How to Be a Successful Film Makeup Trainee

Mar 12, 2023 | Film Makeup, Pro Makeup Kit

What do you think is the most important thing that will help you succeed as a trainee makeup artist in the film industry?

I can hear you saying ‘talent’ and ‘creativity’ and ‘awesome makeup skills.’

And yes, those are important but what really sets you apart is your attitude.


If your attitude sucks, then you won’t last long in the film industry. There is so much pressure working on a film set that there is no room for negative people who cannot work in a team. You need to have a positive, proactive attitude and be willing to work hard, for long hours, without complaining.

If you are hardworking, willing to go the extra mile and can find ways to make your team’s lives easier, then you will have a much better chance of success on set.



How do you rate your ability to work as part of a team?

Your first day as a trainee you may be working in a makeup crowd room with many other makeup artists.

Teamwork is crucial in the makeup department. If you want to succeed as a film makeup trainee, then you need to be able to work with other people who may be very different from you.

Being a trainee in a talented makeup department is an amazing learning experience and a great place to be.

To gain the most out of it you must be willing to watch and observe your team and learn to anticipate their needs.

If you want to make a great impression find ways to support the makeup artists and your Head of Department:

  • How do they want their makeup station set up?
  • What products do they prefer to use for different applications?
  • How do they want their set bags prepped for set?
  • What will they need for the next scene?
  • How do they take their tea or coffee?


Learn to have things to hand that they will need, such as cotton buds and wipes, at the right point. This will enable them to work faster and be more effective on set.

Anything you can do to help take the pressure off and help them work better on set will be valued and appreciated.

And it will help you succeed as a film makeup trainee.


You need to be able to cope with critical feedback and sometimes from multiple sources.

As a trainee I always wanted to please my Head of Department (HoD) or Dailies supervisor or whomever it was my job to work under that day, on set. 

It would devastate me if I didn’t get it right first time for my HoD, and I would feel like a failure. But with experience I learned not take it personally. I learned that the quicker I adapted my work to what they wanted, the better team player I became. You need to understand that makeup departments are very busy places.

Most of the time the people in charge are under enormous pressure and may not always have the time to sensitively reassure you if they give you negative feedback.


On film sets people need to communicate things very quickly.

They may have an entire crew waiting for them to complete an effect or a look on set, or a director waiting for an actor to be made up and to get back to set.

If something is not right for them listen carefully to the feedback and then do everything you can to change it and adapt it to their request.


  • Do you work well under tight deadlines?
  • Are you naturally tactful?
  • Can you think on your feet?
  • Can you come up with solutions under pressure?
  • Can you work long hours and keep smiling?
  • Can you read the mood in a room full of people?
  • Do you have excellent organization skills?

Film productions require highly skilled people with a wide array of specialist skills to work together to create a successful movie.

The way they do that is by working very closely together both physically and creatively.

Teams often work in small, confined spaces on film sets.

It’s vital to your success that you always remain professional and positive, no matter how tired or stressed you might feel.

Top Tip

“Always have a notebook and pen to hand to make quick notes – when it gets busy it’s very easy to forget things, so always write instructions down”.

Tom McInerney – Chief Makeup & Prosthetic Designer ,Vikings


Every Makeup Designer is different.

Each has their own way of working and you need to adapt to that on each new production you are fortunate to work on.

You need to be able to work under constant time pressure, for very long hours, often with a mix of complex and sometimes challenging personalities.

You need to perform at your best even when sleep deprived and with team members who may also be exhausted.

Most Heads of Departments are outstandingly creative and exceptionally talented, but not all of them are experienced in managing and motivating teams of people.

Occasionally you will come across some explosive types.

In those situations, I find it very helpful to remember the extreme pressure they are under and to not take it personally.

And you just need to develop a thick skin for the duration of that production.


This one is simple – NEVER be late.

Being late is a cardinal sin – you must never be late.

Always allow yourself extra time when travelling to work on a film set.

I’m so paranoid about being late that I will give myself two hours or more extra travelling time to get to a new job, especially if it is in a remote location. (Then even if the worst happens and my car breaks down there would still be time for the AA to tow me to unit base!)

And don’t rely on the signal on your phone for navigation. Go old school and always take a MAP with you just in case.

If you are willing to leave your ego at home, to work hard and to always have a great attitude, you will succeed as film makeup artist.

Learn to anticipate their needs and designers and makeup teams will ask you back and always want to work with you.

If you want more advice on what’s expected of you as film makeup trainee visit the Manifesto Shop and grab our free guide.



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