May 2023

Madeleine’s Story

By Madeleine O'Neill

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Madeleine O'Neill

Prosthetics for Film and Television MA

Special effects artist and aspiring entrepreneur

Now developing a career as a special effects artist, Madeleine found University College Birmingham's prosthetics master's course offered her unique opportunities she could not find anywhere else.

Having previously studied make-up at the University, Madeleine returned to further develop her creative and technical skills as a postgraduate student, making the most of the state-of-the-art practical training facilities and equipment on campus.

"The biggest thing is getting the opportunity to work with materials you wouldn't usually get your hands on or afford before going into a professional studio," she said. "You can self-teach from home, but you don't get the access to work in a professional type of environment that University College Birmingham offers.

"We've got the designated foam room, the materials to make the foam and the massive ovens to bake it – you won't want to make foam in your own oven, your future dinners wouldn't thank you!

"It's also more practical from a health and safety point of view, with access to air vents when working with toxic materials such as fibre glass and the dust room with extraction tables.

"There are so many materials I wouldn't be able to afford on my own and lots of new skills I've been able to learn."

With ambitions to start her own business alongside working in special effects, Madeleine says the course at University College Birmingham has given her both the skills and confidence to succeed.

"The course as a whole gives you a really good development of different types of prosthetics special effects – character design, ZBrush, maquette making, casualty simulation where I made a fake body with a craniotomy, full character SPFX make-up and then finally a module that you could base on whatever you are passionate about and want to pursue," she said. "The course is really good to steadily build up your confidence as an artist.

"There are things you can learn online, but it's having the instant support when you're stuck on a project – for instance, if a mould won't open or something won't cure. Our tutor Alex gives little hints and tips that you would've been searching online for hours for a solution.

"A year-and-a-half ago I could never have produced what I have created during my time at this university," she added. "It's been a year-and-a-half of investment into my future that I can now go on to pursue."


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