Tag Archives: union makeup artist

Advice for Working on Set

My good friend Matt Morelli from Frends Beauty recently gave me an opportunity to write a guest blog about set etiquette. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, taking notes, and learning new things continuously. I finally put it all into one big, cohesive piece of writing and I am happy to share it.

This article is a labor of love – it may seem harsh at times, but it is all of the things I wish someone had told me when I first got started in this business. As you read this, you may learn a lot, you may only learn a little, but hopefully you’ll gain some perspective on this industry, and as you move about the set, you will be confident in your professionalism. Some of this advice will sound like common sense, but all of it has been learned on the job; through a kind mentor, by watching and observing, or the hard way, being reprimanded by a seasoned crew member! This article is intended for artists who have an interest in working on film, TV, or commercial sets, or artists who are already getting started as a day player and want to soak up knowledge of this exciting new world like a sponge.

Advice for working on set:

Do not be overly comfortable – always watch and err on the side of caution. Never assume that anything is yours to touch, play with, etc. Ask questions, and listen more than you talk.

Get to know your call sheet, and read it thoroughly. It contains a plethora of information that will serve you well. What is my call time? Where is crew parking? Where is base camp? Are we shooting interiors or exteriors?

Get to know your paperwork. Most new jobs will give you the same or similar start paperwork, so try to be prepared with all of the needed information. Take a snapshot of your time card to help you remember how to fill it out correctly in the future. Look up a cheat sheet for recording your hours in military time.

Familiarize yourself with the daily “sides”. Sides are the pocket sized, printed pages of the script that contain the scenes that are being shot that day.

Be prepared for all different types of weather. Have some emergency items in your car, invest in raingear, and a pair of waterproof shoes or boots.

Sometimes it is appropriate to have a small, portable chair to bring to set. Ask your department head if you should bring one. There are many affordable, lightweight options available at sporting goods stores.

Being on time is being 15 minutes early.

In the trailer – set up your station and stand ready to greet / make up actors. Do not sit when you have talent arriving or talent going through other artist’s chairs!

Don’t be weird around actors. You’re at work, not working to get good Instagram pictures.

Spend a minimal amount of time on your phone, even if your Dept Head and Key use theirs often. You don’t know what they are using theirs for, and it really doesn’t matter anyway. It’s none of your business.

Listen more than you talk – it’s not about you.

Ask what you can do to help, then do it.

Bring a small, but comprehensive makeup kit. A large set bag filled with a little bit of everything is the holy grail. Do not expect other people to provide a kit, but try to take up as little space as possible with your day player kit.

Same goes for on set — try to have a small footprint, other people are working all around you and it looks ridiculous when HMU is camped out, looking like they’re doing nothing (even though this is not true). I think it’s important to earn the respect of other departments. That means having a professional and easy to move set up. Take pride in your ability to be clever. As artists we are constantly reassessing our kits and making them better, more condensed, more comprehensive. Use this inventiveness when thinking of ways to work efficiently.

Be aware, watch monitors when appropriate. If no one (actors) that you are watching is on camera, and video village is full of producers, necessary crew, etc. then you should excuse yourself (tell someone in your dept) that you are stepping away so you are not in the way.

Don’t complain – most of us are burnt out and overworked, and as a day player we need you to be optimistic and fresh. You don’t have to put on a fake happy attitude, but just remember that if you want to be here, you should not exude bitterness and a jaded attitude.

It is a powerful and emotional thing to be entrusted with someone’s face – never take it for granted.

Mind your own business. Other people’s conversations, phones, work talk, is not for you. Even if you are within earshot, don’t make unwanted comments, and pay attention to your own work. If you’re included, great! Being friendly and kind is a great way to meet people on set, eavesdropping is not.

Always stand up (if sitting) when introduced to someone.

You never know who someone is, or who they know. Word spreads fast, and this is a very small business. Be mindful of telling stories or voicing opinions about actors, shows, other artists etc. Always use cautious judgement.

Get to know the other departments on set, what they do, who they are. It’s always helpful to have a good relationship with the DP, and to be familiar with some of their terminology when it comes to lighting. Be respectful of other department’s time and space. The sound department may not want you trying to touch up an actor while they are adjusting a wire. When in doubt, ask.

Familiarize yourself with film set terminology. There are many books and websites that will explain all of the different departments, as well as film set lingo.

Take responsibility when things go awry, and do not throw other people under the bus. Handle issues professionally and calmly, be all about solutions, not blame.

Kit inventory – Most jobs will pay you a kit fee or kit rental fee. Save yourself some time by typing this up in advance and keeping a copy in your kit, or having it accessible to print from your phone.

Do your research on the project that you’re working on. If it’s film or TV, familiarize yourself with the actors so you’re familiar with the cast. Look up the other artists on the call sheet if you’re curious about the kind of work they do. There are a few inexpensive continuity apps available for your phone, they may make it easier to keep track of the cast, and serve as a quick reference throughout the day.

