excited to have participated in his first film project and first time on set.

Face Off - Season 9
(l-r) Glenn Hetricks, Ve Neill, Neville Page

The show’s judges, Ve Neill, Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page, along with McKenzie and Patrick, watched the three short films and the trio of experts quizzed each artist about their film’s characters, backstory and the rational for their makeup. All the judges were also present during the filming of each project.

Face Off - Season 9
McKenzie and Patrick

As Patrick states later, after the shooting of each film, Nora was the most productive on the set and her characters were so well rounded that she was the complete package.  He did state that all the finalists went “above and beyond” but that Hewitt’s creations were the most realized of all the characters.

Face Off - Season 9
The Prey – “victim” Makeup Nora Hewitt
Face Off - Season 9
The Prey  “Predator”  Makeup Nora Hewitt
Face Off - Season 9
The Prey “uber predator” makeup Nora Hewitt

Nora’s creatures all felt like a part of their setting.  The young artist was pretty overwhelmed and got a little teary-eyed, but this confident and assertive contestant never faltered in the finale challenge. Hewitt did, after all, state that she wanted this last test to be her “b*tch.”

And it was.

While the other two finalists delivered, it was Nora’s attention to detail and her professionalism on set that gave her the win. She earned it and at the end when the verdict was read out, everyone seemed pleased for this versatile and super talented artist.  So congratulations to Nora Hewitt for taking the win for season 9.

Face Off - Season 9
Nora Hewitt Season 9 winner, cue confetti

McKenzie Westmore, who has to be the best host/presenter of any reality show on television, reminded the audience that the next season (10) will start in January 2016.  We cannot wait.


Face Off: Movie Magic Part 1 – Finale Awesomeness (Review)

Face Off - Season 9

Face Off is finishing out season 9 with a two part finale titled Movie Magic; parts one and two. The three finalists Nora, Ben and Evan all get some lovely surprises at the start off the penultimate episode and final challenge. Ben gets to see his “best buddy” in the whole world, his dog Quincy, Nora sees her girlfriend, Miriam and Evan sees his dad and girlfriend. All three of the finalists have a tear-filled moment that ends with them feeling a little boost for the last test.

Test, is the operative word as they learn that in the finale they will work with a director and full production crew on a short film shot on location and firstly they will take part in a camera test. The director who will be filming their creations could not be more perfect for this last challenge. Patrick Tatopoulos, director of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and a talented creator with a plethora of credits connected with visual and special effects, makeup, art department, production design, et al.

McKenzie Westmore explains to the final contestants that Patrick has written three scripts, done storyboards and will be guiding them through the process of making their own movie magic.

This two part finale is quite intense. Due to the high level of effort required, Nora, Evan and Ben get help from other finalists: Meg, Stevie, Jordan, Scott, Jasmine and Kevon.

Face Off - Season 9
Pictured: (l-r) Scott Fensterer, Megan “Meg” Wilbur, Stephanie “Stevie” Calabrese, Jasmine Ringo, Jordan Patton, Kevon Ward, Patrick Tatopoulos, McKenzie Westmore

The three screenplays written by Patrick are “The Prey,” “Resurrection,” and “Quarantine Zone.” The teams, hand picked by the contestants were: Nora; Jasmine and Meg, Evan; Stevie and Kevon, Ben; Scott and Jordan. The three groups all work out details of the creatures as described by the screenplays.

This challenge is a brilliant look at not only what goes into the creative process behind the process of developing characters for film and television but also what goes into making movies or television shows. As anyone who watches a “making of” featurette on DVD and Blu-Ray special editions knows, there are a lot of things that come together behind the camera to make films “come to life.”

The three short films all have a science fiction/fantasy theme and will be filmed in HD. The finalists, and their team members, all create and fine tune their characters. After a screen-test of the designs each contestant gets feedback from Tatopoulos on what works and what does not. This after he stopped by, in place of Michael Westmore, to give the groups individual tips and advice as well as what he was looking for from them in terms of characters.

Face Off - Season 9
Patrick telling Evan, Stephanie and Kevon what he is looking for.

