Barry Berman Continues Family Tradition
The term family business applies in Barney Burman’s case. With his uncle Ellis Burman he shares working on Star Trek in two different forms. Ellis worked on Star Trek Nemesis and Star Trek Enterprise, while Barney worked on JJ Abrams Star Trek and recieved an Oscar. His father Tom Burman did the great make-up on Cat People. He chatted with us about his work on Grimm
Transcript of Phone Press Conference
Barney Burman: Well like all TV, there’s a quick turnaround, but I personally think there’s much more of a fantasy element on Grimm that stimulates me personally. So there’s a lot more license for coming up with things that don’t necessarily need to be based in a scientific reality, even sort of a sci-fi reality, if that makes sense. And it’s just – it’s something that I just love because there’s so much more in my opinion, put into the character of these things that we’re seeing, rather than just the effect of it.
I also want to know when you first learned about Grimm, what did you begin to flesh out in your mind? Like was it the Big Bad Wolf, or something else?
Barney Burman: Well fortunately, there’s an episode coming up called The Three Bad Wolves, and there’s a character in that – well I guess Three Bad Wolves, not surprisingly based somewhat on The Three Little Pigs. There’s a pig character in that that I had been sort of dreaming about doing for awhile. And so the fact that this came up and was my first episode was kind of a beautiful synchronicity.
Hi. So what’s been your – I’m not sure how many you’ve done specifically on this series yet – as of yet, but what’s kind of your favorite makeup effect that you’ve done and why?
Barney Burman: Well the pig character was certainly one of them. I only hesitate in saying too much because my favorite has yet – one of my other favorites I should say has yet to be seen. Yes, I don’t want to give it away as far as what’s coming up. There was certainly – you know, one of the things when someone asks me what’s my favorite job overall, usually – and this is no actual – no exception, my answer is this one. The one I’m currently doing is the one I’m usually the most in to and excited about. And that’s been kind of happening per episode with this. Each episode I kind of get sort of reinvigorated and reenergized about what we’re making because, “Ooh, that’s new. That’s cool. That’s different.”
But I say of the ones that I can talk about, certainly the pig character was one that stood out for me.
Tony Tellado: Hi Mr. Burman. It’s nice to talk to you. It just seems to me what’s interesting about this show, it’s not only the practical effects that you’re working with in Makeup, but also employing some of the digital effects with that and kind of marrying the two together. Am I on target with that?
Barney Burman: Yes, to a degree. A lot of times it ends up being either just a practical effect – a makeup effect, or just a visual computer effect. But my favorite things which we’ve been able to in recent years in entertainment is to be able marry the two together, so when we get those opportunities, I think those kind of shine, at least as personal favorite moments for me.
Tony Tellado: Cool.And certainly the Burman family has been doing makeup for quite some time. I mean, have – you can almost tell the story of makeup by all the advancements that have been made. You know, how does – you know, how – have you talked to like some of the older members that are still with us about you know, some of the advances and what you’re doing now?
Barney Burman: Well if you count talking to my father as one of those older members…
Tony Tellado: Oh, yes.
Barney Burman: …in makeup, then absolutely. We have a lot of discussion about current versus older materials. And maybe because of my connection to that, I try not to get stuck in just going with the latest technology, because you know quite often some of the old ways are tried and true and still work beautifully. So I really feel kind of actually blessed that I have come from that background and have that lineage to sort of refer to so I can make something work without being – without limiting myself to just what’s popular today, if that makes sense.I know a lot of makeup artists – not a lot. I know some makeup artists who are fantastic with an airbrush. But you take an airbrush out of their hands and they don’t know what to do. So I’m really happy – I kind of consider myself one of the youngest old-timer makeup artists because I was able to grow up around it and experience some of those older techniques. It’s been very valuable to me.
Tony Tellado: And would your father be Tom Burman?
Barney Burman: That’s him.
Tony Tellado: Yes. He’s great. Actually, I think he did The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Barney Burman: Correct.
Tony Tellado: So yes, there’s some animal in the lineage there.
Barney Burman: Yes, absolutely. In fact, there are a few times I’ve done something and thought that looks like something my dad would do.
Tony Tellado: Yes. Well thank you. I love the show and I love what you guys are doing on it.
Barney Burman: Thank you so much.
Hi. Thanks for chatting with us. I was curious about the particular challenges that come with bringing characters to life that have a lot of built in expectations? Whether it’s Grimm Fairy Tales that people have imagery of in their minds, or Star Trek?
Barney Burman: Well good question. I’d say Star Trek definitely had built in expectations, and we really did not want to disappoint the fans of the old series or the old films at all. So we really wanted to stay very true to the look of those older characters.And conversely, we decided we also want to bring a newer element into the world so that we’re upgrading both technique and material, and the – sort of artistic aesthetic of what had been established before. So I felt like I was standing on the shoulders of giants in a way and just sort of reaching to that next level.
