Bulgarian presence in Oscar – nominated American movie The Way Back

Author: Rumyana Tzvetkova

“The feeling is glamorous and it is a real pleasure for every young person to work his or her dream job”, This is how Bulgarian female makeup artist Yana Stoyanova describes her experience as being part of the crew of the American movie The Way Back, who was among the three Oscar makeup nominees this year. Yana is a makeup artist who has been doing special effects at the Nu Boyana Film Studios on the outskirts of Sofia for ten years now. She mostly works for American productions that are filmed in Bulgaria. Some scenes from The Way Back have been shot in Bulgaria, as well as in Morocco and India. The film is based on a true story and tells about the dramatic breakaway to freedom of six convicts who escape from a Siberian gulag camp during the World War II. The challenge before the team of makeup artists was to represent freeze and burn injuries, exhaustion, etc. It takes more than 2 hours to put makeup on every actor so that he or she can be ready for the set.

The starlight trio: Gregg Funk, Yana Stoyanova and Edward Enriques

“The shots continued for 64 days”, Yana says. “The escape in the movie spans over a year. We had to change the actors to such an extent that they looked as if they had been on the road for a whole year. At first they move through Siberia suffering freeze injuries. Therefore, we made them look like people who are undernourished, run all the time and sleep in snow holes. We also had to elongate their beards to show that some time has passed since they escaped the camp. Walking through the desert they are exposed to constant sunburns.
We had to take care of the actors’ skin to prevent any actual damage. In the last stage of their escape the characters are already extremely exhausted and withered. To make them look completely run-down we used special silicon prosthetics creating an optical illusion that their eyes were sunken. My task was quite hard because I was in charge of Romanian actor Dragos Bucur’s makeup, who suffered diabetes and could not be put on a diet to lose weigh for the role. I had to put such makeup on him to make it look as if he had traveled the whole year”, Yana Stoyanova says for Radio Bulgaria.

Originally, Yana had to do the makeup of the Bulgarian actors alone, as well as organize the work of her colleagues who were in charge of the mass scenes. However, prominent makeup artist Edouard Henriques, a three-time Oscar makeup nominee, was so impressed by her work that he convinced the movie’s producer to take Yana to Morocco and India where she would do the makeup of two of the main actors. Along with the famous makeup artist, a whole constellation of celebrities has taken part in the epic drama’s creation. Is it difficult to work with so many established names?

“The “starry” team I was so lucky to work with is “starry” not only in professional terms, but also in human terms”, Yana says. “I felt part of this team, we were all one big family. Yet, I was worried every day that I had to do as good a job as the others since they trusted and believed in me. Judging by their attitude towards me I believed I did well and managed to be up to scratch.”

During the shots in Morocco and India Yana and the crew faced a series of challenges. For instance, they happened to be in the epicenter of a desert storm. They also had to keep out of poisonous spiders and snakes. A special snake man was hired to protect the camp from snakes. Although Yana could not get all the necessary vaccines she went to India on her own responsibility. Is it difficult for a Bulgarian to break through the big world of film industry?

“It is difficult when you do have a wish but you do not take any steps to accomplish it. Being a cheaper destination Bulgaria has the chance to receive the stars themselves. In other words, a Bulgarian who is motivated and wants to work in the film industry has a good chance to succeed. I have learnt a lot of things in my profession by being an assistant to people in the film industry who have come to Bulgaria to make a movie. I have received a great deal of help from them. Therefore, my message to the young people is: “Do not only want! Give and you will receive!”, Yana Stoyanova says in conclusion.

English version: Vyara Popova

Source: BNR – Radio Bulgaria

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