Movie Makeup Artists: Behind The Scenes

The career of a movie makeup artist is exciting but can be challenging and at times demanding. There are many different types of makeup used on the sets of movies and different artists have different skills and specialties. From the early days of films, makeup artists have had to combine their talent with that of the technology used in film making and this is no different with newer movies, although the technology and techniques of film making are constantly changing. The first Hollywood studio makeup department was established in 1917 at Selig Studio, and since then the field has grown tremendously.

Makeup artists have varying responsibilities depending on the type of work that the artist is performing. Hollywood unions classify makeup artists based on the type of work they do and the area of the body they are applying makeup to. According to union regulations a makeup artist is only allowed to apply cosmetics from the top of the breastbone to the top of the head, from toes to ankles, and from wrists to fingertips. On the other hand, a body makeup artist applies cosmetics to any area of the body that a regular makeup artist cannot. While makeup artists are generally hired to work throughout the filming of a movie, body makeup artists are normally hired per day as needed. Makeup artists also have different job responsibilities based on their job title. The person who is hired as the makeup designer or key makeup artist is in charge of the whole makeup department for a movie. The designer is responsible for meeting with the film director and screenwriter to discuss ideas and style for the film. Before and during filming the makeup designer will also meet and work with the costume designer, hair stylists, and the set designer.

After meetings during preproduction of a film, the key makeup artist will do research and decide how to design the regular and special effects makeup for the film. Often times movies that require complex special effects makeup will use companies that specialize in special effects as opposed to the key makeup artist. The head of the makeup department is also responsible for hiring, setting the schedules, and supervising any additional makeup artists needed for the film. In addition, the head makeup artist develops and has to make sure to stay within the budget for supplies and salaries, and sets appointments for the film cast for any special effects needed.

Movies sets will also hire a senior makeup artist who is responsible for overseeing the other makeup artists working on the set and make sure that the makeup maintains continuity, meaning that they have to make sure the makeup changes or remains the same as needed for filming. General makeup artists that work on a movie set actually apply the makeup to members of the cast and make the look match the design of the set for the movie. Makeup departments also hire assistant makeup artists who handle low level chores and assist the makeup artists when needed.

Everyone from assistant makeup artists to the head of the makeup department have critical responsibilities that aid in the making of a film. There are many different types of movie makeup artistry that one can learn and each job within the field of movie makeup is challenging but is also exciting and allows one to use their creativity in many ways.