Lights, Camera, MAKEUP!

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This time last year I worked on 2 short films for WA Screen Academy and WAPPA: Riptide and Two Girls, One on Each Knee. Fast forward a few months later and the films were debuted on Channel 9, something I never expected to happen this early in my makeup career. This past weekend I just worked on a friend’s short film and it left me thinking about makeup for film and the things I’ve learnt the past year. I never realised how full on my role as makeup artist can be on a set- but in hind site I’m in charge of actors faces and/or bodies so I should’ve guessed. Now I didn’t create the Grinch’s look or the gore from the Saw films but here’s some advice that I’ve come across since working on short films…

Breaking down a script:

Here is where planning is crucial, breaking down a script is important for knowing the kind of supplies you’ll need and to keep continuity. Films aren’t usually filmed in order so by keeping a record of how each character should look for each scene means you can keep track of how a character should look. The easiest way I can explain this is, say you have a character that receives a black eye. Today you might be filming the scene that has 3-days worth of healing, but tomorrow you might be filming the scene where the black eye is fresh. It helps keep it all in perspective. The easiest way I found to break down a script was for each major character, I’ve used the following headings in a table: Scene, Day/Night, Location and Makeup/Hair. This is an excerpt from a very basic scene break down I created for Riptide.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 4.32.07 pm

Beware of location: 

Something you may not expect to be doing as a makeup artist is holding an umbrella and applying sun screen. Like I said, as a makeup artist you’re not just in charge of an actor’s face but their body also. If you’re filming outside, well, your actors may as well be a 7-year-olds and you their mother because you’r making sure they don’t get burnt.  If it helps, I use Cancer Council’s Active Dry touch sunscreen, it’s oil free so leaves for a less greasy feel on my actor’s faces and won’t make them as shiny.

Location also factors in to hair, for instance if you’re filming outside you may want to have your actor’s hair tied up for continuity and wind purposes; unless the script calls for something else.

Light touches:

The amount of light and quality of lenses used these days means every flaw, streak, un-blended smokey eye is in HD. So I can not stress enough that less is always more on film, start with less and go from there after checking your work with the producer/director. Particularly when it comes to male actors, often the only thing I apply to a male is powder, but occasionally I do have to conceal and on men it’s best to barely touch them. It becomes obvious real quick if men are wearing makeup when they shouldn’t be according to the script.


Taking pictures of your work is crucial to keep the makeup consistent for shooting over numerous days, and for pick-up shots. It’s also important to create face charts for more complicated looks to help cut down makeup-hair time.


On a call sheet you’ll see all the timings, what’s important to take notice of is the amount of time you’ll have before shooting to apply makeup and in-between shots for touch-ups. You need to do your best at sticking to these times, film shoots have a knack of running late and you don’t want to be the reason for it running behind- sorry about the pressure. If a Director asks you how much time you need over-estimate. 1 of 2 things will happen: 1 the Director will ask you to accomplish your job in less time (so if you overestimate you still get given a decent amount of time) or 2, you’ll finish early and your Director will be pleased. Lastly it’s important to know when you can jump in between cuts if you need to fix an actor’s hair or touch up. In my experience this is usually the order things will go in:

Director: Camera?

Cinemaphotographer: Rolling

Director: Sound?

Boom operator: Speed

Director: Final checks

*This is when, if you NEED to, you jump in, do your touch ups in super-hero speed and race out of shot*

You: Makeup’s happy

Director: Action!

It’s important to know if your touch up is going to take more then 10-20 seconds you need to let the Director know, otherwise your wasting precious time.

Respecting an actor’s wishes: 

When it comes to what you put on an actor’s face aside from products they may be allergic to, it’s you that decides what you apply as long as it aligns with the script and Director’s wishes. What I’m referring to specifically, is an actor’s “process”. Some actor’s don’t mind idle chatter while you’re working on them and some need to use that time to sink into character. This doesn’t make them rude, this is how they get into their mind-set. You should keep aware of the tone of the scenes you’re about to shoot; it’s probably not the best for you to be sharing funny stories with your actor before they have to shoot a scene where they cry over a dead character, it makes it slower for them to get “into the zone”.


Makeup for film is a completely different world to applying makeup for a ball or halloween. You have less time and the stakes are higher, it’s like your very own Master Chef. But being on set and bonding with cast and crew members is one of my favourite memories of last year, it’s an incredible experience.


Jess xo


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