How To Become A MakeUp Artist in Film & TV

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How to Become a Makeup artist film TV professional

If you have a driving license, are competent in a range of makeup skills, and have the right personality to work with people under pressure, being a makeup artist in the film and TV industry could be the right career move.

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Why Become A Film Makeup Artist?

The film and TV industries employ people who are good at their jobs with little regard to your education and background. Having well-connected parents and living in the right location helps boost any career in film and TV. But ability and networking means you’ll gather the networks and connections to get you noticed by the right people.

It can be a very exciting career move. You may well get to meet your screen heroes, and seeing a production you worked on hit the big or small screen is a great feeling. Even at a small, micro-budget level, working with people who love what they do is emotionally rewarding.

Makeup artists are in demand from London and Los Angeles, to Vancouver and Brisbane. Even in small towns, there are micro-budget projects happening somewhere nearby.

You’ll Need More Than Just Great Makeup Skills

You have to have more than a great ability with a makeup brush, though that is a prerequisite of course. You’ll arrive on location from 5 am, ready to work long, tiring hours on your feet. You must multitask well, flexibly dealing with a rota of different people and looks to a very pressured timetable. Then you’ll spend tedious hours waiting to do touch-ups, sometimes outside with nowhere to sit.

And through it all, you need to happily chatter with performers as you work on their face and hair. It’s no easy feat to pay attention to the conversation and questions of a stranger as you apply their false eyelashes to perfection, calculate how many people you have to complete in the next thirty minutes, listen out for the production team calls and assess whether you’ve met the design criteria. Especially in a high-pressure environment where every minute counts.

Having a cheerful and polite disposition, along with the ability to be calm under pressure, is what everyone wants from their MUA.

How To Become A Film Makeup Artist

Film makeup artists start with a passion for learning and continually improve their skills throughout their career. 

Employment on a beauty counter gives you valuable experience of delivering high-quality customer service with a smile while testing how different products work on a whole range of skin types. Testing out special effects on your friends for Halloween gets you secure in the basic techniques – while also highlighting the difficulties and pitfalls to work on.

Makeup courses can be a great way to start your career. However, you must not lose heart if professional training is not an option for you. Your personality, experience, and contacts are far more important. 

You start by gaining experience by working for free (or expenses only). It can be on student or zero budget projects or assisting professional film makeup artists on a studio set.

Unpaid experience gives you the opportunity to establish a network and a portfolio of pictures. Build a simple but interesting website based around the pictures of your work. Link to a variety of social media accounts you have set up for your business.

Makeup Artistry Courses And Academies

Film and TV makeup artists are a niche business so courses dedicated to the craft are limited. In addition, they are expensive if they are good. The materials, premises, and tutors must all be covered. Funding subsidies are rare and limited. In the UK only degree courses qualify for the same loan packages as other academic studies.

So why attend one? Firstly, a structured course should teach you a wide range of skills from knowledgeable and experienced professionals. You need to cover hairdressing and barbering, film and theatre makeup, special effects and prosthetic techniques and business training. 

If it’s run by experienced industry professionals who are actively maintaining their contacts, you’ll be placed in real projects where you can demonstrate your skills and compile an impressive portfolio. That’s worth far more than several months volunteering on student films.

You just have to be very careful about picking the right course. An evening course at a local college will get you to a very different place than attending the Christine Blundell Make-Up Academy in London, for example.

Don’t assume that getting a degree in make-up for film and TV is automatically the right choice, either. 

You’re looking for a course provider who can cover all the practical, technical skills you need with high-quality training from experienced tutors, and give you extensive practice on a range of ages, skin tones, and genres whilst also helping you build contacts and experience.

When trying to assess your training options, don’t be afraid to reach out to working MUAs on social media. If they were happy with their training, they will tell you. And given the importance of networking in the industry, it doesn’t hurt to start making connections at this early stage.

Cinema Makeup School

This video by the Cinema Makeup School in Los Angeles gives you an insight into the wide range of skills you’ll learn from good quality training.

Just a quick warning to young or sensitive viewers – some scenes include fake blood and are a bit gory in places.

Why Film Makeup Artists Need A Driving Licence

Filming sometimes happens in a city centre location conveniently near a railway station.  But the MUA is one of the first professionals to arrive on set, along with other set-up crew. You need to be ready before the first performer walks through the door.

For most jobs, you’ll also be bringing in several large boxes of hair and makeup equipment.

Unfortunately most filming sets are miles from public transport, tucked away in suburban homes or even far out in the countryside.

If you can’t drive yourself to a location you’ll turn down most jobs you are offered. The production team quickly picks up which people have barriers to overcome. And since they’re under pressure it’s easier for to go straight to the professional who can and will say yes to any job they are available for.

So if you’re thinking of becoming a film makeup artist, first pass your driving test. Then find reliable access to a car.

Film Makeup Artist Salary

You are very unlikely to receive a film and television makeup artist salary as an employee. Instead, most people are self-employed, booked job to job. So the important factor is the film makeup artist day rate, multiplied by the realistic number of days per year you can work. 

You can look around for industry averages near your location. Remember that you’ll sometimes have equipment provided or paid for, but this has to be agreed and specified in your contract. 

Jobs near your home and low budget projects will expect you to travel to the shoot location. Again, this may be at your own expense.

Be aware that you won’t be paid for any days you aren’t working. It doesn’t matter if you are on holiday, have the flu or just have no projects offered to you on that day. So you need to be conscious about these risks when taking out car loans or signing a rental agreement for a flat.

Also, remember to cover your tax and national insurance because you are running your own business. Employees have these deductions made from their monthly salary and paid over to the government by their employer. When you’re self-employed, you get paid the gross amount . Therefore you must keep enough put by to pay your tax bill at the end of the year. 

Finding Film Makeup Artists Jobs

If you’re just starting and wanting to get experience, you’ll almost certainly have to work for free. It is a benefit in some ways, as it will be easier to get your foot in the door and allows you to learn on the job without the rest of the team imposing impossibly high expectations on you.

Facebook film and stage-related groups are a great place to start when looking for the unpaid film makeup artist jobs to get your portfolio underway. You can wait for people to make a call out for an MUA. Or better still you can put together your own post setting out who you are and the type of projects you’d like to get involved with. 

Starnow is also another platform to access to find projects needing your voluntary skills. Put together a profile, but don’t pay for membership until you see something of interest. You can start messaging and applying to adverts within minutes of leaving the checkout process.

Once you are ready to be paid for your skills, is a good place to get listed. The Knowledge is also good resource. 

But if you’re keen and proficient, reliable and cheerful, you’ll find clients come directly to you through repeat business and recommendations.

During quiet periods you may need to look at other sources of work to keep bringing in an income. Make friends with photographers and let them know you’d consider wedding makeup artistry and fashion shoots. At Halloween, any venue employing zombies and ghosts for their Horror Maze or Haunted Gardens will eagerly secure your services.

National Awards For Best Film Makeup Artists

Film awards boost the careers of any individual or organisation that wins them. The physical appearance of a performer can make or break the audience’s emotional engagement with the character. So it’s fitting that there are now national film awards for the best makeup artist available across the globe each year.

The Make Up Gallery website is an excellent source of information about these awards. Furthermore, they’ve compiled a listing of national film awards for makeup artists available in 

  • Europe: UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway
  • American Continent: US, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil
  • Asia: India, China, Taiwan
  • Asian Pacific: Australia, New Zealand
  • Middle East
  • Africa: South Africa

With handy links to the relevant websites, this page is essential reading for anyone aiming high or interested in learning from the best.