Women in Horror Month 2019: Interview with Cassandra Baker

One of the most talented makeup and FX artists in the indie horror business is hands down Cassandra Baker. I was first introduced to her by P.J. Starks and have adored her ever since.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Cassandra about her amazing career, how she got involved in the indie horror community, Women in Horror month, upcoming projects, and more. So check it out down below. #WiHMX

Cassandra Baker

PopHorror – Cassandra, you’re a super talented Makeup and FX artist. How long have you known this is something you wanted to do?

Cassandra Baker – Thank you Tori, you are so kind! It really didn’t occur to me that I wanted to do this until my early 20’s. Daniel Benedict of Red Serial Films contacted me to work on a horror themed commercial, due to my background working for a Halloween monster shop. It was a zombie themed car commercial that would air locally. After doing a 4 hour zombie makeup, I knew I wanted to keep going. I wanted to improve my makeup skills and try to learn as much as I could.

PopHorror – That’s awesome. I’m curious, is this something you went to school for or a practice makes perfect type of thing?

Cassandra Baker – I have learned most of the things I know about makeup through trial and error on my own. I do a lot of research for new products and processes I haven’t tried. My goal is to try to take each project to the next level when budget allows. I watch a lot of tutorials and have subscribed to so many YouTube channels. From there, practice really is the key. If I don’t practice it is easy to forget processes, which is why it is a great idea to make detailed notes as you go along. I still haven’t achieved this goal. Haha! I usually tweak processes to fit my makeup needs for a specific project, so I really should write that information down. When you don’t, it’s sort of like you’re starting from scratch if you need to use the process again. I promise I will learn my lesson one day. I have so many notebooks and notes in each of them but I need be more consistent and organized.

It’s October first and I’m going help you count down to Halloween with a few creepy videos from current and upcoming effects projects! Check out my video from a job I finished over the weekend. Make sure you check in again next week, I may have more treats posted for your peepers… ???????

Posted by Cassandra Baker – Special Effects Artist on Monday, October 1, 2018

PopHorror – You can definitely tell your craft has grown with experience! How did you get involved in the indie horror community?

Cassandra Baker – My first indie film was a short film called Fall of Grayskull. It was a Heman fan film created by Red Serial Films out of Owensboro, KY. After working with them in a few commercial projects, they decided to give me a chance to try something a little bigger. This project was the first experience I ever had with practical effects. There was an effect that we referred to as, “melting face.” It was my Everest at the time and I had no fucking idea how I was going to do it. Essentially the director wanted the character, Evil Lynn to have her face melted off Raiders of the Lost Arc style. I watched the behind the scenes footage of Raiders and then I googled the backyard version of that type of effect to see how others had tried to pull it off. Due to our limited budget it was necessary to get the prospective from anyone else who had tried this effect in a indie film setting. I saw everything from melting play-dough to gelatin. Following the guides created in the behind the scenes of Raiders, I created a layered gelatin face of the actress and put it over a plastic skull. She had fake hair and eyelashes and I even put makeup on her to match the actress.

I think this is still my favorite practical effect I have ever done. We filmed on a green screen and held heat guns to the fragile gelatin head. Each layer melted away slowly until the skull was exposed. The director then took that footage and sped it up so that it looked like it was happening very quickly. It turned out so much better than anyone had anticipated. I remember sitting in the theater for the film premiere and when Evil Lynn melted away into oblivion, the audience cheered! They actually applauded! I’m sure part of that had to do with the fact that she was a villain and we had just violently killed her off, but I remember crying at that reaction. I was thinking to myself, “We did it, I don’t know how but we did it.” Shortly after that, PJ Starks from Blood Moon Pictures saw this film and invited me to be the Special Effects Supervisor for Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories. This was my second ever film project and my first ever feature length film.

PopHorror – Man, I would really love to see your work in Fall of Grayskull. We just touched on this briefly, but what has been your favorite project to work on thus far?

Cassandra Baker – That is such a hard one because you walk away from every project with a sense of belonging a camaraderie. You spend so much time with a group and you are all working toward the same goal, in hopes of coming out of the project with an amazing product. You have to rely on each other and trust each other to do your absolute best in the part you were hired to do. You always make lifelong friends and connections in these projects, so I will always hold a special place in my heart for each one.

