Category Archives: Life, the universe and everything…

The “M” word…. Money, and how do I get paid for this?

After the idealism of youth, and the dewy eyed enthusiasm of the passionate beginner has worn off, and we have begun our fledgling careers in the Special Effects Makeup Industry, most people come to realise very abruptly, and not altogether pleasantly, that there is a long hard road ahead of them, and it isn’t going to be all roses and red carpets…. In short, you will have bills to pay, rent to cover, and you will look wistfully at your friends who have ‘boring’ jobs working in the local bank or as a plumber, who are buying new clothes every six weeks and jetting off overseas for their annual leave, and say “Why cant I afford to do that?”  You will have discovered the harsh reality.

It’s hard to make a living wage doing what we do.

And nobody, but nobody, teaches you about Business 101 when you are studying to be an “artist”. Lets face it, you wouldn’t have been interested if they wanted to- you thought that because you loved it so much, all you had to do was get out there, show the world how talented and enthusiastic you were and they would beat a path to your door… FX Houses all over the world would be competing to get you to come work for them, right?  Or not…. Continue reading


INSURANCE FOR SFX Makeup Artists and Technicians

When you first start out, dont forget INSURANCE!

When you work for a larger company as an EMPLOYEE, you will be covered by their public liability and indemnity insurance policy as long as you are engaged in work that you have been assigned.

When you are a FREELANCER, or as can sometimes be the case even when working for a larger company, a SUBCONTRACTOR, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for your own insurance.

So, if anything goes wrong, say an actor has an allergic reaction (whole different subject- to be covered in another post!!) and ends up requiring expensive medical treatment, or if the actor is injured in some way as a result of YOUR work, then YOU are personally LIABLE, not the production… nor the company that may have engaged you to do the work…. Of course the injured party may choose to sue them as well for having hired you in the first place, but in the end, its going to cost you.

A lot of people ignore insurance when they start out, they think its too expensive… but being sued for injury or loss of income is going to be a WHOLE lot more expensive, and given how hard it is to make any money in this business in the first place when you are in your early career, can you afford to take that risk?????

All countries have different legislation covering insurance and compensation so you will need to ask around for the best kind of cover. In the United States you may be able in many cases you can ad it as a rider to a home insurance policy for little to no cost. Australia is a little different, you can cover tools of trade at home or in the car, and public liability on the premises, but not on a worksite, which requires a separate policy…

Some places have policies specifically geared to the Film and TV production industry. You can also ask your local Government regulatory authority, Media Union or Professional Association for recommended insurers. If you can’t find those, then get some kind of Mobile Business Insurance if you are working on sets and locations, that will cover you for personal liability and tools of trade, (often these cover any assistants as well).

Don’t skimp- it could cost you your livelihood or your lifestyle!


The Power of No……

No matter where you are or what your circumstances, pursuing Special Effects Makeup as a career is going to be an enormous challenge.  It is one of the most highly competitive fields in the world, and yet the rewards are not monetary or even fame, but intrinsic to the creative process, and inherent in the actual work itself.  For people who are lucky to live in a time and a place when the business is good, and work easy to come by, they may not understand or appreciate the sheer numbers of people all over the world, in the most remote corners, who desire so passionately to pursue their dream, regardless of the whether or not there is a viable film and media industry where they live.  And yet, they do… WE do…..  all of us, just a little bit mad, and very, very, determined.

A dear friend and mentor of mine, a highly respected SFX MUA, said it best- “We are all missing the part of our brain that tells us when to stop…”

Many people ask for information and help on how to get this, that, or the other, achieved on a shoot, “with a very tight or non-existent budget” Fair enough. We all of us, apart from a fortunate few, start out that way, doing work for free or very little and without much to work with, its part of our training and necessary, if you can pull a rabbit out of a hat and get something onscreen that will pass muster when you have nothing to work with, then JUST IMAGINE what you will be able to do once you get some REAL equipment and materials….

But what really riles me, is when I hear “there’s no time to do this”.

Continue reading


So you want to be a Makeup FX artist? Pt 1. Where Do I Start?

