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Make-up Assistant

Becoming a hair and make-up artist takes many years of practice and dedication. After and during cosmology and make-up school, internships are going to give you the onset experience to complement your art. The next step is that of the make-up assistant.

Make-up Assistant Image
Stage
1

Practice makeup technique on a tailored course, build a portfolio of work for your website. Work on short and student films to demonstrate your skills.

Stage
2

Practice makeups in other areas of the industry; broadcast, fashion, theatre. Intern on productions.

Stage
3

Working as a makeup assistant on low budget indie productions will give you the scope to build your hours towards joining a union or continue to make progress to the role of MUA.

What is the Makeup department?

The process of transforming actors, adding that palpable authenticity to their character allows us as an audience - and the actors themselves - to fully invest in a character. The work of the Hair & Makeup Department can be undetectable in one film, as they eradicate blemishes, create chic hairstyles, even out skin tone, hide tattoos, and the signs of a late-night away from the camera. On other productions their artistry can be unmistakable, MUAs create supernatural beings, monsters and replicate injuries that have us squirming in our seats.

The department works tirelessly throughout the day, from the initial application in the early hours of the morning until the last actor has their makeup removed. MUAs and hair stylists are rigorous in their work ethic and are permanently on standby either onset or in the makeup trailer. Despite the long hours and workload, the Hair & Makeup Department can be one of the most enjoyable places to work and is usually the hive of social interaction. Teamwork is the watchword as the department functions best when everyone is pitching in to get the job done. It’s not uncommon to see the makeup designer or supervisor putting on a wash or cleaning their brushes. The Hair and Makeup Department are responsible for:

  • Design and implementation of makeups for all on-camera talent. Every man, woman and child who appears on-camera will need a basic application of makeup or spot painting.

  • Special effects including prosthetics, latex and animatronics. Most makeup artists can create many types of SFX from aging, burns, scars and lacerations out of their makeup bag if needed. SFX makeup, which includes prosthetics and animatronics, is incredibly specialized and will take many years to progress in. Some of the work can fall into the remit of the SFX Department rather than makeup depending on the project.  

  • Body makeup. A dedicated makeup artist will provide cover for any marks or tattoos and give the skin a beautiful finish that will register on camera.

  • Facial hair. Anything that falls on the face is the responsibility of makeup, sideburns, beards or stubble can all be created using false hair or makeup technique.

  • Contact lenses. The makeup designer will have these made for production from specialist contact lens makers.   

  • Dental prosthetics. These are ordered before the production begins shooting and will require actors to have a cast and molds made.

  • Hair and wigs. On large budget features, the Makeup and Hair Departments are separated. On more modest budget non-union features and other areas of the industry, makeup artists will take responsibility for hairstyling and wigs.   

WHAT ARE THE ENTRY LEVEL POSITIONS IN THE MAKEUP DEPARTMENT?

Many of the good film and tv makeup and cosmetology schools - located in the major cities - provide intern and externship placements as they are based in studio complexes or have industry contacts. Internships in the Makeup Department provide references and look great on your resume. If your school didn't provide these opportunities, get in touch with your local film office and register your interest to intern on any productions coming to town. 

Makeup assistant positions can be found on union and non-union feature films, TV dramas, commercials and music videos, as long as the makeup supervisor has the budget. To be a makeup assistant you will need to have completed a makeup course specific to film and television/cosmetology school and have a small amount of experience under your belt, senior members of the team will expect you to bring a basic kit with you on your first day. 

Don’t expect to be working with the principal cast but if the department gets busy you can be asked to work in the crowd room, and for that, you will need your makeup bag! You will also be expected to do the majority of the PA style work, such as making the teas and coffees, loading the washing machine, and pitching in when necessary. You are there to learn, so take notes, be observant and ask questions at the appropriate time. 

On low/micro-budget films, short films, student films, digital content, and fashion (catwalk and photography) new entrants may also find work as makeup assistants. You will be called upon to work with the extra talent while assisting the MUAs and performing duties consistent with your level of experience. Working as an assistant will require you to use common sense, your organizational abilities and display a level of diligence consistent with the rest of the department.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER ROLES IN THE MAKEUP DEPARTMENT?

