Frequently Asked Questions
You only have to ask...
The majority of mail that we get is from people asking how to get into make up effects and whether we offer work placements. If you're one of those people this should be of interest to you. If you have any questions that we don't cover here, feel free to e-mail us. Remember that we are a UK based effects company and we can only really comment on the situation as we see it in our country.
DO YOU OFFER WORK PLACEMENTS?
We don't, sorry. Aside from the problems that are often caused by the fact that students would not be insured to work here, our main problem has always been with the sheer volume of requests we get. We simply can't help everybody.
However, we came to this business as fans, and realise how hard it is to make inroads into the kind of work we do. We do try and help if we can, and encourage people who seem to have some aptitude for makeup effects work to keep in touch with us, and send us pictures of their work from time to time so that we can see how they are progressing. We can also help you with any specific questions about materials or techniques that you might have, and give you critiques of your work, if you can take it! and advice on how best to get in.
The first thing to say is that there are no easy routes into this industry. No company will take you on and train you. You pretty much have to train yourself. We don't do internships or apprenticeships We're not a makeup school either. We don't take paying students.
ARE THERE ANY COURSES THAT TEACH MAKE UP EFFECTS IN THE UK?
There are a number of courses that teach aspects of the sort of work we do. Some are better than others. If you're considering embarking on such a course it's advisable to find out exactly what the course covers and who will be teaching it. If you haven't heard of the tutor ask to see some of their work, also ask to see some of the students work, then make up your mind whether the course is for you.
CAN YOU RECOMMEND A COURSE?
There are no courses that we would specifically recommend or endorse, in fact, the large majority of people who work in effects makeup in the UK are self taught. What we can say for sure is that no course, however long it is, and however much it costs, is going to give you a qualification that will get you a job.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO YOU NEED TO WORK IN MAKE UP EFFECTS?
There are no standard academic or vocational qualifications for this kind of work. There is only one qualification that is a necessity, and that is a portfolio with pictures of good work in it. We don't hire people on the strength of their academic achievements, but on the quality of their work and sculpting skills. Almost all of what we do is sculpture based, whether its a prosthetic make-up or an animatronic creature - it all starts with a lump of clay. So if you're not already - start sculpting NOW. Take photos of everything you do and build up a portfolio of work. The way you photograph your work is important , try to take good, clear photos that show your work to its best advantage, ( so preferably not against your bedroom wallpaper, try to put them against a plain background.)
WHAT SORT OF WORK SHOULD BE IN MY PORTFOLIO?
The most important thing that your portfolio needs to show prospective employers is
1 Your sculpting abilities
2 The breadth of your imagination
It's not so important that you have worked with the materials and processes that we use on a daily basis. Many of these are very expensive. You could start by sculpting maquettes (small figures) using something like Sculpey or Fimo, which can be painted. This way you can make finished creatures that display both your design and sculptural abilities and how well you finish your work. Just pictures of clay sculpts are enough to show us whether you have any talent in the area.
Your portfolio should contain a range of work... creatures, old age, animals, character makeups, realistic sculptures are as important as fantastic ones. Try to avoid too many gore shots and multiple pictures of the same item. Don't pad it - use only the work which you're really proud of, and always try to improve on your last piece of work. It's very hard, especially when you haven't done much, to discard stuff , but if it's not absolutely the best you can do, don't include it in your folio. If you don't think its great, the chances are nobody else will. Two good photos are better than a dozen so - so ones. Look at makeup effects shots in books and magazines, get movies out on tape, go to the cinema. Look at the work that has been done professionally and ask yourself if you work is as good.
ARE THERE ANY BOOKS AND MAGAZINES THAT I CAN LEARN FROM?
There are a number of books and publications which you'll find useful, Sadly there's not one definitive work, but there's a lot of useful and inspirational information out there.
Books you should look at are:
The Technique of The Professional Make Up Artist - Vincent Kehoe
Stage Makeup - Richard Corson
Techniques of Three Dimensional Makeup - Lee Baygan
Special Makeup Effects - Vincent Kehoe
Bizzaro /Grande Illusion 1 &2 - Tom Savini
Behind the Mask Secrets of Hollywoods Monster Makers - Mark Salisbury/Alan Hedgcock
The Winston Effect - Jody Duncan
No Strings Attached - The Inside story of The Henson Creature Shop - Matt Bacon
Men Makeup & Monsters - Tony Timpone
Dick Smith's Do It Yourself Monster Makeup Handbook
Designing Movie Creatures and Characters - Richard Rickett
Magazines that regularly carry articles on Make up effects are:
Make Up Artist Magazine
There's also some great websites out there. One of the best is the FX LAB. You can find it at www.theeffectslab.com
HOW HARD IS IT TO FIND A JOB IN MAKE UP FX?
Now this is the bit that they never tell you about in magazines, or warn you about when you take a makeup course. If you get into make-up effects in the UK you will almost certainly be a freelance worker, there are almost no technicians who are full time employees. You will be employed for the duration of a film or an ad, it might be for a few months, or a few days. At the end of this period you'll be out of work and looking for your next job. We run a company full time, but we probably only work eight months of the year, sometimes as few as six!
This is not a secure job, you have to go out there and find the work, you have to make contacts and follow them up. Jobs are obtained mostly through word of mouth. In the UK there isn't a union that is going to find work for you. There are about 250 people in the UK who regularly earn a living from make-up fx, half of them will be out of work at any one time, so if you're trying to break in you have to be not only better than all the others wanting to break in at that time, but also better or more useful than those established artists who are not working. So it's tough. Dedication is everything. Most of the work is based around the London area, so you should be able to be so, should the work demand it. There are only a small number of companies who specifically do makeup effects, you can count them on your fingers! So the list of potential employers is not huge. In the UK hours tend to be long and anti social as production times are usually tight It is not a 9-5, five day a week sort of job, it can play havoc with your social life and can be very stressful at times. Also having to work in a freelance, self employed capacity can affect other things, you won't be eligible for unemployment benefit, will be liable for your own tax and you might have more trouble securing loans or finding a mortgage .
If any of this has put you off the idea, then this definitely isn't the job for you. It's only the people who REALLY want to do this who end up doing it. We started as fans, makeup effects was our hobby before it was our profession. It still is our hobby. When we're not doing make-up effects for other people we're doing it for ourselves, building up our portfolio.
CAN I SUBMIT WORK TO CREATURE EFFECTS?
You can certainly. We love this stuff and we love seeing other peoples work. Don't send us your whole folio - Just one or two shots of the best work that you've done will be enough. If you're e-mailing us stuff try to keep the file sizes small. If your posting us examples of your work a SAE would be much appreciated. Don't send us your original photos, reprints or good quality colour copies are best. We like to keep interesting work on file. We try to respond to all the mail we're sent, but we might take a while getting back to you depending on what work we have on. We're not a big employer, we tend to employ only people who we think are as good or better than ourselves. Whilst the cynical might think that this means just about anyone is in with a chance, it actually means that we very rarely employ new talent. However if we can't use you we can generally point you in the direction of someone who might be able to.
CAN I VISIT CREATURE EFFECTS?
We'd want to see some of you work first, so that we can gauge what level your at and visits are by invitation only. We don't have a museum of work that we've done so don't expect to see much. We're not based at a film studio so you won't be catching any glimpses of film sets or famous actresses. There's a lot of mess here so please don't come in you best clothes and if you're roping your mom or dad into bringing you down, please leave them at the front door. It's you we want to talk to!