Film Set Vocabulary makeup artists should know

makeup department

When you step onto a film set for the first time, it’s an overwhelming kaleidoscope of equipment, people and a strange array of concocted phrases (an almost alien language). Throughout the shoot, you’ll hear AD’s yelling out words from dawn till dusk and the most important thing is to understand if they are calling for you! It can take a while to become accustomed to all the production slang, but it never hurts to familiarise yourself with some of the basics, especially in the makeup department. We’ve got your back! Here’s a few simple ones to keep in the back of your mind:


This is an essential task for many departments on a production, including makeup. As scenes are often shot out of sequence, it is imperative that all makeup looks are documented to ensure continuity if scenes are split up and shot on different days. Photos of the actors are taken and product notes are made so that the looks can be replicated, and by other artists if needed.

Last Looks / Final Checks

Just before the camera rolls, you’ll often hear someone yell something along the lines of ‘Last Looks!’ or ‘Checks!’ This is the cue and your permission to run into the shot and do any last touchups on the actors. Be swift and professional about it, there’s no time to fuss about on a shooting schedule.

Standby Kit

A standby kit is a condensed pared down selection of your main makeup kit that can be taken to set. It needs to be portable and contain items specifically for maintaining the actors’ looks. Many makeup artists ensure that their set bag also contains items that might come in handy during unexpected situations.

Stepping Up

When a film is shooting on location, the main makeup team will often work out of a makeup bus. It’s stable and well-equipped, but also has a tendency to trigger movement as people step on and off the bus. When entering or leaving, always yell ‘stepping up’ or ‘stepping off’ to warn artists inside who may be in the middle of fine detail work. No actor wants to lose an eye.

Unit Base

Unit base is the formal name for the area on location that contains all of the trailers and buses. It is where crew will begin, actors will be prepped, catering will be provided. It is the main point of call for all departments to refer back to during a shoot on location.


The makeup department gets very used to the phrase ‘What’s your ETA??’ commonly asked by the AD (Assistant Director). This is their quickest way of asking how much longer the actor needs in the makeup chair (‘It’s been longer than 5 minutes!’), and also a subtle way to demand you hurry up.


We love Diva Del Mar‘s explanation of this term because let’s be honest, it’s true. “In case you don’t know what the term “blacklisted” refers to, it means that a person or a production crew fucks up so royally and/or repeatedly burns so many bridges that the general population in the film industry shuns them.” Errors of stupidity and/or disrespect are seldom forgotten by others, so always remain professional and do your job.