Based out of Tulsa, Tate Steinseik is a special effects make-up artist and owner of Ill Will Productions (IWP). His work is focused on creature design and creation, prosthetic make-up and realistic trauma props and blood gags. Steinsiek was a two-time finalist on Seasons 1 & 5 of SYFY’s Makeup Competition show “Face Off,” and has been directing films over the past decade, including his most recent feature “Fangoria’s Castle Freak.”
How did you get started in the film industry?
I lived in Boston at the time and was asked by a friend to do a corpse make-up for his short film. I was a lifelong artist and horror fan, and my true goal had always been make-up effects (MUFX). I was a musician at the time and hadn’t even considered working in film, so it was a fun idea. Shortly, after the band separated, I made the decision to take off to Pittsburg in search of Tom Savini and his course. I attended one semester, and it was Tom himself who suggested that I take a look at a script he had been sent called “Zombie Honeymoon.” He said it would be “a good one to cut your teeth on.” I read it and was put in touch with the director, Dave Gebroe. The rest was locked. I left Pittsburg and headed to work on this film in New Jersey. Shortly after the film wrapped, I went into NYC with a friend I had made on production. One night turned into a decade in NYC, and I just kept hunting work in the local film scene.
Did you have any formal education or training related to the film industry before starting?
The single semester I spent at Douglas University (Savini School) was the key. I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of a mold or mold making. Once that info was downloaded, it was a tidal wave of things suddenly making sense and the rest came from on-the-job experiences.
Did you have any formal education or training related to your specific department on-set? (Example: Culinary school, medical license, etc.)
Not at all. At the time, I was living in a VW Vanogan, the kind with the pop top bed and a little kitchen inside. I would drive to the area of a set and “set up camp.” NYC is always shooting, and many times and many connections I made were from creeping around production sets. Knocking on the make-up trailer door or sneaking into their crafty tent and spark a conversation. Sometimes, people were irritated I did that; other times, they thought it was amazing and I’d get a card. I worked my way onto sets from Craigslist and trespassing.
What are some of your most recent successes (credits or accolades) related to your career in the industry?
Directing “Castle Freak” for Fangoria was a life-changing experience. We shot on-location in Albania in little villages and centuries old actual castles and dungeons. It was an absolutely astounding experience. I was recently nominated for a Saturn Award for “Best Prosthetic Makeup in a Film.” Unfortunately, I lost… some movie called “Avengers: Infinity Wars.” I’m sure no one saw it. But, most recently, I was dedicated my own Medallion in the sidewalk outside Circle Cinema Theater in Tulsa. THAT…was mind blowing.
What has your career in the state’s film industry taught you?
Coming home to work in the Tulsa scene was an amazing decision. NY I will always love and miss, but the real difference are the people. There is so much pure talent here. People who have been planted and growing a real scene here. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen such a phenomenal growth, both on a state level and most recently the Cherokee Film Studios.
What is the highlight of your career thus far?
Calling wrap on my own feature film, standing out in the open-air courtyard of a 2000 year old castle, at 5:30 a.m. The sun was coming up over the mountains, and we had pulled off a LONG day just before we lost dark. An entire crew of Americans and Albanians jumped and cheered and passed around Raki. It was a phenomenal moment. That and working with actual Spiderman…that was cool.
What is your favorite aspect of working in Oklahoma’s film and television industry?
Being here in such a specialized industry means I’m constantly getting calls from new people and productions. Anytime someone needs a monster or a corpse they are typically given my number. That said, I’m constantly meeting these amazing artists that are hidden out in Oklahoma. It’s pretty amazing when you walk into someone’s workspace, and it just blows your mind. I’ve seen that look on people’s faces when they tour the display room at my studio. Locals are constantly stumbling across each other and saying… “How long have you been here?” I met a metal artist near my studio, dude rolled up in a Mad Max Van with a missile on top. Tulsa has become an amazing place for an artist to set up shop and create.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for someone starting their career in Oklahoma’s film industry?
While, of course, the first thing you need to do is become practiced and knowledgeable about your craft, the singular most important thing is SET EXPERIENCE. And not just the kind you get from making films with your friends. Find someone who is working in the industry and ask to shadow or intern for their department. It’s a scary leap to make but I can almost guarantee that they would love an extra set of hands. There is nothing that can prepare a person for the responsibilities of your department in the complex machine that is filmmaking. The only way to understand is through the experience. Put yourself out there, don’t be afraid. You’ll be surprised how many people are happy for your help, and happy to help you.
How does someone in your field/department best promote/market themselves to those hiring in your industry?
Get your work out there online, website, social media, and get a pocket full of business cards.
Are there any local film organizations, resources or events that have been beneficial to you in your career?
Easy answer, Dylan Brodie. His middle name is “Resources,” and I’ve never seen anyone that loves the Oklahoma film community more. He’s an absolute beast.
What’s the one item you can’t live without on-set, and why?
That’s an easy one – my Key Artist. You have to have someone you trust with your back, and your professional standards. Key Artist is everything. My last one was a phenomenal artist named Allie Swift out of Albuquerque. She’s a boss.
Would your career be impacted without the state’s film incentive program? If so, how?
Unquestionably. For the first few years I was back in Oklahoma, I was spending most of my professional time on the road still flying to and from work. The increasingly attractive incentives are driving the productions directly into Oklahoma, and that’s exactly what the local community needs. More local hires, more local department heads. Without incentives bringing out of state productions in, our ability to work on larger jobs would evaporate. Also, the recent incentives released by Cherokee Film are also already proving to be life changing. My studio is in Cherokee Territory and my being a Native filmmaker creates a specific incentive for productions utilizing me and my studio. There’s a 25% rebate on funds spent with my studio, the concept of that is unheard of and it has already yielded work. I just wrapped a creature film for a production team that found me via the Cherokee incentive.
Where do you see yourself – AND – Oklahoma’s film industry in the next five years?
It feels like it felt around Atlanta 10 or 12 years ago. Everyone knew there was a movement beginning. I feel the same for Oklahoma.
What are you working on now or next?
I’m focusing most of the rest of the year on several scripts and getting them into production. Some filmmaker friends of mine and I have collectively agreed that it’s time to make our own projects. We are starting with a three-film slate – two of which were written by and will be directed by myself. The third story is coming from a fantastic writer director friend of mine out of NYC. There’s really exciting stuff happening with these projects. I can’t really say anything at the moment, but we will be announcing several things before the year’s end.
Each featured individual or business is given the provided questions to answer in their own voice. Other than formatting and grammar, the answers are personal to each featured voice, and are not provided by the Oklahoma Film + Music Office.