If the importance of training in your chosen career hasn’t quite hit home yet, read Lizzie’s inspiring story about how she went from college to traineeship to the Oscars.
In our exclusive blog interview the award-winning professional gives an in-depth account of how she got into the industry, her memorable jobs and adventures on films – from Made in Dagenham to Rachel Weisz’s hair and makeup stylist on The Bourne Legacy to Guardians of the Galaxy and Oscar-nomination.
Anyone interested in getting into the film industry, and particularly hair and makeup, should read Lizzie’s invaluable career advice here.
How did you become a makeup artist?
I did a three year course in Make-up, Beauty Therapy, Wig-making and Business. While at college I worked in hair salons and took a course at the Vidal Sassoon school during my summer break to get really good at cutting. I worked with an amazing colourist and assisted him in his competition work. I then did the makeup for the competition models.
It was while in this environment that I applied for a trainee position at Thames Television, an independent company. There were 3,000 applicants for three jobs, one of which I was lucky enough to get! We spent six months in a training school covering contemporary makeup, ageing, glamour and prosthetics. The course covered hair and wig work too.
We were then put out to work, watch and learn for the rest of the two years we were trainees. After two years we became junior assistants, becoming more a part of the team with our own artists to look after. We weren’t considered makeup and hair artists until we completed four years. My first job was on a film called a Voyage Around My Father with Sir Laurence Olivier. I absolutely loved it and never looked back!
You have many credentials – which was your most memorable job?
That’s a tough one! I have wonderful memories and experiences from many of the projects I have been a part of. I love every project for different reasons:
An Education for the freshness and the coming of age story, showing the change of the young girl to a woman all set in the Sixties. This involved subtle changes in the way Jenny looked to help take the audience through her growth. Carey Mulligan went on to win a BAFTA and was Oscar-nominated in that role. I received my first BAFTA nomination for this film.
Made in Dagenham for being a part of telling the amazing true story of the fight for equal pay for women in the Sixties. Sally Hawkins and the other actors were amazing to work with and the period is so much fun from a makeup and hair standpoint. We had so many ladies to make up every day but it was so great to see how well the looks worked together. It was realistic and gritty. Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson and Rosamund Pike went on to be nominated for BAFTAs for their roles in this film, and it was for my work on this film that I received my second BAFTA nomination.
The Deep Blue Sea was an emotional, deep love story and my first job with Rachel Weisz with Terrance Davies directing. I realised while we were shooting the film that it was going to be a classic. Everything about it felt real. The story is told all in the same day with flash backs, a challenge from a makeup and hair point of view. Rachel went on to be nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her wonderful performance.
Bourne was a fun experience and I loved working with Rachel Weisz again, this time in New York and the Phillipines. Our director Tony Gilroy was so interesting to work with. The look was contemporary but Rachel’s’ character had to go through a lot of drama which kept me on my toes! I met some amazing people on this film who have become really good friends.
Thor 2 was my first Marvel adventure and my second job with Tom Hiddleston after The Deep Blue Sea. It was great to get Chris Hemsworth looking so cool. It was a real mix of period and contemporary looks. I met one of my heroes on this film; Anthony Hopkins. He was such a pleasure to work with. An adventure in Iceland with a great team.
Guardians was an epic adventure. The Marvel Universe is immense and the fact that the comics weren’t as well known gave me a lot of scope to be creative while also respecting the universe had already been created in the comic books.
The makeup and the hair work for this film was a great challenge and it was so pleasurable to see the results while testing. I loved all the different hair work we created. Particularly Benicio Del Toro as The Collector and Glenn Close as Nova Prime, Gamora’s beautiful hair and the gorgeous Alien Ladies. I knew then that this film was going to be a feast to the eyes, so I really pushed the boundaries with the looks.
I managed to add an element of high fashion into both the hair and makeup looks. I would get an idea of each character and push the look that bit further to create more unusual and more believable looks. I had a fabulous team on Guardians of the Galaxy who stepped up every time there was a challenge. To have been Oscar, BAFTA and Saturn Award nominated, and to have won the Critics Choice Award, The Hollywood Film Award and The Artisan Award for this project is a great honour.
And which of the projects are you most proud of?
I take great pride in every project I am involved in. I am very particular and I choose the projects I want to do carefully – if I’m to spend several months on a project I want a finished product I will be proud to have my name attached to.
I am very proud of the achievements in Guardians of the Galaxy as we pulled a lot of different challenges and looks off with an originality and freshness, which was really exciting for me.
How have you managed to keep on top of the ever changing industry techniques and technologies?
It’s always important to keep yourself up to date and on top of all that’s new and available!
Training and retraining is my advice. All of us should embrace and encourage our teams to keep abreast of all of the new techniques. If you don’t try the new technologies and techniques available you can’t then expect to stay at the top of your game.
How important is a strong crew to a film production?
It’s very important indeed. Film is never a one-man show, it is only through great collaboration and teamwork that a job can be pulled off to the fullest of its potential. A strong professional crew that work well as a team is key to the bigger picture.
You have been nominated for many awards, but Guardians was your first Oscar nomination. How did that feel?
It’s truly an honour to be nominated by your peers. The people you have watched and admired for their talents and great work throughout the years have given your work their vote!
Did you attend the Academy Awards?
I did attend the Academy Awards and it was certainly a day to remember! The Americans have a fabulous sense of celebration and we were truly celebrated.
Thank you to all the Academy members who nominated Guardians of the Galaxy for Make-up, Hair and Special Effects Makeup (David White – Special Effects Makeup Designer).
What advice would you give to anyone whose ambition is to become a top film and TV makeup artist?
> Get good all round qualifications at school. You will need these for the understanding of the scripts and their break down; there is a lot of research that goes into our work.
> Don’t forget the market is swamped with people wanting to get into this career, so you need to qualify for a place. Choose a good course that will give you a great grounding for the future. Remember, this is only a grounding.
> Watch and learn
. The methods and the lessons you learn along the way are what make you the top of your game.
> Practice and experience go a long way, stick with it and give it 100 per cent.
> Always think three steps ahead of everyone.
> Never stop thinking outside of the box and always offer to help whenever you see an opening.
> Take time to get better at what you do. Overnight success is rare for a reason – it’s not sustainable.
> Our job is not just about how artistic you are, it’s also about being a good people person.
> Be helpful without getting in the way.
> You have to love this job to be successful in it.
How does Creative Media Skills help with what you do?
Creative Media Skills is very useful in keeping up to date with new trends and skills, not only for me but for the team too. I do encourage everyone to go and learn. It’s always important to be the best you can be in all aspects of the job. I think it’s important to learn as many skills as you can. Then go and take those skills to the next level.
Read our other exclusive interviews with tutor and makeup artist Mandy Gold, tutor and Game of Thrones prop maker Gavin Jones, tutor and costume designer Jane Clive, award-winning filmmakerBill Forsyth, actor Noel Clarke, The King’s Speech producer Gareth Unwin, our special effects makeup tutor Stuart Bray and our participant all the way over from Canada, Reign’s makeup artistAshley Rocha.