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Talbot works on a later stage of makeup.
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Photo courtesy Syfy Channel
Drew Talbot works on a challenge for the hit Syfy show "Face Off."
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Photo courtesy of the Syfy Channel
Cast members from the seventh season of "Face Off."
Wood River native Drew Talbot took his experiences as a member of Thespian Troop 733 at East Alton-Wood River High School and followed them on a career path that landed him an opportunity to be a contestant on the Syfy Channel hit reality show “Face Off,” which kicked off Tuesday with a “life or death” theme.
In a major surprise, and a departure from previous seasons, the 16 people chosen for the show learned they were not official contestants until they passed an initial challenge. They could be eliminated before the season started.
Each week, “Face Off” makeup artists create original characters such as aliens, human-animal hybrids, horror villains, cyborgs and others. Challenges include design, sculpting, molding and application. A panel of judges reviews the competitors’ finished work and sends one of them home.
“As a kid I was obsessed with science fiction and fantasy film and the creatures in them, so I bought Styrofoam wigheads with my allowance and used modeling clay and Play-Doh to give them faces,” Talbot said. “In high school I went to an Illinois state theater festival and there was a panel with a makeup effects artist who brought all kinds of prosthetics for us to see and talked about the process of what a makeup effects artist does. That was my first exposure to makeup effects, and it appealed to me right off the bat.”
Since his days at East Alton-Wood River, Talbot attended SIUE and earned a bachelor of fine arts degree, focused on printmaking, before making a decision to relocate to Monessen, Pa., to attend Tom Savini’s Special Makeup Effects Program at Douglas Education Center.
“It was the longest and most diverse program I could find,” Talbot said. “I chose makeup effects because it just felt like it was something that I would ultimately enjoy more.”
The contestants that make it to the “Face Off” reveal stage have to go through a rigorous audition process before being considered.
“The first round of auditions requires a huge stack of paperwork, which only gets bigger the farther you get along in the process, and then a video audition,” Talbot said. “The Syfy production team goes through all those applications and videos and narrows it down from there.”
Many of the contestants own or work for special effects companies, but the hardest challenge is getting work seen.
“The biggest productions I’ve worked on so far have actually been theatrical productions here in Pittsburgh. I’ve done makeup and wigs on musicals such as ‘Cats,’ ‘Hairspray,’ and ‘Tarzan,’ and prosthetics and makeup for ‘Shrek the Musical,’” Talbot said. “I’m hoping that one of the results of being on the show is that people will see what I can do and want to hire me for movies. I love being on set.”
Talbot got his first Syfy call on his voicemail.
“I was actually at work and saw a missed call from Los Angeles, so I sneaked outside and called them back,” Talbot said. “It was so exciting ... this is something that I wanted for so long and worked so hard for and it was finally going to happen. I was ecstatic.”
Humble beginnings at EA-WR led Drew down the path and he hasn’t forgotten where he came from on his way to nationwide productions and popular reality shows.
“I did every play from freshman year to senior year at EA-WR,” Talbot said. “My favorite show we did was definitely ‘Noises Off.’ It was so much fun; the show is hilarious and we got to build a revolving set for it. It was very cool.”
Talbot made it through the first challenge and is an official contestant on the show. Not only did he advance with great encouragement and feedback from the judges, he was the winner of the Week One Fan Favorite Vote through Twitter.
Talbot’s 2002 class has also started a Facebook page to follow their classmate’s progress and to remind one another to vote weekly through Twitter to make Drew the fan favorite. You can visit his website at www.drewatalbot.com.
You can tune in on the SyFy Channel on Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m. to follow Talbot and see how far he goes in the competition.