Getting a film in front of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can be a long and tiring road. It can take years. In the case of Christopher Nelson, up for consideration for his Killer Croc make-up in Suicide Squad, steady work for 25 years brought him to this moment as a first-time Oscar contender.

Once he and other make-up artists arrived at the Hollywood Awards Celebration presented by Make-Up Artist magazine on Jan. 7 at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Spare Room, they were ready to relax.

“Thank you for letting me sit down,” he said. “I haven’t sat down in many hours so you’re an excuse for me to sit down.”

Christopher Nelson
Christopher Nelson

Earlier that day Nelson, Alessandro Bertolazzi and Giorgio Gregorini presented their work to the academy’s Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Branch during its annual bake-off—a tradition where artists from the top-seven films up for Oscar consideration present 10-minute video clips of the make-up and hair work in the production, in hopes of being nominated for an Academy Award.

During the celebration, as cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were enjoyed by Make-Up Artist magazine Pro-Card members, Nelson and other artists from the top-seven films reflected on the bake-off.

“I was walking into it really with no expectations and just to say what I did and state my case,” said Nelson. “It’s not hard to talk about a make-up that you’ve done over 80 times. You kind of know what you’re gonna say. … I think most importantly it was really interesting to see the variety of work and the variety of consistently great work of all the people that are in the bake-off.”

Joel Harlow and Ron Pipes
Joel Harlow and Ron Pipes

“You know I’ve been to the bake-off a few times, and it never gets any easier,” said Star Trek Beyond’s Joel Harlow. “I mean it’s always fun to see your comrades and the amazing work that they bring to the screen. And I’m just honored to be in one of the seven films under consideration this year. So my hat’s off to all the other films, all the other work in those films and all the other artists that managed to pull those off.”

Bertolazzi, make-up and hair designer, said, “It was really pleasant; I was surprised. I wanted to stay forever but they close the door at the end.”

“At first I was absolutely terrified,” said Shane Thomas, make-up department head for The Dressmaker. “This is my first bake-off; I really never thought I’d get this far. I had an absolutely amazing time. I just feel so honored to be in a room full of such talented people.”

Shane Thomas
Shane Thomas

The support for all the artists extended to the celebration. Among the crowd of close to 100 people were Eryn Krueger Mekash, Mike Mekash, Sue Cabral-Ebert, Kim Ayers, Kato Destefan, Jarrell Mosley, Sven Granlund, Barry Koper, Tami Lane, Jennifer Quintero, Rob Freitas, Richard Redlefsen, Samantha Klein and Monique Boyer with sponsor M.A.C. Cosmetics.

Midway through the evening Make-Up Artist Senior Director Scott Jones started presentations with: “You are behind the scenes and what we do is try to make you in the scene and to celebrate everything that it is that you do.”

Then Publisher Michael Key took to the mock stage near the Spare Room’s bowling alley to introduce the artists from Deadpool, The Dressmaker, Suicide Squad, Star Trek Beyond and A Man Called Ove. Artists from Florence Foster Jenkins and Hail, Caesar! were unable to attend.

When Key asked Bill Corso, make-up designer for Deadpool, about how he got involved in the film, he said, “I was lucky enough to get a text one day from a certain actress, Blake Lively, who said ‘What are you doing in February? … ‘Cause I know somebody really well who needs a really good make-up artist.’ And I said, ‘How well do you know this person?’ And she said ‘Really, really, really, really well.’

Bill Corso onstage
Bill Corso onstage

Academy governor Leonard Engelman said the broad spectrum of make-up and hair artistry at the bake-off was a perfect example of what the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Branch tries to accomplish each year with the top-seven picks. “Of the seven films that are possibly nominations, one was out of the United States. All the rest were done in other countries. So we take pride in looking very broadly at the film industry and the make-up and hairstyling industry.” He said that Hail, Caesar! is the first film being considered just for hairstyling.

As the night wound down, Roosevelt Hotel staff had to insist the crowd leave the venue so another party could be set up. Perhaps the hard-working artists weren’t quite ready to give up their relaxation and face the early call times.