Tag Archives: Make-up FX

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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So you want to be a Makeup FX artist? Pt 4. What Now?

And now your thought for the day, here’s a little something that all of us should be reminded of from time to time:

In the latest issue of Makeup Artist Magazine, there is a telling quote from Tami Lane where she is describing the hiring process for Hobbit:  “Not only did we have to pre-paint the pieces we got from Weta, we also had to hair-punch the eyebrows on them. It was quite difficult to find people that could hair-punch a realistic set of eyebrows.  I had to turn down a lot of fantastic makeup artists I wanted to work with, because I had to incorporate both jobs into one person.”

You start out as a total beginner, armed only with enthusiasm and sheer desperate willingness to succeed, and then you do some kind of training, whether self-taught or formal training, and then you are somehow ‘qualified’.

Ok, so the minute you actually DO any training to get your basic skills,  you are going to realise that there is a long hard road ahead of you, which involves doing a lot of freebies or low-budget work to get the ACTUAL skills you need- i.e. the ability to put everything you have learned into practice, on real people, in an actual working environment under what is often immense pressure from time and budgetary constraints….

But what then?  Surely after you have put in the hard yards and paid your dues, the world is your oyster, right?

I think somehow that most people believe that there is some kind of magic threshold, and that once you have reached it, everything is easy, you will get the jobs you want, work on the projects you aspire to be a part of, and live happily ever after…..

Well, as the above quote should tell you, no, the world doesn’t work that way.

Yes, nepotism exists, and people like to work with people they know and trust, which is fair enough, but a little bit of healthy competition never goes astray.

When  it comes down to getting the job done, however, it doesn’t matter how long you have been working, or on what, or with who-  the single biggest factors in choosing crew for any particular job remain the same regardless of your level and experience:

1. Can the person do the job or are we willing to train them to do the job?

 2. Will the person do the job well?

 3. Will we be able to work with this person and can this person work with us, over the long run?

 

Fall down on any one of those factors, and you’re no longer in the running. And then, beyond that, there are other factors like availability, location limitations, and the sheer brutal reality that you can only afford so many people in any given team.

For Hobbit the crucial factor was the first and simplest one- can the person do the job?  They didn’t have time to train people to the level required in the very specific combination of skills that were required due to the particularly demanding nature of the type of work involved.  Not a lot of people already  had THAT particular combination to the level required, and so they didn’t get the gig, even if they were incredibly talented people in many other areas and the best fun in the world to work alongside on a hard job.

The truth is, you can’t be all things to all people.  You can be a generalist, and ‘jack-of-all-trades’, but the flipside of that coin is the other half of the expression: ‘master-of-none’.

You can be a specialist, and amongst the best in your field in your chosen area, but that carries its own risks, amongst them, being pigeon-holed and never allowed to try anything else, no matter how good you might be, because people value what skills they know you possess far more than the ones they don’t know about.

Whatever your skill level, you won’t get hired unless you have the relevant experience and appropriate skills required to do that particular job.

So don’t take it personally if you get knocked back, no matter how badly you wanted it, maybe that job just wasn’t meant for you.


The FX Artists Reply to Unreasonable Demands:

There are many people who want to be Makeup FX Artists. More than there can ever possibly be demand for. Most of them will never ‘make it’. Not because they don’t have the talent, or the drive, but because they get worn down by years of trying and failing, and eventually give up, poor, lost and disheartened. It takes more than just raw talent and enthusiasm to make it in this business.

Many people starting out are often so eager to make a name for themselves and get involved in something- anything! – that they become unwitting doormats, willing to do whatever it takes to follow their dreams. For some reason, perfectly sane people who would never consider behaving like this in any other arena of their lives start belittling themselves or prostituting their skills. They become totally desperate- like drug addicts, taking whatever so-called ‘work’ they can get, to get their next ‘high’… Unfortunately in that state of mind it is easy to be taken advantage of by people who really couldn’t care less about your desire to prove yourself, they are just in it for themselves and don’t care who they tread on on the way.

It is one thing to be enthusiastic and helpful and excited about finally getting to pursue your dreams, and another thing entirely to get the chance to do something that is going to help you actually do that.

