Academy Award-Winning Makeup Artist Howard Berger Visits Blanche!

February 18th, 2011 / Posted by natasha

Well, the Special Effects and TV & Film students at our Uptown Campus sure got a nice surprise on Wednesday.  Academy Award winner for Outstanding Makeup, HOWARD BERGER, dropped by for a visit!!! This man is a legend! The Chronicles of Narnia (Howard’s fave film to work on), The Green Mile, Kill Bill 1&2 (Quentin loves working with him), The Last Exorcism, Sin City, Lord of the Rings, Land of the Dead, Austin Powers Goldmember, Thir13enGhosts, Predators, Scream 2, House of Wax, Fright Night, The Haunting and I Am Number Four (which comes out today!) – these are just a few of the films he has worked on. He’s also a familiar face here at Blanche. Howard has come in to demo casualty makeup and silicone ageing using 3D makeup transfers and silicone prosthetics in the past!

Here are just a few film stills from Thir13en Ghosts (2001), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) and Predators (2010).
Source: 1, 2 & 3

Howard is currently in town shooting a new action-adventure survival film called “The Grey” starring Liam Neeson, which involves doing makeup on 30 dead bodies following a plane crash. He had called his friend and our fab Special Effects instructor, Cory Roberts, to tell her that he ‘might come by and visit if he got off set early’ that day.  Howard not only came by to visit, he arrived with a bag of fake blood in hand and gave us an impromptu demo on quick blood effects along with industry tips and hilarious stories! Soon after dashing in to say hi to each of the other Makeup classes, the students were spontaneously invited to sit in on his demo! Four classes of students in one Makeup room and many trying to peek in from the hallway… we were thrilled!!

DEMO #1: A Quick 3rd Degree Cut

After selecting our Makeup student, Chenade, from the sea of students, Howard mixed parts A&B of Sculpt Gel on a palette instead of in a jar.  He began to apply it on Chenade’s cheek in broad strokes. Molding it like a cut, he suggests keeping the design simple, reshaping as it sets. Tip: work fast. Urgency is key!

The red tool in this next pic is what he uses to paint on blood. You can fill the handle with 99% alcohol and control the amount you want to use.  Howard dipped the red brush into a mix of red tones with black from the Skin Illustrator palette and applied it onto the “wound”, making a really washy effect. To make the burn look more realistic, Howard applied fake blood in drips. He then cut a one-inch chip brush on an angle, dipped it into the red palette, and splattered the paint onto the “infected area” in a flicking motion.

Howard’s Blood Kit Must-Haves: 99% alcohol, Skin Illustrator Tattoo Palette, Visiora shadow, Telesis 5 thinner, Pros-aide, chip brushes, blood (preferably his special K.N.B blood formula which doesn’t stain), wipes, K-Y Jelly, and Matte Anti-Shine by MAC.

In between each step in the demo, Howard shared with us tips on how to make it into the Special FX makeup industry, how excited he is to do the makeup for “The Great Oz” – the prequel of The Wizard of Oz, how it was Uma Thurman who pointed out that he was ambidextrous, how he knows more than he ever wanted to know about dolphins after creating the “Maserati” – a mechanical dolphin for Dolphin Tale (2011), why he has his kids review his makeup before he shows the producers and how magical it was to do the Thriller makeup for Michael Jackson’s film “This Is It” where everything was painted on by hand like in the original. He even disclosed all the sick pranks he helped pull while having fun with fake blood including when his friend started banging a bloody, dislocated head on the side of a car while driving (not surprisingly, resulting in visits from the police).  Too awesome.

DEMO #2: The Beginning of The Exorcist

Howard chose Makeup student, Kaila, who already had some random cuts applied on her face from another student. That’s him cracking jokes about the names of Skin Illustrators’ Grunge palette before choosing a muddy colour to flick on Kayla’s face on the left. He then splattered green with his brush before painting in red tones, blotting with his finger. Using a different refillable paint brush, he mixed up a sheer blue vein wash on his hand to paint around the eyes. Howard recommends using Visiora powders for this. For blood, he squeezed Mouldlife Blood into the cut and tapped it down with his finger. Howard finished off the deathly look by smudging some dark shadow along the eyes, nose, and lips. (BTW – that’s our makeup instructor Cory with the blonde hair below!)


Tips for when you’re starting off: Photograph every creation. When you flip through your work, you will be able to see what went right or wrong and what you did to fix it. Keep practicing at home. Even without a photographer, be conscious of how and where you photograph. No flash. The light from a gloomy day is best. “Have something in the background, but please – make sure it’s not a refrigerator!” When putting together your portfolio, though, it’s quality over quantity. Only put your best work in there.

Tips for when you are on set: Don’t live in your own bubble – know what’s going on around you with a walkie-talkie so you hear everything that happens on set. Remember that half of being a successful artist is the makeup that you do and the other half is how you present it. Be conscious how you present yourself on set – be attentive to the actor and make sure they act in character when you show the producer your creation.

Such an honour and incredibly inspiring!
Best Wednesday surprise visit ever you say? OH YEAH.

Howard loves Blanche and rumour has it that he’ll be back to teach us more!!
Want to be the first to find out? All you have do is subscribe to our e-newsletter here!
Craving more? Our Twitter page is where you will find more insider industry news and great tips literally at your fingertips. Follow us @BlancheWorld. We adore new friends!


  1. JEALOUS!! I’m in the esthetics and spa therapy program right now but am looking into taking the makeup program as well, hopefully he’ll make another suprise visit when I’m taking it. Soo exciting!

    Comment by Amber Morrall — February 19, 2011 @ 12:40 am

  2. […] Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005). He was in town this week giving workshops on special effects at Blanche MacDonald Centre, covering stuff like 3rd degree cuts and other gory […]

    Pingback by Howard Berger | Trevor Jansen Photography — March 2, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

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