Makeup designer: Hired in pre-production the makeup designer will break down the script and takes some time to get to know the characters. If the film is set in an explicit decade, they will research the period and the type of makeup used. Art, Costume and Makeup Departments all have a degree of crossover and are required to implement a shared vision when it comes to style, color and texture. The makeup designer collaborates closely with these departments to complete the overall look for a character. While the production designer will have a color scheme and textures they would like the Costume Department to incorporate, the costume designer may wish to discuss how the look of the character is reflected in their makeup. As well as being a skilled makeup artist, the designer will be a skilled negotiator and collaborator.

Makeup supervisor: Working closely with the makeup designer as their right-hand man/woman. The makeup supervisor takes responsibility for the budget, hiring of staff, schedule, ordering consumables and products, and running the department from an administrative point of view.

Makeup artist(s): MUAs will be working under the direction of the designer, being thoroughly briefed and prepped before hitting the makeup room/trailer on the first day of shooting. MUAs will also be working on set, accompanying the actor they have been assigned to or dealing with the extra talent.  

Personal makeup artists: Often high profile actors and actresses will have a longstanding relationship with a makeup artist, who understands not only their makeup requirements but the process the actor goes through when working on a film. Actors spend their careers having people fuss over their faces; working with one dedicated MUA can be a preferred option. 

Depending on the production, specialist makeup artists are brought in such as:

Special effects makeup artist: Anything involving prosthetics or animatronics will come into the remit of the special effects MUA, and the SFX team. This is a very exact job that will require years of training. If you are looking to specialize in SFX, there are courses you can take while working as an MUA, to help progress your career. The best course of action would be to find SFX makeup artists to train under, as you will need hands-on experience.

Body makeup artist: There are occasions when actors or models need to reveal their bodies, tattoos, veins, stretch marks, age spots or general skin discolorations may need to be corrected. The specialized body makeup artist will come in for the day; their work includes body painting also.  

Wig and hair specialist/stylists (if there isn’t a separate department). If you're not working on a big-budget feature, you are going to be styling hair.  If working on a period drama, the designer may decide to bring in a hair specialist to work with the wigs. 

‘Daily’ MUAs are brought in for crowd scenes or days with a tight shooting schedule. They usually bring their own kit and will either be allocated a workstation in the makeup room or be working out in the holding area.

WHAT IS THE CAREER PATH IF I WANT TO WORK IN THE MAKEUP DEPARTMENT?

Most, if not all, MUA’s and hairstylists have gone to makeup school/studied at cosmetology school. Some schools, based in LA, in particular, have industry links and their students can be found interning on film sets because of this, many in the business would advise you to choose your school carefully. One thing all schools prep their students for is working in as many industries as possible that employ MUA’s, those first few years of work can be hard financially. 

When you graduate, you can find work as a makeup assistant on non-union productions. It will take a few years working on non-union shows, commercials and promos to gain enough experience to apply to join Local 706. If you have gained the required amount of hours as a makeup assistant then that is the union position you must apply for. 

The more time you spend practicing makeup application, the more proficient you'll become. Alongside your portfolio you will also be creating a network as your career progresses, your network is the best way to generate future work.

WHAT OTHER AREAS OF THE INDUSTRY Can I find work?

Makeup artists are in demand all over the industry and can be found working on:

  • Film: all budgets

  • TV: drama, light entertainment, studio news, children's tv, some factual

  • Corporate films

  • Music videos

  • Commercials

  • Digital content

There is also a demand for MUAs in other industries such as:

  • Fashion: photographic and runway

  • Advertising: photographic

  • Theatre

  • Bridal

  • Personal makeup artist

WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE MAKEUP assistant?

Makeup assistants can find themselves in the thick of the action relatively quickly. A typical day can see them:

Setting up the workstations with appropriate equipment and supplies.

Each MUA will set up their own workspace on the trailer (if on location) or in the makeup room, as an assistant you can make sure that the surface has been wiped down and the workstation is supplied with all the relevant consumables.

Turning around workstations.

Making sure all the consumables (cotton wool, cotton buds, mascara wands) stay stocked on the table and brushes swapped out and cleaned if so asked. MUAs often like to look after their own brushes. If the department is pushed, ask if you can help. 

Pay close attention to continuity.

You may be called upon to take pictures, log them digitally or print out hard copies to put in each actor's file. You will find makeup artists are fastidious when it comes to continuity note-taking, from the principal cast down to the extras. MUAs know a re-shoot or pick-up shot can mean replicating the makeup an actor could have worn months ago.  Familiarising yourself with the continuity system when you arrive in the department, you will be handed a printer and asked to set it up somewhere practical. Keep an eye on paper levels and always make sure the department has additional ink cartridges.

