Assisting for another make up artist can be tricky. What does it really mean to assist? Before accepting a job as an assistant, it’s important to research on what it really means to assist for another Key Make Up Artist. Here are some tips I learned in school, from the books I’ve read, and from my experience assisting on set:
1. An Assistant MUA (Make Up Artist) assists and facilitates the work of the Key MUA.
2. Assistants are in charge of setting up workstations and making sure they’re kept tidy all throughout the day. This includes laying out and sanitizing the brushes and organizing make up products. If your Key MUA is busy doing make up, it is best to stand near her just in case she needs you to hand over a brush or tissue.
3. If production size is small, assistants are asked to do the make up of crowd scenes, minor characters, back up dancers, or extras. If production size is big, assistants are asked to help out during pre-production stages. It involves purchasing supplies, pre-mixing foundations, and running errands. Don’t forget to ask to be paid on pre-production days. A per diem on top of your professional fee would be great.
4. Follow directions clearly. When your Key MUA tells you to use certain products to duplicate a look that has been approved by the Producer and/or Director, the assistant must execute this look with accuracy. Don’t try and make it your own design. The goal isn’t to shine on your own; the goal is to assist. If you’re instructed to do traditional make up, please don’t whip out your airbrush gear.
5. If you have questions don’t ask the Director (or anyone else), go directly to your Key MUA and ask her. When you ask the Director, it makes your Key MUA look bad. It reflects on how poorly she’s communicated the client’s brief or make up instructions to you. You want your key make up artist to shine. Besides, the more work she gets, the more projects you get as well.
6. Assistants should have a basic understanding of the human skull and facial structure. When you’re asked to powder over the Nasolabial Folds (parentheses shaped lines that form from the side of the nose to the mouth) or add gloss over the Nasolabial Roll (Cupid’s Bow on the upper lip), please make sure you know exactly where each part is located on the face.
7. Be careful about self-promotion. Ask permission from your Key MUA if you can give away your business cards. Promoting yourself while on set might make you look like you want to make personal career advancements, and it can also be interpreted as stealing business from your Key MUA. If someone wants to book you for a gig, tell that person to talk to your Key MUA first. Trust that she will appreciate your honesty and in return she’ll love working with you for her other projects.
8. Leave your pride at home. If you’re asked to fetch water or coffee, do it with a smile. If you think you’re too good for a simple task like this then you’re not fit to do an assisting gig. Remember, progress in this industry is based on talent and experience, which is gained through years of training. The successful ones all started at the bottom. Be keen to help at all times.
9. Assistants should stand behind the camera. There are 2 reasons why I think it is best to stand behind the camera. First – When you stand beside the lights or near the talent, even if you’re not visible on screen, it is highly possible that you cast a shadow. Second – Standing behind the camera gives everyone enough space to do his or her job. Don’t be an inch away from everyone. If they need you they will shout “Retouch” or “Make Up.”
10. Dress appropriately. You’ll be bending, running, and retouching actors here and there. Don’t wear plunging necklines; you don’t want to give the wrong impression. People who wear heels on assisting gigs appall me. How do you expect to be fast and efficient when you’re trying to balance your entire body weight on 2 stick thin heels? Because work can be physically demanding, wear comfortable clothes and shoes, your body will thank you after a long day’s work.