Angie Shell got a call from someone asking if she could quickly conjure up a demon from Dominican folklore. The lead character of a short film about to shoot needed a peek. And Shell – a former Bare Minerals employee at Park City Center turned Hollywood makeup artist – was up for the challenge of “La Ciguapa.”
âShe’s kind of like that mermaid, succubus character that I adored,â Shell said of the star demon who would be hitting the camera in less than two weeks.
âI got the call at the last minute from the producer who said, ‘Can you do it? “,” Shell said. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. I can’t hit the wall with this. But with the time we have, I could totally do something horrible to you.’
So Shell drove from her North Hollywood home to a weekend shoot in Sequoia National Park in November. The 22-year-old former Hempfield High School student was armed with quick folk research, airbrushes, makeup, a heavy dose of inspiration from “The Grudge” and a set of “Sharp, tiny and terrifying teeth” Ã la the original Pennywise the Clown, from “It”. After filming was finished, Shell collapsed for a few rare minutes of relaxation in a hammock among the massive trees.
She says she has had just enough time to put together a successful creature.
âThat’s a lot of what is happening with this line of work,â says Shell. âIt’s in a hurry to wait. And you absolutely want to be on your feet all the time because you never know when someone is going to contact you with something awesome.
Lay a foundation
Shell (that’s her professional name; her full name is Shellhamer) began her makeup career years ago when her older brother was a scary actor at Mountville-based horror attraction Field of Screams. She also wanted to participate and around the age of 15 she had a chance with the makeup team. Shell remembers being given a five to ten minute crash course in the basics and being immersed in the mix.
âMy favorite thing was liquid latex and cotton balls,â Shell says. âIt was my jam when I was younger. I thought I was literally like Tom Savini with it.
Savini is a Pittsburgh native known in part for makeup and special effects on projects like “Day (and Dawn) of the Dead”, “Creepshow” and some of the “Friday the 13th” movies.
âMy ego exploded so fast. I didn’t even know what I was doing, âShell says, laughing at some of his early trips to Field of Screams.
âBefore they had their big make-up room that they have now, they had this tiny little shed,â Shell says. âThere we all learned from each other. … It was kind of like, “What can you do with these products that we put in front of you?” “”
Finally, Field of Screams added makeup and special effects classes.
âAnd that’s where I started to learn, grow and develop a serious passion for it as an artist,â she says.
It was different with high school. Shell says she tended to worry and – as is her observation of many artists – to be incredibly hard on herself. She dropped out of Hempfield High School in her senior year and, after some goal scouting, set a goal of earning enough money to travel to Hollywood. (She later got her GED.)
âI started saving money by working at Bare Minerals during the day and night I was on the sorting line at UPS,â she says.
It was during the holidays. In the spring she worked at the Schopf Brother factory stand when she was not on duty to sell makeup and skin care products at Bare Minerals. She also organized photo shoots and wedding parties, all in an effort to save enough to go to school in California.
âI kind of became a jack of all trades. I have learned so many weird facts about plants. And the sorting line helped me with my work ethic and stamina, âshe says. “It definitely prepared me for those 13 hour days that I now do on movie sets.”
Her first step upon arriving in California was to attend school at Make-Up Designory. Then the world suddenly changed because of COVID-19.
âI was enrolled in an eight-month program, but attended it for about two years because of the pandemic,â Shell says,
It was not easy, says his father, Eric Shellhamer of East Petersburg.
âThe confinement in LA has been particularly brutal. Here you have a 21 year old from Pennsylvania who didn’t know anyone stuck in an apartment doing nothing. Week after week. She couldn’t go anywhere, âsays Shellhamer.
He is proud of his daughter, who painted her Barbies, and is eager to see where her career is going.
Advice from a mentor
Jim Schopf will also be listening. Schopf, who with his brother Gene runs Field of Screams, likes to see where those who worked there end up. It ticks off the names of Shell, tattoo artist Destiny Patton, and Jarred Alcala, owner of Shattered FX, which sells silicone masks to customers around the world.
âIt’s a great place for people who have an artistic talent to really develop and hone their skills,â Schopf said.
When it comes to makeup, this is more true now than when the now nationally recognized Field of Screams began in the early 1990s. Today there are summer training filled with professional instructions.
âBack then, we weren’t doing any makeup,â he says. “These were masks that we could collect fromâ¦ Spencer or wherever.”
Schopf thanks Shell mentor Jeremy Spickler for helping to take the makeup of Field of Screams to the next level. He taught lessons when Shell worked there. Spickler died in September.
“Until his death, I always called him for advice,” Shell says. “He has truly guided so many artists to pursue their dreams and pursue their passion.”
Spickler also spoke to her about the importance of marketing – something Shell takes seriously. She developed a slogan: “farm girl pretending not to be a farm girl”.
âPeople always have fun with it,â she said. âBut most Angelinos are like, ‘Oh, nobody from LA is actually from LA. “”
She loves meeting other Pennsylvanians.
âWhen people come from the East Coast, you look at yourself and you just know. You connect, âshe said. âIt helps build that community of people you can trust and count on because – it’s really sad to say – but it can be a scary town sometimes where you really can’t trust you. ‘anyone.”
A tangible dream
Shell often works on sets with her boyfriend, Jake Porath, another makeup artist who was introduced to her by a friend she made years ago on a mission trip to Mexico.
Before meeting him for their first coffee, she had looked at photos of makeup recreations he had made from some of his favorite movies. She has a lot of them. Among them: “The Exorcist”, “Midsommar” and “The Return of the Living Dead”.
One of his favorite projects so far has been a zombie movie. She especially enjoyed working on a character who hid in a church with her son following a bite.
âIt was cool because I was able to do the transition makeup from a human to a zombie,â she says. “It was such a challenge, but it turned out incredible.”
“At first … (the director) just wanted him to bleed from his eyes and ears,” Shell says. “Then he stepped back and said, ‘What prosthetics do you have on you? “”
She broke her selection and the director chose a sparkling neck prosthesis.
âIt looked like he had veins sticking out of his neck,â she says. “Oh, that was brutal.”
It’s right in his alley. However, Shell says she’s learned that she does well to switch between spooky projects and projects involving beauty work. It helps with the creative flow, she says.
One of her goals for 2022 is to work with Doja Cat, a Los Angeles-born and raised musician and sweetheart of TikTok, who Shell says is building a reputation for herself in the special effects industry. Her boyfriend shares this goal.
âWe are desperate to work with it,â says Shell. “I got close at one point (in 2021), but it just fell apart.”
She would also like to do more prosthetics and accessories – something she dove into last year.
So does Shell already feel like she’s in her own movie? Absolutely, she says, while adding that she has reservations about admitting it.
âWhen you move to LA, you kind of jump into that bubble. â¦ It’s very cool but it feels like everyone is in their own movie and everyone is the main character, âshe says. “They are either the girl from a small town to any rural farming town they just tried to make it big or whatever their trip.”
Like her, most of the people she meets now have long dreamed of Hollywood. But don’t expect his ego to swell as big as this iconic sign.
âI really aim to be a real person so that the next dropout who wants to move on and change their life will look at me – also a high school dropout – and say, ‘Oh, yeah. It is achievable, âadds Shell. “It is not this crazy and distant fantasy that does not exist. It’s true. It is quite tangible.