Profile and Exclusive Interview: Barney Burman – Prosthetic Makeup Designer for ‘Star Trek’

Today TrekMovie presents the first of a series of ‘get to know the crew’ features for the new Star Trek movie. This series will profile one (or more) of the folks who heads up a particular area. First up we introduce you to Barney Burman, who led the team making prosthetic make-up for Star Trek’s aliens. See below for a profile and exclusive interview.


Burman brings generations of make-up experience
The new Star Trek movie will no doubt have some cool, innovative aliens. In the past we have reported how JJ Abrams has wanted the film to seem as ‘real’ as possible and tried to keep the CGI character work to a minimum, preferring to use old school techniques. And the prosthetic make-up which brings these Star Trek aliens to life was designed by Barney Burman. As the artistic director and lead make-up artist of the San Fernando Valley-based Proteus Make-up FX Team, Barney Burman headed up the creation of the prosthetic make-up effects used in the new Star Trek.

Barney Burman is a third generation make-up effects artist. He is the son of Academy Award-nominated make-up artist Tom Burman, the first to coin the term ‘Special Make-up Effects’ and the first make-up artist to open a studio that was outside the major film studios (with his partner John Chambers, the designer of Mr. Spock’s Vulcan ears for the original Star Trek) . “I grew up around make-up effects,” the younger Burman told “[There was] not quite as much sitting down and teaching as one might think but my father and my brother [Rob Burman], as well as a few other make-up artists like Steve LaPorte, Ed French and Rick Stratton, gave me a long leash to develop my sculpting and painting skills on the job. I also got to learn a great deal from some of the most talented artists in the business, people my dad would hire, simply by being around them and watching.” Burman began working for his father when he was 14, but did not initially pursue make-up as a profession. "From age 17 to 30 or so I pursued an acting career and really just did make-up as a way to make money," he says. It seems, though, that he ultimately found the world of make-up effects to be his true calling.

Burman has worked on over 80 different film and television projects since he entered the make-up effects industry. His first job was actually working in the make-up lab on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in 1984 and he also did make-up work on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Burman’s big break in the business was the 1995 film Powder as it was this project which got him into the make-up union. His credits have since included the films Galaxy Quest, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Planet of the Apes, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and Dawn of the Dead. In 2004 he co-founded the Proteus Make-up FX with fellow make-up artist Steve Prouty. Burman first worked with JJ Abrams when Proteus was hired for Mission: Impossible III, and along with the HBO movie Anatomy of Hope, Star Trek is his third project with Abrams and he tells TrekMovie he hopes to continue their collaboration going forward.

Burman working on actress Tiffany Smith for" Planet of the Apes"

INTERVIEW: Burman talks Trek and aliens How would you describe the make-up for the new movie?

Barney Burman: Awesome! Between myself, my Prosthetic Supervisor Joel Harlow and the Straight Make-up Department Head Mindy Hall, as well as the entire make-up crew, I think we all gave around 150%. The Hair Department as well, lead by Terry Baliel. I’ve never seen so many talented people work so hard and produce such amazing work. Especially under the time and budgetary conditions which we had to work under.

TM: What did you do to prepare for your work on the movie?

BB: Previous designs were reviewed. At first nothing was set in stone and every option was on the table. As for what we ended up with… You’ll have to wait and see the movie.

TM: How long did you work on the new Star Trek?

BB: It was an extremely tight schedule. I think we had something like 12 or 15 weeks of prep before shooting began. Looking back I can hardly believe we got it done and never missed a deadline.

TM: Can you tell us whether or not you based the Kelvin security officer on Arex from the animated Star Trek series? What else can you tell us about Alnschloss K’Bentayr?

BB: The character of Alnschloss was not inspired nor based on Arex. I hope no one is too disappointed. It was based on an original design by the film’s amazing creature designer and a brilliant artist, Neville Page. JJ liked the design Neville had and asked if I could realize it as a character. It was the first alien to work on first day of shooting and it wowed everybody. It was further brought to life by Kasia Kowalczyk, a terrific actress and director out of New York.