So, you have been doing what you are doing for a while, life was going ok, good, not great, and you have slowly come to the realisation that you have a niggling dream to work in Special Makeup FX…. Or perhaps you always knew you wanted to try for this, but you never quite knew how to start? You might be twenty and single, footloose and fancy free, or you might be married with a mortgage and kids….
I do empathize with you- I didn’t get into this until I was 40, and let me tell you it took me about three years to work up the guts to do it!! I flipped everybodies lives upside down in the process, because I had to move to the other side of the country for three months to train, and previously I had been home with my kids while they were little, so my husband suddenly had to rediscover (discover?) his domestic side and hold the fort whenever I was working! Fortunately for me though he realized I needed to do this and saw how much happier I was once I had so it all worked out, not everyone is that lucky. Also we have money from our other business so I can afford to just do the jobs I want- never had to take weddings to pay the bills.
So where do you start?

Continue reading


How Time Flies… The Intensity of Creativity….

I was teaching a class in May, as Guest Tutor for PAC Screenworkshop 2, having been asked back as Makeup Instructor once again by Annie Murtagh-Monks, (Casting Director, Managing Director of the Association of Screen Professionals and Co-ordinator and driving force behind the Perth Actors Collective). Annie introduced me as an ex-alumni of the PAC workshops, also of the memorable Creative Intensive residential weekend workshops held at the old New Norcia monastery every year, and she asked me when it was I had done mine. Off the top of my head I estimated at least one of them was around 2005….

Well, out of curiosity, I was leafing through some paperwork in my office, and came across the original certificates of completion- turns out my first Creative Intensive was the 5th to be run, in July 2002, and the second was the 8th C.I. ever, in September 2003…. ( since those heady days they have a single weekend every year, they are up to C.I. 15 this October.) Looking back at the 9 years that has passed since my first C.I. has afforded me a unique perspective… and I just thought it might be interesting to share it with anyone who is currently in the midst of their own creative journey…

For anyone who doesnt already know, I used to be an actor. Admittedly, not a fabulous actor, as in those days I was restricted and restrained by the insecurities of youth and upbringing, my inner shyness and lack of self-confidence… Go ahead, I hear you laughing from here… but (believe it or not) I am actually a very private person and, especially in those days, rather controlled and emotionally self-contained, which is not the best thing for an aspiring actor to be…. I had not yet discovered the secrets of letting go and being myself, but was still in the grip of control issues and inner demons. Yeah- we all got ’em….

I had always held a yearning to act, but working in hospitality in my younger years kind of precluded that ambition, and it wasnt until I had my first child in 1995 that motivation met opportunity, and I joined my local community theatre group, at the local Irish Club.  (Coincidentally I also acquired my love of a properly poured Guinness during this period…).  Like anyone, I contributed to almost every role at some point during my internship in theatre, from Stage Manager, Costume and Sets, through Acting, often at the same time..  then studied Theatre Lighting at UWA and temporarily took over from our Lady of Light, Ms Fiona Reid, who was studying her craft at WAAPA.  I even directed a couple of plays, and had one delightful actor tell me that one day, I would write my own highly successful production and give him, in his own words, “Three Lines And A Gun”.    I still think that would make a great play or even film title, and you have my permission to use it, as long as I get a Thankyou in the credits!! Continue reading


Film is a jigsaw puzzle -ALL the pieces need to fit!

Another from the archives- this originally posted on Facebook in 2009.

When you are planning your low-budget indy film, dont forget to consider Makeup, Makeup FX, and Costume!

It doesnt matter if its a short for your senior year at film school, or your first feature, which you have funded by selling your car….
Sadly, many people treat these highly specialised areas as an afterthought, or the poor cousins of Art Dept, when in reality they are as important as good lighting. And just like lighting, when done well, you should hardly notice them, but they lift the standard of the whole production, and contribute seamlessly to the overall look and feel.
Poorly done, they will drag your precious project and all its months or years of hard work down to the amateur level!
Will you appoint a DOP with no experience in camerawork? A gaffer who doesn’t know the difference between a key and a fill, or when to use a reflector vs a cutter? Would you use an obviously fake toy gun as a key prop? Or let an actor wield a weapon without understanding how a real one behaves? No? Of course you wouldn’t?
Then why would you trust a vital component of the visual appearance of your film to someone who has little or no experience, interest or understanding of how it works?
Another aspect you may not have considered is the difference that good crew in this area can make to your actors… Having well-equipped professionals preparing your talent and then looking after the continuity on set all day will make the editors job much easier, and leave the actors free to concentrate on giving you an award-worthy performance.

