Middle-earth News was fortunate enough to be granted an exclusive interview with one of The Hobbit’s hair and make-up artists, Flora Moody. She took time out of her busy schedule to give us an inside look into the filming of The Hobbit.
Middle-earth News: How did you find yourself in this profession? Was it something that you always wanted to do? Did anything in particular inspire you?
Flora Moody: My interest in film started when I was 18 and on my gap year in New Zealand. They were auditioning for extras for The Lord of the Rings and before I knew it I was deep within the Glittering Caves running from the Orcs as a Rohan Refugee and then attacking Gondor and Minis Tirith as an Orc. It was pure movie magic in every way; the sets, the costumes, the fact I had to wear foam prosthetic arms and legs, the incredible New Zealand locations, the people. I could go on but it really was magical. I had read the book 3 times as a child so to suddenly be a character working within the story was such a great experience. From there I studied Film and Photography at university and tried to make a go of being a photographer for 4 years. Whilst assisting fashion photographers in London I realised I was more interested in delving into the hair and makeup artists kits than helping with the lighting so I decided to give the makeup world a try.
ME News: People came from all over the world to work on the set of The Hobbit. How were you able to secure your position?
FM: Contacts! My uncle is Peter King, the hair and makeup designer. He has been such an incredible mentor to have in the industry. From a boxfresh trainee through to an artist, he has helped shape my career and offered me opportunities that would otherwise be completely out of reach. He told me that if I made my own way out to New Zealand then I could then be employed as a local hair and makeup artist. When I was asked back for Block 3 (filming was split into 3 blocks of 6 months), the production agreed to take me on as a ‘non-resident’. That means you have your flights, housing and per diems (daily spending money) paid for you by the production. Truly the icing on an immense cake!
ME News: Were the hair and makeup artists and prosthetic artists assigned to just one or two of the Dwarves or did you all work together as a team?
FM: The department was split into prosthetics and then hair and makeup. Whilst we were filming in Stone Street Studios in Wellington most artists had approximately two characters to deal with on a daily basis. Whether they were two dwarves or a dwarf and a human, that seemed to be the way things worked out. When we were on location however, each main cast member had to have their own prosthetic / hair and makeup artist. We were just all over the place with locations in crazy remote places and 2 units operating at the same time, it was just easier if people were assigned a dwarf and stuck to them like glue. I was lucky enough to work with Peter Hambleton (Gloin) and John Callen (Oin) over the months and they are both such brilliant characters to be around all day, everyday. We laughed a great deal.
ME News: What was one of the biggest challenges you found yourself facing?
FM: Leaving the UK! When I was asked if I wanted to work on The Hobbit, one part of me was absolutely over the moon and the other half really wanted to remain within the safety of friends, family, and familiarity! I realised that if I didn’t go I would be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Once I had been out there for a year though, it was completely the other way around. This time I didn’t want to return and would have happily lived in NZ. Unfortunately, the film industry is a fickle business over there so the bright lights of London drew me back. The hardest thing to juggle within this industry is the home/work balance. Filming completely takes over every waking hour and it is so easy to get lazy with your friends and family. Luckily my friends have grown to realise that even if I go off the radar for months that I’ll reappear soon enough and really try to spend a couple of months at home just being ‘normal’.
ME News: What were you doing and/or filming on the day you remember having the most fun on set?
FM: Such a difficult question but know that everyday was pretty amazing. What really makes a great film is the people you are working with. The script could be awful, the location freezing, the catering terrible, but if you are surrounded by a group of really fun friends, then everyday has its highlights. For me the stand out filming period was the incredible outdoor set of Dale. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the city of Wellington, Dale had been built quite literally as a living village. There were little alleyways, tiny courtyards complete with bubbling fountains, plants growing in the window boxes, beautiful carousels, market stalls, and stairs leading to upper level thoroughfares. It was picture perfect. It then had to be completely destroyed for the post Smaug attack which was equally as amazing. Scorch marks everywhere, foam dead bodies lying on the floor covered in snow and debris, smashed pots, overgrown doorways, and such detail like childrens’ toys left scattered as the villagers ran for safety. Walking around these two sets at the different stages was such a privilege. The work that goes into a film often passes by even those who work in the industry. This made me appreciate that all departments are full of such incredibly creative people who often don’t get the credit or recognition they deserve.
ME News: In contrast, which days on set proved to be the most difficult?
FM: Sadly a good friend of mine passed away whilst I was filming. There is nothing to prepare you for this kind of news but it definitely brought me back to reality very quickly. Within days I was back in the UK thanks to the amazing production department. It is very easy to get sucked into the filming world, often forgetting that normal life is ticking away outside it. That is why I think it is really important to take a good chunk of time off in between films to reconnect with family and friends. Easier said than done sometimes but good to have at the back of ones mind.
ME News: What have you been up to since filming completed on The Hobbit?
FM: It has been a bit of a rollercoaster year and a half since ‘The Hobbit’ finished. After 3 months of down-time (definitely necessary having been away for over a year), I worked on The Worlds End. Funnily enough with Martin Freeman again, except no hairy hobbit feet this time around. Then I took 4 months out to work on a website that has since been launched. It is a sneak peek portal into the film industry through the eyes of the Hair and Makeup Department. Offering video tutorials on pro makeup and hair techniques, product reviews, interviews with the crew, articles, tip top tips, and finally lots of behind the scenes photographs from my time behind the camera! Whilst the website was being launched I worked part-time on Jupiter Ascending and Vampire Diaries before working full time on Into The Woods looking after Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick. A brief holiday later I found myself on Survivor looking after Milla Jovovich and soon will be jumping onto Avengers II! Crazily busy but the UK film industry is booming at the moment so it is great that there is so much work for everyone involved.
ME News: You probably had quite a few learning experiences over the 2+ years filming took place! What are some of the most important things you feel you have learned or taken away from this?
FM: Always make sure you handle Dylon Fabric Dyes with extreme caution! We use Dylon to dye the wigs and they are the most heavily pigmented powders you can come across. A bit like turmeric but available in a whole colour wheel of colours and the tiniest spoonful of powder is literally all you need for a huge vat of dye. It gets everywhere and once on your fingers, takes days to come off. Needless to say I was in the process of dying some wigs when I managed to tip/explode an entire pot of bright red all over me. I couldn’t move and just had to squeak at my colleague Richard who was working in the room. “Oh dear God,” I believe was his response to seeing me. An hour later and wearing nothing but someones rain coat I was waiting patiently for my clothes to finish in the costume departments washing machine. Luckily I was wearing black and luckily I didn’t have any actors in that day so I didn’t have to go to set covered in a red hue.
Other things that I took away from the Hobbit experience – Seize every opportunity and make the most of it. A scary thing to do sometimes but looking back it will always be worth it.
ME News: If you could give one piece of advice to anyone wishing to go into the same profession, what would it be?
FM: I have 7 pieces of advice for those wanting to get into the industry!! See ‘The Seven Ps’ That Will Get You Places’ article on my website!
Middle-earth News wishes to thank Flora for taking the time to speak with us! You can read all about her filming adventures over on her website and keep up with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.