Things they don't tell you about being a make-up artist...

on set clapper loading

on set clapper loading

Things they don’t tell you about being a Make-up Artist…

During my time as a makeup artist I’ve learnt a lot, every job I do I learn something new and a new challenge arises. Thankfully I’m pretty laid back in my approach to the job and so I take things in my stride. For others it’s not that easy and so I thought I’d put together a guide for those who are aspiring to do this for a career and give you the no-holds-bared truth…

  1. Pack everything.

    If there’s one piece of advice I could give to aspiring MUAs it would be to pack everything bar the kitchen sink. You never know what you’ll need when doing a job. I have a head torch, lighter, full medical kit, cutlery, sewing kit and toothpaste amongst many other random things in my make-up kit. This goes for any kind of makeup job, perhaps the head torch can be left at home for when I do weddings, but I always try and take as much stuff as physically possible for those ‘just in case moments’ you can almost guarantee that the one time you don’t pack it. you get asked for it or you desperately need it!

    The same goes for clothing. Especially for more film related jobs. I’ve learnt especially when filming outside, the weather can be so changeable, for example a job i did just last week, one minute sunshine, the next really windy and rainy and then 10 minutes later literally hailstones! I always take layers, a waterproof, wellies and spare clothes ‘just in case’.

  2. You won’t always be doing just makeup - believe it or not makeup is just part of my job, I have had to get stuck in and help do lighting, ADing (see film slang below) clapperboard, fixing peoples costumes, getting people into wedding dresses, counselling - trust me being a good listener is key! And so much more. Ive found that the more you do and get stuck in the better people remember you and the more likely you are to get jobs. I’m not above doing anything (provided that I’m still loving what I do everyday)

  3. Time

    The one thing they don’t tell you in the industry is that 12 hour days come as standard. You will be expected to work that as a minimum (especially in the film industry) and not complain about having to be on your feet for 90% of that. (Don’t get caught sitting down on the job!) But even on the beauty or fashion side they are long days so do not even consider doing this as a job if you’re ready to clock out at 5pm! You can pretty much say goodbye to your evenings, weekends and any social plans you have. I have always missed out on friends birthdays, weekends away, nights out and cut holidays short all for the love of the job!

  4. Space

    You’re pretty lucky if every job you do that there’s a room with plenty of space, loads of light, a table, a chair that’s the right height, makeup mirrors, the right air temperature and tea and coffee on a drip waiting…this couldn’t be further from the reality! In fact I am constantly working out of the bag on my back, in the boot of a car, even getting people to sit on a tree whilst I apply lipstick! Or in peoples homes, offices etc. I once did a job where their cat had just had kittens and they all kept jumping on my kit and licking my brushes. It was less than Ideal and to make matters worse I had a huge allergic reaction where my eyes swelled up!

  5. Do your research

    I can remember a few jobs in the early days where I turned up without researching who I was working for and what I would be doing. You meet some amazing people in this industry and also some creeps who abuse it. Once I was booked for a TFP job (time for print- basically you work for free to have the pictures for your portfolio) in a guys home who claimed to be a photographer, when I arrived there was him and his girlfriend who I did her hair and makeup for and then she basically modelled for him in her underwear on a make-shift screen. I made my excuses to leave as I felt uncomfortable with the whole thing and so got out quick... And then there was that one time I did a gypsy wedding….

  6. Freelancing is HARD.

    Yep. You ask anyone with their own business they will tell you its always hard working for yourself. Especially when you first start out, I allowed myself 12-18 months to get started up and I did a lot of freebies just to get my name out there. During that time I had so many moments where I would stare into my empty diary and think…. shit! what am I doing?! I should get a ‘proper job’ and earn some money! Then I’d get a grip, think about me sat at a desk using a Biro to stab out my eyes and I start being pro active, reaching out to my contacts and putting my feelers out for work. It took me 4 years to go completely freelance, by that I mean I have always had a part time job on the side. Even now I have 2 sides to my business- the film and makeup work and my beauty work which is my regular income and supports me when I don’t have a busy schedule with the other stuff. Even if I’m not always doing the film work it helps to keep a busy diary throughout the year and sometimes all it takes is one email…

  7. Its not what you know

    continuing on from point 3, its all about who you know. Your contacts are so key to getting work and building up a name for yourself. Unfortunately they don’t teach you how to network properly at uni. Its one of those things that you’re either good at already or you have to learn to be good at. I was quite lucky really in how I got my first few jobs in the industry, I happened to get in with a local photographer who introduced my to some guys that did a bit of filming, who introduced me to someone else and my web of contacts began to grow. In the early days I messaged no end of production companies, photographers, fashion designers… you name it! Even if I had no response from them at least I thought they would see my name and at some point in the future, remember it. I also said yes to every job going, paid or unpaid I did it all!