Alnschloss K’Bentayr (L) not related to Arex (R)

TM: This is not your first project with JJ Abrams, what is it like working with him?

BB: JJ has an eye for greatness. There’s no getting anything past him. He can spot a problem or an edge or anything that doesn’t work from a mile away. And he loves make-up FX. And he’s got an amazing amount of energy and charm about him. On the last week of filming Trek he called me to the set just to share something with me. It was a letter he’d received in response to a fan letter he’d written to my father in like 1981! It was in pristine condition. I was so moved by it I had to rush out so I didn’t start bawling in front of the whole crew. The slightest compliment or nod of approval from him can make your whole day. Am I gushing? Probably but its how I feel. [Make-up artist] Michele Burke is wholly responsible for our collaboration. And I use that word because JJ really makes you feel like it’s exactly that, a collaboration. He wants you to bring what you have to the table and I love that.

TM: What was it like working on Star Trek III & VI?

BB: On Star Trek III, I worked in my dad’s shop. I also acted in it for one day in the bar scene and was completely cut out. I was crushed. On VI, I was in Ed French’s shop and never went to set.

TM: How did working on the new Star Trek compare with your experiences on Star Trek III and VI?

BB: It was not even comparable. I had little to do and no great responsibility on the prior Trek movies. On this one everything was in my hands and I did not want to screw it up. Hopefully I didn’t. But it’s over now so I guess I’ll let the fans decide.

Burman (center) in deleted scene from "Star Trek III"

TM: So, I have to ask, are you a Star Trek fan?

BB: I was a fan of the old series. Not a dress up and go to convention kind of fan but I did watch them a hell of a lot. And I enjoyed some of the movies. But I never really watched any of the newer series. I was a bit of a William Shatner fan but part of that came from my father having been his personal make-up artist for a couple years. Then I was working for Ed French on Star Trek VI and [Shatner] came by and recognized my brother and me just by the sounds of our voices coming from the next room. He’s always struck me as quite extraordinary.

TM: And so what do you think of this new Star Trek movie?

BB: In my opinion it’s going to ROCK. I’m very excited to be a part of it

Another one of Barney’s aliens spotted in the Star Trek trailer

More on Burman at:
IMDb | Memory Alpha | MySpace | Proteus FX Team

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Cobalt Ben
January 8, 2009 8:01 pm

That alien not being based on Arex reminds of the Next Generation days when they used the Bolians so damned much and I kept saying, “You already have cool blue-skinned aliens! They’re called Andorians! Use THEM!” It wasn’t until years later in Enterprise that they finally did. So now having an alien that looks so much like Arex’s species, but isn’t, really sucks. Oh well, I’m sure it’ll still be an interesting alien.

January 8, 2009 8:10 pm

Thank *god* the Westmore-Trek dynasty has ended! By the time Enterprise rolled along all Michael Westmore was doing was the equivilant of kit-bashing his own prosthetics from 15 years of previous Trek aliens. It was sort of a game for me — picking apart the various elements in a new alien makeup and naming when and where I’d seen them before (painted a different color, naturally). Got really tired of seeing all those Benzite parts in the Delta Quadrant on Voyager, and the many many times overused forehead appliances. As if we wouldn’t remember seeing them elsewhere before!! Always wondered: did Westmore sneak this stuff past the producers or did they also know when he was lazily ‘phoning it in’?

Devon Richards
January 8, 2009 8:11 pm

All the news we are getting is great! Bring it on!

January 8, 2009 8:16 pm

Say what you want about the Planet of the Apes reboot, it still had cool makeup. So, no worries at all on that score. Sounds like a cool guy; shame about his scene from STIII being chopped; that would ruin my day and/or childhood :(

#1: Yeah, I feel a little (but just a little) let down that it isn’t meant to be an Edosian. Not hugely so (I suspect this character has few or no lines, so it probably makes no real difference) but it would have been an extra little energetic thumbs-up to see a live-action cousin of Arex in the movie.

