If you know horror films, you know Mark Shostrom's work.

He designed and created the special makeup and headed the makeup crew on Evil Dead II, creating some of the horrorgenre's most iconic walking dead. He also worked on From Beyond and The Mutilator. He provided makeup effects for cult series like Star Trek, Phantasm, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, and The X-Files.

I could go on, or I could just say he's a legend because the credits keep going.

I was honored when Shostrom agreed to speak with me about his extensive experience in film and what creators and filmmakers should know right now, especially about creating great makeup effects. Enjoy!

FROM BEYOND "Easy Prey" Clip (1986) Body Horrorwww.youtube.com

Editor's note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: Let's talk about how you got started.

Mark Shostrom: Well, I basically began with creature effects, and [was] interested in makeup in general. I was a monster kid, and when I moved to LA to get into either music or makeup, I happened to see an ad in Drama-logue for a student film at the American Film Institute. It was called Violet.

And that led to my first makeup job. I think I did five or six projects with the American Film Institute. I just missed David Lynch. He was there a couple years before. But I got to work with a lot of people who had worked with him in the early days.

And it was a very weird period in 1980 because the makeup effects field was just about to be born with the release of American Werewolf and The Howling and The Thing, things like that. So I got in right before that happened, and when that did, the whole town picked up.

It went from, I remember there's a Time magazine or Life magazine cover story called, I think it was called "Makeup Artists, the New Stars of Hollywood." And it was all about The Elephant Man and Raging Bull.

LA at the time had four or five makeup studios in it. It went from that to in 1985 having 70, including mine. So it was a nonstop period of about seven years of just constant work, basically having weekends off because they were making so many horror films during the '80s.

Behind the scenes of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream WarriorsMark Shostrom/Provided

NFS: What you're discussing right now is basically one of my favorite eras of film. I am a big horror fan myself, and I love to see the practical effects in that period. It really was an art form and it's sort of coming back around to that now.

Shostrom: I'm on a Fangoria email [list] and it mentioned a new horror film being made about a polar bear, and they're doing it all practical.

So yeah, you're right. It's making a comeback. I mean, back in the mid-'80s, we didn't call it practical effects. We just called it effects because there was no CGI. I remember getting called for reshoots on a film I had done in '93. They wanted some pickup shots, a foot getting shot off and scars on a guy's chest, and I gave them a price, and they called back and said, "Well, we want you to do the foot, but we're going to do the scars in CGI." And I said, "What's CGI?"

NFS: I would love to just have a little bit of a conversation about that, too. I know why I feel that there's so much value in practical effects, but what do you think it brings to a project?

Shostrom: Well, one thing is I know working with actors that they have something real to react to. I remember working with one of the guys from Ray Harryhausen movies, Sinbad, and I said, "What was it like?" And he said, "Well, we're standing on a beach looking at a tennis ball on a C-stand, moving around. We can't really get into it and act as far as technically and artistically."

You just get something really tangible that is there on the set. You can tell when it's there. When you're watching a movie, you can tell that it's something real that was there. When it's well made, it will look real.

And they can do great stuff with CGI. But one thing I've noticed in the creature stuff is the creatures don't seem to have weight. I mean, technically, the skin looks good and all that, the hair, but there's something about them that the human eye can detect that it's not real, that it was never there. I mean, the best directors, in my opinion, are the ones who know a lot about CG and practical, and they know when to blend the two, when to use one over the other, or like Guillermo del Toro. He is brilliant at blending the two.

Behind the scenes of Evil Dead II Behind the scenes of Evil Dead II Mark Shostrom/Provided

NFS: What work are you most proud of?

Shostrom: Well, I think there'd be two. One would be Henrietta from Evil Dead II, the whole prosthetic bodysuit for Ted Raimi. And the other would be the Pretorius Creature in From Beyond.

Because I was, at that point, I did those films back to back, From Beyond first and then Evil Dead following, and I was really, really ambitious. And when I got the script to From Beyond, I thought, "Wow, this is going to cost a ton of money. They don't have it." And I just recruited a small team of guys who had as much enthusiasm as I, and we just said, "We're going to do this and we're going to make it really, really cool. We're going to give them more than they're paying for."

And technically, the From Beyond creature was an animatronic puppet. It wasn't practical, it was real. It moved around on the set with the aid of a fulcrum device, kind of like a seesaw device, but there was a guy in it operating the arms and the head and neck and all that.

But all the fine facial movements were by pole cable, little hand devices you could make your eyes open and the lips snarl, and things like that. So I was very proud of how that came out. And I had a great crew that worked their butts off on that.