Maintain integrity. Own up to your mistakes, accept compliments, do your personal best each day, and you will rarely have any professional regrets.Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, drink lots of water, and stash protein bars in your set bag to battle a drop in blood sugar.Finally, one of my absolute favorite quotes, some wonderful words for both our personal and professional lives.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

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Everything but the kitchen sink (2014)

2014 was good to me, in ways that were both unexpected and long striven for. Of course, I wish I had done more, written more, read more…but that’s the way it is every year.  Instead of regret, I have so many things that I’ve been a part of, or learned, or people who I’ve met who have made this year a great one. So, here is my post that attempts to wrap it all up, and look towards even greater things in 2015!

The fun stuff: CONTAINERS!

If you know me, then you know I have an affinity for containers, large and small. I am always searching dollar stores, craft stores, art stores, home stores, for the latest and greatest magical container that can be used for makeup purposes. Check out the picture for some of my favorites from this year. Palette paper, by Royal and Langnickel. These were at Joann Fabrics for $1, perfect 5×7 size for a quick, disposable palette, and you can even leave some product on them and fold them up for touchups later. I keep a pad in my set bag. Semi-clear zipper bags from Blick. The ladies of Cirque FX introduced these to me, and they’ve become a staple in my kit for quick organizing. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and of course, are more affordable than most similar “makeup” bags. Pill boxes for creams. In an effort to condense my day-checker set kit even more, I made teeny-tiny cream palettes out of pill boxes. Sun – Sat, they were 7 for $1 at Dollar Tree. Lightweight, tiny, and just enough product to cover a variety of sins, in a pinch. Slider pencil boxes – for keeping brushes, pencils, tools, etc. Great for keeping brushes CLEAN, and separated for different actors. Blocks of asian market kitchen sponges! These look just like blonde stipple sponges, and guess what? I cut them into different shapes and used them for some fx, they worked just as well as the tried and true version. Two of the best containers and gifts I’ve received this year. I have to brag a little, my friend Chris is the Special Makeup Effects head on Chicago Fire, and he custom made these two-well brush / cup holders for us. I love it! The other ceramic piece is a beautiful handmade pottery bowl that I use for brushes, a gift from my boss on Chicago Fire.

Irresistible container fun

Irresistible container fun

Pillboxes

Teeny Tiny makeup boxes

The artsy stuff: Inspiration.

Japan. I have a somewhat new love of Japanese things. Maybe it started with makeup – Hakuhodo brushes are the most luxurious I’ve ever touched, and Koh Gen Do makes the most perfect foundation I’ve ever applied. But this year it became more of a “thing”. I’d go to an antique store and leave with a beautiful, campy, 1960’s paint-by-number Geisha. Then I found a small vintage decorative lamp, a little tableau of a woman standing on a bridge. It didn’t help that some friends in Las Vegas opened a perfect, Japanese styled, members only cocktail bar, a refuge overlooking Fremont East. That just fueled the fire, and now it’s becoming an obsession, maybe. I’ve started daydreaming about going to Japan someday, and looking up images of Buddhist temples in Kyoto, and Tokyo alleyways. And finally, sake. Delectable, cloudy, unfiltered Nigori sake.  Just because it’s delicious.

Like a dream

Like a dream

Tokyo alley

Colorful inspiration

Museums. I’ve always loved museums, but this year in particular I’ve been thinking a lot about the texture of paint, light and dark, chiaroscuro. My favorite painting resides at the Art Institute here in Chicago (lucky me!), it is called “Resting”, by Antonio Mancini. When I talk about makeup, I find myself going back to the idea of light and shadow. So much of what we do as makeup artists is about light, and how it plays on the face. Understanding the art of lighting is something I’ve been working on, and hopefully learning from the talented professionals that I work with. This painting is so inspiring to me because it is a perfect example of how a blob of white paint means light, and the most subtle brushstroke reads as the plane of a woman’s face. I love how it demonstrates using paint in just the right way to convey light and shadow.

Resting, Antonio Mancini

Resting, Antonio Mancini

Italy. Cheating a little, these images are from 2012, but I absolutely fell in love with this series by Giampaolo Sgura of “Italian family” life, for Dolce & Gabbana. I have very little interest in fashion, but occasionally I’ll find certain images so arresting, intriguing, fantastic, etc. that they grab my attention and hold it. I love this campaign because of the over-the-top, character or caricature? aesthetic, and pure, old school Italian glamour. I also think Monica Belluci is the most beautiful woman alive.

Viva Italia!

Viva Italia!

The deep stuff: What the hell did I learn?!?

