A College Student’s Guide to Stealing Art

Patrick Willems’ senior project is a heist film entitled “A College Student’s Guide to Stealing Art”. Inspired by having watched too many heist  films, and by their anxiety about life post-graduation, a group of college seniors plans a heist to steal a painting from their college’s art museum as one last college stunt before being forced out into the “real world.” The film takes place primarily during the night of the heist and includes a series of flash-backs of the planning leading up to it. The heist itself has two parts; the first half is an exciting action sequence as all unfolds according to plan, and the second becomes more like a slasher film in which the team leader is chased by an unrelenting police officer after they set off the alarm.

In speaking with the director, we both agreed that there should be a distinct aesthetic difference between the scenes depicting the bored and anxious college students talking about the heist, and the scenes of them living out their film-fueled heist fantasy. In the flashback scenes, they should look like the normal, stressed, average, soon-to-be unemployed college graduates that they are; in the heist scenes, they should appear to be the slick, cool, even bad-ass, team of professional art thieves from the films they are emulating.

Leo before heist

Leo before the heist in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

Leo during heist

Leo during the heist in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

As they delve deeper into the film fantasy, they become less real, more like the action movie versions of themselves. Their skin gets better, their hair more precisely styled. Each character also had distinctive elements to their look. Charlie, the one woman on the team, gets makeup that becomes progressively more precise and unrealistically perfect. Leo, the team leader, always maintains a leading-man kind of aesthetic, but it progresses from charming college boy with tousled hair and an earring, to slick and suave Hollywood blockbuster-style heist team leader. Jack, the team’s resident cinema geek and reconnaissance man, starts out as an unkempt and bespectacled college guy and transitions into a slick thief with combed and side-parted hair, contact lenses, and spotless skin. Ben, the bearded and brutish, heavy metal-listening, astrophysics major-turned-getaway driver, changes the least; he must maintain his “hard-core” edge while still becoming more put-together. His hair and beard become more carefully coiffed, and his skin becomes smoother and more even.

Jack, pre-heist

Jack, pre-heist in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

Jack during heist

Jack during the heist in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

Once we had a basic idea of the way the characters would have to change , I did a script breakdown to determine how many looks each character would need, and in what scenes they would need them. All four characters would be in their final, most stylized look for the entirety of the heist scene, as well as the “suiting up” montage as they prepare for the heist ( all characters traded their jeans and t-shirts for black suits with white shirts and colorful ties during the heist). Charlie, Ben, and Jack would appear in two flash-backs, meaning they would have three looks. Leo would be in all of those scenes, as well as an additional flashback that takes place just days before the heist, and a chase scene after the heist takes a turn for the worst. There would also be a police officer, serving as the villain in the slasher-film inspired chase scene. Patrick and Director of Photography Jason Outenreath would shoot the officer primarily in silhouette, emphasizing his imposing stature and intimidating 70s-style cop mustache. Because of the way this character was going to be lit and filmed, I could go even more stylized with his makeup, giving him a large fake mustache, and shading under his brow- and jaw-bones to emphasize and exaggerate the masculinity of his bone structure.

After completing the script breakdown, I arranged makeup tests with Patrick and the four main actors. I tested each look to ensure that they would look good on camera, but also that the progression we wanted would be readable on screen. I also used this test to refine the designs for Leo’s post-heist chase scene look, and for Charlie’s heist look. During the slasher portion of the heist, Leo still has to look as if he is in a film, but the genre has changed. He has to go from leading man in an action film, to potential next victim in a slasher flick. At this point in the film, he has been running, has had his nose bloodied by the officer’s night stick, and is terrified. He is sweating from the adrenaline and physical exertion, but his face is slightly paler, making him look weaker and afraid in comparison to the police officer.

Makeup test for Aaron Profumo

Makeup test for Aaron Profumo, aka "Leo"

Leo, post-heist chase scene in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

Leo, post-heist chase scene in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

Police officer in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

Police officer in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

As for Charlie’s heist look, I had a relatively extensive conversation with the director and the actress, the lovely and very talented Sam Bergman, about the implications of her character being the only woman on the team, and what different makeup looks would indicate about that. In heist films, there is almost always exactly one girl, and she is often there primarily to look appealing to the target straight-male audience. I wanted to be conscious of this and find a way to portray her character as an integral part of the team, not to make her up as eye-candy, but not to de-feminize her either.  I wanted her to be an intelligent and important character and still a girl (not the cliched nerdy or masculinized one-of-the-guys woman sometimes seen in films), without objectifying her.  Patrick had not totally considered these implications as they relate to the makeup design, but agreed that he did not want her to become a cliched eye-candy girl. We decided that the look should be a version of a typical college girl’s makeup, except more precise and artificial. At least at Oberlin, the typical college girl doesn’t really wear any makeup, so I went with concealer and a little bit of brown eyeliner and mascara for the flashback scenes. For the heist scene, I  gave her skin a more airbrushed look and switched the eyeliner to black and applied it in a very thin, neat line right along the lash line. I added a little subtle gold eyeshadow on the lid, with a dusky rose pink in the crease to add a little depth. The one element I wanted to really look as if she had purposefully changed was her lips. I have always noticed how women in action films somehow mysteriously have shiny, perfectly applied lip gloss in every scene, no matter what is going on, or how long it’s been since she has had access to said gloss. (Any woman who has worn lipgloss knows that this is not how it behaves, especially over the course of several hours during which she has more important things to do than re-apply). Since the characters are emulating these films, and the style of Patrick’s film is somewhat of a take on these genre conventions, I thought it would be fun for me to give Charlie this mysteriously perfect lipgloss as a bit of a poke at that phenomenon. It would be a way for her look to follow/ be a take on genre conventions, without turning her into the sex-bomb stock woman that one so often sees.

Charlie before heist

Charlie before the heist in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art

Charlie and Leo prepare for the heist

Charlie and Leo prepare for the heist in A College Student's Guide to Stealing Art


~ by alanigauntmakeupdesign on April 19, 2010.

One Response to “A College Student’s Guide to Stealing Art”

  1. […] latest entry is all about “A College Student’s Guide to Stealing Art,” so go read that now. Then check out her website here. Leave a Comment No Comments Yet so far Leave a comment RSS […]

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