January 8, 2009 8:26 pm

4. S. John Ross –
“#1: Yeah, I feel a little (but just a little) let down that it isn’t meant to be an Edosian. Not hugely so (I suspect this character has few or no lines, so it probably makes no real difference) but it would have been an extra little energetic thumbs-up to see a live-action cousin of Arex in the movie.”

Given so many fans’ reactions and hopes that an Edosian like Arex would appear in the film maybe the team will take it to heart and rectify this in the next movie? Roberto??

Captain Dunsel
January 8, 2009 8:29 pm

#4 “Say what you want about the Planet of the Apes reboot, it still had cool makeup.”

Yep – too bad the flawless hidding of seams in the makeup couldn’t cover the HUGE seams in the story.

January 8, 2009 8:32 pm

sounds good , i mean this is a big movie , so your expecting all the alien make up to look first class, and really get a feel for how many species are in starfleet and the federation , which we have not really seen since in my opinion ST TMP , but i hope they dont star throwing too many new species in there , i mean its nice to have new and ever expanding aliens , but we better see just as many vulcan , andorians , tellrites and etc, just to make it feel like star trek.

January 8, 2009 8:34 pm

I bet the alien on the kelvin does have lines, just to say “hay! the alien can speak english!” or at least the universal translators are working. So, I had a thought the other day about the universal translators, what if a species wants to quote something in their native tongue? how does the translator know to STOP translating that?

Kareem Owete
January 8, 2009 8:34 pm

I got a little sick of all the recycling of alien makeup in the latter-day Treks too. You can bet that the powers- that- used- to- be on Star Trek didn’t give the makeup department much of a budget, either. Star Trek just got too homogenized under Berman- it’s why the franchise floundered toward the end. No risk-taking allowed.
It’s also why DS9 stood head and shoulders above all of the later efforts, since Berman was reportedly involved in name only after the first couple of seasons. It’s ironic that most believe the first couple of DS9 seasons were also the weakest.

January 8, 2009 8:35 pm


thnik what you want you are certainly entitled to your opinion.
but a bit more respect for one of the greatest make up artists ever would be appropriate. Michael Westmore did a hell of a job over all the years. he made some legendary make up design and never failed to amaze me with his detailed work. of course after all those years some things become repetitive.and he surely is not to blame for the poor voayager series, especially neelix make up sucked big time.

by the way, imo the new alien from the Kelvin is some how overdone. looks definetly like a Star Wars Alien, e.g. Admiral Ackbar style from Jedi.

January 8, 2009 8:36 pm

Lol When I was a kid and I started to watch the animated Trek, that Arex character freaked me out. Literally had nightmares and had to close my eyes when they showed him on screen. After awhile I got over it but jeez.

Cant wait to see the alien creations in this

Ian Watson
January 8, 2009 8:36 pm

#1: They had a few shots of Andorians in TNG (in the background in Captain’s Holiday and one of Lal’s forms in The Offspring come to mind). But yeah, I never felt they got sufficient attention until Enterprise.

Actually, looking it up, both those Andorians were played by the same actress.

January 8, 2009 8:37 pm

So is Alnschloss K’Bentayr a chick?

January 8, 2009 8:38 pm

1. Cobalt Ben – January 8, 2009

<– What he said

January 8, 2009 8:39 pm

The new alien looks neat. IMO, the only reason they didn’t make truly alien characters in the various series is technological &/or budgetary constraints. Now that those aren’t issues, they should go nuts with the aliens.

One of the lame things about the whole concept of “canon” (and one of the reasons I have so little regard for it) is that, because of nothing more than limits on sfx & budget, Star Trek aliens looked JUST LIKE humans. But, because of “canonicity” even when those issues aren’t so much of a problem, people find it necessary to still make the “aliens” look just like people, and that is lame. We all know how ridiculous it is to see an “alien” that looks just like a human but with a bumpy forehead – it’s insultingly stupid….but we all pretend it’s not and make up some lame-a$$, convoluted excuse for it because we have to because it’s “canon”.

Screw canon.

Hurray retconing!

Give us more crazy, ALIEN-looking aliens. Who cares what the Andorians used to look like…make ’em truly look like something from another world . Retcon the sh!t out of the Star Trek aliens and show us stuff that’ll blow our minds!

