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Hair, Makeup Crew Transforms Molly Shannon Into End-Stage Cancer Patient in ‘Other People’

Makeup department head Elle Favorule had a particularly difficult challenge to deal with on Chris Kelly’s semi-autobiographical film “Other People,” starring Molly Shannon: how to believably transform Shannon into Joanne, a woman with end-stage cancer.

Adding a degree of difficulty, Favorule was still on location in Georgia for Clea DuVall’s “The Intervention” when pre-production began on the L.A.-based “Other People.” Racing back to her hotel after a 14-hour day, she’d meet with key hairstylist Darbie Wieczorek, also working on both films, to research applications that would be convincing.

Throughout pre-production, Favorule referenced films like “50/50,” which also tackled the subject. She studied the effects cancer and its treatment had on patients, looked at photos, and focused on testimonials Kelly shared from his mother’s battle with the illness.

Favorule and Wieczorek also conversed regularly with key makeup artist Victoria Boothroyd and key effects artist Annie Cardea, sharing notes and a materials breakdown. The L.A. team had everything prepped and ready upon Favorule’s and Wieczorek’s return to the West Coast two days prior to production.

With only 24 hours to make changes before the shoot began, Favorule worked closely with DP Brian Burgoyne on camera tests. Applying a light, airbrushed makeup, Favorule discovered the slightest adjustment in color created a natural look. “We started heavy, [saw] it was too much, then scaled back until we found what looked just right on camera,” she says.

Kelly broke down the shooting days into equivalent months to help define the look of Joanne’s illness. The AD would then group crucial scenes together so the hair and makeup departments wouldn’t have to make extreme adjustments to Shannon’s transformation. The airbrushed makeup allowed for easy removal and modifications.

Minor effects that were required during the treatment phase were handled with Pros-Aide prosthetic transfers. However, for larger pieces, such as the sculpting of a lump symptomatic of Joanne’s type of cancer, special effects artist Matthew Mungle joined the team. Mungle also created and applied a bald cap to conceal Shannon’s hair, which she wore down during her healthy scenes.

To refine the look of Joanne’s post-chemo hair growth, the hair team turned to men’s human-hair wigs, because it had the right coarseness and growth patterns.

Even though eyebrow hair is also lost during chemotherapy, the department head felt the look would be too jarring for the audience, and opted instead to lighten Shannon’s brows with alcohol colors.

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