Jason Baird: Gold Coast’s Screen Professional of the Year 2020

Imagine a spellbound five year old on the cusp of the late 1970s, captivated by a black and white-faced, fire-breathing Gene Simmons et al, being encouraged to “rock and roll all nite, and party every day” from his television. Fast forward a few years, and an 11 year old, possibly part-Gelfling, immerses himself in a world dominated by Skeksis, embarking on a mission to restore the Dark Crystal, saving the world.

These formative years laid the foundation for Gold Coast creature creator Jason Baird’s impressive professional career in makeup, costume and prosthetics, launching him to international recognition for blockbuster films made around the globe, which then led him to his recent Gold Coast Screen Professional of the Year win at the Screen Industry Gala Awards, delivered online on 16 April.

Baird reflects fondly on seeing these films and images as a child and finding his purpose.

“I just thought; someone has to make that costume stuff and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Baird’s company JMB FX Studio, based in Arundel on the Gold Coast (not far from Warner Brothers Studios), has brought those childhood dreams to life and over the past few decades his passion and commitment to excellence has seen him appointed to work on blockbuster sets including Kong – Skull Island, Thor – Ragnarok, and Aquaman, creating makeup effect, creatures, creature suits and myriad prosthetics for film production.

Baird recalls his greatest challenge and success as the team leader for the Hanks/Spielberg HBO production “The Pacific” that culminated in a 2010 Emmy award for Outstanding Prosthetic Make-up for a Mini-series or Movie.

“Being engaged by a US producer to form a team and deliver a project over almost 2 years; 6 months pre-production and then 12 months of shooting; was a real honour. Working with that team, and then winning the Emmy, is something I’m still incredibly proud of.”

Baird was a finalist for the Gold Coast Film Festival 2020 Screen Professional of the Year award along with producer/actress Anna Waters-Massey and documentary director Jude Kalman.

Notwithstanding his enormous career, Baird speaks humbly about taking out the final win and understands the diversity of nominees represented a real challenge for the judges.

“It’s an honour… over the years I’ve loved contributing to the Gold Coast Film Festival as a tour host. People love visiting our facility and always want to stay longer, and they love seeing the set locations on the Gold Coast.

“Awards like this aren’t just about the accolades though; I really get a kick out of the smaller jobs, where we often mentor young practitioners, rigorously vetting them and then seeing them evolve, as we nurture and give back to the next generation, helping them succeed.”

Baird’s coming season isn’t about to be relaxing either, already working with Academy Award winning designer Catherine Martin (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby) on the Elvis biopic being produced on the Gold Coast, and his team still produces the specialty costume elements for the local Warner Brothers Movie World theme park.

He’s a proud Gold Coaster no doubt destined for continued success.

“Living on the Gold Coast is amazing… right now, with all that’s going on… You wouldn’t want to be living and working anywhere else!”

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