Charging batteries.

Each MUA will be using a digital camera for continuing throughout the day. Make a charging station for the camera batteries, and make sure they go on charge each night. If the power gets turned off in the trailer, then ask to set up the charging station in the production office or wherever power remains available.

Maintain stock levels.

Always keep the assistants apprised of what makeup stock you are low on.

Prep.

If time is tight, you may be called upon to cleanse and moisturize an actor’s face and neck ready for makeup application. This will vary on each production as the senior makeup artist will set a precedent for the rest of the department. Some will expect actors to arrive with their face prepared for makeup application; others will commit to preparing the skin in the makeup chair. 

Make sure to always wash your hands pre and post-cleanse.

Help stock and clean out set bags.

Set chairs and makeup bags of the standby makeup artists who will perform ‘touch ups’ during the day. Some makeup artists like to take stock themselves, so ask if they would like your help.

General running duties for the department.

This can be putting the kettle on for tea/coffee to keeping the talent comfortable. MUAs will be hard at work from the early hours of the morning, knowing how to make good coffee is vital - do not plunge that french press too soon! Actors can be in makeup for some time (especially if intricate makeup or wigs are applied) so offer refreshments when you are free to do so, it helps to write down how everyone takes their tea/coffee to save on asking each time. Running duties will require you to use some initiative, for example, if the trailer is hotter than the sun see if you can find a fan; if it's glacial, ask production for a heater.

 Information gathering.

Ask extra talent if they have any skin conditions or sensitivities that the makeup artist should know about, then let the makeup artist know before the talent takes the chair or goes under the brush.

Assisting the makeup artists.

Passing brushes, cosmetics or assisting with the application of prosthetics. This is an ideal time to learn. More experienced members of the team will most likely answer questions, but use your judgment, and if the procedure is very complex ask after the actor has left.

Applying makeups.

Much of the work of the assistant is going to be dependent on budgets and staffing levels. If the key and supervisor is under pressure, you may be called upon to assist in the crowd/extra holding area where you can get some hands-on time with a variety of different faces. This is why you will need some experience working with makeup applications before you take the role. 

Putting on a wash.

The Makeup Department go through face clothes and terry towels at a rate of knots, so expect to be putting on a wash and the tumble dryer throughout the day.

Paperwork.

You may be called upon to help keep track of the scenes that have been filmed and deal with the end-of-day department paperwork. Make sure everyone has their call sheets the night before, and a copy of the sides first thing in the morning.

HOW DO I FIND a job AS A MAKEUP assistant?

There are many ways into the film industry, but one of the best paths of working on features in the Makeup Department is through junior roles and working your way up. If you've worked in broadcast, you're going to need to re-start at a low level to build up your drama experience. To be considered for assistant positions you're going to need a strong portfolio and resume. 

To gain this initial experience you can work on short films, student productions and micro-budget features. At this stage of your career, these will be non-union roles so lower pay. Other related areas of opportunity include TV, fashion, personal styling or bridal makeup. Be prepared for a few years of self-investment. Investing in yourself not only means taking the time to build up your contacts, skills and body of work - often for low pay - it also means learning how to conduct yourself and present yourself as a professional in the film industry.

Collaborations

Taking a makeup course at one of the film and tv makeup schools provides the foundation of your resume, from then on you're going to need to pepper it with relevant experience. If you are at makeup school look to your tutors and see what internships are available. Working on student production run by local film schools is a great way to add experience to your resume as are short films.

Although we do recommend collaborations, do your research first to ascertain who's going to be working on the production. Some things to consider are:

  • Student films will be backed by the university, so you know there is a budget and insurance has been considered. 

  • If you're working on a short film with people you don’t know, make sure to check out the producer's track record and back catalog of work; you want to know they are following best industry practices and will be running the production properly. This means the production will be insured, catering (or at least some form of feeding the crew) has been devised, there is a schedule that is realistic and location, transport and travel plans are all considered. 

Be certain you can come away from the production with what you need; experience of working on a properly run shoot, experience of makeup application and hairstyling, working with others who are in the industry, making contacts and adding a credit to your resume. Although inadvisable to turn down an opportunity, if your gut feeling is you are not going to get these things, (you will know within the first five minutes) you could decide to say thanks, but no thanks, and look for the next opportunity.

