Watching “Zombieland,” it’s easy to forget that under all the make-up, there’s a normal person who is not really seeping green slime or breaking out in warts.
The bridge between the two is a makeup artist, and Ellie Martin began to figure when she was in middle school that she was just the person who could turn a man, woman or child into a brain-hungry zombie or a blood-sucking vampire.
Martin, now 18, developed a love for things that go bump in the night at an early age. As a child, Martin constantly drew monsters and ghouls, watched horror movies and covered every inch of her room with Halloween and monster paraphernalia.
“When I was little I was really into Halloween, all the time. Every time Halloween came around, I was ready for it, decorating my house,” she said.
The summer before 8th grade, Martin stumbled into a role as an extra in the horror movie “Scream Farm” through a friend’s father who was a movie director.
“Before, I was never really into the makeup thing, but [the director] taught me and I really, really liked it,” Martin said. “I started doing it on my own and it went from there.”
With constant practice, Martin improved her skills in monster makeup rapidly. For example, latex made great fake wounds, but with limited money to use for professional supplies, Martin had to get creative.
“I’ll use paper towels … cotton balls. I’ll put a layer of latex on my skin and put a strip of cotton ball on it, and then slap a bunch of latex on top of that, soaking it. It hardens and then you can shape it,” she said. “Or you can use … prosthetic wax. You put it on and it smears in with your skin and it looks like it’s a part of your body.”
With Halloween just around the corner, a quick trip to the grocery store can give you what you need for fright night. Martin said a package of gelatin mixed with hot water makes a paste that you can slap on your skin.
“It’s nasty looking,” she said. “When I don’t have the right colors with me to make it look like a wound, I’ll use lipstick or some black eye shadow. I just use whatever’s around me.”
When Martin returned to school after her “Scream of Fear” experience, word of her creepy expertise spread.
“I’d go to school with all this weird stuff. I’d actually bring my supplies to school and I’d do it on my own arm, make little wounds, and people would be like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome, you should do one on me!’ and so I was doing it on other people, in the middle of class.” From there, friends would call Martin up to do zombie make-up for video projects and photo shoots. Eventually, praise about her work got around to a make-up artist from the Nashville haunted house, Monster Mountain.
The make-up artist for the attraction sent her a Facebook message to see if she was interested in doing some work there.
“Monster Mountain was one of my favorite haunted houses so I was so happy,” Martin said. “I just got to work there from luck, I guess.”
Now in her second year working for Monster Mountain, Martin is ready to take the next step toward her dream. In the spring, she hopes to go to Hollywood to the Joe Blasco Cosmetic and Make-up School.
A high school senior disenchanted with the pressure to go a traditional college, Martin was scouring the Internet for make-up tutorials when she found Blasco, which is now accepting FAFSA. Martin hopes she can get scholarships.
For many people, the prospect of moving far from home to go to a horror movie make-up school would be, well, scary. But she’s had a few hurdles already. After her parents split up, she had to learn a few things about taking care of herself, she said, and moving across the country would just be another step to achieving her dream.
Martin is facing the same economic crisis America’s college students have all had to face for the past few years. Especially with a job that is now competing with less-expensive computer graphics, many would be scared to pursue a make-up artist career, but true to her relaxed demeanor, Martin isn’t too worried about it.
“I’m not scared. I couldn’t give a care if I made money or not, I just want to do it because I like it and know I could have a good time.”