The word “No” is often completely eradicated from peoples vocabularies at this stage, because they are so terrified of somehow losing out if they dare to refuse a ‘job’.

Well, here is a reality check for anyone who is at that point:

The FX Artists Reply to Unreasonable Demands:

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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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What Do I Need In My Makeup FX Kit?

What do you need in your kit when you are a Makeup FX Artist?

To a large extent it depends on the kind of work you usually do. Is it factual recreation or fantasy creations? Do you have time to build FX in your workspace beforehand, or are you regularly called upon to put together an Out-of-kit Effect at the last minute?  Of course, you won’t necessarily need your entire kit on every job, but you will want a comprehensive set of tools and products to get you through any situation you are likely to face in your working life.

If you trained at a formal school you will have purchased a very basic kit to use during your education. If you are self taught you may have acquired everything piecemeal as you needed it, but that can leave gaping holes in your kitlist when it comes to things you just haven’t done yet…

Either way, shopping for Product and Equipment can be a minefield of torturous decision making and insecurity… And making the wrong purchase can be worse than not buying anything!
When faced with a multitude of alternative brands and glossy marketing material making grandiose promises, it is always difficult to know where to start.

Most of us get swept up in the excitement of new and exciting products from time to time, only to find them languishing at the bottom of our kit months later while we rely on our familiar and predictable old favorites…

A case in point is Makeup Brushes: how many do you own?    Twenty?  Forty? 
Now, being honest with yourself: how many do you actually USE???   I’d wager that you rely on the same half dozen for everything you do!!  

With this in mind, I advise you to read the following list carefully and pick out only items that seem to you to be immediately necessary, or perhaps things that you have seen in other peoples kits and think would be useful to you in your current line of work.
Accumulating a comprehensive and versatile kit is a major investment in your career, so try to only buy things you know you will use or are willing to learn to use!! And always buy the best quality you can afford, that is justified by the work you do.

So your checklist before purchasing an item goes something like this:

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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.”

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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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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


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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The How and Why of Silicone, (Part 3)

USING YOUR SILICONE:

So you are now fully equipped to choose exactly the right silicone product for your purpose, and you are champing at the bit to get started. So lets look at how to do that.

I’m not going to go into the entire multifaceted sculpting and mould-making process here, it would take me six months, and there are already a lot of fabulous resources out there…. (see post on My Makeup Books) what we ARE going to look at now  is the actual silicone itself and what you need to do to end up with a usable product at the end.

There are several things to do before you even open the product.

FIRST, make sure your workroom, tools and materials are neither too cold, nor too hot   This, I understand, can be tricky…. but especially in your first few attempts with silicone, it will make the process much smoother and increase your chances of success.  (All Technical Data sheets list the estimated geltime and total curing time of your product, at an ideal working temp of around 24C (about 75F).)
Wait a minute- chances?  You mean this isnt a guaranteed, easy peasy, smooth as pie process?  Weeeelllll…. technically, yes, it could be, as long as you follow the instructions perfectly and work in optimum conditions. But Im not going to lie to you- there are many things that can go amiss if you aren’t careful, and sometimes, even if you are…

SECOND, assemble your tools and materials.  You will need to make sure your materials and workspace are clean, and all components are compatible with the silicone of your choice- remember your list of inhibitors.  You really need to have an accurate electric scale measuring by the gram for working with silicones, plus a pocket scale that measures by 0.1 grams, especially if you are making prosthetics and the likes that use only small amounts… (see The How and Why of Silicone (Part 2) for some good pocket scales).  Dont forget the calculator and a notebook to write things down- NEVER assume you will remember it all.  Also, you will need to make sure you have CLEAN CONTAINERS. Never try and skimp on this… as my 16 yr old observed, recycling isnt a large part of Special Effects, and although we can re-use some things, it pays to be scrupulous when working with something as fussy and expensive as silicone.  You can save a container you have used for the same silicone before and remove the old cured mix, but if there are uncured parts you are best to dispose of them and start again. Some cardboard cups contain wax that can inhibit some silicones. Clean paper cups, plastic containers or foodgrade plastic buckets are best.
THIRD, it goes without saying that you should ALWAYS test your materials before starting your project.  It also goes without saying that most people simply don’t bother….

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