MICHAEL KEY, publisher of Make-Up Artist magazine:
Doing make-up for film and television can be exciting, challenging and rewarding. There are, however, many points to consider if you want to pursue a career in this part of the industry. Let’s look at the pros and cons, starting with the cons.
1. There are more make-up artists than there are jobs.
It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. The film and television make-up fields in the United States, England and Canada are so crowded that if no new artists came along in the next 10 years, it would still be possible to make the same number of movies, TV shows and commercials using just the make-up artists we have now. To succeed, you have to think like a professional athlete: If you are going to train and compete, your goal is to beat your competitor. Unfortunately, when you make the team, someone else may get cut.
2. Work can be sporadic.
Most make-up artists do not have as much work as they would like. You might be off for weeks or months.
3. The hours are long.
When you are working, plan on 12- to 16-hour shifts five to six days a week. And these might not happen during the day—they might be at night, or during both day and night. Working in film can be like joining the army. Production owns you until they are through with you. You don’t know when you can go home until it’s time to go, which is also when you find out your call time for the next day. You cannot plan for anything in your personal life during the week. If you work episodic television, you will work about 70 hours a week. Many nights you will just get your turn-around, which is a union term for the minimum time between your wrap and your next call time. This usually equates to nine hours for crew. That means you have nine hours to drive home, sleep, shower and drive back ready for work.
4. Locations can be remote.
You may have to live in a hotel away from family and friends for up to six months to a year. This may sound exciting at first, but after a month or so, your opinion may change—ask any traveling salesperson.
If these industry realities are not what you had in mind, there still many jobs for make-up artists outside the entertainment industry, including print and photography, salons, retail and manufacturing, just to name a few. Another option is volunteer work, which can give you artistic fulfillment without all the hassles of professional work. Theaters, churches and student films need make-up artists all the time.
However, if you still want to make your living doing make-up in film and television, even after hearing all this, I encourage you to do the following:
1. Be an excellent make-up artist.
We don’t need more mediocre ones.
2. Make sure you get good training.
Make-up schools are only as good as their teachers. Check out our school directory page for a list of schools worldwide, and our article on how to choose the best make-up school for you.
3. Be informed.
Get how-to and reference books and DVDs from the Make-Up Artist Shop, along with a subscription to Make-Up Artist magazine. It’s the voice of the make-up industry, with great interviews, news and techniques from working professionals. Our website, makeupmag.com, is a great places to read the latest industry news, expert advice and more. Social networking is also a great way to learn from other artists. Being part of our online community will help you learn, network and share questions and information with other people who are passionate about make-up artistry. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
4. Attend the International Make-Up Artist Trade Show.
Six times per year, in six cities worldwide, we offer the International Make-Up Artist Trade Show, which features keynote presentations, classes, demos and more from the best artists in the business. You can get more education in one IMATS weekend than you can during a month anywhere else. IMATS is also a great place to network, which makes a major difference in your career. For more information, visit our website: www.imats.net.
I hope these tips will empower you to make the best decision. My desire is not to crush your love of make-up artistry, but to help you find the best outlet for that passion.