And as far as Ted Raimi, Henrietta, it was just a complete transformation of the guy. And you don't see half of what comprised the suit in the film because it was very detailed down to every little piece of flesh sticking through his rotted body and things like that. And it was a lot of work. I mean, all these things are for practical effects. You work your tail off for three months, six months, and on-screen time, it could be a few seconds. Nature of the beast.

NFS: Evil Dead is one of my favorite horror movies ever. And Sam Raimi is also such an inspiration to so many indie filmmakers because of that series of movies ... it was all about the passion and putting something together that was fun, but did not have a ton of money or time.

Shostrom: No, I think it's kind of ironic that I'm sure there's a lot of kids that go to film school today who are inspired by Sam Raimi, who didn't go to film school, who shot some films on Super 8 and then walked around to the dentist's office and asked for a thousand dollars to invest in a movie.

And Bruce [Campbell] and Sam told me all these stories about just knocking on doors for years, trying to get money to do the first project, which I think was called Within the Woods or something.

But yeah, the whole thing about No Film School I think is great is—I was listening to an interview with my friend Buddy Cooper who did The Mutilator, which I worked on 41 years ago, and he had saved $84,000 to go to film school. And then he read something, an article in The New York Times that said, "Don't go to film school, make a film."

And he did that. He didn't go to film school; he made The Mutilator instead.

And I encountered this all the time. I meet young people. I met a girl at the checkout. She was a checker at the pet store I go to. And we got to talking one day. "What are you doing?" "I'm going to film school." And I said, "Hold on. Stop right there." ... And I said, "Don't go to film school. Get yourself a job in any movie. You're going to learn more in two months than you will in two years at film school."

... I mean, ironically, I started at AFI, one of the best film schools there is, but most of the crews working on those films like me, that was our film school, working on the films, not going to class. There's no better teacher than an indie film. Really. Roger Corman days. Those were great.

Behind the scenes of From BeyondBehind the scenes of From BeyondMark Shostrom/Provided

NFS: I think that's great advice. Just the practical knowledge that you get being on a set is not knowledge you can necessarily get anywhere else.

Shostrom: I had a friend who was a PA in the film in 1980, a little student film, and he would work for two days with camera department a couple days with the art department the next day as director's assistant. I mean, he learned so much. And he went on to be supervising producer of District 9.

NFS: Oh, wow.

Shostrom: And one day I asked him, "Michael—supervising producer, what do you do?" And he said, I supervised all the other producers in three countries. So he went from being a PA, he didn't know anything. The camera operator one day said, Michael, go get me a "cookie," meaning a cucoloris. Michael went to craft services and brought back chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter and a whole selection on the tray, because he didn't know what a "cookie" was.

But then he's producing this massive movie for two years. I love stories like that. ... His name is Michael Murphey.

NFS: A lot of our readers are working on indie or lower-budget things. Do you have any advice for making creature effects or practical effects look really good on a budget?

Shostrom: I guess the first advice would be a person's inclination is going to be to jump on YouTube and say, "How do I do this or that?" There are so many bad makeup effects tutorials on YouTube.

There's a Facebook group called "Practical Effects Group" which you can join, and that is a bunch of professionals and interested people who post endless photos and information about their work. And you could probably go on there and ask for tips.

NFS: Let's say that you need to create a wound. Do you have advice for materials a low-budget production could use, or tips for application?

Shostrom: Say you have to create some wounds, some cuts on a person or some burns. I think the first thing I would do is avoid YouTube tutorials, because you're going to be barraged with tens of thousands, and you're going to have to spend so much time wading through to find a good one.

I'd say get a good book on makeup, an actual book, get one that has most high recommendations. Like a book by Vincent Kehoe. There's Stage Makeup by Richard Corson. I mean, the internet is a great resource, but you're almost barraged with too many choices. So you get confused: "Where do I really go?"

Because the actual materials and methods are fairly simple. It's just a matter of finding the best information. And you're probably going to get that from a good book or a professional makeup magazine like Makeup Artist Magazine or back issues of Fangoria and Cinefex.

Then [when we] actually talk about the practical methods, you really have to just find what materials you need and practice a little bit. You can go on the internet, you find good Dick Smith blood formulas, things like that. It's just a matter of trying it a few times before the shoot, obviously practicing until you feel comfortable making it look real.

NFS: Is there any other advice you have offered? Maybe to a beginning makeup artist or creature effects person?

Shostrom: Don't give up. Stay at it. Because that's the nature of the film business is it's a tough field to break into. It's a tough field to stay in, even if you've been in for decades, you've just got to stick to it.