Kareem Owete
January 8, 2009 8:40 pm

I wonder how many takes were required when an actor had to pronounce Ainschloss K’Bentayr’s name?

January 8, 2009 8:40 pm

Was just watching The Colbert Report and he stated “Only God could love Star Trek: Voyager” Hahaha funny, I of course disagree.

McCoy's Gall Bladder
January 8, 2009 8:42 pm

“The problem with Aliens is that they’re, well, ‘alien'” ~~ Larry Niven

I think the real aliens are living loud and proud in San Francisco.

Since Starfleet is based in San Fran will we see any truly bizarre non-binary Human characters?

I’m more surprised and sometimes impressed by what real humans try to make of themselves than movie aliens.

I would love to see a puppeteer in the movie though…

January 8, 2009 8:43 pm

#17: Maybe you’re God and just don’t realize it.

If so: why do you need a starship?

Kareem Owete
January 8, 2009 8:46 pm

Whenever possible, new Trek should break away from the idea that aliens are bipedal humanoids with odd shaped skulls and ridges. It is of interest, however, that almost every line of evolution that occured on earth was toward that design. Perhaps it is a universal, here and elsewhere.

I realize that they cannot do too much of the non-humanoid aliens- no one does!-, but a few would be refreshing.

January 8, 2009 8:50 pm

Was just watching The Colbert Report and he stated “Only God could love Star Trek: Voyager” Hahaha funny, I of course disagree.

And I, of course, agree with Colbert. :)

January 8, 2009 9:05 pm

When I saw the headline, I read “Berman” instead of “Burman” and nearly had a heart attack.

@15, 20: Hell, yeah! The universe shouldn’t be made up of Hollywood extras in rubber foreheads, now that Trek has the time and money to do better.

Huge respect for Michael Westmore, though. Just think of the sheer amount of high-quality work his team did for years on a TV budget (and timeframe!)… amazing.

Jefferies Tuber
January 8, 2009 11:10 pm

15. nephronial – January 8, 2009

Word. I hope they pull out the stops, move beyond air breathers and visit worlds that require spacesuits or artificial environments. People who cant’ sit in a human seat.

The forehead of the week phenomena was eventually, and lamely, explained by that TNG episode where Picard follows his old professor’s archaeological quest to discover a species that seeded Earth, Vulcan, Kronos and Cardassia.

But you’re right, the key word is ‘insulting.’

January 8, 2009 11:37 pm

Re: Westmore & forehead aliens:
Yes they became a staple, just like backlot planets & holodeck breakdowns … but aside from time and money–you have to prioritize. Just like ships–model or CGI–or sets, or props, or whatever: The close-up or major things get the bucks, and the background have to lump it a little when money doesn’t grow on trees. That’s just life.

But come on–go back to the 60s and almost all aliens are human, not even a nod to forehead ridges, earlobes, etc . It was the times, the technology, the budget. Hopefully another 20 years will see a quantum jump again.

Too–the other side of Mike Westmore’s job was not just design, but also logistics. Doing 30 Borg on a movie day, or more likely 8 Jem’Hadar on TV location … or a planet of 15 Ferengi or Talaxians–on TV budget: crew needed, timing, best bang for the buck. Just like Zimmerman & Blackman & Curry, actually. And bottom line: in any case, they were not the final arbiters on design: everything got approved by “upstairs.”

January 9, 2009 1:11 am

It’s funny how people say they’re long time Trek fans, then slam everything about TNG or DS9, or whatever. I think Trek aliens have always been great. From Classic to now.

DJ Neelix
January 9, 2009 2:53 am

I loved “Star Trek: Voyager” and no, I’m not God. It certainly wasn’t flawless but if you ask me I would say that it had most heart of all the series. Janeway was a wonderful character.

But keep bashing it all you want if it makes you feel better.

