Tag Archives: filmcrew

So You Got Your First Real Job As A Makeup FX Artist…….

Congrats on getting your first real gig.


Now comes the REALLY hard part!!


You are no doubt filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and a little bit of trepidation. Which is all to the good. 
There is nothing quite like jumping in at the deep end to find out exactly how well you can swim. And you are about to!!

If I can offer you any advice for the job it is this: 

BE PREPARED 
Yep, it’s the ol’ Scout Motto. 
And it holds as true for what you are about to do as for a soldier preparing for battle…

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How Do You Make Contact With People Who Can Employ You?

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…

Or not…..

Firstly, if that is the life you imagine for yourself, then before you do anything else, please go and read So You Want To Be A Makeup FX Artist, Parts 1,   2, and 3.  

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So You Want To Be A Makeup FX Artist Pt 3: Breaking Through….

What’s holding you back?

What habits do you have, what beliefs and prejudices do you hold, that you may not even be aware of, that are preventing you from making progress in your career?
I mentioned in Pt 2 that when you are starting out in your career, and for the first couple of years, you will be working on small or non-existent budget productions.  It is not uncommon for people to resent this time and to feel that somehow it is time wasted when they could, should, be working in a “real job”.

The classic sign of arrogance in an early-career person who is indignant about having to start at the bottom, is the belief:

“I didn’t go to school for this!!”

Er, pardon me for being blunt, but YES, YOU DID!!  School or college or training of any kind, be it a twelve week intensive program or a three year Film and Media Degree course, does not thrust you out into the working world fully formed and worthy of the highest professional respect and the associated salary.  It merely gives you a basic grounding in materials and techniques, and the quality of that education will vary enormously from school to school.  In short, a formal education gives you enough information not to make a nuisance of yourself on a set or in a lab, and prepares you only for more learning. The real, on the job, practical kind of learning…..

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.”  (This quote has been attributed to at least three different people.  Suffice to say it is a truism we should all remember!).

As I said earlier,  no-one is going to hire you right out of training to work on a big job. Or even a medium sized job. Matter of fact, almost nobody will pay you to work on anything right out of training. You simply have neither the necessary level of skills, nor the ability to put them into practice on a real working high-pressured film job.  So you will, you must, start with what you can get, which will be low-budget and no-budget work to begin with.

BUT: never forget you are working with, and for, REAL people making REAL films during this time, many of whom will have invested THEIR OWN MONEY into the project.

These people are just like you. They are early career film makers and crew, doing their best to learn as much as they can and survive in a brutal and unforgiving industry.

  • DON’T look down your nose at them because they are not the kind of people you wish you were working with. Everyone starts at the bottom, and everyone has to EARN the respect they crave. One day these people too will have worked their way up the tree and be more professional, with all the associated benefits that brings.
  • DON’T think that just because its a small budget that it isn’t important to get the quality as high as you possibly can manage. If YOU had put your own hard earned cash into a project, wouldn’t you want to think that you had gotten the best result you possibly could for your efforts?
  • DO REMEMBER that every project you do, (even where you are barely getting enough to cover materials) should be treated with the same dedication and attention to detail the same as every project you do on your own for practice or for fun. Regardless of whether you think it is ‘important’ or whether it is as exotic or adventurous a challenge as you might like, it is giving you REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE.
  • DO KEEP YOUR EYES AND YOUR MIND OPEN. You can learn a tremendous amount from these projects if you are open to the possibility- more than any school can teach you!! You will have to deal with schedule changes, inclement weather, difficult relationships, tiredness and boredom, industry politics, mistakes, miscommunication, accidents and mishaps, and things not working when you really don’t know what has gone wrong or why, and having to figure out a way to fix it on the fly….. It may be a steep learning curve, but the difficult projects will be the ones you look back on with satisfaction afterwards, for having achieved things you didn’t know you could do….

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” Richard Bach

Every project you do takes you one step closer to your end goal, and the Makeup FX Artist you will one day be, is formed in the crucible of your trials and temptations.

Every problem that you solve, every trauma that you triumph over, brings you one step closer to being the kind of person who is a valued and respected crew member, in demand and well rewarded.

So whatever you might think of them now, the people with whom you work in your early days are your most important asset in your search for future work. One day in six months time, one of them, (who meantime, has gone from assistant director on a no-budget short to being a production assistant on a medium sized TV drama), will happen to talk to someone else and mention you when they are desperate for a Daily to come in and help at short notice.  Then six months down the track, that person might call you and ask about a three week job they have coming up in a few months time, which will lead you to your next step up the ladder, and then that will lead to the next, and so on.

Personal referrals and recommendations from people you have worked with will get you more work than anything in your portfolio!

But it takes TIME…..

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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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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


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