Resume

When working on your resume check it through (or ask someone else to) to see it reads well and is correctly formatted. You can use the advice to help create a resume and covering letter. You can check it against our examples to see it includes all the relevant information. You're going to want to keep your resume short and to the point, as many supervisors will be ‘scanning’ rather than reading.

Finding work and applying for positions can be a full-time job in itself. Some people will get lucky, finding work almost instantaneously. Some may have put in the hours on short films while they are studying, creating themselves a network to use when they graduate. Some people might just be in the right place at the right time. In whatever situation you find yourself, the resounding advice from professionals working in the film industry is to be persistent; persistent and relentless in the pursuit of your chosen career. Keep applying for positions; which can mean contacting professionals and asking for advice, or seeing if they will allow you to come and help for a day or two. Work experience is at the discretion of the makeup designer; there's no harm in asking.

Website and Portfolio

When applying for opportunities an online portfolio is essential. If it's looking a little light on images you can add other work such as sketching or life drawing into the mix. You can also collaborate with photographers, models and stylists on ‘testings’. These are collaborations where the key roles on a photoshoot (photographer, model, stylist, makeup artist) come together for free to create work for their portfolios.

Research

From the practical application of makeup to life working as an MUA, there is a wealth of information available to further your knowledge of makeup and the craft. Do your research on makeup designers, SFX and areas of makeup application you are unfamiliar with. Supervisors and key MUA’s are going to want to know you are furthering your development and technique. Demonstrating your ability to be proactive is hugely beneficial, although supportive there will be no hand-holding in the Makeup Department as there simply isn’t the time. There are a host of blogs, books and internet resources available to gain further insight into the work of the MUA, and although nothing is going to beat practical application they give you a feel for life on set.  So hit the library and keep searching on Google, here is a selection to get you started: 

Most of the major makeup schools have a blog, which is a great source of information. So sign up to newsletters and look to further your education. 

Network

You should have two networks: 

A lateral network of other PA’s and junior staff who can recommend you if they are unavailable to work. Remember, this industry is founded on the word of mouth recommendations, which is why you need to be a great PA and professional at all times. 

Your horizontal network consists of those above you. Keep in contact with everyone you meet, send the odd email, social media is a great way to stay in touch. Use your time to create opportunities, don’t wait for them to come to you. 

Personality and Attitude

The can-do, positive attitude required in the makeup trailer should be embraced when searching for opportunities also. Fortunately, being a makeup artist is a very versatile skill and you will be able to fit into many areas in the creative industries.  

While gaining experience outside makeup school and looking for work you're going to need an income. If this can be derived from another area (bridal, photographic, run-way), that's all for the better. If not, don't worry, short films are usually shot over a weekend so you can still pay the bills and keep gaining credits, and more importantly experience and contacts. 

If you have external funding or have saved up beforehand (a wise move as finding consistently paying work can be sketchy in the first few years) take as many opportunities as you can and keep in contact with everyone you meet - you don’t know where it will lead you.

 

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WHAT IS THE MAKEUP DEPARTMENT LIKE TO WORK IN?

The makeup team needs to have a majority of the talent in and out of makeup before breakfast, which means an early start and very often a late finish. The atmosphere in the makeup trailer can feel relaxed and easygoing at times, but on other occasions, the working environment can be charged with a fevered rush of adrenaline - and too many people. If the days are particularly busy assistants can be sent to work in the crowd room so you can get some hands-on time with your brushes.

While working in the makeup room you will be coming into contact with high-profile members of the cast. It’s highly unlikely you will be called up to work with them, but their presence will be a feature of your day so don’t get shy. MUA’s are skilled in making talent comfortable. 

Some actors may not wish to talk and focus on their lines and character - others may not stop talking! Use your common sense and gauge the mood of the room. Undoubtedly you will also come up against personalities who will only speak to the principal members of the makeup team and barely acknowledge your offer of refreshment, make your peace with it and busy yourself with the next task on your list.

