April 13th, 2016
If you were going to choose a location for a film and TV make-up school, right in the heart of Pinewood, one of the UK’s and possibly the world’s biggest names in film studios, would be right at the top of the list. So it was great excitement that the Warpaint team took our photo ID, turned off our camera phones and averted our eyes from a certain top secret stage to go and meet the tutors and students of The Iver Academy.
The Iver was founded by members of Greasepaint, the stalwart of make up training under the late and much-missed Julia Crittenden. Events aligned to force the school find a new location and a new name, but very much with the hands-on teaching ethos Greasepaint was renowned for. The tutors, including the Principal Liz Tagg-Wooster are all working MUAs, leaders in their field and the courses carefully designed to provide the industry with well trained, well rounded, multi-disciplined make-up artists.
Liz herself is now more school-based than set-based, “I need to be here and it suits me family-wise with the kids not to be away for months on set,” but if you ever wanted a school principal with experience, Liz would definitely be your woman. Make-up and Hair Designer for the epic Band of Brothers; Wimbledon; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Penelope to name just a few, Liz and her team of tutors are totally committed to creating the make-up designers of the future.
As BBC trained, Liz is only too aware of the limitations in skills of the newly qualified MUAs compared to the rounded training of the Corporation. “It’s a tough industry to break into, you really need to be able to do everything – make-up obviously, but hair including specialist skills like afro-caribbean, period and cutting as well as sfx, casualty, postiche because once you arrive on set, being able to turn your hand to anything will set you apart.”
One of the modules the students get to experience is the portfolio building and in-house filming. Students get to work with professional photographers, directors, camera operators and actors and get to create their own short film from script to final film. An invaluable insight into the industry they want to work.
Getting work and staying working is the no.1 aim of all of The Iver’s students. The courses have been designed to allow artists to either train from scratch over 30, 24 or 12 weeks or do a top up module in a specific area. Shorter courses are also available depending on the student’s time and budget. But it’s the skills they leave with that’s most important to Liz and her team.
“I have been asked on numerous occasions about how to go about becoming a make-up artist, and in all honesty I believe that taking one of the industry-based courses at The Iver Academy is the best route in. It’s simply not possible to learn the skills we teach by watching amateur videos on You Tube. Once properly trained the next big question is how to enter into the highly competitive world that is the media make-up industry.
In both TV and Film all make-up artists/hairdressers work as freelancers. Whether you are a trainee, junior artist or designer the jobs are contract based. It may be a one day contract (dailies) or a longer contract, the longest being around eight months. There are very few staff jobs. Sky take staff make-up artists as do wig making studios and prosthetic workshops, so if you prefer a regular wage these options may suit you better.
At The Iver we also operate an agency for our graduates. We have all the information on which productions are crewing up so that our graduates can send their CVs to the make-up and hair designers. January and February are always quiet in the TV and film world so you shouldn’t be surprised that you may be out of work at this time of year. Graduates should expect to send out loads of CVs but you only need one call back and you are on your way.
It is essential if you want to work as a hair and make-up artist that you watch films and TV dramas and light entertainment as everything on screen is likely to have had a make-up artist and hairdresser working on it so you can learn about who is doing what by looking at the credits. Get to know who the designers are and what they have done as these are your future employers. Some designers have agents and others can be contacted via the studio where production is based.
Theatre operates slightly differently to TV and film production. Hair and Make-up Artists are usually described as wig master / mistress (wiggies) you can be employed on a freelance basis similarly to TV and Film, this is called ‘swing’. You may be on Kinky Boots one night and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the next night. Give the stage doorman a call and get the names of the head of wigs and the best time to speak to them and ask if there are any vacancies or work experience opportunities. The Stage publication often advertises for wig staff.
There are also staff jobs at companies such as The Royal Ballet, The Opera House, RSC, National Theatre, Glyndebourne, Opera North and Welsh National Opera. When any positions become vacant we let the students know straight away. We also encourage the students to send their CV and offer themselves for work experience. It is vital that you do your research and find out the names of relevant department heads. Even if your goal is eventually to work in TV and film, theatre is an excellent way to gain more experience and earn money at the same time. You may find theatre is your passion and never want to leave.
In addition, our agency places students and graduates on jobs relevant to the skills of the individual. Some of this will be student films or low budget films / TV productions and other jobs may be full pay or designers looking for assistants. However well trained you may be, ours is a highly competitive business and it is essential that you are proactive in finding work.”
Good advice indeed from Liz as we walk through the newly built state-of-the-art training rooms. One class is busy learning to camouflage tattoos whilst next door there’s an afro hair styling masterclass under the watchful eye of specialist visiting lecturer Nora Robertson, a talented MUA with Cinderella, Mr Holmes, Exodus and Mr Selfridge amongst her credits.
One of the lecture rooms is piled high with boxes. “This will become our research library,” Liz explains. I was lucky enough to be in receipt of BAFTA winning MUA Caroline Noble’s life time work, for every film she worked on she was meticulous in her research, she gifted us her notes, drawings, continuity stills, for the Iver students to have access to something so precious is incredible.”
As we prepare to leave a gaggle of students come bustling through, “They’ve just come from set,” Liz explains. “As long as they’re in on time for lessons, our students are available to get work experience on productions, School starts at 10am prompt, that’s teatime in the filming world!”
A case of right place, right time, but few schools can offer such a creative hub where opportunity to network and learn is literally on their doorstep. For more information on The Iver Academy, its next open day and the courses available please click here.