Category Archives: THE BUSINESS OF MAKEUP FX

CHEMICAL SAFETY -IN THE WORKPLACE

Sensitization to Chemicals in the Workplace:

A collection of useful info:

Every day we are all exposed to some level of chemical fumes. Spray paints and household cleaners give off fumes. Different plastics and wood products in your home give off odors from adhesives and finishes, especially when new. But normally these fumes are at such a low level that they cause no problems. However, a number of people become sensitized or allergic to the fumes given off. Their bodies get overexposed to the vapors and become sensitized. From that point on, any exposure to even a minute amount of the chemical causes a reaction. The process of sensitization can make a home unlivable, or a job no longer viable, for people who become sensitized. If you work with chemicals, your risk is much greater.

For anyone who has been in this industry for a while, most would know at least one person with severe allergenic reactions from even the slightest contact with fumes. I personally know of people who can’t be in the same BUILDING as fresh resins or epoxies. So that says that the warning labels on the products we use have to be taken seriously.

Two of the most common reactions from exposure to industrial chemicals are occupational asthma and contact dermatitis.

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Setting Career Goals- Are You Going for Gold?

There was a lovely quote from Aussie Olympic swimmer Leisel Jones in the paper this morning.

In response to questions about her recent challenges in the 2012 London Olympics, she replied: “Smooth sailing doesn’t make a skilful sailor.”

How true this is. Yet, in our pursuit of our most fervent hopes and dreams, who amongst us would wish for a rough ride to the finish line? Surely we can simply stick to the easy path, and achieve just as much, if not more, than those who struggle? If we set our goals clearly and aim high, need we suffer in the attempt?

The Olympics are, so often, about expectation. The contenders, often young and in their early career, for whom nothing but Gold will shine. A Silver or Bronze is almost more devastating to them than never qualifying. Then there are the battlers, from countries with no history in their chosen event, or the ones who have self-funded and trained, often later in life, to fulfil their dream. They stand no real chance of winning against competitors with a lifetimes’ dedication and the financial backing of a nation, but for many of them just being there is the reward, and their triumph is achieved when the starter’s gun sounds. And, in London, we had the unusual case of Jones, who became the first Australian swimmer to compete in four Olympics, yet who has been criticised for failing to medal, and had people wondering if that achievement itself had been enough.

If you choose to work in the Special Effects Makeup Industry, you are choosing a rough road. That’s a given. Like any Olympic sport, many try to achieve greatness, and few succeed. But for many people, ‘just doing it’ is as far as their goal-setting ever got. When you have had your heart set on just being able to do Makeup FX, somewhere, somehow, that may be enough for you… Are you content to simply drift along through life, never knowing what is round the corner, as long as you are doing SOMETHING in that field? Then there are those who have a good run, who consistently achieve moderate success, or even, fleetingly, the glory of national or international recognition. At some point, your career will inevitably begin to wane, whether through age, ill health, or simply having lost touch with the up and coming in the industry, and therefore being deemed irrelevant. Do we judge our industry as harshly as the public judge our Olympians? Should we be allowed to pursue our chosen career as long as we choose, as long as we feel capable, or do we allow ourselves to be pushed aside in favour of someone younger and less experienced, but hungrier? And what do we do if that happens? Where do we turn then?

In order to be your best, in any field in life, even in life itself, we need clear and defined goals, and the discipline to pursue them. But goal setting is a risky business in itself. Set the wrong goals, and risk failure. It is sadly easy to spend too much time and effort climbing the ladder, only to realise, belatedly, that it was up against the wrong wall…..

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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”.

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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?

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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


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