With Grimm, it’s kind of been a fresh – a new take on an old world, and I’m not sure really what – sorry. Excuse me. Something just popped up on my – a video just popped up on my computer and made noise. Sorry.
Grimm is a fresh new take on an old world that I don’t know if we need to worry about the establishment of what fans expect, and we can kind of create and give them something new that they haven’t seen before, and that’s equally exciting.
Did you draw on any classic illustrations, or did it really just kind of come out of new ideas?
Barney Burman: There’s certainly an influence from the old illustrations. As far as the initial designs go, there’s a couple of guys that are – have been doing it that were actually on board before I came on named Constantine Sekeris and Jerad Marantz. And those are two of the guys I would call if I don’t have the time to design things myself. And on a schedule like this, it’s just impossible for me. And so – and those are two of the best guys out there, so I figured you know why even try to do anything that’s going to top what they do? I can’t. They are brilliant.
So they actually do a lot of the initial computer designs or Photoshop designs. And then they give them as concept work, and then they give them to me. And between what they do and the influence of older sketches and illustrations, and the influence of the actors that are wearing – performers that are wearing the makeup, everything comes and sort of takes on its own individual look from all of those things combined.
I’d love to hear about work that has inspired you. I’m guessing maybe your fathers on the list there, and other relatives. And then advice you have for people who want to do the kind of work that you are doing now.
Barney Burman: Well yes, it’s certainly my father’s work in things like Cat People and (Island of) Dr. Moreau and Invasion of the Body Snatchers was all you know, certainly inspirational. His more recent work – he’s done a lot of medical shows like Nip Tuck and Gray’s Anatomy, and they’ve did some amazing flawless work on that that – things that look absolutely lifelike, and that’s what inspires me too. I always try and make something as – and take on as much of its own life as I can possibly make it.Otherwise, you know certainly respect the work of like Rick Baker and (Rob Oaten) for design alone. (Rob Oaten) was a brilliant mind.There’s been other stuff like from a multitude of many artists. Maybe like Kevin Yeager and many artist that probably people have never heard of that I just find – if you look online, look on Facebook, there’s so much beautiful work being done out there. A lot of stuff in the UK and in Italy, and everywhere all around the world I keep finding these really imaginative, wonderful ideas.And just – this may be sidetracking a little bit, but I was so excited when Grimm came along because it seemed like most of the shows that are being done in the States now are medical oriented shows, and what I love to do is make creatures and monsters and change people around, and Grimm allows me to do that opportunity. So anyway, I just wanted to throw that out there.
Barney Burman: Do it. Just start doing it you know. I mean, find out – there’s plenty of information online. There’s plenty of videos. Plenty of books out there that can be gotten through Amazon or what have you. And so it’s not a big kept secret, you just got to look in the right areas and find out what are the materials people are using and just start doing it. Find some clay. Get some sculpting tools. If you want to do makeup per se, then start making people up – making up your friends. If you want to be a sculpture, start sculpting. I would say that if anybody puts in the kind – even half the amount of time into something like this that say a doctor or a lawyer would put into becoming a doctor or a lawyer, then you can’t fail.
Tony Tellado: I wanted to ask you, and you mentioned it briefly – now as far as working on this show designing the makeup, do you – is it a sketching it, or using a computer, or just sculpting, or all the above, or which one of the three do you use?
Barney Burman: Well the two designers that were on board before I came on, Jared Marantz and Constantine Sekeris, they – it seems like they’re doing Photoshop work, and then once it comes to me I’ll get the actor and start buffing it out in clay. Clay is just one of my favorite things. And in a way, I feel like I have a very old relationship with clay, so that it – I can – and I like a three dimensional quality of it.And then if and when things need to be tweaked or something new comes up, you know I’ll get on the Photoshop and I’ll do a little quick Photoshop type sketching. Sometimes I’ll take photos of the clay model, put that into Photoshop and tweak it to find out what’s needed.
But for the most part, things have been running fairly smoothly at hitting the looks from the digital concept that they initially bring to me to the clay model, and then into the you know, full-fledged makeup.
Tony Tellado: Now do you have time to do like a head cast of the actor to do…
Barney Burman: Oh, yes. We have to. It’s crucial. I always want everything you know, to be as good as it can be on this show, and the only way to do that is to make sure that we have good, proper fitting prosthetics and makeups.
Tony Tellado: Well, that’s great. Thank you. Really appreciate the answers. It’s – again, it’s – you guys work magic every week.
Barney Burman: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate that.