Robert "RJ" Haddy is a special effects artist and teacher at Capital High School who was on the TV show "Face Off" and made it to the final three. "Face Off" is a reality competition for prosthetic makeup artists on the Syfy channel.
Haddy started in theater as a puppeteer, making his own puppets while he was in elementary school. He has studied filmmaking at Santa Monica College and special effects and make-up artistry at the Joe Blasco Make-Up Artist Training Center Hollywood.
He also worked at Alterian Studios in Los Angeles as a shop assistant, doing whatever needed to be done. Alterian is owned by special effects artist Tony Gardner and is a shop that makes masks, monsters, miniatures and animatronics.
"I was lucky enough to work for someone I had looked up to," Haddy said.
Haddy earned his spot on "Face Off" by winning a challenge at Comic Con in San Diego. He was one of 14 contestants on the show, and he said he keeps in touch with the others now that the show is over.
He participated in 10 challenges. His favorite was where he had to create a character that would fit in a Tim Burton movie. His bellhop creation was named one of the top three in the challenge.
"I have always loved Tim Burton's work. [The challenge] was like second nature to me," said Haddy, who added that his least favorite challenge was the one where they had to do a full body paint job.
Haddy's favorite artist is Ve Neill, who was one of the judges on the show. She has worked as a makeup artist on movies such as the first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and "The Hunger Games." She also brought characters to life in a lot of Tim Burton's films, including "Beetlejuice" and "Ed Wood," which she won Academy Awards for.
"Her work is flawless," Haddy said. "Plus she is just really professional."
Besides her, the judges on "Face Off" were television and film makeup artist Glenn Hetrick and creature designer and director Patrick Tatopoulos. "Facing the judges every week was a emotional rollercoaster," Haddy said. "Glenn was a bit intimidating."
The show had already been taped, so Haddy had to keep it a secret about how far he'd gotten. He said it mostly wasn't too hard.
"It was harder to keep it secret the last few episodes," he said. "If I had told, it would have ruined the experience."
The show's last challenge was to create three characters who would dance in a performance; the makeup had to withstand the rigors of the choreography. Though Haddy had a bit of trouble figuring out what he wanted to do, he was prepared because he has worked with the Capital High School Dance Company for several years.
For that challenge, Haddy chose fantasy makeup. He said he would rather do fantasy or sci-fi makeup than horror. He enjoys having the ability to make someone completely unrecognizable.
"Gore makeup has never appealed to me because it doesn't take much skill to dump blood all over something," he said. "I like to creating characters and monsters."
To learn different makeup techniques, he said you need to take art and anatomy classes. In art classes, you learn basics like painting, color theory and sculpture, and in anatomy classes, you learn about facial structure and bones (key to learning proportions and placements) as well as movement and muscular structure.
Haddy, who has nine years teaching experience, said the "Face Off" set wasn't really that different from his classroom. Both are fast-paced, high-stress environments, and with both, you have to get up early and work all day. He said he likes bringing an art form into the classroom that not a lot of people give credit to. Talking to him, you really get the sense that he loves what he does and that he is happy he gets to pass his knowledge on.