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IMATS or Monsterpalooza Redux

A while back (2011) I wrote a blog - you can take a look at it here if you'd like to see the original post: 'IMATS or Monsterpalooza? - about which show show we, the makeup effects folks, (should) go to and why. Of course, 'both of them' is the correct answer, but at the time I wrote and posted the original blog, I think there was good reason to consider choosing one over the other. I know I ruffled a few feathers at the time, and for that I remain sincerely apologetic. However, since that original post, the makeup effects world has changed, at least in terms of those two shows: IMATS and Monsterpalooza. My hat is off to both Michael Key, publisher of 'Makeup Artist Magazine' and whose company puts on IMATS shows worldwide, and to Eliot Brodsky and family, proprietors of Monsterpalooza and Son of Monsterpalooza, both of which presently reside in Burbank, CA.

For those of you who have attended both an IMATS somewhere and a Monsterpalooza recently know that elements of what I wrote about in my Wordpress blog have come to pass, though I take no credit whatever for any of it other than to have been one voice of a sentiment apparently shared by many. Both shows have continued to evolve and improve, though I have only been to IMATS in Los Angeles (Pasadena) in the past few years, but images and personal reports from Monsterpalooza and IMATS elsewhere show compelling evidence that makeup effects are alive and well. At this writing, Monsterpalooza 2016 has just ended, and from all accounts, it was a resounding success, perhaps the biggest, and best to date.

Here is the original blog:

Where is the makeup effect industry going? And by ‘going’ I mean, which show is going to be home? IMATS? Monsterpalooza? Both?

For the uninitiated, IMATS stands for International Makeup Artist Trade Show and is the gathering for the makeup and makeup effects industries, and Monsterpalooza is a convention devoted to all things collectible that concern monsters – sci-fi and horror – from masks, figurines and maquettes, posters, screen-used props, comics, etc.

Well, IMATS was the gathering for the makeup and makeup effects industries… For makeup effects, is it still? For a time, IMATS happened twice a year – first in London, England at the end of January; and then in Pasadena, CA at the end of June. Now, there’s a show every two months!!

London and Pasadena have been joined by Sydney, Australia; Vancouver, British Columbia; New York, New York; and Toronto, Ontario, and there are rumors floating around of yet another IMATS to take place in Miami, Florida! C’mon! Okay, Sydney I can understand – it’s way on the other side of the planet. But the rest… are they really necessary?! IMATS used to be very special, exclusive even; now, with a show every two months it seems like serious over-saturation. Most artists I know barely have time to make it to one IMATS a year, and if the shows aren’t for artists, then who? (I’ll get to that) From just a vendor’s standpoint, it has become a colossal expense to exhibit at every show, and if not every show, which one, or ones? Gaaa!

Don’t get me wrong. Cudos to creator Michael Key and his staff at Makeup Artist Magazine for establishing such a lucrative brand. I just think there are now too many IMATS. Six. Maybe seven. Really? Who does this benefit? My first IMATS was the Pasadena show in 2004. As I recall, attendance was brisk, but not elbow-to-elbow as it has become. While I am not a fan of large crowds, I can tolerate it for a 2-day show attended by fellow professionals, students and aspiring artists. Since it is (was) the one time/place in North America for us to congregate, those not away working almost certainly would be in attendance to catch up with old friends, see new materials and new techniques. However, in the last few years, IMATS seems to have become overrun by regular retail Janes with strollers and boyfriends in tow looking for great deals on eye shadow and bulk mascara brushes, and who wouldn’t know an Academy Award-winning makeup artist if given a list of names and photos to choose from. These folks have no industry connection, they just want to know who’s giving away free stuff and “where’s the MAC booth at?”

As a result of this (and, yes, rising costs) a number of regular vendor attendees have pulled out of IMATS. Whereas IMATS used to be a pretty evenly represented mix of both fashion/beauty makeup and makeup effects, it has become clear to anyone with open eyes that it is far more about fashion/beauty makeup and what it represents. Many effects materials vendors as well as a number of prominent effects artists are feeling a bit put off. I won’t name names, but I’ve had personal conversations. I understand it from a business POV; nobody is in business just for fun. We’re in business to have fun AND to make money, and not necessarily in that order. Did I go to IMATS this year? Yes I did. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself, seeing old friends, making new friends, and getting some face time with contributors to the 2nd edition of my book. Did I notice a shift away from makeup effects toward fashion and beauty makeup? Yes I did. And to be honest with you, my decision to go was pretty last minute. Airfare, rental car, hotel, meals, etc. Had the magazine not graciously offered to do a book signing and comp my attendance as a educator/guest (THANK YOU!), I may not have gone. It was expensive (though well worth it to me), and I have lots to do that I am now playing catch up to complete. Did I mention that I’m working on the 2nd edition of my book? It’s not going to write itself.

So what does IMATS have to do with Monsterpalooza? Nothing. But they do have one thing in common, and that is us. The makeup effects artists. Maybe it’s because so many of us are monster nuts and got into the business of makeup effects largely because of the movie monsters of our youth – The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Dracula, The Invisible Man, Godzilla, Them, the list could literally go on almost indefinitely… but it seemed as though every 10 feet or so walking through the exhibit hall I’d run into another makeup effects artist – or five – geeking out over some really cool monster display; some collectible – a vinyl mask, a screen-used movie prop, a vintage Aurora model kit, a signed movie poster, Nastassja Kinski, etc, etc, etc. Oh. My. God! Sheer awesomeness.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Eliot Brodsky has put together a really, really terrific convention for collectors and creators of movie monster memorabilia. But I think it could be even better than really, really terrific. And there’s evidence to that effect. While the convention was almost entirely vendors of collectible merchandise, there were a few materials vendors who cater to the artists who create the work, not the collectors themselves. Premiere Products was one such vendor, and they had artists doing monster makeup demos all weekend, including Oscar winners Steve LaPorte and Ve Neill recreating their classic Michael Keaton Beetlejuice makeup. The place was packed, elbow-to-elbow all weekend. Michael Spatola demo’d his zombie bride from his great new ‘How To’ book, The Monster Makeup Manual.

Many of the Monsterpalooza attendees are aspiring artists looking for advice and inspiration as well as playing fanboy to all the cool monster stuff. The materials and techniques used to sculpt, mold, cast and paint many of the collectibles (many selling for handsome sums) on display at Monsterpalooza are the very same materials and techniques used to sculpt, mold, cast and paint most prosthetic makeup appliances. Whoa!! All right… what if… in addition to its panel discussions, contests, and displays for sale – Monsterpalooza had more vendors catering to those interested in creating (not just collecting) and had a variety of seminars and workshops/classes geared to different skill levels, techniques and processes, much the way I remember IMATS doing? I once attended a hair ventilating class led by Oscar nominee John Blake. This year, of the 10 Main Stage presentations, only two had anything to do with makeup effects at all, and of 26 classroom presentations, only 5 were makeup effects specific.

Now I like to look at a good-looking, bare breasted babe painted head-to-toe like a jungle Macaw living next to a nuclear reactor as much as the next guy – and I wouldn’t mind knowing how to do that paint job – but what I really want is to learn a sculpting technique I’ve never tried before in a material I’m not as proficient with as I could be. We all want to be better at what we love to do. But then, that’s why I’m working on the second edition of my book.

Just think about it, Eliot.

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