Fact #1: I get a thrill out of action and horror movies filled with shootings, blow-ups, Neanderthals, gore, and special effects.
Fact #2: Victoria Down is the Head of the Makeup Department for these sorts of films!
We had the greatest honour (after 10 years!) to have top makeup artist and film makeup industry specialist, Victoria Down, come in to give us the behind-the-scenes look into her years of experiences as a makeup head and makeup designer for many well-known films. If you’ve watched Night at the Museum 1 and 2 (2009 and 2006), the X-files movie (2008), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), John Tucker Must Die (2006), Thir13en Ghosts (2001), Juno (2009) or Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2010), then you’ve seen her work. She’s also the chair and co-chair of the IATSE Union, local 891 (yeah, the Union) though she quits and is voted back year after year. At the end of her visit, she gave a neat step-by-step demonstration on how to apply some handmade Pros-aide transfers – just like how it is done on set! You can imagine, we were pretty much glued onto her every word as she described her job and adventures.
Let’s take a peek at some of the things she gets to do: jump off helicopters onto breathtaking snow-capped mountains, fly all over the world, touch (I mean, caress) beautiful faces of talented people – the pretty Amy Adams, Pierce Brosnan (whom she claims to be the nicest man she has ever met), and Dame Judi Dench (one of her favourites), and watch a movie with Uma Thurman in giant luxury hotel suites.
What I liked was how she didn’t hesitate to give us the honest, not-so-glamorous take: working in less-than-desirable conditions (ie. being covered in ash and applying makeup in extreme cold and heat), battling and finding solutions when being given no budgets, realizing your favourite celebrity is dealing with severe acne, and dealing with divas (not to mention, divos – high maintenance men).
Even so, they sure make great stories!
What’s even more amazing is that she’s self-taught! After initially working in theatre, apprenticing for films early on, tons of practice and the best work ethic resulted in her having an exciting life being constantly busy on sets for feature films. Yet, she stays so humble and is truly grateful to get to do what she does.
Victoria emphasized the importance of taking the job seriously, being extremely organized and prepared for each scene, coming in with a good attitude, being able to think of solutions, being present, arriving early, being able to work well in teams and to think on your feet and being prepared for actor’s requests… as odd as they may be.
Then, Victoria and Blanche’s own Celine Godeau (who Victoria claims is one of the most talented painters she has worked with) gave us a live step-by-step demonstration of an effect she created for the X-files movie – the after effects of a garden rake scrape across the face *cringe* using Pros-aide transfers.
Then, she “slammed” (a technical term, apparently) the self-made prosthetic she casted onto a volunteer’s face and used alcohol to smooth down the edges.
After painting the transfer with the handy Skin Illustrator kit and spritzing the final product with water, whala!
So, besides the importance of the right work ethics, here are five things to remember:
- “Never piss off the Director of Photography” – he has the power to make or break you
- Do not be afraid to make mistakes – watch and learn for next time
- It’s not a fashion show and it’s not about you: do not show up on set on a pair of stilettos.
- At the same time, it is about you – health first!
- The truth: you can’t learn solely on set anymore. You have to go to school to get the right training and the Blanche Macdonald Centre will provide you with the training you need with their awesome instructors (all of whom Victoria has and loves to work with!)
Super informative, super inspiring, and no doubt, one super awesome job.