Professionally, I’ve experienced highs and lows this year. From this I’ve learned that neither one should define me, and that empty praise can be just as damaging as negative feedback. Having a true sense of artistic purpose is the only way I’ve found to combat the over inflated pride or the unnecessary devastation that sometimes comes with other people’s opinions. Also worth noting, you will probably never catch me posting “#alwayslearning” or similar popular sentiments. Why? Because the negative things I went through at work this year broke me down, but changed me in some good ways too, and to say something like that feels trite. F*@$ yeah, I’m always learning. Is it hard? Sometimes heartbreakingly so. But it’s a given that as an artist, I’m a lifelong student, and I refuse to turn it into a dull hashtag.  On the flip side, I’ve never felt more connected to some of my fellow artists, and after years of knowing them I can say that I trust and respect them deeply, and that is an incredible feeling. I’ve also learned that “be yourself” is not just a mantra for the first day of school, it’s truly the only way to find yourself working where you are happy and fulfilled, with like minded artists.

So what do I want from this year? The same things I always want; to read more, write more, and make art. To spend time with the best people I know, eat great food, drink tasty drinks, travel to new places, and hopefully discover some fancy new containers along the way.

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Patience, Good Fortune, and Hard Work.

As of September 20th, 2014, I am a member of Studio Mechanics Local 476. In order to express just how damn cool this is to me, or how excited I am about all the new possibilities, I can only reference these events: Getting engaged (and married, of course), graduating from college, buying a house. Major life events! Getting voted into the union is on par with all of those. I started moving towards this goal sometime in 2010, with the warning advice from a fellow makeup artist, “expect it will take about five years.” At the time, five years seemed like an incredibly lengthy amount of time, for anything really, but I was grateful to have a realistic idea of the process.

How I felt when I heard that I made it into 476!

How I felt when I heard that I made it into 476!

How did this happen? I think, because of these things: Having a lot of patience and persistence, a strong dose of good fortune peppered throughout, and working hard every chance I get. I know some really lovely people who threw my name out there every chance they got, wrote letters to the union on my behalf, and gave me advice whenever they thought of something that could be useful. People who knew very little about me gave me a chance to get on set and prove myself. Not only that, they treated me better than they needed to, and taught me more than I could have hoped. Artists who are generous with their knowledge are worth their weight in gold.

The other thing that is a constant with me is that there is always a list. After every job, big or small, there is a mental or written list of the things I could do better next time, ways to consolidate my kit, new things to add to my kit, better ways to work with talent / clients. I am constantly self-assessing and evaluating my work — I am a harsh self critic.  I do possess a strong work ethic. During the slow periods, I feel like a complete loser for not booking more jobs. When things do finally pick up after a slow period, I am relentless. I clean my kit, restock, shop if needed, pack it up neatly, and do any research that may benefit my performance for the next job.

I try to keep in mind that this life is short and, “you can’t take it with you”. Money comes and goes, or as my friend Karina says, “Your last shirt has no pockets”, a German saying. This year (the very beginning of May) I worked my final shift as a bartender and leapt head first into being a full time makeup artist. Naturally, the weeks immediately following that major decision, work was really slow. Then summer came, and a slew of jobs with some of my favorite people, a few of whom I’ve known since my first days on set.

One of my summer jobs involved several local entrepreneurs. There were some common themes throughout the interviews, things that ring true and encourage me. Here are some of my favorites:
Be willing to work harder than anyone else you know.
Never give up.
Read voraciously.
Be brave.

As summer came to an end, I knew that things were going to change, for myself and all of the friends I’d been working with on a very regular basis. Lo and behold, “summer camp” ended and most of us were split up. Granted we all got on some really great jobs that have led to really great things, but I’m glad that I knew to appreciate all of the goofy, ridiculous things we got to do before summer ended. And now — I’m a union gal! On to my next adventures….

But first, how I spent my summer vacation:

At Cirque FX, bald capping is serious business!

At Cirque FX, bald capping is serious business!

Sometimes your job is to get on a bus with 100 dancers and ride around the city, touching up their lip gloss.

Just a regular day at work, on a bus with 100+ dancers, riding around the city, doing touch ups with my dear friend Cindy!

These guys.

These guys.

Sometimes you have to do important work on your phone, and sometimes you have to imitate #2ndcineboss while he's doing such things.

Sometimes you have to do important work on your phone, and sometimes you have to imitate #2ndcineboss while he’s doing such things.

Just because.

Ricky and I, just because.

...and the guilt trip that I gave Ricky when she got hired on Real World.

…and the guilt trip that I gave Ricky when she got hired on Real World.

Matt Hughes and I on Sinister 2, Pop Tarts are for sharing!

Matt Hughes and I on Sinister 2, Pop Tarts are for sharing!

Mallory and I, enjoying the sunset and having cute braids, out in the country on Sinister 2.

Mallory and I, enjoying the sunset and having cute braids, working out in the country.

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