Editor’s Note: This story was featured in the fall 2019 edition of Legend magazine. View it here.
San Diego City College is home to a unique curriculum called City FX, which is a special effects makeup program created to offer students an affordable way to study and learn how to create prosthetics.
City FX was created by professor Andrea Singer back in 2016. She was sent to Hollywood by the acting dean to learn about special effects and create an exclusive opportunity for City College.
“We are the only community college in the United States that offers a certification in special effects,” Singer said.
The program has been involved with several events to showcase all of the creative work from the students, such as Fantasy Fusion and The Roaring Twenties.
On Nov. 2 The City College Special Effects Program collaborated with Vanguard Culture in BREAKTHROUGH: The Future, where City FX provided costumes and makeup for an outdoor fashion show at Idea1 in downtown San Diego.
San Diego City College special effects artists and models took over five hours to prepare for BREAKTHROUGH: The Future. Photo By Sonny Garibay
For the students the day started in the special effects lab, where they prepared designs and costumes. The lab fell into a chaotic symphony as each artist dove into their own creative process.
Levar Johnson found his inspiration for the future from nature. Fantasy and nature go hand in hand.
This is what Johnson took advantage of when thinking of an animal that called out to him. Something that represents what nature is and then evolving it to a future standard.
This lead to his ambitious elk design. Part of the inspiration came from the fae, a classic fantasy species in the genre.
This idea gave way to combine nature with technology through the design of the wings and a very minimalist fashion style.
Levar Johnson prepares his elk-inspired design ahead of BREAKTHROUGH: The Future. Photo by Sonny Garibay
“(I was) trying to tie in how, like since the fae left our world (to) leave it to us to take care of, how they could come back and actually not lose their power or get weakened by the technology in our world. That lead me to cybernetics with them blending interspecies with animals in order to be able to acclimate with the human world,” Johnson said.
Johnson is no stranger to fashion shows. He started with a background in fashion before coming to City FX and wanted to add special effects skills to his talents.
Fellow artist, Isabel Madera, looked to the past to see into the future.
She thought of the classic look of the future with a technological society like in the science fiction film “Tron.”
However, she wanted to create a distinct spin on it. So she looked back to the days of the Egyptian goddesses.
“I heard future was the theme and I immediately thought of Tron, just because that’s what everyone kind of imagines: the flying cars, the lights,” Madera said. ”I wanted something elegant and futuristic at the same time. So, I pictured the Egyptian goddesses, how they were kind of a little bit seductive and really empowered in the culture.”
Isabel Madera was inspired by both the classic science fiction movie “Tron” and Egyptian mythology when designing her costume, which was modeled by Claire Stewart. Photo by Sonny Garibay
She knew the style of her costume had to represent both worlds, so she created lights on the front and back of the torso so it would have a futuristic aesthetic while using the mask and hairstyle to be more Egyptian.
Madera has been with the program early on and has even modeled her design for previous fashion runways. However, she prefers to work on other people. So, this time around she enlisted the help of Claire Stewart to serve as her model.
City FX Student Gordon Ghostway took the event as an opportunity to create something that would provoke the viewer into being awestruck, yet feel pity for his character, which was based on a scenario in which a scientist experiments on humans and animals to create a new species.
Gordon Ghostway’s creation envisioned a human-manatee hybrid. Photo by Sonny Garibay
Ghostway said he is a performer at heart when it comes to getting into a character. Throughout the event he wanted to embody his creation, which took inspiration from curious apes that act like children, and manatees.
He wanted his creature to be human, yet animalistic.
“I wanted to do something that was highly interactive, because I’m really more of a performer, so that’s why I wore it. I had a buddy of mine who was a performer come, and I really wanted it to be interactive, tell a story,” Ghostway said.
Students from City FX found this to be an exciting event that helped them truly understand time management, deepening bonds and giving them an outlet for their creativity.
City FX artists and models gather at Idea1 in downtown San Diego for BREAKTHROUGH: The Future. Photo by Sonny Garibay.
Sonny is on Twitter @sonnywithanoh