Each film has two characters initially. The two are to be substantially different from each other and this challenge adds pressure to the finalists by not only increasing the difficulty of the task itself, but also adds an element of management to the finale. As the three learn, time management applies not just to themselves but to their team members as well.

Nora, as usual, is “cranked” for this final test. She wants to make this one “her b*tch” and attacks the entire project with a positive attitude. When Nora does have doubts, she steps away from the process and has a meditative moment.

Ben is quietly confident and tells his guys that they are “crushing it” (to their delight). Evan moves forward and “owns” any mistake made. Out of all the finalists, Evan has grown enormously in terms of interacting with the models although he still tends to panic a little bit.

Once again the magic of this whole movie challenge matches the magic of each artist’s creative process.

Face Off - Season 9
Nora working on the “victim” for “The Prey”
Face Off - Season 9
Ben painting his creation for “Resurrection”

After some major attention to detail, the camera test takes place and all three finalists are excited but Nora is over the moon. Each contestant gets to see the test on the monitor along with Patrick, Michael Westmore and McKenzie.  Michael actually gives some advice to the finalists as well.

Both Nora and Ben have been on film sets before, but Evan is a first timer. All the finalists are pumped up by the atmosphere and the crew on the sets. All get precise directions from Patrick on how they can either enhance or improve their creations.

All walk away with a clearer idea of what is needed, although Nora and Ben have far less to do than Evan.  As per every other challenge this season, Face Off raises the competitive bar a little further after the camera tests.  While the finalists take in all the things that Michael Westmore and Patrick have told them about perfecting their creations, McKenzie and the director reveal that there has been a “re-write” and a third character has now been added to the three films.

Face Off - Season 9

As McKenzie explains, the last challenge is all about the “real life” rigors behind creating characters in the business. The next episode will see the trio, and their teams, making another new character for their films and then each project will be shot and judged by the series judges.

Face Off is a reality show unlike any other. A definite must-see series for movie fanatics who love to see how the magic is created for the screen, big and small. The series airs Tuesdays on SyFy and the season nine finale, part two will air October 26, 2015. Tune in and see who wins the last most exciting challenge.

Face Off: Death Becomes Them (Review)

Face Off - Season 9

Face Off changed the formula, yet again on Tuesday’s episode,  where instead of one clear winner for the  week, there were three and two of the artists were sent home by the time the end credits rolled on this fascination reality program. The challenge this week was Death Becomes Them and the finalists, tonight was the semi-final, all met at the Munster’s house on Universal’s backlot. Michael and McKenzie Westmore greeted the five remaining contestants to explain and reminisce.

The award-winning makeup artist, Michael, told of how “back in the day” he remolded a new head for “Herman Munster” (played by Fred Gwynne) and put on Eddie Munster’s “new” ears. The trip down memory lane helped to set up the challenge guidelines and gave the group some inspiration for their creations. The five then picked out their “family members” from the grave stones outside the house and sketched out the creations.

Face Off - Season 9
Left to right: Ben, Nora, Evan, Jordan, Scott.

Evan chose an older brother bully, Nora; the black sheep family member, Scott; strict dad,  Jordan; spinster aunt and Ben picked the inappropriate uncle.  As usual, each contestant went through the paces of sculpting,  molding and painting their creations which were meant to convey  a new “Munster” type family.

Michael Westmore, along with McKenzie, went around to see each artist and he offered advice and tips on how to work on the sculpting and Evan decided to start from scratch after talking to the makeup maestro.

Face Off - Season 9
Evan and the older brother bully…

As the structure of this week’s challenge for Face Off was changed, two contestants were voted forward to the next week. Ben and Nora both got seals of approval for their creations, leaving Evan, Scott and Jordan to “re-compete” for the final space. As usual the judges did an up-close inspection of each of the characters created for the challenge.

The three who were left, received notes on how to improve their dead family members and their next step was to incorporate the suggestions. An additional hour was given to Evan, Scott and Jordan and all of them rushed to improve their versions of a Munster riff.

