Are you a fan of giant, scary monsters? Do you love seeing big, sharp knives held by a masked murderer? What about ghosts that possess people or ghouls coming back from the dead? The list is endless.
Well, let me tell you, I’m a big fan of monsters and masks, and I’ve made and sketched plenty of characters for people to enjoy on the big screen. Let’s talk about my characters and how you can make your own iconic killer.
Whenever I get an idea for a new character, I try googling similar images online. I follow a lot of artists from around the world on Instagram and Facebook. These are great places of inspiration to use when brainstorming the look for your character.
I sometimes refer to classic horror killers, but the pool of artwork outside of the realm of the iconic group is immense. I encourage you to take a step further and look at strange artwork and creatures. For example, different artists from Japan tend to lean on more intense or humanoid creatures, while some artists from France tend to lean into more abstract designs.
I also like to come up with musical themes for my characters, so I use Spotify and write to the music often. I try to use as many resources as I can to make lively characters and ask myself, “how did they end up here?”
Avoid Copying but Embrace Referencing
A lot of fans of the iconic films from the 80's tend to make fan films or eerily similar characters for their own desires. I encourage you to extend beyond that and make your own character, something that the world hasn’t seen yet. Look at this creature down below for example.
This is the humanoid creature I designed for my first horror film, Face Your Fears. My protagonist suffered from a mental illness and was delusional, so his nightmarish dreams were becoming a reality. I really focused on trying to make a beast that had been around for a long time, something that my protagonist had been seeing for all his life and perhaps had even been alive before his time.
I produced this with my make-up artist, and she hand made the arms, hands, and feet. I went out and made the cloak and pants and purchased a zombie chest and wendigo mask. I chose to prioritize the most vitally important parts of the costume with the budget I had, the head and chest. Everything else would be hidden in the shadows or briefly seen, so I cheapened out on those.
I own this design and still have the costume. This character will always be in my heart as it’s the grassroots of my beginning. I adore this ugly creature. Now it’s time for you to do the same.
Keep It Affordable
I want you to understand something before we jump into the deep end for the creative process. Things can get expensive… very fast. How can you cut down on costs? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is to make it yourself. There are YouTube guides on making silicone masks, guides on making basic weapons, and even behind-the-scenes DVD extras. Watch these videos to see what they had to work with and focus on what resources you have.
For me, when I was making my second film, I wanted to create a memorable character. I wanted someone who was war-torn, had been active for a while, and focused on his stealth capabilities. So I drew a few sketches and came up with my character, Nathan Wren, the Californian Ghost.
Here’s the catch, I did not make any of this. Here’s what I did instead. I went to local liquidation stores, checked Amazon sales online, and focused on the most important parts to cash in.
You also need to consider if this is a human or a beast. This costume ran me about $800, with the mask being the most expensive part. I drew inspirations from Edward ScissorHands, Michael Myers, Red (Mandy), and Ghostface. I mixed and mashed them together to make my own character.
Who Is Your Killer?
Now for the big question. Who do you want to create and why? What resources do you have? Only a pillow sheet and some markers? So be it. Make a ghost or an evil pillow sheet. Embrace the cheese.
It’s important to work within your means. Get creative, and focus on the details. Almost every part of a main character that I design has a history written into their designs.Everything they wear holds a purpose, and that’s important to me.
Remember to ask yourself these points before starting.
Who is your character? A creature, human and or thing?
Are they real or imaginary? (In your story)
Where will we be seeing them? (In the darkness of an abandoned hospital, or in broad daylight on a farm?)
How old are they, and does this influence their physicality or actions?
What is their motive? How does their costume influence this?
Once you’ve answered all those questions, you’ll be ready to begin. Now, get out there and make an iconic killer. If you end up making a really cool concept, send it my way and we can talk about your process.
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