Having a sociable, calm and friendly personality is a must for working in makeup, not only is this the best way to present yourself professionally, you need to embody the type of person other MUAs wish to have around. How you present yourself, and the manner in which you handle the working environment can be make or break for many new entrants. While working closely with colleagues and other crew members for the duration of the shoot, try to extricate yourself from any politics that may affect the department. The expression ‘if you can’t think of anything nice to say then don’t say it at all’ is a great mantra to have as a junior in the film industry, professionalism is everything, especially when your career is in its infancy.

Makeup artists are cool under pressure, especially when they conduct their final checks. This is a quality that all juniors should try to emulate while on set, panic or any hint of flapping is not acceptable. Having a large crew wait on you can be a daunting experience, but so can working on a reshoot because you didn’t have the courage to give yourself more time to fix a problem. MUAs will have a good understanding of lighting, camera angles and how that affects their work. They will check the monitor repeatedly while on set without overcrowding the director or DoP. 

DO I NEED A DEGREE TO BE A MAKEUP ARTIST?

If you are looking to make a career as a hairstylist you will need a qualification in cosmetology. MUA’s usually come from a makeup school rather than higher education. 

They will be looking to take on juniors with some experience under their belt such as:

  • Working at a network.

  • Worked on bridal or personal makeup.

  • Have taken makeup courses specifically tailored to film and television.

  • Have gained experience through short or student films.

  • Fashion shows/photographic.

You will be required to have experience of styling hair as well as makeup experience. Only the big-budget features will separate the Hair and Makeup Departments, in most other cases you will be expected to work across both. Although you may not need experience of cutting or colouring hair it can be a useful addition to your skillset.

SHOULD I TAKE A PROFESSIONAL FILM AND TV MAKEUP COURSE?

A makeup course specifically designed for working in film and television is recognized by many designers as ‘makeup school’, and it's what they will be looking for on your resume.

Many experienced MUAs have set up their own makeup schools with the aim of producing set ready graduates who have gained experience of the working environment via the course in addition to the skills and technique of makeup application.  

Many of the courses can be costly so do your research before you commit, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Who are the teachers; are they working in the industry or/and up to date with the latest techniques applied in film and TV?

  • What equipment is provided within the cost of the course?

  • Will they teach you about set etiquette and give you the experience of working in a professional environment?

  • Do they offer internships?

  • How many students are there per class?

  • Is the course connected to any professional institutions or makeup vendors?

  • Do you feel this course will give you the best value for money?

  • Who will you be working on? Many of the makeup schools ask students to work on each other, so you may only get half a day of hands-on practice. Look for schools that bring in models for you to work on. Not ‘models’ in the fashion sense but a variety of faces, young, old, men, women, children, different ethnicity and complexion.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT TO FIND ON A MUA’S WORKSTATION?

Most MUAs have a personal preference when laying out their workstation; you will find the same cosmetics, but everyone has their preferred brands. MUAs will make sure their kit is in date and well-stocked, brushes are clean, and they have everything they need when they start a job. 

MUAs charge a ‘kit rate’ or a ‘box rate’ per week which allows them to cover the cost of the makeup they are using on the actors. If the designer has a few products they like using, they will have factored this into the makeup budget and distribute accordingly.

If working on a digital format, the designer may favor one type of makeup over another such as implementing an airbrushing technique for example. Some MUA will work directly from their kit while others prefer laying it out, making it easier to see what they have at their disposal. You will find that cleanliness is close to Godliness in the Makeup Department, and it would be wise to observe this from the beginning. On a workstation you should find:

  • Clean cotton towels. MUAs will lay these out, so brushes and products don’t touch the table.

  • Hand sanitizers (99.9% Alcohol) and hand wipes.

  • Water spray.

  • Bottled water (in case needed for eye, mouth or face).

  • Grooming equipment for men.

  • Nail care equipment.

  • Consumables such as cotton pads, Q-tips and cosmetic Q-tips (with the paddle end), disposable mascara wands.

  • Selection of makeup brushes (clean) such as foundation brush, blending brush, lip brush, eyeliner brush and a selection of eyeshadow brushes.

  • Sunblock. MUAs take their responsibility to protect the actor's skin very seriously, if working at a location they will make sure to apply sunblock.

  • Makeup palettes with which to decant cosmetics. Nothing is ever taken directly from the bottle or lipstick. Palette knives are used to move cosmetics onto a palette or artist's paper to avoid brush contamination. Eyebrow pencils, lip liners are sharpened after use.