January 9, 2009 3:59 am

Its great to see that we finally have a group of people working on making the aliens of Trek special as opposed to the TNG aliens which were just actors with knobs on their heads.

cugel the clever
January 9, 2009 4:15 am

9. Kareem Owete – January 8, 2009

” I got a little sick of all the recycling of alien makeup in the latter-day Treks too.”

The single-minded, stubborn, slavish devotion to TOS and the negative attitude around here is incredible. Lots of people are complaining about the makeup in the later-day Treks. The fact is that it was light years superior to any of the makeup or prosthetics on TOS in which aliens simply had colored skin, arched eyebrows, and outlandish costumes (klingons and romulans); or utterly absurd rubber japanese-godzilla-like bodysuits (like the Gorn). Say what you will about the quality of Enterprise, but there is no doubt that it reached a superior level of makeup and prosthetics compared to its predecessors……… the Andorians, Xindi, Gorn, etc were all excellent, realistic, and believable alien representations.

January 9, 2009 5:11 am

That is not Helena Bonham Carter!

January 9, 2009 5:17 am


The reason the aliens looked great in ENT was due in large part to CGI (Andorians aside).

January 9, 2009 5:34 am

The new alien has a quite similar look to the alien Ambassador ‘G’Kar’ out of Babylon 5 methinks….

cugel the clever
January 9, 2009 5:35 am


” The reason the aliens looked great in ENT was due in large part to CGI (Andorians aside).”

The makeup-effect and costumed aliens in ENT were consistently better than in other series – the Andorians, the Tellarites, the Xindi-humanoid, Xindi-Sloth, etc, etc, etc.

And what’s wrong anyway with using CGI when appropriate? For non-humanoid aliens like the Gorn, Tholians, etc; it’s the only way to go and ENT did a great job with visualizing them.

January 9, 2009 5:38 am

I don’t care wether the alien is based on Arex or not. I am all pro new aliens that don’t look like the “alien of the week”, but why use makeup and not create them digitally ? The head we’ve seen looks really artifical. I thought the age of lifeless plasticfaces died in the 80ties. Is this another Morn ? Morn was the running gag on DS9 so is Alnschloss the running gag of the movie ? We’ve seen so many great digital characters over the past few years. Does anyone prefer the puppet Yoda over the digitally created one ?

cugel the clever
January 9, 2009 5:39 am

It’s fashionable around here to trash ENT. Although I happened to like the series and thought that the crew and stories were OK (especially in the 4th season), I admit that the acting, writing, etc is subject to criticism based on personal taste. However, there’s no doubt that the CGI and makeup effects were far superior to the preceeding series’, especially TOS. To object to this is simply illogical.

Jorg Sacul
January 9, 2009 5:44 am

Makeup is nice and all, but c’mon. Us Trek old-schoolers want some planets with “William Ware Theiss-style” ladies costumes, the ones that defy gravity and common sense with every flutter.

THAT was Classic Star Trek. :-)

C.S. Lewis
January 9, 2009 5:49 am

^28 cugel the clever

I suppose Star Trek did not depend on costumes and makeup so much because it tried to tell stories about mankind, merely set elsewhere (a la Shakespeare) to aid the viewer’s detachment and ability to rethink a condition through a fresh perspective. Almost all the subsequent Trek spin-offs were fantasies loosely directed at contemporary earth.

Given the newness of television, it also stands to reason audiences did not expect to be spoon fed their entertainment and thought of a television production as theater in the living room. When did virtual reality come to be the dominant paradigm of television? When did viewers reject anything less than their quite arbitrary standards of perfection? V’ger does not know ;-)

C.S. Lewis

Kevin Buchanan
January 9, 2009 6:39 am

33 – Some people enjoy having the physical nature of models and make-up over a non-ending parade of CGI.

Personally, I’m one of them. I’m thrilled that JJ and crew have tried to use more practical effects on the new film.

January 9, 2009 6:43 am


I agree when it comes to “background aliens” etc. . But a character, that has to convince me and com alive should be capable of more than 2 facial expressions.

