Special effects makeup artists work with actors, models, and other entertainment professionals in various forms of production such as film, commercials, television, and theatre. The makeup artists are responsible for envisioning and then creating the desired look for a character based on instructions provided to them from other artists involved in the production such as directors and producers. In order to achieve a specific look, several items may be used such as wigs, prosthetics, make up, and more. The amount of work involved for one specific project may vary considerably depending on its complexity. For example, the job may be relatively simple such as prematurely aging an actress for a role or sophisticated such as transforming a normal looking actor into a hideous monster*.
The majority of special effects makeup artists have some kind of post-secondary training. The reason for this is an obvious one: it is very difficult to obtain such skills casually even by persistent trial and error. Fortunately, a number of different professional programs are available from beauty colleges across the United States. These teach interested students the basic skills and techniques they need to begin exploring the world of special effects makeup on their own. Typically, the coursework lasts anywhere from one to two years and leads to the awarding of a certificate to the student**.
Breaking into the industry may often be a difficult challenge, even for the most talented of special effects makeup artists. Some begin by taking work anywhere they may hone their craft, which includes working for theme parks, small theatres, and low budgets production movies. The idea is to gain as much industry experience as possible while also hopefully establishing connections with other professionals that may lead to work down the road**.
It goes without saying that special effects makeup artists must have unique talents which allow for them to create highly original works of art using actors and models as blank canvases. Beyond that, however, they must also be able to communicate effectively, as much of the work involves meeting with other professionals such as creative directors and movie directors to discuss how a particular character should look in order to best fit in with the mood or theme of a production. These artists must also be reliable, as they're expected to work on tight schedules and finish complicated effects on time. Sometimes, budgets are so tight that these artists must improvise and be creative in order to achieve professional looking results with less money. As one may expect, stress may be quite high depending on the requirements of a particular production.
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*For more information, please visit: http://www.insidejobs.com/careers/special-effects-makeup-artist
**For more information, please visit: http://education-portal.com/articles/Special_Effects_Make-up_Artist_Employment_Info_for_Becoming_a_Special_Effects_Make-up_Artist.html