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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