When beginning your Makeup FX career, the perennial problem is this: Exactly how do you go about getting someone to give you a chance to prove yourself?
Brimming with confidence in their newfound abilities (or not…) most people think their best chance to get into the business is to get noticed by a powerful and influential Makeup HOD (Head of Department). Once having read your compelling introductory email, this person, of course, will immediately recognize that your passion and dedication sets you apart from all others, and will immediately make you their indispensable assistant and trusted 2IC for the next five years. This will employ you full-time, and allow you to live the high life on the type of wages you could once have only dreamed of. Until one day, while she/he is indisposed, you are asked to take their place, and you cruise your way to your first Award Nomination…
The very first thing most people do, even before they finish any formal training they may have taken, is to send an email to every so-called ‘professional’ Makeup FX Artist whose name and contact details they can find on the Internet, asking if the person has any need for assistants on upcoming projects, and attaching their rudimentary resume, usually set out in the same format they taught you to do in High School English, and often accompanied by a touching if somewhat stilted letter telling the recipient that they enjoy tennis, gardening and working with children. I say so-called ‘professional’ in this way because the danger of looking things up on the internet and clicking the first link you find is that you really have no way of knowing whether the person you are sending your hopeful letter off to is actually a working makeup artist, or whether in fact they may have only been in the game for a year themselves but are simply more marketing-savvy, or whether, in fact, they used to be, but have gotten totally bored of the entire show and gone off to marry a plumber and have babies, years ago…
Just like your teachers told you, don’t automatically assume that because someone comes up on the first page on a Google search that they are actually who they say they are, or as good as their website claims them to be. (An important note on websites further down the page…). DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!! You must be able to find them in more than one place. Is their name listed in the credits of something you have seen? Then they should also appear on IMDB. If you can only find one source of information about someone, or if they are on several sites but each site lists IDENTICAL INFORMATION, then take it with a pinch of salt. JUST like when you were researching for a school assignment…. don’t believe everything you read.
Another thing to be aware of: Many of the more established MUA who have been in the game for a long time are actually quite hard to find on the internet. A lot of them are simply very private because they have to deal with a lot of people wanting to be their new best friend every time they do a big project. A lot of them simply don’t have TIME to spend a lot of time maintaining a web presence. And some of them just never got around to learning the whole techy webby internetty thing….
Oh, and VERY FEW people in the film industry work ‘fulltime’ the way we understand it. Our work is contract based, so the money you earn on a good job may SEEM generous but it has to tide you over all the downtime in between. When you contact a Makeup or FX Artist asking for work, bear in mind that they may barely have enough to keep themselves going, depending on the economic climate in their local industry at the time. Many jobs simply don’t employ enough people to allow them to take on an assistant. And don’t be mortally offended if you don’t hear back. Many people are simply flat out, with work, and lives of their own, and they get so many enquiries that they simply don’t have time to answer all of your questions. Or they could be like me, and think “I would like to give that person a proper answer but I don’t have time right this minute..” and then I get busy, and the email gets forgotten until weeks later…. Life often gets in the way of the best intentions.
So how DO you get in touch with experienced Makeup or FX Artists? Well, in this day and age social media is the great leveller. No-one has time to answer five hundred earnest emails every month, but many people can be found on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. DON’T expect everyone you contact to beFriend you, for the same reasons given above, but most of them will happily answer a quick and infrequent Message. Other options are to join a Professional Crew website or Industry Listing Service. These will often require you paying a membership fee, and usually an annual subscription. The more prestigious of them require proof that you actually do work in the industry, like your name on a callsheet or a contract, and others require you to have a prerequisite number of hours of publicly screened material in certain credit-carrying categories.
If you don’t have any experience yet, some countries have some form of State or Local Government bodies that administer professional crew listing databases that you can join with proof of your qualification, and many training institutions that offer film or media courses have a noticeboard on the net for people to post “Crew Wanted” ads.
The second thing people usually do, if they are motivated enough, is to try and find out about any upcoming productions in their local area, (or sometimes, rather optimistically and somewhat naively, anywhere else in the country they live in!). Having tracked down any kind of phone number or impersonal email contact address, they then send off their CV, such as it is.
TIP: for better info on Production Companies and contact details for upcoming projects, buying a subscription to IMDB Pro offers a lot more information than the free site. Also see Industry Directories for your country. They may seem pricey, but you only need to purchase one every couple of years to keep up to date with your local industry and they will supply agent or direct contact details for many useful people and companies.
So, you finally managed to track down an email or a phone number, and you are going to do it, MAKE THE CALL.
Before you pickup the phone, think about these questions. Ask someone you can trust to be honest with you, to pretend to be the person you are calling, and ask them how you present.
- How would you come across in an interview- what impression are you giving the person on the end of the phone when you cold call asking to be considered for a position on their upcoming production?
- Are you too timid, or too pushy?
- Are you lacking in confidence, or overly cocky?
- Do you answer the questions they ask you, or waffle on about irrelevancies?
- Have you done your homework before you call so you know who you are talking to, what they have done, and the kind of work they specialise in?
- If they ask you about yourself and where you would like to go in the industry do you have a short concise answer or do you stumble?
If you are sending an email to someone:
Do you tailor your portfolio to the type of job you are hoping to be considered for, or are you sending in irrelevant information? TIP:– you probably don’t need to include your bullet wound photos if you are trying to get a job powdering the newscasters’ noses at your local TV Station…
On the subject of Websites:
When people first decide to set up a website, they usually put up pictures of everything they have ever done.
TIP 1: Don’t.
If you spend some time actually browsing the websites of some of the worlds best MUA, they are either very expensive, highly polished slideshows or showreels on websites built and maintained by a specialist company, OR they are simple and tasteful and show a limited range of the best work that person has pictures of that THEY ARE ALLOWED TO DISPLAY PUBLICLY... IMPORTANT NOTE: you may have done some great stuff, but UNTIL the work is released and screened, and/or UNLESS you have an agreement to use behind the scenes pictures for your own publicity, YOU CANNOT PUT THEM ON YOUR WEBSITE OR USE THEM IN ANY WAY. Copyright infringement is a serious issue. Breaching it can be looked upon very dimly, and although you may not get sued for everything you have, you will in all likelihood never work again, because nobody in the industry will ever trust you again.
TIP 2: Claiming to be “The World’s Best…”, or “Australia’s/Englands’/Jamaica’s/(enter your country here)’s Best…” ANYTHING, without twenty years experience under your belt and ample proof of your claim, is naive to say the least, ignorant to boot, boastful in the extreme and laughable at best. Oh, and if there are any actual professionals looking at your website they will immediately be able to pick you as a rank amateur.
The REAL ‘Best of the Best’ never scream it out loud. Because they don’t have to tell anyone. Because the people who count already know.