Not too many people get the chance to make a career out of bruises, broken bones, gashes and gore. But Tim Richards is an exception. He’s a special effects makeup artist who creates ghastly injuries for movies and television projects.
“I started off in high school,” Richards says. “A friend of mine and I did the fangs for a stage production of ‘Dracula.’ Then we did ‘The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940’ and ‘West Side Story.’ High school was a huge influence.”
He went on to host a television show in St. Louis, where he did visual effects, makeup and costumes. A short time later, he relocated to Arizona and earned a degree in animation but realized the education didn’t benefit him. So he set out on his own, joined the Phoenix Independent Filmmakers Group, and started working on the film “The Handlers.”
“We needed a waiter with a busted leg and a black eye,” Richards says. “I had a tackle box of makeup and soon after was known as ‘the makeup guy,’ and here I am seven years later.”
His handiwork is intense. “If you need somebody really messed up, I’ll find a way to do it,” Richards says.
He references special materials to get the realistic look of faux injuries.
“I’m not going to drop any names … let’s just say I have friends who can get me forensic photos. What’s really funny is that I’ll have these photos up, and they look fake.”
The tools of Richards’ trade include everything from pancake makeup and rolled-up paper towels to Elmer’s glue and tiny pebbles. He estimates that he’s used his gory expertise in 60 to 70 films. Among his favorites film projects are “Promise,” for which he created a decapitation and blew apart a character’s head, and the Charisma Carpenter-Jeremy London vehicle “Girl in Woods,” which required him to craft a nightmarish forest creature.
‘Special FX Makeup Artist’
Company: Toriadore FX
Years on the Job: Seven
Childhood Influence: Zombie, “Bub” from the George Romero film, “Day of the Dead”
Best Part of Job: “My favorite part is freaking out people on set and hearing them say, ‘Oh my gosh, so that’s how they do that.’ I’m like a rock star. I show up on set and I amaze everybody. Then I leave and they never see me again, and I get to see my work onscreen for like four seconds.”
Worst Part of Job: “The worst part is sitting around on set and waiting for my chance to be the rock star.”
Favorite Graphic Injury to Recreate: “I’m going to have to go with the classic intestine removal.”
A “Special Friend:” “I did a zombie camp last year, and I was the makeup guy. I had all these kids coming in, and I had a dummy, Leroy, that’s been used in five or six different films. I think he’s retired. He started out as a full body and over the years, he’s lost his head, lost his limbs, then last year we gutted him and filled him full of intestines. These kids have a story of zombies going crazy on Leroy and reaching in and pulling his intestines out. Leroy has just been sitting around recuperating from that.”