Face Off is currently one of the most popular shows on television. Having just wrapped up its eleventh season, the SyFy original show aims to find the next big talent in the special effects makeup industry by bringing a number of artists together and then tasking them to complete a series of makeup “challenges” over thirteen episodes. Every week or so, an artist is eliminated until it comes down to three “finalists” where one is victorious.
Season Eleven just came to a close, and the incredibly talented contestant known as Cig Neutron was crowned the winner! Cig actually owns a business with and George Troester, another special effects makeup artist and Face Off contestant whom he met while filming the show. The two men now own a company together and were previous contestants on past Face Off seasons.
Recently, Cig discussed his experiences working in the makeup/special effects industries, his time on Face Off, and his hopes for the future.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you first get interested in special effects makeup and what were some of your earliest creations?
Cig Neutron (CN): I have a super early memory of watching Child’s Play and asking my mom about the blood. She told me it was ketchup. Now I know it wasn’t but it stuck with me that some people have a JOB that involves spraying blood on someone for a film! After that, I watched the making of the Thriller video with Rick Baker and instantly knew what I wanted to do. To help compound that was Summer School with Chainsaw and Dave. I thought those guys were the coolest kids ever and I wanted to be just like them.
MM: What was your childhood like? Do you think the way you grew up somehow fostered or impacted your creativity?
CN: I grew up in the mid-west with an amazing brother, Jeremy Jones, who introduced me to things from Evil Dead 2 to Sailor Moon. Thinking back to the days before the internet, I have no idea how he found this stuff, but he was always happy to let me in on whatever he found. I did pretty great in school (even skipping grades) but mainly I just wanted to draw monsters. This got me in trouble, and they called my mom in. I remember my mom politely listening to the teacher about how I do nothing but draw monsters, and after the teacher was done talking my mom simply said “So…? He could be the next Stephen King.” The teacher was aghast but that moment stuck with me for the rest of my life. I can’t thank my mom enough for supporting my “weirdness.”
MM: How did you meet George and when did you decide to start a business together?
CG: So, George and I first met in passing at a convention (he remembers this, but I don’t) when Rannie Rodil and I were Running our Bizarro Au Go-Go booth. Fast forward to Season 7 of Face Off and I just remember sitting in the van behind George (we couldn’t talk to one another) with his mohawk thinking “Who the F*** is this guy with his mohawk…I bet he’s a d*****” all the while he’s thinking “Who is this guy with his stupid creature hat? I bet he’s a d*****.” Long story short, we got paired up for the first challenge and birthed Big Tuna. We worked so well together we instantly became best buds. Since we both live in LA and work in the makeup industry, it’s only natural that we start a shop together.
MM: How did you select the name for your business? Before partnering with each other, did you have individual companies?
CG: Yeah, we both have our own business entities and have separately worked on many great films and projects, it wasn’t until the All-Star season of Face Off that we came up with the name TroTron. George is George TROester and I’m Cig NeuTRON so TroTron just seemed like the only way to combine our names — plus it’s catchy!
MM: How did you find your way onto “Face Off”? What was the experience of being featured on the show—not just once, but twice—like?
CG: Well I auditioned for Season 2 actually and they didn’t want me. After that, to be honest, I was a little bitter and I didn’t want to audition again. It wasn’t until Season 7 auditions rolled around that Rannie convinced me to try again. I eventually said “ok” but if I do it, I’m going to make THE most insane audition video ever (a faux documentary of myself playing different characters talking about myself). I was like “They will either hate this, or the will love this….” Luckily, they loved it, and I was cast for Season 7! Making it to the finals on Season 7 was amazing but obviously a bummer too. When they asked me back for All-Stars, I jumped at the chance! Not only that but I was going to be paired up with my brohams from another mohams!? Sign me the F*** up!
MM: What were the judges and MacKenzie like in real life? Heck, what was the entire experience like?!
CG: I seriously love and have mad respect for all the judges. We have limited contact with them for obvious reasons, but I always looked forward to what they had to say. Don’t even get me started on McKenzie! That gal is a class act and the perfect host for the show. You know when you meet famous people, and you expect them to be crappy? Well, Mckenzie is the sweetest person ever. The Face Off family has mad love for her.
MM: What was your favorite—and least favorite—challenge? Why?
