'Face Off' exit interview: Tommy Pietch
After failing to create a winning character for the upcoming video game Dishonored, makeup artist Tommy Pietchwas the latest contestant to be discharged from Face Off.
Following the avant-guarde foundation challenge (pictured above), Pietch and his fellow contestants were tasked with designing beings with exaggerated features that fit into one of four character categories: the city watch, the aristocrats, the thugs or the weepers.Pietch created his take on the thug, a character with freakishly large hands, but ran into trouble when he tried to construct prosthetic Popeye-like arms, and was sent home — though he didn’t stay home for long. Pietch recently moved from Columbus, Ohio to Los Angeles to work in the capital of the entertainment industry.
Pietch took a break from his work on the set of web series Ghosts to tell EW what he would have done differently, which of the prizes up for grabs he’s most bummed to have lost out on, and what really happened when former contestant Joe Castro got disqualified in the season premiere.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You had trouble creating oversized arms in this challenge. What went wrong?
TOMMY PIETCH: The character that I picked was a thug, and I saw that Derek was making the typical picture of the thug design — big brute with big hands and a big chin. He was doing the typical one, and on our tablets, we had another design for the thug from the game, more of a skinnier guy, a weasley kind of thug. So I was like, “I’m gonna do these big blown-out hands. That’ll be kind of cool.” I had just seen The Avengers, and I think I made my hands too big — I ended up making Hulk hands. But I remember in the shop I’d spent all this time sculpting these hands and trying to get them done in time. I overlooked a few minor things — how they would fit on the arms. And it was taking up way more time than it was worth. And they just fell apart. I stretched myself too thin trying to make too much in that short amount of time.
Looking back, what do you wish you had done differently?
I had first pick on this challenge, and I definitely would have picked a different character. Hands are just a really hard thing to do in that short amount of time. Usually they take a lot longer. And the thugs have to have big, strong jaws and big hands, but then [we] extenuated [that for this challenge]. So I probably would have picked a different character to give myself something easier to work with. I tried to challenge myself, but I guess I challenged myself a little too much. I probably would have picked a weeper.
You took some time to help Sarah, do you regret taking time away from your own work to do that?
Oh no, I’m really happy I helped her out. It really didn’t take that much time out. We’re all in this together. We help each other out every way we can, and there’s a lot of times she would help me out. She was at the house teaching me how to braid hair some nights.
What was it like being partnered with Joe for the first challenge?
I wasn’t happy with that design from the beginning. I tried to fight him on it a little bit. Joe is just the type of guy who — it’s his way or the highway. He kept telling me he’s happy with it, and I kept saying it didn’t look good. By the time last looks are over and we’re standing there, he goes, “Overall, I’m happy with it,” and I was just appalled. I’m like, “Are you kidding me? How can you be happy with this? This is the worst thing I’ve ever made. My first prosthetic I ever made was better than this.” We were on stage and he’s talking s— in my ear and telling the judges all the things I did wrong to his design, how I interfered. When it came down to it, I don’t think he’s ever been judged before. I don’t think anyone had ever actually critiqued him. He didn’t want to get judged.
So what happened that led to Joe abruptly leaving the set?
[After hearing the judges’ feedback,] we went backstage, and he didn’t say anything. We went backstage, and he sat there for two seconds, and I was just flabbergasted. I was just sitting there trying to collect my thoughts, hoping I’m not getting sent home, and all of the sudden Joe takes off his mic and says, “I’m out.” That’s all he said. And he was just gone. And that’s the last we saw of him.
Which of your creations on Face Off are you most proud of?
I had a really good time working on the dragon with Derek. I felt like that was really fun. I actually had a lot of fun with my pirate. It was a chance for me to do go solo and show people that my whole debacle with Joe wasn’t just me throwing him under the bus — it wasn’t my fault, essentially. [The pirate challenge] was a chance for me to redeem myself. And I felt like I did a little bit with that one. With the dragon, that was the most fun I had on the show. No stress, it was just me and Derek bouncing off each other, throwing ideas at each other. That’s the best time I had on the show — it’s probably my favorite makeup for that reason.
Of the three prizes going to the winner this season – $100,000, a Toyota Prius v and the opportunity to be a guest lecturer at the Make up For Ever Academy in New York and Paris – which are you most disappointed to be missing out on?
Honestly, the car. I don’t have a car. My girlfriend has one that we share. With the [prize] money I guess I could buy my own car, and I think everyone wants the money. I think that’s a given. But for me it would definitely be a car.
Which Face Off judge were you most intimidated by?
Glenn Hetrick. All the way. A lot of people say, “Oh, I hate that guy” or “he’s so mean.” For me, I respect him. Every time he cut me down or he said something’s wrong with my makeup, he had some actual constructive criticism on how I could have saved it. He’s actually a really nice guy. Glenn intimidated the hell out of me, just because I wanted to impress him. Out of all the judges there, I wanted to really show him I had what it takes. He’s probably the most intimidating, but he’s also the judge I probably respect the most.
Tell me about one of your favorite off-camera moments from your time on the show.
When we were in the house [after the first day of] the dragon challenge. Nobody could really wrap their head around what they wanted us to do because they showed us this big Chinese dragon with big floppy heads and they told us to do prosthetics, and a lot of people were having some problems visualizing it without that big, paper-mache floppy head. So we all took our blankets off our beds and we just doubled up in them, someone in the back and someone in the front. Alana and Jason did that first, Alana in the front and Jason in the back with this big blanket over them acting like a Chinese dragon, jumping around the house. And Alana was just popping out of the blanket, batting her eyes, snaking around. A couple of us tried to do it too, but they were the funniest ones.
Will you see any of the other contestants before you all reunite for the live Halloween episode?
I’m doing convention next week in Arizona with Alana and Sarah. It’s called the Rapture Horror Expo convention. We’ll have panels there, and Frank [Ippolito, a contestant] from season 1 will be there. It should be pretty fun gig. We’re judging the Zombie Ball. We have panels and we’ll be doing demos all weekend.
Glenn told you at the end of last night’s episode, “Your passion is very obvious.” What is it about effects makeup that you love?
I’m just excited to be where I’m at — how young I am and how quickly it happened for me. I just started doing practical makeup effects three years ago. I sculpted and molded my first mask, and nine months after that, the first episode of Face Off came on. I was like, “Oh, this is cool. I just started doing this!” I’ve always been an artist. I wanted to be a comic book illustrator when I was in high school. About three years ago, I was looking on Craig’s List for a gig, just something to illustrate. I couldn’t find anything. I found an ad that said special effects artist needed, and I lied to the guy. I said, “Yeah, I do this! Give me some ideas for what you want and some money for supplies, and I’ll send you some test pictures back.” He sent me $200. I spent half on how-to books and the other half on supplies.
You can draw a character as an illustator and imagine them, and it’s really fun to do, but when you actually physically create them in front of you and they’re there living and breathing, that’s something completely different. You’ve created something out of nothing. It’s almost like a god complex. Special effects is really the last magic trick there is.