Olley Olley Olley
January 9, 2009 7:23 am

thank god the make up team arent sticking a piece of pasta on the actors foreheads and trying to pass them of alien speices

ala next gen, ds9, voy and enterpri

thanks for the pasta Michael Westmore

One thing that’s not been pointed out when comparing the later series to TOS: improvements in the technology. Remember, in the 1960s, science fiction was not a staple of television or film. There was 2001: A Space Odyssey and what else? SF shows didn’t take off until the late 70s or early 80s with stuff like “Buck Rogers” and “Logan’s Run”. “Star Trek” was ahead of its time in developing any kind of FX make-up. The Tellarites stand out, as do the original Andorians and Vulcans. TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT all had the benefit of a good twenty or so years of development in this department – special make-up that doesn’t come off in the toupee, prosthetics that hold their shape, etc. It’s a progression of science for the art of make-up. And I can accept most of the aliens we’ve seen being bipeds. When you consider that Starfleet’s mission of exploration prioritized class-M planets, you have to expect that certain similarities will be evident, mainly because the environment is similar. Remember, the Horta didn’t live on a class-M. Props to Westmore, especially with his practice of doing a completely different pattern on Terry Farrell’s Trill make-up every day… that’s dedication. And yes, the “forehead of the week” got a little tiresome, but it’s already been pointed out that budgets and management are factors to be considered. That’s just the way Hollywood works. But the main point, which applies most strongly to TOS: the story is the most important thing.… Read more »
January 9, 2009 8:50 am

Seeing that picture of Burman applying the Monkey Makeup on Helena, I can’t help but wonder if M’Ress could have been a possibility.

I don’t know. I’d LOVE to see M’Ress brought to life! Doctor Who did a pretty good job with catlike humanoids.

Dr. Image
January 9, 2009 9:07 am

As a make-up artist myself, I have nothing but utmost respect for Michael Westmore and his crews of the TNG-era Treks. The man is a consummate professional who does not deserve to be bashed.
One cannot stress enough that his opinion was not the sole factor in deciding the directions of the looks of the various alien species. Those decisions should be blamed on the producers.

I’m greatly looking forward to the direction Mr. Burman will be taking the movie. His dad’s work always put a “spin” on the make-ups of Trek in
refreshing ways.

January 9, 2009 9:07 am

#1 / #4 – Nothing to say that character can’t be an Edosian, just because the designers didn’t think of it. So long as they don’t specify a species name contrary to an Edosian, it can be whatever we want. ;) Of course, if we see her legs and she isn’t a tripod…oh well…

January 9, 2009 9:19 am

I’m very pleased with Alnschloss, and I’m glad to see an emphasis by the creatives on featuring aliens we haven’t seen before; NEW life and NEW civilizations and so forth…

January 9, 2009 11:04 am

“Star Trek is his third project with Abrams and he tells TrekMovie he hopes it will not be hopes to continue their collaboration going forward.”


January 9, 2009 11:35 am


Personally, I thought the CGI in VOY & ENT was pretty unappealing. The Gorn in ENT looked like a Looney Tunes Velociraptor. I’d take the guy in the rubber suit over seeing that again.

January 9, 2009 11:41 am


True, but those were tv episodes not a 180m $ movie. I was thinking more in the direction of Gollum etc.

Olley Olley Olley
January 9, 2009 11:47 am

True, I guess it was Rick Bermans idea about the pasta and what Type it should be.
I wondered at the time why the Romulans in TOS and in ST VI where similar to regular Vulcans and then Rick Berman came along and orderd pasta on the head and Michael had to deliver..
but times change and Rick is gone, It’s a shame about the hundreds of hours of bland entertainment that he produced

and the pasta.

January 9, 2009 11:53 am


I agree that CGI characters can be good when done with a proper budget. However, I disagree that this new creature looks more ‘artificial’ than any other alien. It looks more substantial than a lot of CGI creatures I’ve seen lately (and certainly moreso than anything we’ve seen in Trek so far). I’m guessing it’s actually a mixture of both, much like Two-Face from The Dark Knight.

January 9, 2009 12:45 pm


I certainly hope so. If it’s only staring into space and speaking by only moving it’s jaw, I would really prefer a standard alien or human. Sometime’s less is more.