Makeup effects artist Toby Lindala was nominated for an Emmy award for The X-Files

Wednesday 1 October 1997

by ALEX STRACHAN, Sun Television Writer
Vancouver Sun

IRRESISTIBLE: An effect designed by Lindala for The X-Files. Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

MASKING REALITY: Makeup for The Curator . . . Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

. . . and Edmund Peacock. Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

FACE OF THE FUTURE: Toby Lindala works on a bust for a movie now being shot in Vancouver. Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun
In Toby Lindala's world, special effects are "gags," latex, silicone and "polymeric organic compounds" are tricks of the trade and illusions are a multimillion-dollar calling.

Lindala is a makeup effects artist, one of a new breed of B.C. film technicians who -- thanks to otherworldly television series like Millennium and Sleepwalkers -- are stretching the boundaries of what can be done on film.

He was nominated for an Emmy award this year for The X-Files episode Leonard Betts, about a man who regenerates himself through cancer cells.

Lindala's early mentor and former teacher at Vancouver's Blanche Macdonald Centre for Applied Design, Todd McIntosh, was also nominated for an Emmy in the same category for Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

They lost to the makeup-effects crew from Tracey Takes On , but Lindala's loss was tempered by his Vancouver X-Files colleagues' Emmy win for art direction.

For Lindala, 27, the Emmy nomination was just the latest in a long series of small steps that began in the basement of his Sudbury, Ont. home, where he used to stash old Fangoria magazines and study the latest breakthroughs in special effects.

By the time he was 15, he was immersed in Grand Illusions, Tom Savini's book about makeup special effects, and sneaking into B pictures like Phantasm and The Evil Dead to see how the pros did it. An early favorite was John Carpenter's 1982 horror classic, The Thing , filmed near Stewart, B.C. Lindala counts it among his strongest influences.

At 17, Lindala briefly considered a career in criminal psychology. But faced with the prospect of six years of academic study before being able to apply any of his learning, he decided to take an introductory course in makeup effects and try to gain a toehold into Vancouver's then-infant film and television production industry.

"I was really nervous about it," Lindala said. "I was the only male in the class, out of a class of 13 or 14 people. All these girls had been dipping into their mothers' makeup kits since they were nine, playing around, and I had never touched the stuff."

Lindala worked his way up through TV commercials and music videos to short-lived TV series like the teen-oriented melodrama The Heights -- "dabbing sweat and covering pimples all day on these kids" -- and the B picture Xtro II: The Second Encounter.

In 1992, Lindala was hired to simulate blood running unexpectedly from a girl's nose in the middle of a two-minute monologue for an obscure TV pilot called The X-Files.

"We did this prosthetic that went down this girl's forehead, down one side of her nose," Lindala recalled. "It was a little wacky, but it worked fine. Thank God."

Lindala was called back for more work that first year: Getting worms to burst out of three actors and a dog in the episode Ice -- "a neat little gag" -- and an otherworldly extraterrestrial pickled in a jar for the season-ending cliffhanger, The Erlenmeyer Flask.

Lindala worked by himself, handling effects and creating prosthetic moulds, and operating out of the basement of his Vancouver home. The next year, his workload doubled and he hired three assistants.

"It was hairy," he said. The following year, his workload doubled again and he hired seven assistants.

Today, less than two months into filming for The X-Files' fifth season, Lindala has 14 employees and has just relocated his makeshift workshop from East Vancouver to a new facility in Burnaby.

His company, Lindala Makeup Effects Inc., is committed to three series -- The X-Files, Millennium and the new Sleepwalkers -- "a great makeup show" -- which will air on NBC (BCTV in the Lower Mainland) Saturdays at 9 p.m., beginning Nov. 2.

Lindala has no plans to move his company to Los Angeles, even in the unlikely event that The X-Files and Millennium were to shut down and leave Vancouver.

"It was always my early plan to go to L.A. eventually, because that seemed to be the only way to do it. But there's more and more happening up here now, and we're getting more and more of a toehold.

"Down there, I'd be a small fish in a huge pond. Here, I have a nice edge. And I have a great crew working for me."

Lindala describes The X-Files as a stepping stone, "a showpiece for us, in part because the show has gotten so big.

"We don't want anything out there that isn't a really good representation of what we can do, because the show has grown so much that our work is being seen again and again, in trading cards and calendars and practically anything else you can name."

Lindala allows that The X-Files was his big break, but admits a deep, abiding affection for Millennium because most of the makeup effects -- charred bodies, dismemberments, the residue of crime scenes -- demand genuine craftsmanship and attention to detail if they are to look real.

"I've always loved makeup effects, but what I like more is the actual entertainment and alternative reality of movies and television," Lindala said.

"Visual effects are a tool for storytelling. By themselves, they aren't what makes something good. Hollywood's big flaw these days is that film-makers rely too much on effects to tell their stories, and somehow the story gets left behind.

"It's that attention to storytelling that I love about X-Files. and Millennium. I love the way our stuff is being used. I love what they did with it last season. They've always maintained a certain level of class, in whatever they show. Their topics are heavy, hard-hitting, real stuff, and we've always gone for the real look.

"A lot of times you can't even see our work because it's seen in silhouette, or it's in the dark. But it's real and it's there. They're not trying to fake it, to shoot around it, or get lazy because they're not going to use it anyway," Lindala says.

"If it is seen, it has to be fully believable. But it's not featured. It doesn't take up the whole screen. It's not about gore -- it's about telling a story."

Courtesy of The Vancouver Sun