Pamela Goldammer Talks Oscars, Fantasy versus Reality and Theory

Pamela Goldammer is a film industry makeup artist currently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Make-Up on the film Border. Goldammer opens up about how fantasy and reality have an impact on her profession.


ATM: I want to be different. I am going to start the sentence, and you continue it. Being a makeup artist should be seen as an art form or should continue to be seen as one because . . .

PG: …because makeup is Art. All the professions that are contributing to ‘creating’ whether it is a movie or music. It is not only using paint as a makeup artist. I believe art is a much wider area.

ATM: What skills are used when dealing with makeup and prosthetics with an actor? 

PG: We feel the uplift and the pressure from the production. We have to create space for actors. It requires some sensitivity to deal with people so closely. We can cope with pressure and stress. Usually all the work we are doing puts us working under pressure and stress. You cannot call this a skill, but it is important.

ATM: The first Oscar for Best Make Up was awarded in 1981 and given to a male. What are your observations on the gender bias or how it is represented or seen in the makeup industry?

PG: I have been working in this industry for about 15 years. It is a male-dominated industry. Some women have been working with prosthetics over a long period. Lois Burwell is one of the women who I look up to. She has done amazing movies and has been around for a long time. There are more men in the SFX Makeup industry than women. I do not know what it is. Maybe it is because there are crazy long hours. At some point when Women wish to have children or start a family, the hours are not very family friendly. Not all women can continue this job because they have children. My husband is my back up. He allows me to continue working. He is with our daughter during the time I am working. It is pretty lucky because not all women have the chance of flexibility.

A lot of men in this industry come from a love for making monsters and were building monsters and make ups in their bedrooms at seven years old. For me, it did not start the same way. I had a love of melting different worlds together. It is where reality meets fantasy. This is what drives me. I am interested in straight make-up and hair as well. Anything that is needed to create characters. It is more of an make up design aspect, but I ended up specializing in prosthetics because I just love to apply. It has always been around working on characters and creating characters. This is my main fascination and motivation. I feel a lot of women who like to design and create often times become a make-up artist or make up designers. Some do prosthetics but not all end up specializing in prosthetic application.

ATM: Do you believe there are some aspects of reality in fantasy work and also fantasy work in the reality you do?

PG: Yes. I am not sure whether the reality we are living in is all there is – I do not believe this is it. I believe there is so much more to the ‘real’ world, that we do not have access to or do not see. We are shielded from it in some way or other. Whatever we call fantasy – who knows how fantastic it is or how much it is based on reality. In Ireland, people believe in fairies. In Sweden, people believe in trolls. In other countries, they have other stories and mythologies. Who says these are invented stories? Why not that people have actually seen things? These might be possibly real. In Shamanism, The Shamans are traveling into other worlds and meeting spirits. They are gaining advice and knowledge from other worlds. This goes as far as people are describing the same places in other worlds.

ATM: Agreed. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard touches on there being more than what is in our existence. Aside from him, I feel no matter how much money you have as a trillionaire, billionaire, millionaire or lower – in what is offered to any human being is not enough. There is a lot more out there. No one knows where it is or how to get access to it. This is why reuse a lot of old information. Who is going to be the next Louis Althusser, Sigmund Freud, Emerson, and more? Their theories are great, but we need theorist of this era if we want to change. We use a lot of the old information that was established from other people who felt the same way, but they tapped in thinking that pushed the human existence. You cannot take the material or the money with you, so putting this out of the equation, then what is left? There should be more for the human race of today. I look at the world in many different angles.

PG: I also wonder how visions, ideas, and thoughts turn up in someone’s mind – where are they coming from? How much of this is fantasy? How much of this is us tapping into something that possibly already exist on another level?

ATM: When someone has an idea or an epiphany to do something. This could be you have an idea to do special effects differently or do the makeup art in a different way than it was done before. Each of us in this world has our group of fantasies and ideas in our mind. So, this makes us each have a world. So, you have a world, and I also have a world. When your idea becomes convincible, or people start to like it, then it becomes the norm. This just came to my mind. I call this the Epiphanora Theory. It is when two different ideas or worlds collide. They were once fantasies in our mind, but it becomes the norm in society. It is considered the norm because the general public comes into what was once a fantasy or an idea. Does this make sense?

