Movie Makeup Artist Job Description

Model having her makeup done
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A makeup artist does everything from making Cameron Diaz look completely flawless to turning Arnold Schwarzenegger into a Terminator. It is an essential part of the entertainment industry as it helps breathe life into a character by making them more three dimensional.

An actor has a much easier time being able to commit to a role if they truly believe that they have been transformed into the character they are playing.

This belief is mandatory for the audience as well. For us to by the story, we need to believe that there is actually a robot under Schwarzenegger's skin, or that Jennifer Lopez has bruises on her face, or whatever.

The best makeup artists are those whose work you never really notice. As an audience member, assuming all other elements are met (acting, writing, directing), it becomes that much easier for you to become invested in the characters on the screen when the makeup is done well. It is a true artistry.

Makeup Artist Jobs

There are four different jobs in a makeup department. How many of these positions exist in a project depends on the project's needs and budget:

  • Key Makeup Artist: They are in charge of the makeup department. They actually design the makeup for each actor/actress and assign individual makeup artists to apply it.
  • Makeup Artist: These are the individuals who actually apply the makeup to the actor.
  • Makeup Assistant: They help with some of the lesser tasks like body makeup and organization.
  • Makeup Effects Artist: They design and create special makeup effects using prosthetics, latex, and animatronics.

Skills and Education

Becoming a makeup artist is no easy task. Especially depending on where you want to work.

Many makeup artists get their start by first working as assistants on a movie set or television show. Their first gigs are usually on student films, low budget features or television which are the perfect training ground. Many actors and actresses develop relationships with makeup artists and often request them by name at the beginning of a project.

Cosmetology school is an important step toward becoming a makeup artist. It's not mandatory, but it gives you a solid educational foundation on which to continue building your career. In Los Angeles and New York, there are numerous schools that offer make up for film and television classes which will not only help you learn the craft, but will introduce you to others in the industry. You might also consider taking a class in color theory which will help you to understand the basics of color.

Experiment and familiarize yourself with the wide variety of products available. Watch a number of movies and see what a makeup artist did to achieve certain looks and experiment on your own. To become a makeup effects artist, you'll want to have a basic understanding of chemistry as many of the pieces you develop will be quite technical.

Career Advice

A good makeup artist is creative with their craft, but also listens to the directors, actors, and producers so that they can achieve the desired results.

You must be a people person and it helps to have a great personality. The hours are often quite long and initially, the pay may be extremely low, but if you remain tenacious, you will achieve your goals.

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