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  • Vermilion Novak

Reflecting on my time at Douglas Education Center

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

I started my journey at Douglas Education Center in October 2018. Having just graduated high school, it was my first step towards living on my own, and it was nearly 500 miles away. I was nothing but excited, ready to meet people and spend time learning new things.


When people think about special effects they think about fake cuts and black eyes. But that's just the beginning. I was most excited to learn in the sculpting classes.


When I was around 8 years old I used to make little animals from the red wax wrappers on babybel cheese. As I got older I got into cake decorating and made cakes for people in my Dad's office, I sculpting little fondant cake toppers for each cake. But that was about the extent of my sculpting experience.


So fast forward to my first ever sculpting class with teacher, Jordan Patton. It happened to be his first semester teaching at the school as well so my class had the unique experience of growing with him at the school together. The first assignment was to sculpt a small scale head and I surprised myself and was quite proud of how it turned out.




My first semester was magical, it was filled with new knowledge, and new friends.





One of the first big projects that takes place in first semester is an assignment we call the food project. Food can be incorporated into special effects for a couple reasons, budgetary restrictions, or simply that theres no other way to acheive the desired look.



I decided to recreate one of my old drawings and found that using coffee grounds in latex perfectly encapsulated the grungy, almost blurry vision of it’s face. I found that my model’s face wasn’t quite long enough to get the hollowed out look I was going for, so I made a new brow bone out of scar wax, elongating the face and nose.


I used a similar technique on an old baby doll to create her child, Richard.




In our second semester we started mold making. My growth in this class was tremendous. Comparing the first mold I made with my more recent molds, truly shows how fast you can grow in such a fast paced environment.


This semester you also begin exploring with hair work which I was excited for because I've been interested in creating lace front wigs for years, before I even knew of the school.

This first beard I got to lay, a wonderful neck beard, is pictured below on the lovely model Haley Vaughn.



Third semester, which I was looking forward to most, was definitely a wild ride. The page to screen class, in particular, was a struggle I faced head on. The concept for the class is admirable, but in practice, hard to put together successfully. It's very dependent on everyone working together, which is particularly hard for classes like mine, with around 80 students.


I worked very hard with my classmates in the costume department and we proudly made over 20 full characters.



During this time I was also heavily involved in a student film, as wardrobe designer and key makeup.



The fourth semester was quite a blur. If I'm honest it felt like three semesters in and of itself. I started the semester off with the awesome opportunity to work as a makeup artist and actor at 100 Acres Manor which took up a lot of time. Thankfully I was able to stay on top of my work in prop fabrication and other classes.


During this semester I further involved myself in the film program when Jerry Gergely assigned me as Special Effects Foreman for the final film of the semester which you can read more about here.



I finished up my time at Douglas with a very packed two weeks. From finishing my animatronic, to helping my boyfriend Ben Mero, finish his film Lemonade, I definitely had a lot on my plate. The curriculum is condensed as it is, so finishing all my school assignments on top of my extra curricular projects took a lot, thankfully I finished everything with not a moment to spare.

If I were to give advice to current, future, or perspective students of douglas I would say,


If you are a hardworking individual who is willing to spend not just your time at school working but also your time at home on your projects then douglas may be right for you.


You must respect the people around you, learn something from everyone.


If you are worried about time management look into enrolling as a part time student. Some of my friends decided to do their fourth semester part time and it really helped them spend time perfecting their projects before graduation.


Above all else, look very hard into housing. There are options other than the housing the school recommends, and I strongly encourage you to make sure you get a fair deal for the place you are going to spend nearly 2 years.




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