PG: Yes. I am sure that people think the same. The ideas are floating around in the ether or collective consciousness or whatever you want to call it. We are connected and conscious beings. Have you heard of the Hundredth Monkey Effect? They show monkeys on one island how to wash potatoes. Once they had a certain number of monkeys washing potatoes, monkeys on another island started washing their potatoes even though they were not shown that and had no contact with each other.

ATM: The thoughts, visions, and dreams are a way of tapping into a fantasy. The mind is the most powerful thing.

PG: The mind is the motor. The emotions are the vehicle. They are ‘driving us to do certain things. It might start in the mind and start with an idea. Then you have feelings that lead to actions. It is not only a thought but a feeling that is provoked. In music, makeup, movies, or in paintings, whenever someone has an idea, and manage to express it in a way that it touches us or leaves us with a certain feeling- It those that stick with you.

For example, Border. It triggers so many emotions. When the movie is over, you are still sitting with these emotions. This is one of the reasons it was powerful. For me, whatever inspires me. It needs to create some emotion, reaction inside that gets me thinking, inspired, and motivated. This is the same thing with any art. Alexander McQueen is a great example of this. This was what he wanted to provoke with his art, his fashion creations. This is very inspiring to me. It was all about creating emotions in people.

ATM: Yes, it is inspiring because it is new. It is something that is different from the norm. The way you design an actor’s face strikes an emotion with the audience. The actor is the blank sheet of the paper, and you are just a Picasso, Van Gogh, or Frida Kahlo. You are just an artist, and you are drawing on this sheet of paper. The audience is just looking at the sheet of paper in action or talking through lines. We have emotions based on how you make up a face. This emotion dictates how this character is going to perform.

PG: Like you said, the actor is like a blank canvas, to a degree at least.  The make-up is of course the based on the face of the actor or actress. We are creating and applying prosthetics. The actor really brings it to life. For some it is challenging to work with it. Most of the actors we are working with find it quite exciting. It makes them look like someone else. A lot of actors like exploring an entire new character. This affects the make-up. It is sort of bouncing off each other. It is a development. The person in the make-up and behind the make-up is very much a part of it. It is a human behind it. It is not a doll sitting there. It is not a statue or a painting. It is art on a human being.

If make-up is believable, no matter how realistic then this is what’s fascinating even if it is not a full face prosthetic make up. It works. No matter how little, or big a makeup is fascinated it is. If it is done in a way that is realistic and believable to us, convincing, then it becomes so fascinating real.

ATM: It starts from an idea and then a fantasy. It becomes a reality because it is believable.

PG: Yes. For example, in Mad Max, Charlize Theron has the upper half of her face painted in a dark colour, it is almost like war paint. In one scene, it looks like she is putting the paint on herself. It is such a simple makeup. It is highly effective because it is so well did and placed. It is in harmony and so harmonious. It is also believable that she did it herself. It does not matter how little or big. Whether it is a little touch, or a full-face fantasy make up, if we believe it, then the message came across. This is art.  

ATM: There is a deepness to art in makeup designing when it comes to film. We are looking at the creation that derived from your mind. This is what we see. This is what the character embodies which is your creation and your vision.   

PG: Yes. That is essentially the work of a make-up designer with many people and steps involved along the way until it comes to the final result.

ATM: Do you believe when you walk into the Oscar room, breathe the air, and sit on the couches – is this a reality or fantasy? Or is it both?

PG: This is a really good question. It will be both. It feels like a fantasy because it came as such a surprise. We were doing this film in Sweden.  It was not even certain it was material to be watched internationally. We did not expect this.  We filmed in the forest somewhere. We were climbing through the forest and up and down the slopes. It was cold and windy. We did not think it would come so far. It feels very surreal, but it is very real in a sense. It just shows how everything is possible. This is magic but also at the same time this is full reality. Right? Everything is possible and can happen within a blink of the eye.  

ATM: This is where the mind is also powerful. You have to 100% want or believe it. A human being can truly get what they want. You have to 100% and solely believe. You just said anything is possible.

PG: I believe this is true to a certain degree. We are fortunate to live in countries where we are free. We do not have to fear or experience real threats or danger. We can work, create, and move in the direction of dreams. Not all people on this planet have freedoms or possibilities. Sometimes not even the freedom to dream. They cannot afford to dream because maybe it is about survival or about being safe. We are lucky we can make our way to find these opportunities.

