In the glamour environment of movies and movie making, what you see on the screen is far from reality. It is a world of make believe and storytelling out there and every actor has a role to play, quite outside their true self. Helping the actors achieve their required role and looks is make-up artists who are truly what their name suggest – creative artists in their own right.
There is a general classification of make-up artists. The main make-up artist is allowed to apply cosmetics from fingertips to wrists, from toes to ankles and from the breastbone to the top of the head. On the other hand, a body make-up artist is called to apply make-up on other parts of the body apart from the areas mentioned here. In any movie, a make-up artist is a permanent fixture throughout the filming schedule while a body make-up artist is called in whenever required and paid on a daily basis.
During film making every key actor is assigned a make-up artist who is directly responsible for the looks that need to be achieved. The make-up artist will have sketches, photos and detailed notes of every scene and what the actor needs to look like in each of them. This will be in consultation with the director who after all is in charge of every aspect of film making.
One of the critical areas that a make-up artist has to be very aware of is continuity. Films are not shot in a day and often a scene is canned after several days of shooting. The make-up artist has to ensure that the exact make-up is applied every day so that when everyday’s output is spliced together, the actor looks exactly the same. If not just imagine a situation where an artist’s skin colour starts changing in minutes in one particular scene!
This is the reason why, a make-up artist often takes photos of artists at end of day so that the same matching make-up can be applied the next day too. The make-up artist has to be active throughout the day, touching up an actor’s make-up or changing it whenever required.
A make-up artist is not only an expert in his field; he is often well conversant with skin ailments and can advise actors on proper treatments too. Actors are often allergic to certain make-up and break out in rash when it is applied. A make-up artist has to ascertain the right type and quality of make-up for each actor he takes care of.
He/she can also recommend the best clinics for skin rejuvenation treatments. For example, in case of permanent hair removal, a make-up artist will surely know which beauty salons and spas have the best laser hair removal machine of professional standards and can advise the actors accordingly.
The make-up artist’s work can be fun but gruelling too. During filming the actor has to be keenly observed for any blot in the make-up which has to be quickly rectified. At the end of day when the lights have dimmed, the make-up artist has to remove the make-up, prosthetic noses, hair pieces and any other items used for special effects. These have to be carefully stored for reuse the next morning.
Generally, a make-up artist starts at the bottom of the ladder as an assistant in theatre or television and then has to work up by learning on the job and gaining in experience. A strong portfolio of previous works helps a great deal in being noticed by top actors, directors and film producers.