CG: Favorite challenge: hands down the ‘Wasteland Warrior’ challenge. Not only because I love the post-apocalyptic genre, but because the cars that showed up for inspiration were from the wonderful folks who frequent Wasteland Weekend! An event that I have been to and everyone there is amazing!! Least favorite challenge….and I know this will sound stupid coming from me was the ‘Disaster Fairy’ challenge from Season 7! I know I won that challenge, but man George and I were not into it, especially since Dina and Stella were killing it in the beautiful department. George and I thought…”welp…we’re gone.” [laughs] it was a tough one.
MM: What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned via “Face Off”?
CG: Well I’m not saying I learned this, but I was most certainly reminded of what it was like to be a kid with no cell phone or access to the outside world. Since we are sequestered for the duration of the show, you really start to do some introspective thinking when you’re locked up like that in a high-stress situation.
MM: In your overall career, how many makeups and/or creatures have you created? Be honest, do you have any personal favorites? If so, which ones and why?
CG: Honestly, I can’t even count. But I do have favorites! From the show Big Tuna, Murky the Dark Water Clown, Manny Minatauri, Grizzlemaw and Mutton, Phoenix the Pure-A-Fire. As I list them, I get so happy to know that we created those characters, and that’s pretty magical.
MM: You work with a lot of different materials. Are there any that you haven’t tried yet but hope to soon?
CG: I’m pretty much a foam latex guy but George loves his silicone. I was so stoked to get to work with him and learn the in’s and out’s of silicone makeups.
MM: If you could work on any kind of project and/or makeup, what would it be? Essentially, what is your “dream project”?
CG: Well, getting to go back in time and work on The Thing would have been pretty amazing. As far as future projects — if they make a Bravestarr live action movie or series, I’ll drop kick someone in the face if I don’t get to work on that.
MM: You also work on commission. Generally, how much do you charge to create a creature?
CG: Honestly, that’s a tough question to answer because we base prices off of what the creature needs to do. We have to sit down with production and have a couple of meetings before we decide how much to charge.
MM: Aside from “Face Off” and your commissions, what other projects are you involved in?
CG: When I moved out to LA my first big break was getting to work on Tron: Legacy after that I transitioned into working on Sucker Punch then Real Steal. Then I got to work on some really fun stuff like Jon Schnepp’s W is for WTF short in the ABC’s of death. I’m actually the clown zombie that rips the guys head off [laughs]. After that I got to do some stuff for The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? meaning I made some props but also played Brainiac in the recreation scene. Which I’m still stoked about until this day. Also, George and I worked together on a General Mills ad campaign where we made a bunch of animal puppets/suits for their new cereal called Tiny Toast.
MM: Let’s get to the big question—how did you develop your sense of style? You certainly know how to rock the hats and shorts! Might a foray into the fashion industry be in your future?
CG: Hahaha so I just started making crazy hats because I started going BALD! my hair was so important to me and I’m really bummed that I just don’t have that anymore. I’m so jealous of Georgie’s amazing mullet — seriously wish I could grow that! Luckily I can grow facial hair so that gives me a semblance of solace. I’ve been called a hipster so many times on social media that I don’t know how to say “curly mustache facial hair has existed for, like, a very long time,” and it’s actually quite practical. I do fun stuff with my facial hair to make me feel less bad about not being able to do anything with my Bill Murray from Kingpin head of hair…
MM: What do you hope to have accomplished in your career in the next ten years?
CG: I honestly would love for George and I to reinvigorate the movie scene with our FX. The 80’s and early 90’s were the golden age of special FX, and I would love to bring that back. I also want to write and direct films.
MM: What advice can you give to people who are aspiring to be professional special effects artists?
CG: If it’s what you’re passionate about then go for it and don’t let anything stop you. There will be ups and downs but at the end of the day, you’re doing what you love and that in itself is invaluable.
MM: Cig, anyone who watched the season finale knows that you were crowned the winner. Congratulations! What did it feel like to win?
CN: Honestly can’t describe what it felt like to win. It was so surreal but I feel like the photo of me, George, Emily, and Mckenzie right when they called my name, sums up that moment beautifully. Since the win there have been a wave of awesome projects come my way so I’m looking forward to rocking all of them with George Troester and our company TroTron FX.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
CG: Check out our Trotron FX social media pages to keep up to date with our projects and crazy antics! Facebook: TroTron Fx Instagram: @trotronfx
[Featured Image by Cig Neutron]