“It is worth saying straight away that a career in film is not for the faint-hearted. I would hate for you to have any false illusions. It requires dedication, stamina and hard work. But don’t let this deter you – any job worth doing will require you to possess these qualities if you want to achieve any measure of success. And I would never have chosen anything different.
If you are still unsure as to whether this industry is for you, let me give you a flavour of what you can expect…
When I take on a film, the first thing to do is assemble my chosen team. I usually have one main assistant, a couple of more junior assistants to work for us both, and a trainee to fetch and carry.
We then research and 'prep' for the job, considering our role from every angle: which period the film is set in, what happens to the actors during the course of the plot, the overall look the director wants to achieve, etc. Prepping will be done, whenever possible, in the Academy so that my students can be involved and I can give them as much exposure to the industry as possible right from the start. Good preparation means the best results, and meeting expectations right from the get-go. As you develop your own style, this will eventually start to shine through in your work.
Next comes the film script breakdown and preparation of a budget for the job. My budget can vary considerably (anything from £500 to £350,000 or more), depending on the scale and particular nature of the job. This is a crucial part of your job, which is why I will stress to you throughout the course that you are technicians, and that you work on film sets as technicians, and professional ones at that!
Once filming begins you should expect to start very early – so if you’re not a morning person make sure you become one! I have worked on films where our crowd calls have started as early as 4.00am. You will have your on set times, which vary, but let's say you have to be on the set for 7.30am. You may or may not get your lunch hour, and despite the best laid plans you’ll more than likely end up snatching a quick sandwich on the go, wrapping at around 8.00pm.
You then have to de-rig your actor - take off wigs, facial hair and any prosthetics, or simply clean off their daily make-up. You might be tired from a long day but you can't let your actor get spots! So, back home by 10.00pm (depending how far you have to travel and how quick you are at de-rigging!) for a quick sleep, then up bright and early (and armed with a large cup of coffee) to get back to work for that 4 am make-up call. Living the dream.
This could go on 6 days a week for three months! But strictly no moaning allowed – when everyone on the team is up and working so early, you just have to remember that you are all in the same boat, and nobody wants a moaner on their team! You certainly wouldn’t be allowed to moan on my make-up bus!
The day-to-day realities may not always be glam, but they are fun. I’ve been a make-up artist for 20 years now and I love it! I really wouldn’t do anything else. I have travelled the world, stayed in the most luxurious accommodation on some films, and camped out in safari tents in the middle of Africa for others. It is great and it is humbling. And you certainly won’t get bored!