Day in the life of
Film Makeup Artist – Kerrin Jackson
My name is Kerrin Jackson and I’m a film/tv makeup artist.
My Typical Day
A typical working day usually starts between 3.00 am and 6.00 am for a film makeup artist. It varies each day, depending on what characters play in the scenes shooting on any given day. And even though schedules are produced to give each department the info of what to prepare coming up, these schedules change constantly, so it’s incredibly difficult to prepare in advance!
Once I arrive at work, I head to the makeup trailer. I set up for my first makeup and if lucky, force down some food. We usually get 12-30 minutes for this to happen. Then if all goes well my person arrives on time and sits down and this is my moment. To make them feel at ease, relaxed, and get in the zone for their day. All the while, transforming their face into the character they will play on set all day. Sometimes you make up many people, one after the other, so you push through your morning, churning out your people, all the while creating art that will be captured forever and scrutinized by all. And other times you are required to do makeup on performers that have black eyes, heavy pimples or scars, or things that can’t be seen, or that they didn’t have last week. And it’s a makeup artist’s job to make the particular skin issue disappear. Or other times my morning may consist of one very long prosthetic makeup application.
I have done large makeups and body makeups that can take 5 hours or more. In that case, my call time can be as obscene as midnight or 1.00 am (yes, I’m not mistaken! And then you work all day onset!) So once everybody is through, it’s then a mad dash to pack up all of their makeup products in a set bag and travel to the filming set. Find a space that’s out of the way, and watch and maintain your actors and their makeup all day. It’s also our job to be prepared for things to change on set, and often makeup changes happen for different scenes and it’s important to be prepared in advance for that. As well as knowing the script and your script breakdown that documents all of these changes.
A shooting day generally lasts 10-12 hours. There are exceptions. Sometimes it goes longer, and once in a while it even is shorter, although not very often! Keeping your makeup looking the same all day and also flawless (as actors eat, sweat, talk, move, and just generally be human) is a challenge. And getting through long days at work takes a very specific mindset and stamina. This work is not for everyone. And generally, it is not very glamorous! We get half an hour for lunch somewhere in there. Generally, I have worked 8-10 hours by the time lunch is called for the crew. This is due to the fact that as makeup artists, we are usually faced with what’s called a “pre-call”, which is our call-times are way earlier than the general crew calm on set. This is to get the actors easy for shooting for the time that the onset crew and director are called; basically, we are all getting everybody up and running to be ready to go when the onset crew is ready. So sometimes, I can work 4 or 5 hours before the director, camera, and lighting crews arrive.
Once wrap is called for the day, we pack up and travel back to our makeup trailer, set up for removal, if there is a big prosthetic makeup to clean off someone. Or if you have people in more contemporary looks of minimal makeups, sometimes they just want to get out of there and will go straight home, bypassing our trailer. I also print photos from each scene and character that we filmed that day to file in what are called our continuity folders. These folders document all of the makeup department’s work for each character and every scene and makeup change they have. That way, if we come back in 6 weeks to reshoot something we have the visual information to match the makeup. We also have to keep our makeup trailer stocked with all of our makeup, perishables like tissues and supplies, and keep on top of what’s happening in the following days and weeks to prep for upcoming new characters, facial hairpieces that may need to be made, or any concerns any individual performer may have. It’s a busy, unpredictable day everyday at work. And again, every job is different.
In my career, I’ve been flown to mountain tops in a helicopter with Gandalf and a bunch of dwarves! I’ve worked in thousand-year-old ruins in Turkey and I’ve worked 120 hour weeks in Cold War-time-built studios in Prague and the Middle East in 120-degree heat. My earliest call time has been midnight and my longest working day was 23 hours long. It can be rough. But I try to rest in between projects, holidays and have some time at home before the next one.
- Get to work in interesting locations and different places all over the world
- Always meeting interesting people
- Incredibly creative job
- Often travel to remote, unusual places, sometimes places that are inaccessible to the general public
- Feel a sense of camaraderie at work, and that you are part of a team that is working towards one single goal as a collective
- The large amount of hours worked means you can earn money quickly but at the cost of not having any life outside of work for that period of time
- Flexible long term work schedule (can plan for holidays or periods of rest time at a job’s end)
- Long working hours
- Early morning starts
- Periods of time away from home and family
- Unusual and unpredictable work schedule (this may also be a positive to some!)
- The flexible work schedule may also be a con. It can be difficult to plan appointments too far in advance.