Often, we paint a glamorous picture of what it must be like to work on a film set. The problem is that it only tells one side of the story. When you have an ambition or a dream job that you want to pursue, I think it’s so important to understand the good, the bad and the ugly of the job. It’s the ultimate key to knowing if you want to be a set-ready makeup artist badly enough.
When you’re starting out, it always sounds awfully glamorous. But pursuing this career is tough, with many students dropping off the radar and doing something else when they realise what the job REALLY entails. An amazing quote springs to mind when I think about this, and I would have loved to hear it when I was in makeup school. So much truth!
“What’s your favourite flavor of shit sandwich?”
‘Every single pursuit—no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem—comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, and As Manson writes with profound wisdom: “Everything sucks, some of the time.” You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?” Because if you love and want something enough—whatever it is—then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.’
― Elizabeth Gilbert,
It’s not for everyone, and a lot of graduates often realise this after their first job or work experience. That’s okay. There’s many other pathways you can redirect to and still do what you love. Still want to work on-set? Okay, here’s the lowdown guys:
What Working On-Set Really Means
- You will work long hours that seem criminal to people working normal 9-5 jobs. A 12-14 hour day is completely normal, and if shooting is behind, expect to add more hours to that. Sometimes, the amount of hours you have before the next day of work is barely enough time to drive home, sleep and drive back.
- Because the film hours are long and unpredictable, don’t even think about making plans or holidays. You are expected to drop everything, and nothing is more important than your job during that time. People who try to use excuses for days off or early marks don’t last long.
- The hours, travel and can disrupt your entire mind and body. Sleeping schedules are flipped, your diet and eating habits take a beating, and the body tires. If artists can’t keep on top of it, health and lifestyle decline quickly, and the running around or even just standing for long periods of time can cause injuries later in life. Makeup Artists are often prone to neck, shoulder and back injuries due to the way we work.
Self-care is Your Friend in this Industry
I’m not trying to sound all doom and gloom. The above points paint a generalised picture of the wonderful world of film and there will always be exceptions. You will experience better and worse than this over time. I’m bringing it to light because department heads and senior artists need to be confident that you are cut out to be on the job. Learning the negatives of your dream job early on can help you decide if it’s right for you. If it is, then knowing these can also help you to plan and prepare for the lifestyle changes you will one day experience.
It’s important to take care of yourself in this line of work, because every aspect of your life will take a hit, especially health and wellbeing. When you’re starting out and have the chance to do some work on-set, build good habits from the start and take care of your mind and body so that you can work to your best capacity.
Look after your health, first and foremost. We work a minimum of 12 hours a day and it can take its toll on your body. Find some exercise you can do on the weekends. Drink lots of water and get yourself into shape between jobs. It can make all the difference. (-And buy good boots! Spend the money so that you have comfort and support.) – Sean Genders, Makeup effects Artist
It’s important to take care of yourself in this line of work, because every aspect of your life will take a hit, especially health and wellbeing. When you’re starting out and have the chance to do some work on-set, build good habits from the start and take care of yourself so that you can work to your best capacity.
The Unwritten Rules of Surviving Film Work
- Stay hydrated – People often forget to drink water when they’re busy or stressed, but dehydration can set in quickly causing headaches and disrupting your metabolism. There is ALWAYS water in close range, so bring your water bottle and keep it topped up.
- Keep moving or rest – Okay, so not sure if it’s just me, but if I stand still too long, I get lower back pain that is off the charts. My doctor recently told me that standing still is worse than walking or sitting so I’ve learned to stretch and keep my joints moving if I’m standing around. ~And if a chance to sit presents itself, don’t be afraid to take it.
- Invest in your feet – Another rookie error I made! Buy decent footwear. Some weather-proof boots to get you through location shoots and a pair of lighter shoes if you’re working in a studio (like sneakers). Shoes with cushion and support trump the cool-looking shoes. Sore feet are even more of a pain in the ass the next day.
- Eat to live, don’t live to eat – The standard routine for a lot of crew members is that they put on weight during the shoot, then lose it in between and the cycle repeats. Changing from your normal diet to fully catered meals and snacks multiple times a day can mess with your system. Replicate your normal routine when you can and skip the snacks.
- Make fitness a priority – The long hours start to eliminate your chances to keep up with a normal exercise/activity routine but it’s so crucial to pursue activities outside of work where possible, even if it’s just on weekends or something quick you can do in your motel room before work starts. Keep on top of it to survive working on a film set.
+ The Unglamorous, Punishing Hours of Working on a Hollywood Set
+ Your Survival Guide to Working on a Movie Set
+ Set Etiquette for Assistant Makeup Artists
+ Getting ahead in the Film Industry as a Makeup Artist: Part I
+ How to Pack an On-Set Makeup Survival Kit
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