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Ryk Fortuna Visits Roanoke

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Ryk Fortuna, film special effects artist, visited Roanoke College on Feb. 23 to give a lecture in the Pickle Lounge. Fortuna’s talk to students centered around his path to become a special effects artist, and what his experience has been like working behind the scenes on films such as King Kong, Avatar, The Hobbit, and more.

According to Fortuna, his lectures and talks tend to have a more “example” feel as he normally sculpts then stops and explains what he is doing, and continues sculpting an example for students. Tuesdays lecture on the other hand was structured in a different light and was guaranteed to be “much more abstract,” said Fortuna.

Much of his discussion time was spent explaining to students how he became interested in special effects make-up at a young age. Fortuna said he pursued special effects by teaching himself the skills he needed. Special effects art is broken down into many different aspects, including concept art, make-up, molding, application of prosthetics, and removal of the makeup.

Fortuna is self-taught when it comes to most of his skills that got him started in the world of Hollywood. He emphasized that even though he took the harder route, that he appreciates his work a lot more because of it, and that self-teaching is the “only way to retain” information.

In fact when talking about his motivation, besides his passion, he jokingly said, “revenge and setting forth to prove people wrong has [also] been a fantastic motivator for my life.”

Fortuna has worked behind the scenes in special effects art for many different films that involve a monster make up, complicated molds, and lots of silicone and prosthetic use. One of the more popular movies he has worked on for prosthetic makeup is The Hobbit Series. During his discussion on his own work and life behind the scenes Fortuna had a slideshow of photos hooked up and walked the audience through each one.

In the slideshow, Fortuna walked the audience through photos of himself applying makeup to actors in The Hobbit with additional stories about that day or things that were occurring on set.

“Everyone has a story, and no one’s life is easy,” said Fortuna. “You become best friends with [the actors] and have to look after them and help keep stress levels under control.”

Fortuna said another aspect of his work is being a counselor for the actors. He described days in which actors are sitting in chairs for four hours having one prosthetic with make-up applied and falling asleep during the process, and the artists has to keep working. He talked about how to respect the situations you are put in, and to learn to keep moving.

Fortuna said the work of an effects artist is complicated and the job is long and hard. Fortuna said the hardest parts of his job include going without real sleep for four days, living away from a doctor and not being able to get care, and sacrificing relationships with family and friends.

Yet along with this, Fortuna said he is able to succeed in his passion and love his job. Fortuna also said that it is the experience and people around him that makes the job work worth doing.

“You have to be unique in a world where everything has been done,” Fortuna said. “Make your own life, no one is going to give you anything.”

Following a question and answer section, Fortuna talked with students one-on-one and gave advice on how to break into the world of special effects art.