I started very young at 14. I wanted to be a make-up artist. In Germany, people would say to me “to forget it. You will never become a make-up artist.” I did my hair dressing training to do make up. People told me to “stay in hair dressing. Stay here at home because you are never going to make it anyway.” I stopped talking about it and pursued it. I really worked on it step by step. One thing led me into another thing. I did not really dream of where I am now. It was not something I thought I would have the possibility to do. I did not think I would have an opportunity to get or be here. This is why it is so surreal and very wonderful and magically that something so big can become reality. I have been following my heart. I love so much applying make-up and the love of fantasy and reality is what’s behind it – when they blend into each other.  

I am a dreamer. I love dreaming. As a child, I was always imagining and dreaming. I was fascinated with other worlds like ghosts, aliens, unicorns, fairies, demons, and generally or fantasy worlds. I believed in these things, more some than others, and that there was so much more to the world. For me, this was all about not expecting reality as reality. Dreaming of these other worlds and this is really what is behind this. I pursued this – the wish to one day creates other beings, other worlds, fascinating worlds, or working on movies. This fascinates of these contrasts was what drove me. I did become a makeup artist.

I am fascinated with some Shamanistic views and the underworld. You can have some very fascinating visions with meditations. It is almost like dreams; you are fully aware of your dreams. I would still be creative if not a makeup artist. I would express it differently. I studied kinesiology and alternative methods. This also has to do with the worlds blending. This would be the same root.

It would not be as great. I did this for a while. I stopped working at 27. I moved to Australia. I did kinesiology, yoga, meditation. I had two Shamanistic teachers. I did three alternative healing methods. It was a very creative and beautiful vision. It was a lot of contact with all believed from other worlds. It would be the same root, but I did miss the creativity of it. I would be an artist in another way; it would be a healing artist.

In my far future, it is still going to be something in exploring these worlds even deeper in alternative healing and spiritual ways. I will explore it not just in a creative way but in a creative sense. Art and spirituality are very much connected. We were about religion, mythology, so spirituality has so much to do with being connected with one’s self. We are also talking about the collective consciousness. This is also spirituality, vision, dreams, and images. Creativity is so spiritual.

ATM: Your dream came true as a young girl because you wanted it 100%. You did not care what the naysayers said. When a person truly wants something, they go into a deep mental state of just them and their craft. This is them being deep inside their fantasy. So, everyone around them like the naysayers is invisible of course they do not know this but only the artist. We live in a crab in the basket society. I mean look at you now and look at the people who said you were not going to make it. Woman to woman you did it. Cherish this moment. Right now, it is considered the future. It will soon become the past. Now, when it is the present celebrate to the highest degree because it will only become the present once.

We were put on this world to become innovators. Everything started with just an imagination and a fantasy. This could be a film or television show.  All the films at the Oscars started as just a thought in someone’s mind. This could have been while they were walking down the street or to the store. Everyone including yourself who will attend, their craft and the reason they are there, it all started as a fantasy in their mind. This is what will continue to unravel the lengths of that we can go in this human existence and this world. You wanted it. No one was going to tell you no. Let’s take a second to think about this. If you stopped and listened to them, then you would be at home watching someone else being nominated for your fantasy or dream or idea.

PG: I would be probably a chef. I love cooking. I love making vegan and raw food. This for me is also super creative. Vegan and raw food are out of the norm, creating new stuff and altering the nonvegan recipes my mother used to cook. This is in a more creative, healthy, colorful, and fun way.

We were at the Oscar luncheon a short time ago. They were playing a speech from someone who won the Oscars. It was short and moving. He said something along the lines that “He is so proud and grateful to be an artist. Because without art this life would be unlivable.”

We are creating movies and give so much to people. It motivates, inspires, and makes people think. It makes people less lonely and more hopeful. This is what we human beings are so good at creating whether it is pictures, music, or cooking. We are just creative. This is what makes this place very human and special. It makes the world a better place. More people could be creative and working and making this world a better place. Everyone would be creative. This world would be beautiful. Like the guy said without art this would be unlivable. To take it further it would not only be livable, acceptable, or durable it would be unimaginable amazing and fantastic.

ATM: Yes. Art is in anything. It becomes art when you are using your mind or imagination to the fullest. Art is in healing, motivational speaking, movies, and being a makeup artist. It is not just subjected to painting on the canvas. This is the stereotype for art in our society. It is in everything, and it can be anything, but to become it – it must be used to its fullest effect. To bridge the gap in helping things or pushing the boundaries and making new things.

PG: Yes. This was the most interesting interview I have had so far. It is great to explore and go deeper. Great questions! Really!