If you don’t know a professional – find one!!!!! A great place to start is on Facebook! There are plenty of groups dedicated to film production, and several devoted to film makeup.

Remember – professionalism is an attitude, not a price tag.
Having said that, don’t expect to get Oscar-winning work for free. The level of experience and expertise of your crew is commensurate with the level of remuneration you will need to provide. Trust your appointed crew to let you know what FX etc you can realistically afford, and give you the best ‘bang for your buck’. Continue reading


A New Era in Perth Filmmaking.

From the Archives:  This was originally published as a Facebook Note in late 2009.

Filmmaking is about creative collaboration and co-operation.

When you see the ongoing success of events like the ‘Perth Film Network’ networking functions you realise how much we are all benefiting, getting to know and work with the rest of the people in our fledgling industry. It’s great to see people responding so enthusiastically to these events. It makes you realise what has been missing for so long in this town- communication. It’s fantastic to have that chance to meet people, have a few drinks and and dream up new ideas for future projects.

But we won’t ever catch up to the rest of the country unless we all pull together, put in some serious effort, and make it happen…. or else we will keep on having drinks and having a good time, and life will go on pretty much as it always has round here. Which is fine if you want to keep working for nothing, or are happy getting paid two-thirds of what the rest of the country gets because ‘it’s only WA’. It’s fine if you don’t care that many of our crew never get much past the skill level of your average keen student filmmaker, not from want of trying, but purely because they never, ever, get a chance to work with someone better than they are and see how it can, and should be done.

There haven’t been enough professional level production here to have any sort of useful mentoring of our brightest and best, and people complain that the big productions that come over don’t use many local crew. Why is this so? Two extremely valid reasons- firstly, because we have a very, very small group of people trained to the standard they need, and most of those work full-time to service the small industry we do have- local commercials, corporates, docos, sport, and once in a blue moon, a kids tv series. Second reason is because most of the interstate and overseas productions don’t know a soul in the industry here, and even if they did want to hire local crew- they wouldn’t know where to find them. Basically we are really bad at promoting ourselves outside our own backyard. And not so hot within it, for that matter.

Is it any wonder that anyone with any ambition gets on a plane as soon as they can? If the people who do have the knowledge can’t or won’t teach you, how can you learn? Worse, if there is no-one here with the kind of skills you need to learn, what else are people supposed to do? How many of you want to spend the next twenty years making the same kind of films they have done here for the last twenty? Sure, the advances in computing and digital technology now make it possible for anyone to get a little camera and make a film, complete with CGI, in their living room. Well, heads-up, folks- just because you can physically make a film, it doesn’t automatically follow that its going to be good! This is an artform and a craft – one that requires dedication and passion, and most of all, practise! And by the way, practise doesn’t mean doing the same thing, the same way, over and over and over- it means refining and improving and learning. Continue reading


the winds of change…

Well, 2011 has certainly started with a bang.  Or according to where you are, a blow, (Qld’s Cyclone Yasi) a shake, (the Christchurch quake) or a burn (the Perth bushfires), which have left many mourning the loss of loved ones, homes and livelihoods.  Natural disasters and human error aside, it seems that there is a lot of powerful energy around at the moment, and change is in the wind.  On the whole, this presents many people with a problem.  To quote Terry Pratchett,

‘They think they want good government and justice for all, Vimes, yet what is it they really crave, deep in their hearts? Only that things go on as normal and tomorrow is pretty much like today.”

I am sure that all those who have survived the traumas of the past two months would indeed have preferred that life had simply gone on much as before…. without the irrevocable changes inflicted upon them in a moment by the caprice of nature. Fortunately for the rest of us, not all change is as drastic or as painful, yet many people still find it difficult to cope with.

People forced into change often struggle to adapt, but even when that change, whether small or large, is of our own making, we too can struggle against it.  Perhaps we would do well to remember that it is perfectly usual to feel disoriented and out of sorts when we are in a new or altered situation, because most of our daily behaviours and interactions rely far more on habit and routine than we realise, and having those routines removed forces us to SEE our environments in a new way for the first time in ages.  Not always with pleasant consequences….  all you can do is remember your ‘child-mind’, and let go of needing to know or control what is going to happen next.  Be open, and allow, dont fight it, you need your energy for other things, and within a few months you will create a totally new set of habits and routines to get you through.    Continue reading


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