It’s not hard to imagine a young man knowing what he wants to be for the rest of his life freshman year of high school. How many boys dream of building bridges, curing disease or being rock stars? And how many actually make it?
Brett Schmidt knew what he wanted to do as a young child, so by freshman year he had put together a portfolio, approached a master in the field at a trade show, and has been working at his dream ever since. Now finishing up his junior year at Vernon Township High School, Schmidt, the son of two educators, is already well on his way to success as a professional special effects make-up artist. Not the Mary Kay kind of make-up. The technical movie kind.
His mentor is Adrien Morot, a Montreal-based artist who has worked on movies such as Xmen, Night at the Museum and Secret Window. Schmidt, only fourteen at the time, approached him at IMATS (International Makeup Artists Trade Show) and presented him with his portfolio. Ever since he saw Planet of the Apes when he was seven, he has wanted to do nothing else but makeup for movies. He started using Halloween makeup kits. He watched videos on YouTube to learn techniques and graduated to using toilet paper and latex and a Ben Nye makeup kit to change skin texture. In the early years, he practiced on himself, then bought generic mannequin heads to work on. Photos of all these projects were in the portfolio he showed to Morot.
What he thinks clinched it for him was the email he sent to Morot after the trade show, thanking him for his time and his encouragement. That led to a reply by Morot, then to more emails, then to Morot offering corrections right on the computer photos Schmidt would email to him. To, finally, an informal internship at his Montreal studio last November.
His special area of interest is aging young actors and Morot has been especially helpful in that area via the computer. “I made six sculptures for one old age appliance because Morot kept making corrections,” he said. “But I was persistent and he was patient and encouraging, and finally, I got the go ahead to cast the final sculpt.” Now he uses silicone to create prosthetic appliances, the industry standard, which are much more technically difficult.
The highlight of November visit was when he showed the staff at the studio how to use gelatin to make a fake arm. He said they had never worked with the gelatin before, but he had, thanks to Morot’s teachings.
Schmidt’s parents, Phil Schmidt, former principal of Rolling Hills, and his mother, Janice Schmidt, 8th grade English teacher at Glen Meadow Middle School, have been very supportive, buying supplies and chauffeuring him back and forth to Montreal.
Mrs. Schmidt said, “When Brett was a little boy, he would disappear for a while, only to return made up as a vampire, or a pirate, or an accident victim. It was clear what his abilities were way back when. Brett’s passion for the art and his drive are irrepressible and all those things combined are sure to help him realize success.”
This summer, Schmidt hopes to return to Montreal and shadow Morot and his staff of talented and accomplished artists.