What was your design process like on Sound of Metal?
The makeup design on this project was emotionally driven and symbolic. For example, the cockroach tattoo crawling into Ruben’s (Riz Ahmed) ear foreshadows his loss of hearing which first appears as misfortune, but later represents endurance and continuance. Ruben and Lou begin as two troubled, hurt individuals that find salvation in each other. This was expressed in their makeup design. The goal was for the makeup to draw you into experiencing what the characters were experiencing. As a recovering addict, Ruben is covered in track marks and garage style tattoos. His tattoos tell a story of self-loathing and each derogatory expression is strategically placed.
What was the process like for designing Lou’s tattoos?
Lou’s left arm tells a story of pain, love and inner turmoil. A history of self-harm is visible below the fresh scratches where healed cutting scars lay. Lou has rubi, short for Ruben, tattooed above these scratches which she continually picks at throughout the film. Both actors are in love and connected by their scars and pain. Lou’s wounds and tattoos are purposely placed to help connect the audience with her history and relationship with Ruben. For example, the crossed guns tattoo on Ruben’s chest is purposely placed by his heart to represent his ride or die relation with Lou.
How did you partner with hair and wardrobe creating the looks for the film?
The creative team extended beyond just the makeup department but to the hair department, Gordon Tribble, Megan Stark Evans (costume designer), Darius Marder (director/writer), Amy Greene, Rita Salt (tattoo designer), Sacha Ben Harroche, Chris Stinson, Olivia Cook, Riz Ahmed and so on. I worked hand in hand with the hair department, especially in regard to the cochlear scar development and placement. Every decision made in each character’s makeup look was connected and influenced by all these departments, and I could not have done it without them.
The first time we see Ruben and Lou we are at a rock show and that sets the scene for who they are and who they are to each other in a big way. What sort of research did you do for creating their live performance looks?The goal was to help connect the audience to the intensity and emotions experienced by Ruben and Lou. During the performance, Lou’s makeup was loud in comparison to having a quieter simplistic look during the middle of the film when Ruben and her lived on the road. Her performance look was edgy and raw. Lou’s smudged lips, bleached brows and pale complexion provided a feel for the heavy metal, underground, hardcore punk scene. However, both of their looks reflect a deeper internal struggle. During this scene, we see a full display of Ruben’s tattoos. Ruben’s complexion fades just as his hearing fades. When he arrives at rehab his complexion continually fades. The depth under his eyes intensifies along with his grief, and rage, as the film progresses. However, at the end of the film both Lou and Rubens’ complexions are brighter. The intensity of their makeup looks are simplistic yet purposeful.
When Lou is in Paris, she has a markedly different look. How did her change in energy play into the story line?
In the beginning of the film, her makeup reflected internal suffering. By the end, her complexion is softer and brighter, symbolizing hope. As Lou’s scratches heal, so does she. Her brows are back to their natural state. Her makeup reflects her adaptation to a new beginning and sense of security.
How did you design the cochlear surgery and scar?
The makeup and hair design involved research into cochlear implant surgery, prep, post-recovery and device placement, as it was very important to achieve an accurate depiction of the process. Ruben’s first bondo transfer scar was pink, freshly stapled after surgery, the second was a healed version after the lapse of time.
Was there anything especially challenging about designing this project?
One of the tattoos were missing during an on location shot and had to be drawn on. I used a K.D. 151 Tattoo pen and alcohol palette to free hand the design. The challenging part was he had over 20 tattoos and a short period of time for this application. Another challenging moment was with the cochlear scars. We decided to use real surgery staples in the cochlear prosaide bondo transfer scars because they looked more authentic. We directly stapled them into the transfer which made it a challenge when peeling the transfer. In the end, it was worth the struggle and made the scars look more authentic. The molds were made by Dyad Fx.
Any must have products on set for this project?
K.D. 151 Tattoo pens, Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation, RCMA translucent powder, Kryolan Perfect Matt for mattifying the sheen off tattoos. Face Vital and Leaf Fusion Plasma are my new favorite devices to treat the actors with spa-like treatment after a long day.
What was the best part of working on Sound of Metal?
The people I met. I met so many great crew members that became more like a film family and formed relationships that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I cherish this project and am grateful to have been a part of it. Working with our director, crew, actors and the Deaf Community on this production was a unique experience, it was both humbling and an honor to be involved in the creative process of bringing Rubens’ story to life.
Words Michael DeVellis
Photos Amazon Studios, © Amazon Content Services