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.