Tag Archives: Make-up effects

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 2: Breaking out and Breaking in…..

At the risk of repeating myself, and bearing in mind that these are points worth repeating, ad infinitum:
1.  If you decide to train in Makeup FX, you are NOT going to walk out of a classroom and into a job!
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.
Unless you have a fantastic portfolio of the right kind of work work, and the appropriate skills for that particular job, and unless you can demonstrate a proven ability to work on your own without constant supervision, and consistently produce a top-end result, no professional Production Company can afford to take you on and pay you.
Insurance restrictions and Workers Compensation laws  mean no professional production will take on people working for free, either.   Traineeships are practically non-existent for the same reasons.
You will need to aim a little lower to start with.
2.  There is no such thing as steady, full-time employment with regular hours and pay.  
Unless you are working behind the counter at one of the Makeup Supply Houses, selling products to the people who do the actual work.
3.   What work there is is temporary. 

We are all freelancers. We are contracted to work on a specific project for a certain period of time.  Which may be for a couple of weeks, or up to a the best part of a decade in the case of multi-film productions.  But when the project ends, everyone goes home, and everyone goes back to being unemployed.
4.  There is no regular Superannuation, Sick Leave or Holiday Pay.  
Yes those things exist  when you are employed by one production house in some countries, but only for the period of employment.  If you want to buy anything you will need to save up for it- no bank is going to give you a loan without a regular income. If you want to have a retirement nest egg you need to save it yourself.  If you want cover in case you suffer a period of extended illness, or are injured, you need to take care of that yourself.   Get insurance. Get health cover. Get a superannuation plan
5. Most FX Houses are a one-man show.  
The vast majority of existing, actual working FX Businesses in the world are one or two person operations, running out of what is basically a big shed. And some of those sheds aren’t actually that big….
They survive in a tough environment by doing all kinds of work to pay the bills. Occasionally and in the good times they get steady work and can be quite comfortable. But most of the time they do not employ extra people because a) they can’t afford to, and/or b) there isn’t enough work.

And just in case you haven’t quite got the idea yet- you know all of those “big” well-known FX studios you see on the behind-the-scenes DVD specials?  The ones where there are forty or fifty people in the background feverishly working on FX for the latest blockbuster?  The kind of place you dream of working in one day?

Well, guess what happens when that project is completed?  That big, powerful FX business goes back to being pretty much “one man in a shed” again.  And here I am talking about the kind of FX Houses that are responsible for working on the biggest films in the world….. in the hundreds of millions in budget terms.   Yes, them….
6. In between projects, even highly successful FX Businesses retain only a very small core staff.   Everyone else is hired and released on a contract basis, per project.
Occasionally there are a lot of projects back to back and people will get hired for one, stay on for the next and can end up working for the same FX company for years, but those situations are NOT the norm in this industry.
Fewer than ten percent of people in this business will ever work full-time with the same company for more than a few months at a time.  In between jobs, you are on your own.
7. Competition is fierce.
You really think you have a chance of getting work at a professional FX studio for that upcoming film you’re desperate to work on, simply by sending in your Makeup College portfolio, with its wonky bald-cap,  latex and tissue gunshot wounds, and that 1920’s Beauty look with the cheap acrylic wig?
(Because you’re really, really keen, right? See Point 1.)
Who is your competition?  People who have worked on some of the biggest productions in the world. People from all over the world! People with serious experience and skills at the pinnacle of the business. People who have been personally recommended to the people in charge of crewing up. (That last is a biggie…)  People with a professional reputation that justifies their self-confidence. Oh, and most large FX houses get literally THOUSANDS of applications to work there when there is a big film coming up. One particular place I know has them stored in the backyard in Freight Containers. The kind that go on ships.  Three of them, each stacked to the ceiling…   Get the picture???
So if you DO send off your CV and portfolio, don’t be too surprised if you don’t get a personal reply next week. Or ever… Realistically, who has the free time to answer hundreds or  thousands of unsolicited applications?
Now, tell me again, why should they hire you for that blockbuster on the basis of a few school assignments?
Just because your family and friends think you are terribly talented and bound for glory, does not mean you have the relevant experience and appropriate skills to do the job.
Or at least, NOT YET.
If you are thoroughly pissed off at me right now for being so blunt, and full of indignant self-righteousness (“how dare she tell me I can’t make it… I’m DIFFERENT… I’M SPECIAL!”)  or  if you are feeling moribund and totally depressed about your lack of future prospects, (“what’s the point in even bothering.. I’ll never get anywhere… I’m just wasting my time… “)   then I recommend you give up the whole idea of Makeup FX as a career right now!
If you are not a quitter, however, pull your socks up , take a deep breath, get a nice hot cuppa, and keep reading.

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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BLOOD FOR FILM: Information, Ingredients and Recipes

The original version of this post was written for the Film and Television Institute in Perth, Western Australia a few years ago. It has since been updated and added to several times. In its current form it summarises the best and most accurate recipes and useful information currently available to Makeup Artists, to allow you to make your own Theatrical Bloods for Film, Tv or Stage.

THE HOLY GRAIL OF MAKEUP FX

As a Makeup Artist, I am often asked about the best way to make a CHEAP, REALISTIC artificial BLOOD, that won’t stain, and can be made in bulk for film and theatre.

The answer isn’t always what they want to hear, sadly, there is no such beast! As always, the classic designers triangle applies here: Good, Fast and Cheap. Pick two…..

Quite honestly, if you are only using a small amount then you are better off buying a good brand of theatrical blood as it will work out the same price to make your own and wont always be as good, and less fuss!

However, if you need a large quantity or are unable to source a good quality product in your geographic area, there are plenty of recipes around and one of those listed here is bound to suit your purposes.

In my personal Makeup FX kit I routinely carry between 12 and 16 different types of bloods at any one time. Yes, thats right- at least a dozen! The reason for is that there are many variables on a shoot, and rarely is one product suitable for every occasion. You need to mix and match. I carry runny bloods that dont dry, runny bloods that do dry, runny bloods that are mouth-safe or edible, bloods that stay where you put them, bloods in different colours in the above categories, opaque bloods, translucent bloods, blood pastes, blood that can be reactivated by a spritz of water, blood that will stay on underwater, blood that sets scabby, blood that looks fresh, blood for eyes, blood powder, blood capsules…. you get the idea?

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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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