Mid-Ohio Valley native makes major mark in Hollywood industries
LAS VEGAS — Julia Hapney, a Mid-Ohio Valley native, has always been a horror movie enthusiast.
In fact, some of her earliest memories were of sitting on the couch watching horror films at the age of 9 after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease as a way to distract herself from the pain she was experiencing.
“I’ve been a horror movie fan like my whole life,” Hapney said.
A 2002 Parkersburg South High School graduate, Hapney realized she wanted to work in the Hollywood film and entertainment industry in 2004 after two years of studying biology and chemistry at Marietta College.
“I left (Marietta College) early to move to California, and I took out a $55,000 loan and enrolled in the Los Angeles Film School where I was majoring in directing and minoring in screenwriting,” Hapney said. “And basically it was there that I learned that makeup effects is even a job. And as soon as I realized that I was like, ‘Oh, that’s where I’m supposed to be.'”
Since Hapney took that leap of faith, her career has been full of impressive accolades. Hapney is now a best-selling author, the owner of her own special effects fabrication company called Abreaction FX in Las Vegas and she has worked for an impressive list of film stars and musicians doing makeup and crafting masks, props and puppets.
“The Metallica music video I did (in 2008) was probably like the first big deal for me because that was like wow you know I listen to Metallica and everybody has heard of Metallica,” Hapney said. “So it was a pretty big deal to have gotten to work with an artist of that stature.”
Hapney has been a designer who manages and creates merchandise and press for bands such as Ghost and My Chemical Romance.
“It’s on T-shirts I’ve seen people that have it tattooed, and it’s literally my work, which is crazy,” she said.
Hapney says that becoming a member of the I.A.T.S.E. Local 706 Make-Up and Hairstylists Guild was the biggest moment in her career thus far.
“Becoming a Local 706 Union Make-Up Artist is very difficult and takes years to achieve,” Hapney said.
In 2015, she traveled throughout the United States and Canada with Marilyn Manson as his personal artist on his “Hell not Hallelujah” Tour and cited this as being s major highlight of her career thus far.
In terms of film, Hapney has been involved with box office productions and is set to work on a short film next year that was written for her by friends.
“‘The Lone Ranger’ when that came out that was a big deal because that was one of the first like multi-million dollar movies that I got to work on,” Hapney said. “And my name is in the credits. That’s awesome.”
Hapney has many favorite parts of her job, but some of the intricacies of special effects seem to rank the highest in her mind.
“I do a lot of injury simulation, and so I’ll do a live cast of somebody’s head and so then I basically make a fake copy of their head,” Hapney said. “And so being able to replicate that stuff and then take it to set and perform it … it’s like magic.”
Hapney attended Parkersburg South her junior and senior year of high school, but before that she resided in Belpre and attended Belpre City Schools. Hapney credits a teacher she had in Belpre, Jo Ann Bartimus, as being a major driving force for her desire to follow her passions in life.
“She has inspired me more than any other person,” Hapney said. “She is probably the reason I actually had the spirit to go to L.A.”
In terms of finding the courage to follow your heart, Hapney referenced a quote from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”: “Don’t dream it, be it.”
“Basically you have to just go for it,” Hapney said. “And, I mean, the Hollywood industry is really tough and it’s not for everyone … like when I wake up I’m thinking about something film -related. When I go to bed I still have paint or clay on my hands from working on something. And it’s even down to the type of car I have, like when I first went to makeup school I used to drive a little convertible, and now I have a Toyota Rav 4 because I have to have the space to carry all this stuff.”
Hapney also has teaching experience through hosting workshops in Makeup Effects at Furman University in South Carolina. She has also taught workshops with kids in Los Angeles through “Youth in Film” programs from the ages of 7 to 17.
“I love being able to spread the love of film and makeup effects to the kids,” Hapney said.
Hapney is a co-author for the best-selling book, “My Favorite Horror Movie,” which chronicles artists’ favorite horror films and how they inspired them to become involved in the industry.
The book is available on Amazon, and those who are interested in purchasing can also contact Hapney through her website at www.abreactionfx.com for an autographed copy.
Hapney also plans to be back in 2022 for her 20th high school reunion and hopes to organize a book signing while she is in the area. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her mother, but spends lots of time in Los Angeles still working in the industry.
Although Hapney no longer lives in the Mid-Ohio Valley, she misses several key staples in the community.
“I mean, hands down, the one thing, or the two things I miss, more than anything else, and I literally have dreams about it sometimes, are the Pizza Place pizza and Mr. Bee’s potato chips,” Hapney said.
Jenna Pierson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org