Face Off - Season 9
Glenn Hetrick, Ve Neill and Neville Page looking at Jordan’s “Spinster Aunt.”

Sadly, after the three men made their changes, Scott and Jordan were sent home.  The finalists, Ben, Nora and Evan will compete next week and the two sent home did so, like those before them, head’s held high.

Face Off - Season 9
Nora with her black sheep family member.
Face Off - Season 9
Ben’s inappropriate uncle, that really creeped out Ve.

The one thing that keeps Face Off so fresh is that they do change up the template of each season.  Next week looks quite interesting and some familiar faces appear to show up for a fun challenge .

Face Off airs Tuesdays on SyFy and this popular reality show, voted by critics as a 2015 “choice” offers an in-depth look at the process behind the magic.  The creative contestants are tomorrow’s artists. People who will make the fantastical feel real and the real feel like a dream. Tune in and watch the talented challengers, now down to three, make magic.

Face Off: Judgement Day – Four Horsemen (Review)

Face Off - Season 9

The Face Off challenge this week started off in what appeared to be either an abandoned film set or a military  training  mock up of an Afghani village complete with bombed out cars, and this was the contestant’s place for inspiration.  The competitors had Judgement Day as the theme with the models to be turned into the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The episode started with the remaining contestants talking about The Gauntlet which was very intense. Nora talks of how tired she is and Evan says how scared he was at the bottom, but winning the last challenge has boosted his spirits.

McKenzie Westmore (looking brilliant in a blue leather jacket) and Glenn Hetrick meet the artists at the site and explain what is required. Two “teams” with individual creations of the four horsemen who (the contestants decide) have a common thread. Each competitor had to pick up a survival kit with the name of their character on it; War, Pestilence, Famine and Death.

Hetrick, who did the makeup for the 2010 film Legion outlined what the judges would be looking for and provided the group a few tips on how to be effective with their choices. Here is where each artist begins their process of creating a character, in this case an apocalyptic “horseman” and what they will bring to the table once sculpting starts.

It is interesting to see how each  person follows through with their vision.  Nora, after her initial enthusiasm “Hell to the yeah,” gets lost, as she puts it, in her own head. Evan actually comes over and re-vitalizes Nora by telling her that what she is doing looks pretty awesome and cool.

Face Off - Season 9
The judges agree with Evan’s assessment of Nora’s Horseman.

As the competitors work on the initial part of the process, sculpting, Michael Westmore comes around and makes suggestions and offers pointers to help the artists to work toward perfecting their creations.  Each step toward the actual application to the models shows how each artist handles the pressure of “forced” creativity.

Speaking of the models, each artist reacts differently to the “real” models who ultimately become the creations. Nora, Stephanie aka Stevie, and Meg aka Cupcake Meg, all have a very personal touch. The men vary but Evan appears to be pretty dismissive of his models.  Nora, for instance, thanks her model “Thanks buddy, you’re awesome.” A nice human touch.

After her initial stress-out, Nora settles in and it is then Evan’s turn to worry. Stevie starts to panic at the amount of time her chest piece is taking to construct on day two and Kevon changes his mind about where he is going with his version of Pestilence. While he is pleased with the direction it turns out that he went too far.

Face Off - Season 9
Stevie and that chest piece.
Face Off - Season 9
Kevon with his version of Pestilence.
Face Off - Season 9
Ben’s War almost costs him dearly.

At the end of the show all of the horsemen are looked at by the judges and  Meg, Stevie,  Jordan and Scott are saved. Nora, Evan, Ben and Kevon are left as the “best and the worst” to explain their thought processes.

Ultimately Evan and Nora were the best, with Evan winning the challenge. Ben came close to being sent home but it was Kevon’s horseman who did not fit the theme.

Face Off shows all the creative processes of the contestants along with their enthusiasm, doubts and fears. What makes this “reality” show work so well is exemplified in this week’s challenge. Evan, who won the competition this week, was plagued with self doubt about his paint work. Repeatedly going back and adding, highlighting and “trying to save” what he thought was not good enough.

