Special-effects makeup and prosthetics artist Kris Kobzina is as friendly and community-oriented as he is accomplished.
By Maureen Kingsley
Award-winning Hollywood special-effects makeup artist Kris Kobzina has the happy, relaxed air of a man who is living his dream. An El Segundo resident and father of two kids, Kaden and George, Kris divides his time between his studio in Smoky Hollow, movie and television sets the world over, the makeup classes he teaches in Los Angeles, and his home with his kids and wife, Holly. In short, Kris has successfully turned his childhood dreams into reality.
Born and raised in Chicago, Kobzina’s interest in special-effects makeup emerged the day his mother brought home a reel-to-reel film projector and the movie Frankenstein and set it all up in the garage. “I must’ve watched that movie five times in a row,” Kobzina says, “and I was enamored by the Frankenstein look.” Young Kris had so many questions about what he’d seen on screen, he took himself to the library often to read up on the film, the titular character, and the makeup used in the production. “There was no Google in those days,” he quips.
Soon Kobzina was experimenting with makeup of his own, applying what he’d read in books and attempting to recreate the Frankenstein look with grocery-store Halloween makeup and “whatever I could find around the house,” he says. Stage makeup remained a hobby for Kobzina throughout his adolescence. Once he began studying at the Joe Blasco Professional Makeup Artist Training Center in Orlando, Florida, however, Kobzina’s hobby was transformed into his life’s work.
After graduating and moving to Los Angeles, Kobzina taught professional makeup courses and began applying his talents in the entertainment industry. His personal career highlights include the work he did for Men In Black II (2002), which had Kobzina mold-making and seaming all manner of “alien creations, with so many technical elements involved,” he recalls. The 2002 release of Spider-Man was another personal favorite of Kobzina’s. “That was my first really big movie, working in the shops, live-casting and mold-making,” he says. (For the uninitiated, Kobzina describes live-casting and mold-making this way: “We put a bald cap on an actor to protect their hair and use a material like alginate to cover them up, leaving their nose holes open so that they can breathe.” After that process, he explains, he “pours up a head” [as in a human head] in plaster of Paris, cleans it up, and makes a master mold for the actor based on that piece.)
For television, Kobzina has spent the last four seasons making prosthetics for NCIS: Los Angeles. For that show, Kobzina is often called upon to build various isolated body parts. “You need a toe? I can get you a toe!” he jokes.
His most recent project, the film Dragged Across Concrete, has been making the festival circuit and stars Vince Vaughn, Mel Gibson, and Michael Jai White.
Despite all the Hollywood work he’s done in Los Angeles and around the world (including, for Beasts of No Nation , Ghana), Kobzina maintains deep roots in El Segundo and enjoys sharing his gifts with the community. He taught his daughter’s Girl Scout troop the basics of horror makeup last year, and he has inspired local teenager Ray Silva to create a special-effects makeup club at El Segundo High School.
Kris's daughter, Kaden (left) and son, George (right)
This month, Kris invites amateur special-effects-makeup enthusiasts and zombie lovers alike to join him at one or both of the workshops he’s offering at his local studio: Zombie Weekend on October 13 + 14, a two-day hands-on workshop in which participants will create their own gnarly zombie looks; and Monster Weekend on October 20 + 21, which will have students building monsters with a partner, followed by free passes to Old Town Music Hall’s showing of Frankenstein—the film that started it all. Visit kriskobzina.com for details.
This story appeared in the October 2018 issue of The El Segundo Scene.