"The first time I made myself up, I was looking at my reflection in the mirror and it wasn't me looking back. It allowed me to do things I couldn't do as myself. I found out how powerful that was and how much that can mean to an actor."


-Rick Baker

"Film is a truly magical medium. You can create illusions of reality, make people think they've seen things that they really haven't -- like blowing a guy's head off with a shotgun."


-Tom Savini


The importance of makeup and special make-up effects in film and television production should not be overlooked.  Whether you are just trying to make your actors look their best on camera or creating a creature for a horror film, the makeup artist is a crucial member of the production team.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honors these professionals with the  Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.  Some films that have won this Oscar include:  Mad Max: Fury Road, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Pan's Labyrinth and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.


Wikipedia helps define three makeup techniques that serve filmmaking:




Fashion makeup is used in magazine photography as well as on the fashion runway. Avant-garde makeup is also an applicable technique used for projects that require experimental themes. Fashion makeup is also commonly used in television and film ranging from the natural prime look to more sophisticated applications such as color balance.




The use of an airbrush (which is a small air-operated device that sprays various media including alcohol and water-based makeup by a process of nebulization) is another popular technique. The earliest record of this type of cosmetic application dates back to the 1925 film version of Ben-Hur. It has recently been re-popularized by the advent of HDTV and digital photography, where the camera focuses on higher depths of detail. Liquid foundations that are high in coverage but thin in consistency are applied with the airbrush for full coverage without a heavy build-up of product.




This includes the use of special effect techniques that enhance physical features to exhibit metaphysical characteristics as well as fantasy makeup. The use of prosthetics and plaster casting are also required for projects that entail non-human appearances. Accents such as theatrical blood and ooze are also techniques applicable to this type of makeup.

"The first thing I'll do if I want to look really crappy is, I don't wear any makeup at all."


-Michael Caine

Joell Ann Jacob, Make-up Artist

1.  Please tell us about yourself and the type of film and television productions that you have worked on.

I’ve worked in production my entire adult life on live and scripted television, national and local commercials, corporate interviews and training industrials, major and indie films, live appearances, print and theater. As a make-up artist/stylist/groomer, I have worked with people from a wide spectrum of ethnicities, age and performance experience: actors, celebrities, political leaders, corporate echelon and everyday folk. I have a cosmetology license and apprenticed into the world of television and film. In production, I also work as an actor and voice talent.

2.  As a make-up artist in a world of high definition and 4K production, what are the challenges of doing make-up on actors when the images from today's cameras are so detailed?

I treat high definition as I would film, print or a live appearance. There are products made specifically for HD, and I’ve found that a lot of them work well. I don’t use HD make-up exclusively, but I find the setting powders make a huge difference. The biggest challenge may be applying make-up on men. Sometimes the right amount is a very light dusting of powder to decrease shine. Another time it may be applying color-correcting make-up on particular problem areas. Another time it could be a full-face cover up, just to make someone look normal and healthy. The color match is very important to look natural and hopefully the lighting is good!

3.  You are also an actress, has your experience in front of the camera helped you be a better make-up artist?

I believe it a very important and fulfilling part of my job to help people feel confident and secure while on set. As an actor, I understand how uncomfortable it can be to feel judged, to be primped, prodded and poked at like a subject and to be expected to perform on cue. Being a make-up artist is creative, but first and foremost, it is a job of service. Offering compassion, respect and support is a part of that. If someone seems really nervous and it’s appropriate, I may let people know what to expect, so that they might relax. I assure them that I will be on set with them if they need anything and that I’ll be watching out for them. I give talent a sense that I’m there for them, that the team has confidence in them, that we all want them to succeed.

4.  What's your basic approach to applying make-up for production?

My basic approach for applying make-up for production is always to go for a natural look unless otherwise requested or called for. My kit is filled with many different brands, color palettes and products that I find work for me; too many to list. My technique tends to be a light application and adding more if needed. I’ll see what the talent looks like on set, under the lights and in the scene, check the monitor and work from there. I consider the most important approach is above all, to be hygienic. Always use clean brushes for each client and always ask about allergies before using any products, including hairspray or latex applicators.

5.  I assume that most of the time your goal is to make someone look their best on camera, but please talk about the importance of using make-up to achieve other looks.

Some jobs call for special effects and I’ll only accept a job if I know I can handle the work. I can do minor special effects, like making someone look sickly or jaundiced, black eyes, bullet holes, blackened or yellowing teeth, aging, scratches, bruises and tattoos, facial hair, wigs and bald caps. These are basics that I believe would behoove every production make-up artist to offer. Usually, sfx will be discussed and requested before the job, but I have been asked to do some mid-shoot, out of the blue. Thankfully, I’ve always been able to say yes and be a can do person. I don’t normally carry bald caps, facial hair or wigs in my kit, but production may have them and expect you to make it happen. Being prepared for anything is a best practice.

6.  What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into this business?

If you want to get into the business, consider going to a specialized school to learn your skills. If you don’t know how to do hair, seriously consider learning some basics. You will be more valuable if you can do both. If you can make your way around an iron or steamer and sew a button, even better, if you’re staying in the non-union realm. If you are already skilled in make-up and hair, buy books on the business, watch videos, practice your skills and ask to apprentice or shadow some make-up artists in your area. Work as their assistants and become partners with as many as you can so you can learn the business side and set etiquette. With integrity, you can build a network of friends in the business with whom you can swap work with and cover each other when you or someone else are on vacation or overbooked. Find out how this works by talking openly and honestly with the other make-up artists in your area. Ideally, you want to be able to work with them, not compete against them.