Chris Hanson is an example of a local ghoul making good in the big city.
Hanson, a former makeup artist for the Salt Lake Rocky Point Haunted House location, now works in a similar capacity in Hollywood. Among his most high-profile work to date are special makeup effects in the films "Men in Black," "Lost Highway" and "The X-Files.""It's a creepy way to make a living, but I enjoy it," said Hanson, who was recently in town lending a hand at the Rocky Point attraction. (He helped design sets and props, and even applied makeup to the performers on its opening night this year.)
According to Hanson, he actually began creating gruesome makeup for his own short films when he was a teenager. "There's nothing like working with a really small budget and substandard materials. But it does help later on when the pressure is on, which isn't that uncommon, really."
Hanson actually got his big break at Jenco Medical Services, where he was responsible for creating prosthetic limbs and artificial skin pieces for burn victims.
"When I applied for the job at Jenco I brought in a box full of `hands' that I created," he said. "Needless to say they were pretty impressed."
That job, and a few years working at Rocky Point, gave him valuable experience and confidence - enough to get work on local film and television productions. However, there weren't enough of them at the time for him to make it a full-time profession, so he moved to California.
"It would have been nice to stay here, but I was just getting by," he said. "Fortunately, I met a lot of industry people through working at Rocky Point, and they helped me get set up out there."
Since then, Hanson has worked with some of the best makeup and effects houses in the business, including Jim Henson's Creature Shop. He currently works for the KNB Effects Group, which provided makeup and special effects for "Men in Black" and "The X-Files" movie.
Hanson said he is grateful to Rocky Point producer Cydney Neil, who helped him develop his skills. To show his gratitude, he even talked some colleagues into loaning some props to the spook alley from the movies "Alien Resurrection," "Independence Day" and "Starship Troopers." (Those props can be seen in the lobby.)
He also taught a makeup workshop for the haunted house attraction, during which he gave pointers to aspiring makeup men like Rocky Point's makeup designer Eric Clark.
"He's worked in the business, so to be able to work with him, even for a few hours, is a really valuable experience," Clark said. "Everyone watches him with awe."
Hanson would like to someday return to Utah to create his own effects house. But for that to happen, Utah's burgeoning movie and television production industry would have to get even bigger.
"It's amazing how big it's gotten since I left, so I'm starting to believe it could happen," he said. "And there seems to be no shortage of talented makeup people here."