Ah, the glamour of working in makeup! Flying first-class everywhere, working in amazing tropical locations, and working with the stars. If you think that is what being a makeup artist is about, then think on. A successful makeup artist is a combination of many factors, including skills, talent, aptitude, and personality – as well as a bit of luck sometimes. Ultimately, it is a tough industry – and many people who set out to do makeup as a career will fail.
Most people who do a makeup course will never succeed as a makeup artist.
- It is basic economics. Basically, the supply of jobs is low and the demand for jobs is high. Makeup is massively oversubscribed, and lack of solid paid work often forces people to rethink and go and do something else.
- If you’re not fussed about working in film and TV, then bridal, beauty or retail may have more opportunity.
- Working in film and TV involves long hours (social life… er, eh?) in all sorts of weather, sometimes in cramped conditions, with fierce competition for few jobs, and lots of arseholes. Oops, there – we’ve said it. To be fair there are lots of lovely people too, but sadly some big egos, attitudes and backstabbing. A cornucopia of duplicitous tosspots!
- Of course, you have talent and are determined. You like makeup and films and can draw with lipstick. You have no friends, so the social thing is fine. And you are not afraid of tosspots. Bravo! Ever onward!
- Sure, people do make it into the media industries and have a good career. But, to reiterate, most people who set out to be a makeup artist will never earn a decent living from it.
- Of course, you are going to try – and why not? Trying is better than not trying. We all knew this cold reality when we started and still tried. You could win the makeup artist lottery!
What Skills Do I Need?
Do you really have the aptitude, stamina, skills, and ability?
Ask yourself some tough questions and give honest answers:
- Am I truly artistic?
- Do I really have talent?
- Do I understand colour and light? Am I prepared to read all about this “boring stuff”?
- Do I want to practice, practice, practice in my own time to get better?
- Can I deal rationally and calmly with lots of different people who may be: a) nice; b) not nice; c) nice then not nice then nice again; d) 100% arsehole? It is a valuable skill.
- Have I the stamina to do a 14-hour day, six days a week and not complain endlessly about it?
- Can I survive mentally and financially between makeup jobs?
- Have I the aptitude and good grace to start at the beginning as a trainee and work my way, slowly, up the makeup ladder?
- Am I a team player? Can I work well with others, take instruction and do it to the letter with skill, calmness and humour and without moaning to everyone?
- If I was left on my own, can I be trusted to work and pay attention and not sit around checking Facebook?
- Can I get up at 5 a.m., drive to a location in the rain and dark and arrive not only perfectly on time, but amazingly cheerful every time?
If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, maybe one day you could be a media makeup artist. Do you still want to be a makeup artist? Then read on!
Sign Me Up! Where Do I Start?
Training, Grasshopper, training – you need some basic training.
The most common way to get this initial training is via a foundation media makeup course. You could do a makeup course at a private makeup school, you could be self-taught, you could know someone in the industry who will train you up, or you could go to university.
However you choose to do it, don’t forget working in makeup is not just about the makeup application. Many skills are needed to be a competent makeup artist, including people skills, working hygienically, time management, organisation, colour theory, being able to prioritise and work to a deadline.
Working with hair is often an essential part of being a media makeup artist, particularly in film and television. For many media jobs in the UK, you’ll be expected to be able to do both hair and makeup. However, some industries (like fashion) do have separate teams and hair skills are not necessary.
Consider a barbering or hairdressing qualification and then back this up with relevant experiences, like wig work and period hair styling. This will make you more useful to a wide range of film/TV productions.
After Training... Then What?
You are a trainee – it’s time to find a trainee position.
Doing a makeup course DOES NOT make you a makeup artist – and it sure as hell doesn’t make you a designer. Tweaking a bit of hair or washing a few wigs DOES NOT make you a hair artist either. Fiddling with latex in your basement DOES NOT make you a special effects makeup guru. You are a trainee, with much to learn.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve practised with makeup at home, done a short intensive course, or spent three years getting a fancy qualification – when it comes to working in the real world, you are a beginner.
Now is the time to find work as a trainee. But what does a trainee do? A good trainee is the oil that keeps the makeup department engine running. You clear up, get drinks, run errands, sort out continuity, and whatever else is required of you.
Please don’t ever think this is beneath you. A job as a trainee puts you in a great position to watch experienced people at work, maybe help with background artists and assist on set. You slowly learn and develop your skills and understanding.
If you’re good, have left the attitude at home, are willing to help and learn without getting under people’s feet – who knows, the team may use you again. Too many trainees we’ve some across think it’s beneath them and have a little bit of “I’ve been to college know it all” attitude – LOSE IT!
Finding Jobs & Getting Contacts
Media makeup jobs come about mainly through contacts, and many jobs have gone before the word is out. So some ideas on what you can do:
- Send your CV to designers – however, they get loads of CVs, so make sure yours stands out and is well-written with no errors.
- Ask other crew members what productions are coming up, as they always know what’s going on elsewhere.
- Send your CV to production offices – when a new production is on the go, there will be a production office. All the CVs will be passed to the head of makeup.
- Contact film and screen agencies – many have a crew database and send out emails when jobs come in. Some run courses, have crew meetups, and so on.
- Contact media skills organisations – Screenskills in the UK sometimes have paid apprenticeships available.
- Promote yourself online via social networks, professional networks and websites.