Business

For that creepy look, it’s all in the eyes

Kim Zilcosky has the right touch when it comes to putting in monster contact lenses. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Kim Zilcosky has the right touch when it comes to putting in monster contact lenses.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

In the blink of an eye, she can transform an actor into a demon, a vampire or just an ugly monster with weird facial appendages.

It’s all in the eyes, if you’ve ever watched the vampire and sci-fi TV shows that are catching the attention of many tweens and teens.

And Kim Zilcosky does it by fitting special effects contact lenses for those creatures of fantasy that are enthralling the masses in fantasy films.

It’s a pressure-based business and one that contrasts with her usual job, fitting glasses and contact lenses for normal-looking people in her Roving Eyes Optical store on Lougheed Highway.

When she’s not busy with that, she’s a contact lens tech who visits movie shoots around the Lower Mainland on behalf of Contour Contact Lenses in White Rock.

When the makeup department needs to put the final touch on an actor, the finishing touch is the specially made contact lenses.

They can be white and opaque, like a zombie.

Or black, like a demon. Or blood red.

The trendy genre of fantasy films on television and in movie theatres means there’s lots of work.

Zilcosky has worked on The Twilight Saga – Eclipse and New Moon – as well as on Stargate and the Boy Who Cried Werewolf, Smallville, Supernatural, Underworld 4 and Fringe, all shot locally.

It’s her deft touch that keeps earning her call-backs.

When a director is trying to shoot a scene and an actor is rushed for time in makeup, Zilcosky can be there with the special effects lenses and slip them on to the eyes of a stressed-out actor in seconds with minimal discomfort.

Actors, normally a mercurial bunch, can be late arriving on set. Makeup has to get them ready for the waiting crew and cameras. Nevertheless, it’s her job to get the lenses on to those stressed-out performers in a way that they can get immediately before the cameras.

Perhaps it’s because she’s able to bring a calming effect to the performers about to go under the hot lights.

“I’m very well-used because I have been doing it for eight years. I can pop them in in one shot. I go in bing, bang, boom and it’s done. That’s why I’m called out a lot. Every second counts. It’s money with them.”

The FX lenses aren’t like a usual pair of contacts.

They can be twice the size, 22 millimetres in diameter, and can cover most of the lense of an eye, and unlike the $90 you’d pay for a regular pair of contacts, the FX models can cost between $1,000 and $1,400.

The lenses can be the size of the entire lens of an eye, making fitting them in more of a challenge.

The irises can have unique shapes, spooky pinpoints or slits, like a cat’s eye. They can be yellow and green and bright blue.

“It’s stressful. It’s very high pressure. I love it. I meet lots of people, but there’s that pressure there.”

Working both sides of the contact lense industry means many long days. In addition to keeping her shop running, Zilcosky can be on set at all hours. And for good measure, there are the ballroom, Latin and swing dance classes she teaches during evenings in her store.

The frenetic pace can’t be helped because film schedules change constantly, she points out.

But in addition to rubbing shoulders with the stars, the food catering is another perk. “They feed you really well, that’s my favourite part.”

Inside Roving Eyes, there’s nothing to indicate a connection to the silver screen except a small selection of swag, clothes and hats from various movies.

In particular, she treasures a thank-you card from Toronto actor Mackenzie Gray, thanking her for her help on Smallville.

“That’s huge. That usually doesn’t happen.”

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