By NICOLE NEMETH
While most little girls enjoy pretending to be princesses and playing house, Alissa Gee was drawn to ghouls and monsters. Her fascination with all things horror eventually led her to a creative career at Paul Jones Effects Studio Inc. just last year.
“Ever since I was younger I have been interested in monsters and strange things, which later transitioned into liking horror movies,” Gee said. “My parents bought a video camera and I was always making up stories and filming things with my friends and my cousin, either live with costumes and props, or random action figures bought at thrift stores. I liked to read books on oddities, monsters, witches and vampires, and I liked to read crime stories and watch horror movies even though I wasn’t allowed. My parents didn’t let me watch them until an older age but when I would go to my grandma’s house or visit my aunt I watched what they did: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Tremors, Night of the Living Dead, Evil Dead and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”
Although Gee was fascinated with the scary, strange and supernatural early in life, her decision to become a special effects makeup artist didn’t happen until her early 20s.
“I used to buy makeup products and play with it at home, turning myself into zombies or making my own terrifying wounds. It was something I did for fun, nothing serious. Then, in June 2013 I went to Niagara Falls Comic Con and checked out Paul Jones’ seminar. It sparked an interest in me, that someone could be so passionate and creative about something and do it for a living. Afterwards I thought to myself, I wish I could do that too,” Gee said.
Paul Jones is an award-winning special effects and makeup artist who founded the Paul Jones Effects Studio Inc. in Scarborough, Ont. He has worked on many horror movies over the past few decades including Hellbound: Hellraiser and Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth, Bride of Chucky, Ginger Snaps, Wrong Turn, Silent Hill and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, three of the Resident Evil movies and many more including the new hit TV show, Man Seeking Woman with Jay Baruchel.
“I’m happy to say I started my career in 1988,” Jones said.
“Before turning professional, makeup effects was my hobby since the age of 12,” Jones added.
Jones started his career in his home country of England, but moved to Toronto while working on a television show for Pinewood Studios. He eventually started freelance prop building, and then opened his own studio in 1995 so he could create the effects for the TV show F/X The Series.
“My career so far has been quite varied. I have worked on tiny little independent movies, huge Hollywood blockbusters, TV series and many commercials … I would have to say that certainly creating the Pinhead makeup for Hellraiser 3 was the highlight of my career in so much as it is still an iconic makeup in the world of horror. I am also proud of my work on all of my movies and TV series, but most of all my work on both Silent Hill movies and the Resident Evil movies,” Jones said.
Gee grew up in Cambridge, but now lives in Toronto. She spent a large portion of her childhood playing with her cousins while being babysat by their grandmother. Every summer they would go camping, to water parks and do other outdoor activities.
“I was really close to my family growing up, including my parents and sibling,” Gee said.
Her mom worked at a bank and her dad took over the family hardwood flooring business, but the idea of having a regular job wasn’t something she wanted for herself.
“At one point I wasn’t sure which direction I was going. I just knew that I didn’t want to have a regular 9 to 5 job and I wanted the option to be creative,” she said.
It was difficult for Gee to realize what her passion was for quite a while. As a young child she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, obsessing over reality veterinarian shows and even attending the humane society’s summer camp with her younger sister, but she found math and science too difficult and “eventually let go of that dream.
“It took a while to make a decision. Then I worked at D3 Artworks and there I learned how to express myself artistically and with the help of the amazing staff I planned out future goals. I researched schools and sat on it for a few months until I decided to go for it and apply to Complections (now called the CMU College of Makeup Art and Design),” Gee said.
After getting accepted, Gee decided to move to Toronto where she attended the complete makeup artist program from January until August 2014.
“My experience there was amazing. I learned a lot from my instructors who are still active within the industry and I made some really great friends there who I still keep in contact with. It was a very fast-paced program and I didn’t want to leave once it was over. My favourite courses were prosthetic and creature design. I was fortunate to have the instructor that I did for those courses because he taught me more than I imagined I would learn and had an immense amount of patience,” Gee said.
One of her teachers was also in contact with Jones, and officially introduced them.
Gee would message Jones over Facebook whenever she had a question about the industry, or wanted tips on a class assignment. Shortly after graduation, Jones offered her an internship.
“First and foremost, I look for artistic ability, obviously, but ability is nothing without commitment to the craft. With that, I mean the drive to always try to do their best work and the hunger to try new techniques, to always push themselves to be the best artist they can be,” Jones said.
During her internship Gee worked on multiple shows and movies including Man Seeking Woman. After attending the wrap-up party for that movie, Jones asked her to stay on for the next big project.
“It’s surreal. I feel very fortunate that he has given me this opportunity. Sometimes the days are long but I enjoy every part of it and I am learning so much from him and the other employees. He is incredibly talented,” Gee said.
Gee is currently one of four staff and is working on several movies and TV shows in studio and on-set.
“I finally have a job that I look forward to going to every morning.”