When business is dead, Gregory Hewett’s business comes to life.
Hewett, 36, of Kannapolis transforms darling-faced humans into rotting and disfigured zombies, monsters and other creatures of nightmares. He is the special makeup effects artist of Gregory F/X, and October is a busy month in the trade of creepiness.
Hewett said he has always been artistic – interested in space and fascinated with monsters. He was never content with the small picture and desired to know more, to see how things come together. His father bought him a telescope, he said, and Hewett dreamed of attending space camp.
All that changed in the eighth grade when Hewett picked up a copy of “Fangoria,” a horror magazine with slimy monsters on the cover. The magazine showed step-by-step instructions on how to apply special-effects makeup.
“On the cover was an eye-catching line: How to F/X Makeup Section,” said Hewett, who had already expressed an interest in doing costume makeup.
“When I was in the second grade, I got in trouble. I brought a face-painting kit to school and was making-up the students in my class at recess as the pictures on the box. It got taken away from me,” said Hewett, who resumed causing makeup mischief in the eighth grade.
“I would make my friends up with fake beards, goatees and cuts. Then they would make the rest of the class laugh, and, well … there goes my name on the board.”
That same year, Hewett was selected to do the makeup for the eighth-grade play. He and the librarian mixed acrylic paints and used animal photos to paint all the students in the play.
“I spent a lot of time helping teachers draw calendars and posters,” he said. “Classwork came easily to me. I would do it super-quickly so I could get out of class. Of course, I’d also get in trouble, too.
“That year I was not allowed back into advanced art, due to me wanting to sculpt and make monsters,” Hewett said. “That same year the student body voted me ‘Most Artistic’ in the super-superlatives.”
Seventeen years later, on a chilly October morning in Charlotte, Hewett stood outside his work trailer wearing a black hoodie splattered with fake blood and zombie pigmentation residue. With a furrowed brow, but a relaxed smile, Hewett airbrushed the veins and decay onto the silicone-enhanced head and face of his friend, South Carolina police officer Troy Jackson, 39, of Rock Hill.
Hewett volunteered his services in the 2012 Zombie Run Challenge, an Oct. 20 fundraiser at Charlotte’s Renaissance Park. SportsLink organized the event to help raise money for community service organization Hands On Charlotte and for Habitat for Humanity.
“The Zombie Run Challenge is a fun run where you run as either a human or zombie,” said SportsLink event coordinator Janelle Lavoie, 27, of Charlotte. “(Hewett) does phenomenal work. He hand-makes all the prosthetics before the event and volunteers all of his time and supplies.”
Hewett is far from resembling the heartless beings he creates. He and his team of volunteers collected more than over $1,000 in donations for Habitat for Humanity from his work at the Zombie Run Challenge.
Even in peak season, Hewett balances volunteering and work.
“Everything really took off professionally when I became a student of Dick Smith’s advanced makeup program,” said Hewett. “He is an Academy Award-winning makeup artist and made ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Little Big Man.’ In his course he shares industry secrets that only a few artists know.”
While pursuing his second bachelor’s degree in theater at UNC Charlotte, Hewett made connections and earned the opportunity to be in charge of makeup for “Parting,” “The Pirates of Penzance” and “Tales of Hoffman.”
“After those shows, people started calling me instead of the other way around,” said Hewett. He would like to work in feature films, he said, but also enjoys working on independent films such as Rene Fornari’s “Fractured Minds,” “Deviling,” and “Spades,” and with local directors such as Robert Filion, Vanelle LeBlanc and Michael Sharpe.
Hewett also does the F/X makeup for local high schools during their “Don’t Drink and Drive on Prom Night” scenarios, which mimic the tragedies of a real drunk-driving accident.
“I have this built-in desire to help; I always have,” said Hewett. “Now I’m in a position I can give back.
“I may not ever have kids, but they are a weakness of mine. I love to help kids, to give them a chance to believe in themselves, so one day they may return the favor to someone else. If they do, I did a good job.”