Getting ahead in the Film Industry as a Makeup Artist: Part 2

getting ahead in the film industry

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I posted part one of ‘Getting Ahead in the Industry!‘ It was always on the cards to write about this idea more because there are just so many juicy points you can dig into. This is the kind of advice I’ve learned not just from these past few years as a working makeup artist/assistant, but from every job I’ve ever had since I was at school. So much of this is common sense, but as we all know, common sense is not common. It can relate to young people in all industries, but it rings truest in regards to working in the film industry. I’m hoping you can gain something from the below as I elaborate on what I talked about in Part 1. (Missed Part I? Check it out here first!)

The less noticeable you are while doing your job, the better. Most crew positions mean being invisible — if you’ve done your job right, it’s hard to notice you did anything at all. – The Black and Blue

+ Anticipate and plan in advance – Always try to be one step ahead of the game by planning as much as you can in advance. Stay on top of your tasks and think about what’s coming up later in the day, or even week. It is easier to prevent problems than solve them. Organisation is always key to getting ahead in the industry and can soften the blow when things change last minute. (Department heads are amazing at this and are the best people to learn from and observe.)

+ Help others when you have nothing to do – Like they say, ‘the devil finds work for idle hands.’ When you’ve finished all your jobs, the first thing you do should NOT be sitting around on your phone unless you have covered all bases. Instead, think to yourself, ‘Have I checked in to see if everyone is okay?’ Your first priority should be going to see if anyone needs an extra hand. Your second priority should be to analyse if there’s anything you can do to clean or prep for your department. Keep busy.

+ Pick up after yourself and never leave a mess – When you’re an assistant, you will have to get used to cleaning up other people’s messes. That’s your job, whether you like it or not. However, being at the bottom of the food chain also means that it’s completely UNACCEPTABLE for someone to have to clean up after you. Keep your areas clean, and then take the time to make sure the department is clean. (Don’t clean a makeup artist’s personal station unless they ask you to. Stick to the common areas.)

+ Keep your private business private – Word spreads like wildfire on a film set and it can make or break careers. Departments spend so much time together that they become like a family, so it’s inevitable that you will come across gossip or hear people venting to others. Don’t engage in gossip or start drama. Leave your emotional baggage at the door and keep complaints to yourself. Talking badly about someone behind their back only fuels the fire.

+ Show that you want to be there – Enthusiasm is something that can’t be faked easily, so why try? No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t want to be at work in the first place. Even when things become tough or challenging, no one wants to hear complaining. Do your job with gusto and prove to people how excited and grateful you are to be there. People are quick to judge laziness, boredom, and apathy.

+ Be willing to work harder and longer than everyone else – Film crews work harder and longer than anyone else in the production. As a result, mediocrity is not rewarded and impressing your team can be hard. When you’re starting out, going above and beyond will only help your cause because they don’t give out medals for doing the minimum work required. Understand that you may be expected to start earlier and stay back later if needed, especially as an assistant. Cherish the overtime if you can, and go out of your way without expecting anything in return. This is key to getting ahead in the industry.

~And always remember…never act like you are better than the job you’ve been given

You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Fight Club is so relevant to everything! Getting ahead in the industry means everyone has to start at the bottom. You will be told what to do and have things demanded of you sometimes. Having an ego about it only makes more problems. Always remember that, as a member of a film crew (whether makeup artist or assistant), you are part of a well-oiled machine, and if you think something is beneath you, the machine starts to fall apart. Like all crew, you are important to the machine even if you are doing menial tasks. Earn your place through trust and a willingness to do your job efficiently, whatever that requires. (Haven’t read Part 1? Go here!)

Further Reading:

+ Show up and Do the Work

+ The Seven Arts of Working in Film

+ A-Z Guide to Film Set Etiquette

+ When to Speak up and When to Shut up


That’s all she wrote,