  • Cosmetics. You will most likely find a selection of primers, foundations, tinted moisturizers, under-eye concealers, powder, blushers, bronzers, eye shadows, eyeliner, eyebrow pencils, mascara, lipsticks, lip liners.

  • Hair products and a selection of hairbrushes, pins and grips if the department is also responsible for hair styling.

WHAT BASIC MAKEUP KIT SHOULD I HAVE WHEN STARTING OUt?

When you’re starting out, don’t feel you need to include expensive items, to begin with. Build on your kit, always keep an eye on the sell-by dates and ask other MUAs what they recommend. If you've taken a makeup course, you will have been building on your kit for a year or so, and in most cases, any makeup that is left after the shoot will be distributed amongst the most junior staff. When you arrive you will expect to bring the basics with you, do ask before you start the job but you should be aiming to have:

  • Foundation (s)

  • A light moisturizer.

  • Consumables such as wet wipes, tissues, cotton pads, Q-tips, disposable mascara wands.

  • Tweezers, scissors, and a pencil sharpener.

  • Fake eyelashes.

  • Powderpuff and sponges.

  • Powder medium/dark and dark.

  • Selection of basic cosmetics (eyeshadows, lip liners, lipstick etc).

Hair Products:

  • GHD straighteners: they are expensive but are the best and last a long time so value for money.  

  • Hairdryer.  

  • Dry wax: Aveda control paste - a little goes a long way but is quite pricey.

  • Tail comb.

  • Hairspray.

  • Round brush 1 large and 1 small.

  • Flat brush paddle or vent brush.

  • Wet gel.

  • Sticky wax.

  • Dry shampoo.

  • Bobby pins: black, brown and blonde as matt as possible.

10 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR MAKEUP assistants.

Call sheets.

When you get your call sheet read it carefully, it will provide you with valuable information. If you are shooting on location make sure to look at the weather forecast and pack clothes accordingly, the makeup team will be required to perform their tasks in any weather condition, rain or shine. Another important aspect of a thorough call sheet reading is to give yourself a heads up on the events of the day, and what the makeup artists and assistants will be up against.

Be enthusiastic.

It may sound obvious, but you do need to act as though you want to be there. Don’t spend time messing about with your phone, in fact, make sure you turn it off when you enter the department and check it at lunchtime if you must. Your enthusiasm and willingness to get stuck in and do the work can land you your next job.

Early mornings.

When you arrive at the trailer in the morning, knock on the door softly to announce your arrival, some makeup artists might already be working on actors who are in the process of waking up due to a 5 am call time. Don’t barge in loudly, and don’t forget to see who has had breakfast, offer to fetch some for the MUAs who won’t get a chance to leave. 

Be considerate when entering the department.

If you’re working on location, makeup trailers can often have a little bounce to them, be mindful of this as you enter. 

Don’t rule out working in different mediums while you're working as a junior; fashion, television or theatre for example. Some MUAs work on the chorus line in the theatre, a great training ground for speed and accuracy. The average application of makeup takes between 8 - 10 minutes!

Never touch the designer/supervisors kit

As a general rule of thumb, never touch anyone's kit without asking first. No matter how friendly they may be, no matter how tight on time - always ask.

What to do when you are let loose in the crowd room.

If you are asked to work on a crowd scene, keep in mind how the makeup artists work and try and emulate their behavior, especially how to approach people before putting a brush to their face. It may feel like you are acting initially but finding a member of the team whose style of working you like, drawing from it, and making it your own is what the learning process is all about.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Parents, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, anyone. Each face is unique and will present new challenges.

Learn how to deal with people who don't like to be touched.

Lots of people are sensitive to the way they look. When you have the opportunity to watch and listen to how makeup artists deal with these situations. They are never dismissive, they listen, empathize and will do everything they can to make someone feel relaxed and comfortable while carrying out their job. Even if an actor has worked on numerous films, their reaction may surprise you.

Never stare at the talent.

If you're lucky enough to be working on a big-budget production, it’s likely you will be working with some big-name actors. Over the course of your training, you will quickly be able to assess how to engage with crew and cast, as part of the Makeup Department, the cast will be a regular feature of your day. Some actors may prefer only to talk with the designer; others will be very easygoing, after all, you are all there to do a job.

PHRASES EVERY ENTRANT IN THE MAKEUP DEPARTMENT SHOULD KNOW.

