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Natomah Robbins embarks on not-so-horrifying career in special make-up effects

The foundation to Natomah Robbins’ love of art started to take shape in the fourth grade when she began drawing and painting. Since then, that love hasn’t waned and now she’s determined to make a career of it.

Robbins, 21, graduated in January from the Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, Pennsylvania.

Natomah Robbins paints the full face prosthetic, which she sculpted and molded, in a make-up room at school. (Courtesy Photo)

Savini, aka the “Godfather of Gore,” created the special make-up effects for some iconic horror films including “Dawn of the Dead,” “Day of the Dead,” “Creepshow,” “Friday the 13th” and more. The school cements his role as a mentor as well as an artist, director, actor and stunt man.

“In middle school I took a class called stage make-up,” said Robbins, who attended middle and high school at American Heritage in Plantation. “Ever since then I’ve had an eye for make-up.

Natomah Robbins applies special effects to a character in the student film “Bad Hare” at Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program. (Courtesy Photo)

My teacher saw that I could take off in it and told me about basic special effects. I started with face painting, worked on school plays and became the make-up chief for those plays.”

Robbins found the Savini program online and knew it could be for her.

“My time at school was the most fun experience I’ve had with school overall,” Robbins said. “It was also the most challenging. In the beginning I felt a bit overwhelmed by how much information we had to take in and learn.

Natomah Robbins works on a character in the student film “Bad Hare” at Tom Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program at the Douglas Education Center in Pennsylvania. (Courtesy Photo)

I didn’t realize how many different branches there are to the special effects community and how a lot of people in the business specialize in what they are most passionate about or skilled at.”

At school Robbins learned to sculpt, make molds, eyes and prosthetics, do hair application and hair punching, prop making and fiberglass mold making.

Professional artists from the special effects world came to the school as guest speakers and demonstrated their methods of creating effects. She also worked in the film program on a student film called “Bad Hare” on which she painted and applied prosthetics and hair on the set.

Thanos fiberglass bust sculpted, molded and painted by Natomah Robbins, who also made the eyes and hand painted them. The armor is made from L200 foam. (Courtesy Photo)

“They let you learn everything and then decide what you want to do,” Robbins said. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone to get out of Florida and experience something new. You definitely find what fits you by learning all these things.”

Coming from Florida to western Pennsylvania was a big adjustment for Robbins, especially during winter. But living so far from home helped her to strive for her goal.

Monessen is about an hour south of Pittsburgh and Robbins enjoyed getting to know the City of Bridges. Pittsburgh has 446 bridges that span the Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela rivers.

Natomah Robbins makes a fiberglass mold of Thanos, which she made into a bust.

Robbins recently moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in special effects and is hoping to find her place in the industry. Dozens of films and TV shows are made in the city and surrounding areas, which has led to a boom in all kinds of jobs, including special make-up effects.

“Atlanta is a hopping spot to move to for the industry,” she said. “The school is there to help us find work wherever we move. It’s scary, but it’s exciting.”

Natomah Robbins is surrounded by family members at her graduation from the Douglas Education Center in Pennsylvania on Jan. 30. From left are her brother Adakai, mother Sherrie Robbins, brother Tucomah and sister Redfeather. (Courtesy Photo)

Robbins has friends in Atlanta and is hoping to find a job in a workshop since she likes working as part of a team, as she did on the student film.

“It’s a competitive business, which is why I would like to start in a workshop,” she said. “I feel like you learn a lot. You get different projects all the time in a workshop. That’s where I can shine, working on a team.”

Robbins is also glad to be closer to home and in “Publix territory” again. She would like to work on a movie someday and eventually move to jobs on set, but for the time being she is not the least bit afraid to start her career.

A mushroom bust sculpted, molded and painted by Natomah Robbins. (Courtesy Photo)
She sculpted, molded, applied and painted this full face prosthetic. (Courtesy Photo)
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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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