Life / Careers

You Can Do This: Film, TV and theatre makeup artist

Eager for variety and colour in your working life and seeing your artistry on the big screen? Makeup artistry might be the route for you.

Kristin Wayne is a freelance film and television makeup artist based in Toronto

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Kristin Wayne is a freelance film and television makeup artist based in Toronto

Kristin Wayne, 31, freelance film and television makeup artist, Toronto

Why I Like My Job

I was going to the University of Guelph taking science and arts, and I wasn’t really into it. I always loved makeup so much, but had never thought about it as a career. A friend of mine suggested I look into being a makeup artist.

After I finished my degree, I went to Toronto’s CMU College of Makeup Art & Design, which covers all elements of makeup — fashion, TV, theatre, prosthetics, creature design and basic hairstyling. And there, I was really inspired by the film and television section — I loved all the special effects makeup can do.

I graduated at the top of my class and was given the opportunity to go to Vietnam and work on a Vietnamese feature film there for three months. It was an incredible experience. When I came back, I started volunteering on productions and student films, trying create a network of people who could hire me later on. I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now and I’m always trying to build my network larger.

I usually go in in the morning and process my cast for the scene they’re doing. I apply the makeup and sometimes special effects — whatever the scene requires that day. It depends on what they’re doing, but I can make them look tired, or awake, or I can apply special effects make up. There’s a lot of variety. I’m currently on a movie called Flint, about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Some of my other credits include assisting on Orphan Black and Guillermo Del Toro’s new film Shape of Water.

Sometimes I’ll be on location with long days, others it’s just a quick bit of work in the morning. And it’s different if I’m on a film or on a TV show or a corporate shoot.
The variety is amazing. Every day I’m doing something different, and I’m working with all different types of people. I really love that. And I’m an artist so the creativity that comes along with it is so amazing.

How to start

Beyond a high school diploma, there are few official requirements for becoming a makeup artist in the film, TV or theatrical space. However, many positions — particularly for those on special-effects-heavy sets — require advanced training from dedicated trade schools, such as the makeup program at the Vancouver Film School or Toronto’s School of Makeup Art.

At these programs, students learn basic cosmetology and hair training, as well as more advanced techniques for applying special effects. It’s common for new makeup artists to have to build out their careers through networking, volunteering on student productions or low-budget indie films.

There are unions across the country that regulate makeup artists, and each will have different requirements for entrance: In Toronto, for example, to be accepted into the IATSE union, makeup artists are required to have experience with film and TV makeup techniques, corrective and aging makeup experience, and facial hair application. 

Where you can go

There are opportunities for specially trained makeup artists in most cities with a heavy presence of film and television production, and with major theatres, including Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax and Montreal. As many makeup artists are freelance, they’ll often supplement their income with bridal and corporate work.

The basics: Makeup artist

$39,000: Median annual salary for an intermediate-level makeup artist. Those with advanced experience and prestigious resumes can expect to earn upwards of $140,000 per year.   

+14%: The amount of growth expected in this field over the next eight years.

Data for this feature was provided by payscale.com, beautyinstitutecanada.com, schoolofmakeupart.com, Canadian-universities.net, iatse873.com and onetonline.org.

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