During acceptance speeches by film industry notables: Marquee name actors and actresses, Directors, Composers, the perhaps more recognized members of this community often refer to the “team” that it takes to make each production actually be manifested on screen. This is not lip service or benevolent patronizing; it truly does take a wide array of artists and skilled individuals to transform a story into one that is truly believable. One member of this team that actors often recognize is the makeup artist, like Christina Spina. Her talent allows actors and actresses to switch gender, to age decades, to become the undead, and sometimes…to subtlely add validity to the era and people so that we, the viewer, lose ourselves and let reality suspend for an hour or two. It says something about Spina that she is so diverse in her abilities and her credits vet this in her career. Sometimes her work is dramatic and otherworldly and sometimes it allows the actors to more honestly inhabit and discover the characters they portray. As Spina often says, when her contributions are taken for granted as reality in a production, that’s when she truly knows she has done a great job…hiding in plain sight.
For someone like Christina who revels in the diversity of an ever setting changing of parameters to exhibit her talent, working in the entertainment industry brings new excitement every day. One of her favorite experiences was creating a rock band…well, sort of. For the film We Forgot to Break Up, Spina was required to create stage makeup for characters in a rock band. Working closely with the director Chandler Levack to bring to life his vision of each individual in the band, she designed a stage look that is cohesive and true to the genre. These rock n roll stage looks varied for each character yet maintained a consistency in design using a variety of silver glitter. The outcome was magical once the characters were lit, preforming on camera. The upcoming release is the story of Evan Strocker who unexpectedly returns one night to face his now-famous former bandmates. The camera follows the lead character through a winding backstage maze as he reunites with each of his former colleagues. The plot unravels themes of family, friends, present and past lovers, heartache, abandonment, substance abuse, gender and sexual orientation…a very Rock & Roll drama. Having disappeared many years ago, Evan returns as a recently transgendered man. He has published a biography on the band without their consent and they express their disapproval of his actions. The surprise reunion is bittersweet in this intimate depiction of the knotty complexities of relating to old friends after everything has changed. The film closes with the band’s live performance of their song “We Forget to Break Up” while Evan watches from the crowd as if the song was being performed for him only.
This fictional story of a famous Canadian rock band produced some stunningly authentic performances and looks. For lead singer Angus’s effortless style (inspired by Dylan & Springsteen) Christina added a touch of late 90’s/early 2000’s with a stripe of glitter across his eyes while his girlfriend Coco’s Pink hair communicated a lack of constant maintenance with its intentional faded color. In stark contrast, the band’s drummer appears to be a disciple of the Thom Yorke/Gallagher brothers with a no frills appearance that obviously communicates an underlying conflict within the band’s attitude towards appearance. It also subtly hints at the artistic contrast that lends itself to interesting musical influences and collaboration. True music fans comprehend, even if unconsciously, the shades of Christina’s influence in the characters.
While still focusing on the interesting relationships that people share but yet presented within a totally different format, Spina served as makeup designer for the film “Fuck Buddies.” The “breakdown makeup” style which Christina created for the film lends itself to the uncomfortable feeling of the characters. The film’s producer (Alex Ordanis) enlisted Spina due to her reputation and states, “Christina is a very successful and noted makeup artist in the Canadian TV and film industry. With our production in particular it was key that she quickly understood the script and how the physical appearance of the lead characters needed to evolve throughout the story…which of course she did exceptionally well. It makes things a lot easier and more enjoyable on set when you have a real pro like Christina on board.” The story of two formerly platonic friends who don’t know how to deal with their new-found intimate relationship perfectly displays the sexual climate experienced by young people today. Speaking directly to camera, the characters reveal the constant and frequent triggers which result in them having sex with each other. The plot is manifested as an otherworldly force possessing them to copulate. As their story of messy emotions progresses, the film mutates from a hyper-stylized fourth-wall breaking Dramedy to a perverse Ghost story. It is revealed that an unborn ghost child possesses the couple to perform intercourse with hopes of conception. The miscommunication and power struggles that simmer at the beginning of the movie right underneath the surface eventually turn to melodramatic tragedy, before exploding into bouts of manic slapstick and awkward body-horror.
With a storyline that seems to evolve as does its genre crossing, Spina’s work in creating the uncomfortability in these character’s became a cohesive factor. Director Nate Wilson was clear that he wanted to see the main characters physically evolve as well throughout the film. While the general look was to appear natural, as they became “possessed” in the later part of the film, dark circles, redness in the skin, sweat, and even drool became part of their look.
More and more web based content is available and is praised than ever before in the entertainment industry. “Whatever, Linda” is a dark and funny dramedy. The year is 1978 and young Linda Thoroughbred is down and out in New York City. The attractive, cunning, and newly divorced Linda is a victim of circumstance, downtrodden by the burdens society has placed upon her. The series starts with Linda winning an entry-level gig as a secretary at a high-flying Wall Street financial firm. Approaching her wit’s end, and seeking her own brand of justice, she meets three other similarly disenfranchised women at work and recruits them in a plot to stick it to the man through a diabolically lucrative, Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme. The plan makes the fast friends of the ladies and also makes them fast money. They quickly realize that getting away with a Ponzi scheme isn’t as easy as it seems and that the cost for getting ahead is often paid in blood. Christina was a makeup artist for “Whatever, Linda” which received the Rome Web Award for Best Makeup Design. It was an exercise in constraint, authenticity, and subtlety for Spina who tells, “The makeup style of the late 70s era Wall Street was toned down compared to what was happening in pop culture at the time. The women of that time and on Wall Street were independent working women, challenged by various social and political circumstances. Their look was maybe dated to a mid70s look, refined and pretty. The looks in the office were not too bold, but enough to show that these women were current, self-aware, and able to take care of themselves. It was fun to present women at a time when they were claiming their equality in the world of Wall Street.” Producer Mckenzie Donaldson of this film notes, “The truth about Christina Spina is that she raises the level of the overall look of the film with the excellence of her work. That’s the secret to great producing, hire amazingly talented people like Christina.”
While both Makeup and Artist are part of the title she is credited for in her work, Christina Spina has spent the time to gain impressive technical skills. It’s through the variety of projects that she is called for that she is given the opportunity to explore the artist part of that job description. Just as actors, directors, cinematographers, and other members of the production world are constantly in pursuit of testing themselves, this makeup artist is constantly seeking out the next opportunity to prove to herself and others what she can bring to the believability of every story.