Magazine article Filmmaker

Secrets of the Glam Squad

Magazine article Filmmaker

Secrets of the Glam Squad

Article excerpt

Alicia Van Couvering considers the art of the makeup artist.

You're the producer of a low-budget movie, and, as usual, there isn't enough money. Each department is straining against their budgets, and you don't want the production value of the film to falter. So you are forced to prioritize. More lights? Well, that's hard to argue with - the movie has to look good. Another van? No way around that; you have to get people to the next location in time. But makeup and hair needs a space heater? Um ... can't they just put on sweaters?

"If the electric department says they need two hours, no one questions it," says producer Carly Hugo, who has worked with non-actors on microbudgets (Mother of George) and movie stars on union films (Bachlorette). "But makeup and hair are usually the first to get rushed," she says, even though the actors' faces make up the majority of each frame of the film. Her rule: never gloss over the vanities.


For professional film hair and makeup artists, most aspects of the job are not on the syllabus at beauty school. "Besides just doing the makeup, you're planning the looks of the actors for the next day, keeping track of continuity, dealing with budget, schedule, ordering supplies," says Rondi Scott, a makeup artist whose credits include Craig Zobel's Compliance, Todd Solondz's Dark Horse and upcoming films with Samantha Morton, Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Aniston. Then, she says, there are the practical realities of filming: learning how to handle sweat in a cramped apartment in the summer when the sound department forces you to turn the air conditioning off ("Paper towels and fans," Scott says. "Never put makeup on top of sweat."), or learning how to properly prep skin to last through 12 hours of filming ("Primer."). Another important element is preparation - a phone call with the actors before filming is recommended to check on their preferences, allergies and creative ideas. A makeup test to establish a character's look in a relaxed environment, away from the ticking clock of Shoot Day One, is essential.

There's one other thing they don't teach in Cosmetology 101: psychology.


"One thing I was surprised by when I started is how different each actor's process is," says Scott. "The trailer is a sanctuary, and each actor uses it in a different way. Some come in to decompress and talk, others need quiet time to focus and go into their lines." The vibe in the trailer can change drastically depending on the day, and depending on the type of scene that's being filmed. "If there's a difficult scene up that morning, you don't throw on party music.

"It's an extremely personal relationship between actors and our department," Scott continues. "The best moments - and I think this applies to costume and art departments, too - are when you're really helping to develop the character, incorporating the director's vision and the actor's ideas and your own ideas. You have to figure out who this person is, how they present themselves and how they take care of themselves."


The hair and makeup trailer is notorious as Ground Zero for set gossip, and every actor knows it. Says Scott, "Especially on the first day, I'll never name names when I tell stories. I hardly even bring up examples of other people I've worked with. [Actors] pick up on the fact that you respect privacy in general. Then they start to trust that you're going to respect their privacy."

"Everything is about trust," says Leo Won, whose credits include Half Nelson, Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Place Beyond the Pines. "If they don't trust you immediately, they're not going to want to be touched or looked at by you. And that problem will get worse and worse."

"An actor can't do their best work when they don't feel confident," says Hugo. "And so much of that confidence is about their look being right."

"Look the part," advises Gina Bettelli, a MAC Cosmetics senior makeup artist who often arrives on a celebrity assignment with no prep whatsoever. …

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