You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • First still from the set of

    How the 'Jojo Rabbit' Production Team Created a Child's View of Nazi Germany

    When picturing Nazi Germany during World War II, most people think of black-and-white or sepia-toned images of drab cities. For the cinematographer and production designer of “Jojo Rabbit,” a film set squarely in that time and place, it became clear that the color palette of the era was far more varied than they could have [...]

  • National Theatre Live Midsummer's Night Dream

    National Theatre Live Marks Decade of Stage-to-Screen With Immersive ‘Midsummer’

    National Theatre Live has filmed nearly eight dozen theatrical productions over the last decade, bringing theater to the cinema using top technologies and talents in the videography space. This month, on the eve of its 10th anniversary, its production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is challenging the technical producers and crew with an immersive stage [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    How Bright Bulbs Enabled 'The Lighthouse's' Tough Black-and-White Shoot

    Early in development on “The Lighthouse,” writer-director Robert Eggers asked cinematographer Jarin Blaschke if he thought they could capture the look they were going for digitally. Blaschke answered no: Digital wouldn’t let them achieve the texture they had in mind — “what we photography nerds would call ‘micro-contrast.’ [The look] was never going to be [...]

  • Advanced Imaging Society Honors 10 Women

    AIS Honors 10 Women in Tech

    Celebrating 10 years of achievement in entertainment technology, the Advanced Imaging Society today named 10 female industry innovators who will receive the organization’s 2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards at the its 10th annual Entertainment Technology Awards ceremony on October 28 in Beverly Hills. The individuals were selected by an awards committee for being significant “entertainment industry [...]

  • Will Smith Gemini Man Special Effects

    How the 'Gemini Man' VFX Team Digitally Created a Younger Version of Will Smith

    More human than human — yes, that’s a “Blade Runner” reference — yet it sounds like an unattainable standard when it comes to creating believable, photorealistic, digital human characters. But the visual effects team on Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” set its sights on something even more difficult: creating a digital version of young Will Smith [...]

  • Jest to Impress Cartoon Network Virtual

    New In-House VR Program Helps Cartoon Network Artists Add a Virtual Dimension

    Teams of animators and artists from across Cartoon Network’s numerous properties are getting the chance to expand into virtual reality storytelling via the company’s pilot program, Journeys VR. The work of the first three teams — including experiences based on action, nature and comedy — was unveiled to global audiences Oct. 1 on Steam and [...]

  • Frozen 2

    How the 'Frozen II' Artists Created Believable Emotion Through Animation

    “The more believable you can make the character [look], the more people believe how [it’s] feeling,” says Tony Smeed, who, with Becky Bresee, shared the challenge of heading animation on Disney’s highly anticipated “Frozen II.” “Emotion comes from inside and manifests itself into actions and facial expressions. Anything beyond that is movement for the sake [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content