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Becoming a Makeup Artist in the Movies

Updated on April 2, 2019
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna wrote and directed several plays, taught acting for kids. She is a former talent scout, and at times directs or performs.

Makeup Artist for Movie Sets

I know some very talented makeup artists who work in the industry. Some in San Fransico and others in Hollywood. It can be a fun and challenging job. The hardest part is establishing yourself in the industry. You start at the bottom rung and work your way up to the top. If you appreciate working with people on an intimate level, helping people look their best for the camera and fans, you will do fine. But, you have to be willing to work super hard and be on your feet all day. Most likely, you will be one of the last people to leave the set. The job is yours if you can handle its responsibility.

Once you have your foot in the door and a career of steady and well-paid work, you can just keep it glamorous by setting up appointments with celebrities before red carpets, interviews and the like. Or, you can work on a film set. Whatever you desire.

Whatever you choose as a makeup artist, it is important to keep your integrity and never bank on your profession. Keep your cards to your chest and your nose clean. You will succeed far more than your dreams could imagine.

Living in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York

While making up the performers she learned the different types of stage makeup, and she learned how to apply the different types.

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Stage Jobs

Laura was living in Los Angeles and working at a cosmetic counter when she got involved in doing makeup for school plays. While making up the performers she learned the different types of stage makeup, and she learned how to apply the different types of makeup to create believable characters. In the process, Laura discovered how much she liked doing makeup, and she was successful.

Movie Jobs

Deciding that she wanted to make this her career in films, Laura got in touch with some of the major studios. However, they wouldn't hire her because she wasn't a union member, and she needed to have a job to be in the union. The standard problem for most novices in film careers is you need the experience to get a job but you can't get experience unless you have a job.

Joe Harlow Sets the Tone

The remake of Hellboy revamps the character and makeup design. In this interview with Oscar winner, Joe Harlow sets the tone of what the crew did to create a new Hellboy character. Listen to what Harlow says about designing the look of Hellboy and imagine how much work went into creating the comic book anti-hero.

Hellboy Special Character Makeup Design

The standard problem for most novices in film careers is you need the experience to get a job but you can't get experience unless you have a job.

Makeup Artist Film Jobs

She decided to contacted several independent movie companies because independent films usually have an agreement with the union that they don't have to hire union members. With some persistence, she managed to talk her way into a job on a biker movie as a makeup assistant, helping the makeup artist, do whatever needed to be done.

Another important point to breaking into the film business be willing to do whatever is needed to help get the movie made. You have to be willing to work hard and be ready to help your immediate boss.


Although the work wasn’t easy, she really enjoyed herself and knew she was taking a step in the right direction.

Horror Movies

As these things started to happen, one thing led to another, and eventually, she got a job working on a horror film. She helped create and do the makeup for the monster character in the film. Although the work wasn’t easy, she really enjoyed herself and knew she was taking a step in the right direction.

Makeup Artist for Movies Job Description

Horror Film

Laura is still working as a makeup artist for independent movie companies that produce horror, science fiction, and biking films. She still doesn't have a union card, but she is making a good living at doing what she does best -- creating monsters.

All in all, she will join the union eventually. When she does, all her hard work will have paid off.

Lucas Godfrey - Special Effects Makeup for Hell Fest

The interview with Lucas Godfrey, who did special effects makeup for the horror movie Hell Fest and The Walking Dead series. Talks about special effects makeup during the production of Hell Fest.

Watching these type of interviews are helpful in grasping an understanding of what these people do and an understanding of who they are. The more you know about them and their credits, the more your chances of recognizing them and their work.

Nothing impresses an artist than someone truly recognizing them for who they are and their work in films.

What Do You Think

Which industry would you like to be a makeup artist?

See results

Makeup Artist on Film Set

Laura’s advice for those who want to do special effects makeup is to a get a job selling cosmetics. “Once you learn the basics,” she says, “you can offer to do makeup for school and community theaters, or talk to your friends into letting you practice on them. The important thing,” she asserts, “is to practice your craft.”

Makeup Artist Movies Salaries

Makeup artists on a film set make roughly $40 - $50 dollars an hour, depending on the production. Annually, you could be making $73,250 to $88,200 or more. These are figures from 2011. All in all, you can live your dream and become a makeup artist in any field. Laura entered a legendary field that is rewarding artistically as well as financially. The same thing can happen to you if you just learn your craft and start finding jobs.

© 2016 Kenna McHugh


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    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      10 months ago from Northern California

      Hi Tami, Thank you for reading my article, and I hope it is helpful. Lucas Godfrey has worked on my horror films and he is such a great resource of information about the horror movie business. Personally, I don't know him. The video was sent to me from the production company. I recommend posting your resume on both film community sites and Facebook pages. Horror movies are a great way to break into the film industry because they are low-budget and usually hire non-union crews.

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      I do makeup for local theaters in Bend. I'd love to have a gig with a horror film. That would be so much fun and its been my dream. Lucas Godfrey's interview is informative. How were you able to get him to do the interview? Do you know him personally? Can you introduce me to him so I can give him my resume?


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