  • Final checks. When the director is happy that everything is in place, the 1st AD will call for final checks, which give hair, makeup and wardrobe a chance to perform any final tweaks or touch-ups needed before the camera turns over. Most likely the makeup artist will check the monitor before they signal they are happy.

  • ‘Flashing!’. If you are on set and asked to record continuity, you will most likely use a flash if working in a studio. If this is the case state clearly you are about to take a picture ‘flashing’ just so those in your vicinity can hear, and the actor isn’t taken off guard. Ideally, you want to be taking shots out the way of the main action, but it never hurts to be cautious.

  • Touch ups. After the initial makeup application, MUA’s will be onset to touch up the makeup before the camera starts to roll.

  • Crossing. MUA’s and indeed any other member of crew can be heard calling this if they are crossing in front of camera.

  • HoD. Head of Department.

  • Out of your kit. Meaning whatever you have brought with you. For example, MUA’s can be called upon to apply special effects such as bumps, bruises or scratches at the last minute, being asked to ‘work out of your kit’ is a common phrase, with most MUA’s having a little something with them just in case this situation occurs.

  • Working off the mirror. MUA’s will not only be checking their work directly but will be paying close attention to how the makeup looks in the mirror.

  • Bring it back to life. If the makeup is looking dull or tired, there can be a call to ‘bring the makeup back to life’.

  • Spot painting. Meaning exactly what you may think. If you are going for a natural look (where the actor has clear skin) or working with men or children, it can be easier to spot paint out the imperfections rather than apply full makeup.

  • Muddy. A term used to express how the makeup may look, muddy meaning unclean and not blended particularly well. It can also be in reference to dirtying up fingernails, making someone look grubby.

  • 'The makeup' can refer to the MUA or the actual makeup being applied, don’t be surprised if you hear and MUA being referred to as ‘the makeup’ in conversation. 

  • The natural look. Very rarely is the natural look ever natural. MUA’s will be working to accentuate the talent's healthy glow.

FAQ’S

 

What are the hours of work?

The hours you work vary day to day, job to job. Hair and makeup can clock up some of the longest hours on set, so be prepared for this element of your working life. Expect to work a 12-14 hour day minimum when working in the Makeup Department; there are always going to be things to get done before home time so that you can do it all again the next day.

 

What is the set etiquette for junior positions?

It can be hard for any new entrant to the industry to stay focused on a film set; there is so much going on it’s hard not to pass comment. However, an assistant or intern who is going on set to assist the standby artist should be vigilant at all times. Things to think of when working on set are:

  • Have you bought everything the makeup artists will need if you have offered to take on that responsibility?

  • Be aware of what is around you. Make sure you are standing somewhere that isn’t in the way of the other departments or a light. 

  • Stay focused on the makeup artists and observe how they conduct themselves. They may appear cool and relaxed, but they are watching everything that is going on. While you are working don’t get into a conversation and forget why you are there. Always stay in the MUA's eye line, you may be needed to go and fetch something from base.

  • Onset interns are often there to observe, so do just that, don’t start texting or taking pictures on your phone, it will not send out a good message.

  • Be prepared. If you are placed on set, for whatever reason, be prepared. That can mean taking your kit, you are after all part of the makeup department.  

 

Which industry body represents the Makeup Department?

Local 705 and 798 are the locals for hair and makeup artists. Becoming a part of the union is going to take some time as you need to aggregate a number of days on non-union shows and films to qualify. Please remember to keep all your paperwork that needs to have your position on the production recorded.

 

What should I take with me on my first day?

Your makeup kit and a notebook that will fit in your back pocket, plus a pen or two to make notes. Assistants can be given many tasks at the beginning of the day; you don’t want to forget who asked you to do what. 

 

What sort of salary will I be looking at?

Those first few years are going to be low paid and that’s the honest truth. As your career progresses so does the pay and the benefits when you start being able to work on union productions.

 

Do I need my own transport?

Having your own vehicle can be vital, especially if you're working at one of the major studios or at a remote location. Being independent of anyone else's travel arrangements can be especially important as each department can wrap at separate times.

 

Can I cross over from TV into drama?

Yes, you can. If you have been working in news or providing makeups for contributors in factual or entertainment you will find drama works very differently, so despite being well versed in makeup application you may have to start again at a junior level to learn the etiquette. On the plus side, however, most designers or supervisors will acknowledge your experience and will have you working with talent sooner rather than later.

 

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