Is Working in the Film Industry Right for You?

Mar 13, 2023 | Film Makeup

A career as a makeup artist working on movie sets may sound glamourous and exciting but the reality can be quite different.

The working hours can be brutal – you work long days. Twelve-to-fourteen-hour days are normal. It’s also an intensely competitive industry where there are no permanent jobs and everyone is freelance.

However, it is also a highly creative, roller coaster ride of a lifetime, that can take you around the world.

So how do you know if this career is right for you?

Read our guide below, on working in the industry, to see if the movie business is truly the right job for you.

Long Hours in the Makeup Department

Makeup artists prepare actors so that they are ready before the days filming begins.

So, we are always in early, often before some other departments begin working. And makeup artists are usually last to leave, because we have to take all that makeup off the actors and restore then to normal before they head home.

Makeup artists and all film crews work in highly pressurized environments where the stakes are high, and you are only ever as good as your last job.

There are no permanent jobs – all work is freelance or short-term contracts. It is always up to you to find your next job.

You need to have the right personality and self-confidence, to be able to convince a Makeup Designer that you are right for their makeup department and that they should invest in having you join their team.

How would you cope with the following?

  • Working in a fiercely competitive industry
  • There are more makeup artists than there are jobs
  • Being away from home for extended periods of time
  • Being cold, wet, muddy and exhausted
  • Working 16-to-18-hour days
  • Sometimes having to live out of suitcase
  • Weeks of night shifts
  • Driving home at night to an empty hotel room
  • Sometime working in very stressful environments
  • Dealing with highly pressurized deadlines

Working in the film industry has some similarities to military life. You receive your orders, you report for work and you do what they ask, no questions asked.

You do the work regardless of where it is or how long it takes, and you leave only when you’re dismissed and not before.

Are you prepared for the impact on your SOCIAL LIFE?

Essentially when you are working on a film production it takes over your life.

Often you can forget about having a social life beyond the production. The hours can be so brutal that when you do have down time, often you are too exhausted to hit the town with friends.

Are you willing to HUSTLE?

As there are no permanent jobs in the movie business, networking and hustling to find your next job will become a big part of your life. You need to ‘get out there’ and connect with makeup designers and film industry leaders. You need to make yourself and your work known to them. This requires bucket loads of confidence and the ability to handle rejection without taking it personally.

And a fearless determination to succeed.

Are you prepared to drop everything at a moment’s notice for a job?

Because there are no permanent jobs in the movie business – everyone is freelance – you never know where and when your next job (and paycheque) is coming from.

Which makes it very hard to say no to work, for fear you may not be asked again.

Film industry schedules and call times are notoriously last minute and if you work as a Dailie (the route for many film makeup artists) quite often you will only get the call for work the night before.

You need to be prepared that you may miss special celebrations and holiday plans may have to be put on hold – work will always take priority unless you are in a financial position to turn down work.

Are you willing to work nights and twelve-hour days?

Twelve-hour days are standard in the movie business and often much longer in reality.

Depending on the size and schedule of the film project working Saturdays and Sundays are not uncommon, especially if the production falls behind schedule.

Night shoots are also a big part of working in film production. You can be expected to work nights, for example from 6pm to 6am, for weeks at a time.

If you say no to any of the above, then this industry may not be a good fit for you.

And it can be very tough balancing family life with a career as a film makeup artist. I’m not going to lie to you, it is certainly easier if you are young with no commitments.

But I did it as a single mother, so it is possible. You have to be fiercely focussed with laser like determination to succeed.

And the job can take you around the world. You get to work with talented and skilled people at the top of their game, in a highly creative, dynamic and fast paced environment, where no two days are ever the same.

There is no doubt it is not an easy career path – not for the faint hearted.

But if it suits your personality and if you work hard and are a strong team player, then it can be the best roller coaster ride of your life.

Find out how to succeed as a film makeup trainee HERE.



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