We’re going to have to break this down a little, my favorite location was Angel, hands down. Tory Jones had a beautifully terrifying set for this film in an old abandoned distillery somewhere near Frankfort, KY. The drone footage from that film is as incredible as it was to see it in person. It legitimately looks like an abandoned town. My favorite crew has been Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, those guys know how to have a good time but they were also so professional during the moments we needed to be. And my favorite effects still go to Fall of Grayskull. There may be other effects that I have done that were more aesthetically pleasing, but without this project I don’t think I would have been a part of any of the other projects. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and confidence to pursue special effects further.

Cassandra Baker and the Volume of Blood family
Cassandra Baker and the Volume of Blood family

PopHorror – What a great answer. Are there any certain projects that have been more challenging than others? Or certain things you dread doing versus love doing?

Cassandra Baker – Volumes of Blood: Devils Knight will likely be the cause of death on my autopsy report in about a year. It is currently very heavy in practical effects. I’m not a huge fan of constructing practical effects, I need more knowledge about the mechanics of things to feel more comfortable with the outcome. More often than not I feel like I am making a strange, rigged up paper mache  project with blood tubes attached. I really prefer makeup and prosthetic work. Blood work is also kind of fun. If I had it my way, I would focus all of my time and energy toward that portion of special effects.

PopHorror – I’m sure you will kick ass with Volumes of Blood: Devil’s Knight! Have you ever considered acting or directing as well?

Cassandra Baker – I have considered acting, I had a small role in Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories as a deputy and I also had some theater experience from high school. Embarrassingly enough (because I’m not as talented as the other people who auditioned) I auditioned for Volumes of Blood: Devils Knight. I was reading the scripts during their weekend of auditions and found a character who felt relatable in my mind. I sat in my bedroom with my iPad trying to make the perfect video to send them of this character. 27 takes later… I sent a video audition to the producers. I’m not sure what their thoughts were initially but they said they liked it and they didn’t laugh in my face the next time they saw me in person.

Thankfully I didn’t get the role. As much as I like the idea of acting and taking a swing at something new, I know I am not nearly as comfortable in front of a camera as the other actors. My efforts did get rewarded though, PJ Starks and Eric Huskisson cast me in a small, bloody roll for a teaser trailer to kick off the next Volumes of Blood film. I think it’s still floating around in cyber space somewhere.

PopHorror – That’s awesome. What does being a woman in horror mean to you?

Cassandra Baker – It means creating an uplifting atmosphere for others in the artistic world, encouraging each other to chase dreams. Sharing the work created by your peers and showing them that you support them just as much as they support you. I have learned that this is one of the most competitive fields to be a part of if you want to do this professionally. I am not someone who wants to see any person stifled in their dreams, I want to see everyone succeed in all that they set out to accomplish, men and women alike.

PopHorror – Love that answer. I’m completely the same way. How does it feel to be a rather popular name in the indie horror community. Everyone wants you help create the magic for their films?

Cassandra Baker – That is such a HUGE compliment! Thank you so very much! It is thrilling, I get so excited when someone tells me that they have seen my work and they want my help with one of their projects. It is truly the best kind of compliment, especially coming from a fellow artist.

PopHorror – I’m glad you feel appreciated. You deserve the best. Do you have any current or upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?

Cassandra Baker and John Dugan on the set of Harp Brothers
Cassandra Baker and John Dugan on the set of Harp Brothers

Cassandra Baker – I will be working on a project in March with some of the fine folks I’ve met through a few of my other projects. The project is called Harp Brothers and from what I have read in the script it has an old time, western feel to it. I’m pretty excited to bring some gore to their project. I’ve learned that I will be on set with John Dugan from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it’s been pretty difficult to contain my excitement.

I am also working to help finalize the budget for Volumes of Blood: Devils Knight as well as securing the budget so we can get that project rolling. I’m so stoked because we have put together an FX team for this one. There is going to be so much more gore if PJ Starks has anything to say about it. Haha! So we had to call in some reinforcements. They are a very talented bunch and I am so lucky to get an opportunity to work with them. I am hoping that we all get to walk away from this project having learned something along the way.

About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

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