Howard Berger: Lessons from 30+ Years in HollywoodDaniel ScrivnerLast Updated: September 17, 2020
“Filmmaking is supposed to be fun. Yes, it is a challenge. It can be difficult. But at the end of the day, it’s the director’s vision. And you work as a team under one umbrella to facilitate that director’s vision.” — Howard Berger
In this episode of Outliers, I’m talking with Howard Berger (@hoops511) about the twists and turns of his award-winning career, his artistic process, and what it’s like working with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Howard Berger is a prolific special effects artist and the co-founder of KNB EFX Group. He has over 800 feature film and television credits to his name, including Kill Bill Volume 1 and Volume 2, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained. Howard won an Emmy Award for his work in The Walking Dead, an Academy Award for his work on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and an Academy Award nomination for his work on Hitchcock.
- 00:02:17 – Howard’s multiple roles on set of feature films and television shows
- 00:06:06 – How Howard’s early fascination with monsters and movies led to his career
- 00:09:46 – The process of working with producers, directors, and actors to achieve a shared vision
- 00:13:30 – Howard’s work on The Chronicles of Narnia
- 00:20:25 – On keeping work fun and energetic for the team
- 00:26:11 – What Howard looks for in a great director
- 00:29:17 – What Howard looks for in a great script
- 00:34:20 – The evolution of apprenticeships in Hollywood
- 00:37:31 – On building a great team
- 00:40:47 – Working with Anthony Hopkins, Jamie Foxx, Jessica Lange, and Alan Arkin
- 00:50:11 – The Oscar nomination and celebration experience
- 00:58:35 – On long-term collaboration with a business partner and friend
- 01:00:31 – Directors Howard would love to work with, including Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen
- 01:05:26 – Howard’s favorite films
- 01:07:06 – Working on Kill Bill
Links from the Episode
- Connect with Howard: Instagram | IMDb | Website
- Howard Berger | Wikipedia
- Aurora Monster Models, the toy that furthered young Howard’s affinity for monsters
- Planet of the Apes, the movie that made Howard want to become a makeup artist for film
- “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” a magazine the furthered Howard’s love of monsters
- Weta Workshop, the New Zealand-based film prop and special effects company founded by Sir Richard Taylor
- Local 706, the official labor union for make-up artists and hair stylists in film, television, stage and digital media.
- Stan Winston
- Rick Baker
- Dick Smith
- Robert Schiffer
- Frank Darabont, script writer
- M. Night Shyamalan, script writer
- Paul Thomas Anderson, script writer
- Clint Eastwood
- Woody Allen
- Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
- Pulp Fiction
Films and televisions shows Howard has worked on:
- Lone Survivor one of the movies Howard has been makeup department head on
- Instant Family a film Howard worked on with Mark Walberg that didn’t include special makeup
- Kill Bill the movie series that Howard worked on that made him dislike doing bloody makeup
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the film for which Howard won an Oscar
- The Green Mile
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Fright Night
- The Gambler
- Spenser Confidential
- Day of the Dead
Actors, directors, and people Howard has worked with:
- Greg Nicotero | Co-Founder and Owner of KNB EFX Group (and Howard’s best friend)
- Little Marvin | Producer and writer that Howard just worked with who he thinks is on the brink of stardom
- Dirk Rogers
- Anthony Hopkins
- Tami Lane
- Mark Wahlberg
- Quentin Tarantino
- Andrew Adamson
- Richard Taylor
- Mark Johnson
- James McAvoy
- Sam Raimi
- Tom Hanks
- Robert Rodriguez
- Patricia Clarkson
- Colin Farrell
- Craig Gillespie
- Jessica Lange
- Johnny Villanova
- John Goodman
- Alan Arkin
- George Romero
Remaining positive and energetic when working long hours or on difficult projects is worth the effort; as Howard says, “We need to be kind to each other. We need to be considerate and respectful and we need to do what makes us happy. And that’s important. Have a great time. This is what life’s supposed to be, fun. We’re here for a reason. It’s not to be miserable. It’s to enjoy it and make other people’s lives better.”
- “We basically went through the wardrobe. We lived in Narnia for seven months in New Zealand. And when the movie ended, we came out of the wardrobe and we were all heartbroken. To me, it’s my most favorite film I ever worked on, on all levels. And I’m super proud of the work.”
- “It’s almost like working in the industry is like dog years. One year equals seven years. I always feel like one year in the film industry equals five years to your life. But you can counteract that with laughter — and the more you laugh, the longer you live. So at this point, I’m thinking I’m going to be probably about 1,000 years old because I’m always laughing.”
- “All makeup effects shops are basically the ‘Island of Misfit Toys.’ So it’s like all the broken, weird, misshapen, reject toys all somehow gravitate to the world of makeup effects and everybody’s their own individual.”
- “I want to keep my team’s energy up. I don’t ever want them to worry about anything except about the work. So I take the brunt of everything, but that’s what a leader does. I don’t pass the buck. I don’t throw people under the bus if there’s an issue, even if it’s somebody else’s issue … it’s about not placing the blame. It’s about rectifying the situation. … I always say everything after ‘but’ is baloney, essentially.”
On Outliers, Daniel Scrivner explores the tactics, routines, and habits of world-class performers working at the edge—in business, investing, entertainment, and more. In each episode, he decodes what they’ve mastered and what they’ve learned along the way. Start learning from the world’s best today.
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