It worked and he won.  While there are firm favorites, (the three women on the show are all this viewers favorites) all the artists come across as talented and nice people. Each one has their own skills and learn to enhance others as they go along. All support one another.

Kevon’s departure did not result in a long face on his part. The young man viewed the whole experience as a learning one and went away with a smile on his face. Face Off is entertainment of a different color, almost classifying as “edutainment” for those cinephiles who adore all the “behind the scenes” type of information shared by this show.

Face Off - Season 9
The judges examine Meg’s horseman.

The show airs Tuesdays on SyFy and it is hard not to fall in love with these talented and creative competitors a little.  It is also hard to imagine a nicer group of judges than these three professionals who, each week, show the contestants an incredible amount of compassion and empathy. Tune in and be amazed.



Face Off: The Gauntlet – Sh*t Just Got Real (recap/review)

Face Off - Season 9

The first ever gauntlet was held on Face Off Tuesday and as the line from Bad Boys II goes, “Sh*t just got real.” As the episode started the only contestant who was not “spooked” by the news of this game changing entree was Nora.  This young makeup artist’s attitude was “bring it on” leading this viewer to give her handle of “Nora the Roara.”

There were others who were not totally “freaked out” by the challenge thrown up this week, but it was the young Hewitt woman who stepped up to this tossed spanner in the works and proved that attitude  counts as heavily as talent.

The Gauntlet was set up in three stages. Each stage was weighted heavier than the last and it was the cumulative total of each winning entry that ruled who won and who left to go home. After McKenzie Westmore announced the rules and how the challenge would be judged, Nora (in the recorded “asides” used throughout the series) promised a fight to the death and ended her statement with:

“Let’s Go. Thunderdome.”

In the first of the three challenges, the artists had to do “exposure” makeup. Quoting films like Cast Away, Alive and 127 Hours McKenzie stated that  the test was to recreate the realistic looks associated with someone being stranded in the elements.  Each contestant then chose their models. Winner of the first stage of the gauntlet was Nora; her attention to detail was head and shoulders above the competition, although Jordan Patton came close.)

The second challenge was to take already applied prosthetics and do realistic makeup for the characters that the models were meant to represent.  Kevon Ward won the second challenge with his superior paintwork. Ward was surprised and pleased at the win.

Face Off - Season 9
Kevon Ward with his third challenge entry.

At the end of stage two of The Gauntlet, Evan fell into the last place slot of number 9. He was not terribly pleased but despite being very concerned at the amount of models on hand for the last challenge, Hedges went on to win that particular round.


Face Off - Season 9
Evan Hedges with his winning combo for Challenge Three.

The last challenge dealt out  a huge dose of reality. The challenge was to create a main, or “hero” model and then do two “background” models. In the business, it is explained, most makeup artists will do a number of models and not just one main. This understandably shook all of the contestants, although Nora, once again, rose to the challenge with a can-do attitude.

While Evan won the last round, the overall winner was Nora.

Face Off - Season 9
Nora the Roara wins the first ever Gauntlet on Face Off.

The last three, on the leaderboard at the end of the challenge and the episode were Stephanie “Stevie” Calabrese and “cupcake” Meg Wilbur along with Jasmine Ringo.

Face Off - Season 9
Meg Wilbur at the bottom but not out.

Jasmine was the one to go home this week and as usual Ms. Westmore seemed saddened by the loss of another talented artist. The show this week did not feature Michael Westmore, McKenzie’s father as the format was different.

Face Off - Season 9
Stephanie “Stevie” Calabrese also close to leaving but not out.

Regardless of the “nonappearance” of the “master” Face Off held their first ever gauntlet and it was brilliant to watch. Each of the stages put different pressures on the contestants and, as usual, it was fascinating to see the thought process behind each creation.

This is the only “reality” show worth watching at the moment as it does not deal with “personalities” vying for attention through banal and non existent talents. Face Off  showcases real people with real talent, a gift for creating magic of a special sort. The series airs Tuesdays on SyFy.

Face Off - Season 9
Jasmine Ringo, out but not down.
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