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Importance of a Good Makeup Artist on Your Movie

Updated on April 2, 2012

The Makeup Artist Dilema

The importance of a good makeup artist in film and TV is overlooked in today's industry. Probably about 95% or more of movies don't break even, and barely a few percent ever make money. Yet, there are hundreds of production companies, actors, directors and a whole army of support staff out there making a living off the movie industry. It's amazing, if you think of it, how much talent is out there and barely a few ever really make it. How many talented people in their field never see the light of day?

I bring this up because my wife has been a makeup artist for over 20 years now, and you don't know how many times we've had the discussion of whether she should drop what she loves just because she could probably make more money working third shift at 7-Eleven. Living in Florida probably is much of the cause, but unfortunately of the two of us, the money maker has a good paying job here. Florida is really bad when it comes to the movie industry. I'm sorry if I step on any toes, but I go on most sets with my wife and most production companies in Florida are not worth the gas paid to drive to the set. Yet every actor she works with, even decent photographers (many who have been on big film sets) always compliment her professionalism and talent. Most say she needs to be living in California, because she's better than the majority of the makeup artists there. Maybe they are just flattering her, but she hears it almost every shoot.

Unfortunately, on film, a good makeup artist is not noticed. Their job is to make the actor look good, or the special effect to look real. Not only that, but the makeup artist is in the talent's personal space much of the time, and they need to professionalism and personality to quickly read and connect with actors. So, a good makeup artist is never noticed, only a bad makeup job is really noticed. The smaller production companies want to put their money where they think it makes the most money, and that's either in post production or in talent (actors). Most companies see the makeup artist as a second thought, when really, a good makeup artist can make or break a production.

As an example, my wife did preliminary work on a production recently. She did all the makeup for the stills and teasers. She did it on a promise of a contract, a hand shake she would be apart of the full production. They were a Christian production company, and we thought they were trustworthy (we're Christians ourselves). Unfortunately, when it came around to contract signing time, they thanked her for her service and said they had to cut their budget and would not need my wife's services. Instead they used her work to secure funding, then hired a makeup artist from a salon for $50 a day to apply makeup and special effects. After one month of shooting the financial backers pulled their money because the dailies (viewing what they shoot for the day) were so bad, they felt they could not even go direct to DVD.

Special Effects

A simple special effect of making the person look like they have lizard skin under their actual skin is not hard for her to do. I loved being her guinea pig in her special effects classes. And as fans of the TV series V, both old and new, she decided to use that premise in one of her class projects. Creating a life cast of someone does take some know how, since it would not be fun if she completely covered my nose and mouth, but the sculpting and painting is where the true makeup artist comes out, and my wife puts the word artist in makeup artist!

Cuts, Bruises and Zombies, Oh My!

Though effects like the lizard skin are interesting, it's the realistic cuts and bruises which are more in demand. Again, they are truly art and the skin is the canvas. After one class we went into a shop to buy a new makeup chair for her, and the sales person kept double taking me. My wife finally laughed and explained the long gash down the side of my face and the road rash was not real. I had completely forgot she had put it on me.

Of course, the most common special effect is the zombie flick, and yes, she's worked on a really bad zombie flick called The Dead Walk. Unfortunately she came in at the end and was not there for most of the zombies, and you can tell, because they are rather pathetically done. She did a lot of reshooting, so she was able to participate in creating some realistic zombies, and unfortunately due to the limited budget, it was makeup only zombies.

Vintage Films

One of her specialties (but then she's good at everything) is vintage work.  My wife not only does makeup and can list decade by decade what each style looks like, but she does hair too.  She spent a few years cutting hair, working weddings and updos for proms or other special occasions.  It's just another card she brings to the table.  She has her cosmetology and aesthetician licenses always up to date, and ready for action.  

So, if anyone knows a good production company, or if Steven Spielberg is your uncle, forward this hub to them!  Here is a hard working girl, ready to travel, over flowing with talent and dying to use it!


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      Afolahan Iretiayo 6 years ago

      good day, i'll like u to upgrade me on good make up in film production. because i'me a make up artist. love to hear from you soon.