Tag Archives: low-budget

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…..

Continue reading


REVIEW, WEB: “Neill Gorton’s Makeup FX 911” on Facebook

So, you’re a working Makeup FX Artist, or just a keen beginner.  You have some questions you want answered- you might be trying out a new technique for the first time, or maybe you had an unexpected problem crop up with something you’ve done dozens of times before, and you aren’t sure what happened or why?  Where do you look for help?

Call 911!

Continue reading


SFX Makeup Artists and Duty of Care:

  • A DUTY of CARE is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.

    What does this mean to you? 

    It means that if, in the course of your work, you perform any action that harms, or provide any service or product that causes harm, to another person, you are in breach of your Duty of Care and the injured party can sue you. *Important note: Although I say, ‘in your work’, the law appies to you WHATEVER YOU DO, ALL THE TIME, WHETHER AS PAID WORK OR AS A HOBBY….

    But I have insurance for that, right?  Well, maybe, maybe not….

    Since 1950, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have shared a common definition of occupational health. It was adopted by the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health at its first session in 1950 and revised at its twelfth session in 1995. (For further reference see Occupational_safety_and_health)

    The definition reads:

    “Occupational health should aim at: the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities; and, to summarize, the adaptation of work to man and of each man to his job.”

    Continue reading


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


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


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