WOOD RIVER — East Alton-Wood River High School graduate Drew Talbot proved he had the right stuff to make the finale in the Syfy hit series “Face Off” as the season seven contestant competed in weekly elimination rounds by creating creatures with special-effects makeup.
Talbot earned the coveted prize of being voted the “Face Off” fan favorite and winning $10,000 by receiving the most votes through tweets.
Each week the contestants were tasked with creating an original movie-worthy character reflecting this season’s theme of “Life or Death.” Talbot’s castmate, talented Chicago cake decorator Dina, earned the grand prize — a VIP trip from Kryolan Professional Make-up to one of their 85 international locations, a 2013 Fiat 500 and $100,000.
“When I was younger, my favorite TV shows had people who had to use special effects or makeup to play their character,” Talbot said in an assembly at his former grade school on Monday, Nov. 10. “I loved shows like ‘Star Trek’ or movies like ‘Lord of the Rings.’ To me is was like using magic to create these characters, and I wanted to learn how to do that magic.”
Secrecy has been the focus of Talbot’s life since early March, when he was chosen to be one of the members of the season seven cast. To become a contestant, Talbot had to resign from his job at Tom Savini’s Special Makeup Effects Program at Douglas Education Center without being able to give the reason for quitting.
“I couldn’t tell anyone why I was leaving; that was really hard,” Talbot said. “The best I could do was get as close to the truth as I could without divulging too much. Once the cast was announced and everyone was able to see what was going on, the support was overwhelming; they understood.”
Twists and turns are a cornerstone of “Face Off,” as contestants create one-of-a-kind creatures from small clues and surprises from every corner. From time to time, the contestants put individual needs aside to help one another during competition. During the finale, Drew’s team stopped what they were doing to help Dina get her molds opened and cleaned out. The task was completed just in time and kept her from getting behind.
“From the start we all got along, liked each other and respected one another as artists,” Talbot said. “Everyone I competed with are genuinely nice people, so that helps put the competition aspect of it in the back of your mind. We really wanted to see each other succeed and with everyone’s level of creativity, we all wanted to see each other’s finished product. There were times we needed to lend each other a hand; we all knew that any of us would do that for each other.”
The contestants faced many challenges, but the biggest battle was against the clock.
“We were given only 30 minutes in the design phase to create our concepts,” Talbot said. “Trying to condense the creative process on a project that I would normally try to take a couple days to design down to half an hour was intense. Putting a concept together involves sketching, notes and back-stories. During those 30 minutes we were not allowed to touch any tools at all.”
When people watch at home, there is the element of movie magic to compress time into the hour allotted for the show. Talbot said all of the feedback given to the contestants was aired on the show.
“Our timeline as far as the design phase, the time in the lab and application day is exactly how things played out,” Talbot said. “We had a day or so between our challenges, but the speed of our work days was shown very accurately on the show. All the communication the judges gave us was aired. All of us felt that if we would have had a little more time, a lot of their critiques would have been things we would have found on our own and made the corrections.”
Making the finale was a huge accomplishment for the final three contestants, Drew, Dina and Cig, considering the amount of talent featured on the Syfy program. Drew explained to the Lewis and Clark students that he actually had tried three times to be accepted into the competition, but the rewards were worth the wait.
“I never thought at any time throughout the taping of the show that I had this competition in the bag,” Talbot said. “With the talented cast we had this season, I knew I could be eliminated at any time. We were always on pins and needles. It wasn’t until they announced that I had made the finale that I really thought that I had a chance in this. It really boosted my confidence and I felt good going into the last challenge.”
Talbot’s favorite creations throughout the show was the two concepts he designed during the finale. The contestants were given the task to create two creatures based on a knight’s crest. One was to be evil, the other was to be full of life, but they were to relate to each other. Having a fondness for deer, Talbot chose a knight’s crest that allowed him to create two deer creatures that not only had to survive the judges’ scrutiny, but had to endure being put to the test in a performance of stuntmen while sword fighting, jousting and tumbling. The judges waited until the elaborate performance was completed before they looked at how the creatures survived the life-or-death challenge.
For Talbot and his castmates, the destination was not the purpose of the show, it was the journey. Opportunities awaited the contestants as the show ran its course every Tuesday night. Talbot could not announce his future endeavors until the finale aired on Oct. 28 and the secret was revealed — Talbot is heading to Hollywood.
“I was contacted by the people at the Hollywood makeup academy in Los Angeles and offered a position as an instructor,” Talbot said. “They have workshops all over the country and they thought I would do well with my Midwest and East Coast connections. I hope I can do some workshops in the St. Louis area. When I lived here in Metro East area, there were not a lot of options out there for me to learn this trade. I know I’m not the only one in our area that is curious about this occupation. I want to give people the opportunity to dip their toes in and see if this is a career option for them by giving them a chance that I didn’t have.”
Talbot traveled through the St. Louis area and visited his parents, who still reside in his childhood home in Wood River. Talbot enjoyed a friends and family reception Sunday, Nov. 9, before he left for California on Tuesday, Nov. 11, to start his new career. “Face Off” season eight is in production and will air in January.