  8. You have to be a people person. ALL. THE. TIME

    even if you don’t feel like talking or being friendly, you have to be. If your cat’s died or boyfriends being a bellend. Man up and get on with the job! Also learn how to approach people, how to be in different social situations and above all, know when not to talk. Particularly with actors, sometimes they might be running lines or getting into character, they might not want to be making small talk with you.

    Also people sit on their phones whilst your doing their makeup, for us it makes our job incredibly hard. But bite your tongue and work around it- they are paying your wage honey!

  1. On set.

    My first experience of being on a film set was pretty magical. The 6th Harry Potter was being filmed at Leavesden Studios and my Dad an I went down as a ‘work experience’ thing. I was 16 and so too young to not be with a chaperone but we got to be on set for a few hours and look around at the place (this was years before they changed it to harry potter world!) It was a real working film set and I was overwhelmed with the whole thing. 2 years later I went back and did real work experience in the ‘creatures dept’ working under Nick Dudman. I helped to punch hairs into a prosthetic for Greybacks chest hair, as you do…

    The feeling of being around such huge productions can be quite overwhelming and although I have had my fair share of them I have always enjoyed worked on much smaller stuff more. Perhaps its because you can get to know everyone and everything about the film, you learn so much everyday! Its strange because on much bigger productions you find that there is much clearer sense of hierarchy. Everyone sticks to their own departments. Smaller productions are way more intimate, friendly and everyone gets to know everyone.

  2. Film ‘slang’

    The smaller productions have also allowed me to get to know the industry ‘slang’ or terminology that is used often when on set, I thought I would impart this information to you to save you the work…

    • Crew- people who work on a film behind the camera. This can be anything from lighting to wardrobe.

    • cast- usually the people who are in front of the camera, most of the time its a general term for the main talent and any extras.

    • extras- these are the people who are in the background of certain shots, they usually get given specific actions and sometimes they might have speaking parts

    • crowd- these are lots of people used for crowd scenes, normally they don’t speak but will have been given specific actions to do

    • shot- this is the position of the camera, there are many shots that make up one scene.,

    • scene- this is used to narrate the story line. A scene is filmed in one location and all the different scenes make up the movie.

    • Director- this is the person who directs the actors and actresses on how they should be acting in a scene. They also make decisions about the whole look and feel of the scene so might have comments on the lighting or hair and makeup

    • 1st AD- AD stands for assistant director and they are the right hand to the director. Generally speaking they are pretty loud and bossy, its their job to make sure it all runs to time and smoothly. You will sometimes on bigger productions get a 2nd and 3rd AD and basically they answer to the respective people above them

    • DOP- director of photography, this is the person operating the camera and generally speaking they will decide the best shot and framing for camera

    • Editor- the person who put the film together, they wont usually be around on set unless its a smaller set and the director or DOP are also editing the film.

    • HOD- Head of department

    • Gaffer- the gaffer or chief lighting technician is the head electrician

    • Spark- The lighting guys that work under the gaffer

    • Grip- helps to make the sets and or operate machinery that supports the camera and or lighting

    • Action- I mean this is pretty self explanatory but basically either the director or 1st AD will shout action so that the actors know when to start acting

    • Rolling- The camera crew usually shout this before a take, it originates back to when they used reel film and it would literally roll or turn in the camera.

    • cut- this means the camera has stopped recording

    • reset- this means that instead of cutting the shot they have simply reset in order to do it again and keep it on the same roll or take.

    • Take- this is the number of times a shot has been done (usually you see this on a clapper board)

    • Clapper board- the board at which they put at the start of each scene and shot for the editor to select which one is the best for when it goes to edit

    • clapper loader- the person in charge of making sure the clapper board is correct

    • Roll- Basically just refers to the camera roll or now we are all digital the memory card that the filming is stored on


me applying makeup in the back of a car (2019)

me applying makeup in the back of a car (2019)

War of the Worlds tour- Making up Shayne Ward (2014)

War of the Worlds tour- Making up Shayne Ward (2014)

Mark Coulier, me, Callum Oneill, Stephen Murphy 2014

Mark Coulier, me, Callum Oneill, Stephen Murphy 2014

on set for Lancaster Skies

on set for Lancaster Skies

makeup set up

makeup set up

Spectre BTS 2015

Spectre BTS 2015

makeup room zoolander2 2015

makeup room zoolander2 2015

Aimee Garner