Lisa Ellingwood

Lisa Ellingwood, pictured above, spent years as a hair styllist in Oswego before turning to hair and make up for film productions.

STERLING — To have your name listed among stars in a feature fi lm is something many dream of, but never experience. For Lisa Ellingwood though, it’s now a reality.

Ellingwood, a local cosmetologist turned makeup and special effect artist, has appeared in the credit lines in everything from short films to feature length movies. However, her humble beginning was much like many others in the beauty business; full of nervousness and dedication.

Following nearly two decades at Oswego-based A Finishing Touch salon, Ellingwood stepped into a role as a make-up and hair stylist in the film industry. Her latest work, “The Accursed,” a horror film inspired by Eastern European folklore, is set to debut this weekend.

A native of Sterling, Ellingwood recently spoke with The Palladium-Times about her journey, highlighting everything from the split ends and bald spots of her life to the shiny conditioned strands, and tracing her path from behind a Port City salon chair to a movie set in California.

Ellingwood’s passion for design and creative expression started from a young age. While in school she fell in love with being a creative artist, and once she graduated, her path was clear to becoming a cosmetologist.

She attended the former Syracuse-based Phillips Hair Styling Institute in 1990 and found one of her first opportunities at A Finishing Touch salon in the city of Oswego soon after.

While learning the ins-and outs of cosmetology locally, she discovered an unexpected niche in the industry that was a perfect fi t for her: special effect artistry.

“He brought in amazing special effect artists and I was just in awe of that,” she said of one of the school demonstrator’s ability to transform actor’s faces into animals. “It was amazing how you could do something like that with just makeup.”

Those early experiences in her career would prove to have a lasting affect on the up-and coming artist. While working locally, Ellingwood decided she “wanted to go bigger” and set her target on a new destination, Hollywood.

Before boarding a flight to California, she needed to hone her skills first. While working at the salon, she traveled throughout the state with national styling company Paul Mitchell and taught others proper hair styling procedures.

But one obstacle still stood in her way and prevented her from her big break; nerves.

“(I had the opportunity to go to) a huge Paul Mitchell show with the top people — I had to stand in front of them, do a speech and give a haircut. I had a plane ticket but I just caved.” she said. “I was young and too nervous, I always wanted to do something bigger and as I got older and more confident I (overcame my fears.)”

Her chance for redemption wouldn’t come until 2005. After suffering a loss in her family and challenges at home, she remembered her earlier experiences in school and realigned her focus and finally set out to Hollywood.

“The ticket was bought to go to school, and I didn’t think I was ready but I did it anyway,” she said. “This has been my savior, I dove right into it and kept my mind going so I didn’t think as much. It was a survival mechanism.”

She would spend the next year in Hollywood learning how to professionally apply movie makeup and hair styling, as well as taking on several gigs. Her first production was the 2006 short film “Billy Shultz,” according to her IMDb page.

During this time, she said her dedication to her work served as a coping method for her personal hurdles; working 16-hour days at times while also meeting coworkers who later proved to be remarkable friends; she felt at home.

“I fell in love with it,” Ellingwood said. “Just being on set brings out the best of me, the more I have gotten into it, it challenges me to go even further.”

After a year of dedication with scissors in-hand and unforgettable memories made, she longed for home and returned to her family. It wouldn’t be until a year later, in 2007, she got her break with a make-up and hair artist role in “Rounding Home.” She met Katheryn Michelle, an up-and-coming actress during this production.

“We had long hours on sets and she was always positive,” Michelle told The Palladium-Times Thursday. “It’s so refreshing and needed and that was my first feature film, so having someone extremely positive and kind who makes you laugh, it was important to have that. I will never forget what that meant to me.”

In 2010, Ellingwood left A Finishing Touch after two-decades and moved her salon home, where for the next eight years she worked in the comfort of her own home, focused on her family and on herself, she said.

As time went on, she said she longed for a return to the fast paced movie-set life. In 2016, she took a hair-producing role in the fi lm “HoneyBee” after an eight-year stretch at home. When asked about the break in her time between movies; 2008 to 2016, Ellingwood said she was focusing on her health and family life during that time.

“I didn’t think I could work in movies for a while,” she said, noting, however, that she “missed it so much” and pushed on.

In 2018 she took on another role as a makeup artist in the fi lm “American Dresser.” In the off period after, her friend Michelle said she kept her old friend in mind and knew who to call for help on her movie “The Accursed.”

“Her work ethic was incredible and I just remembered her,” she said of Ellingwood.

Returning to California to work on this film was like coming home Ellingwood said. She lived on the set of the movie in “Frogtown” — a small section of Elysian Valley near Glendale, California.

Throughout production, the artist said she worked as a stylist and makeup artist for the main actors and actresses, lived on set with the crew and had “a great experience.”

She returned home earlier this year and the rest is history. Ellingwood said she would not step away from movies and she expects several opportunities to get back on set in the future. She can be found now writing screenplays and honing in her craft at her personal salon, but credits her time in fi lm for changing her life.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without fi lm, without diving into something that is bigger than I could ever have thought,” she said. “I have made some of the best friends ever and I am feeling great.”

“The Accursed” is scheduled to release this week in several cities throughout the country.

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