Life Through A Lens – Anita Anderson interview

August 31st, 2023

August 31st, 2023

The award-winning hair, makeup and prosthetics designer, Anita Anderson, is known for her work on Film and HETV as well as designing for editorial, commercials, fashion shoots and red-carpet events.  Winner of a Robert Award for the Best Hair and Makeup Design at the 2023 Danish Film Academy, when she’s not working, Anita can usually be found in an art gallery or at the airport on the next sporting adventure or city break.  Warpaint caught up with her to chat about her achievements and experience working in the industry.

Anita Anderson

Growing up in a small village in Fife, Scotland, Anita had very little connections to the creative arts.  Despite this, from the young age of four, she expressed an interest in the industry when she played ‘hairdressers’ with her grandmother and became fascinated with her mother’s makeup.  She explained that her mother owned Bourjois Rouge Blusher, which was packaged in a beautiful silver and navy cardboard box.  She later acquired one and now treasures it, alongside a pair of Victorian silver postiche tongs that she found on a vintage hunt, as memories of her early fascination for makeup.

Anita Anderson

At school, her interest in becoming a Makeup Artist was often discarded, “I was told to get my head out of the clouds”  Nonetheless, after leaving school, her passion led her to train in Beauty Therapy and Hairdressing, a course she was advised to start her career with.  She expressed her gratitude for this advice, as it provided her with a strong training foundation for her career.  Not long after beginning this course, Anita’s first job opportunity arose.  It came in the form of a phone call to her college, asking if anyone was interested in cover work for Cameron Mackintosh’s tour of Les Misérables, which was currently playing at the Playhouse Theatre.  Excited at the opportunity, Anita replied and got the job!  “I learnt so much and just loved the creative atmosphere.  As soon as I walked into that theatre, I knew it was for me – hearing people practice on their musical instruments, doing vocal warm-ups, practising their dance routines-it was very new and exciting to me.”

Get Trained

After graduating, Anita decided to build on the skills that she learnt working on Les Misérables and soon got a full-time job on another West End musical production.  Following a very theatre- dominated start to her career, Anita made a shift to TV and Film where she took care of many leading actresses and developed her skills further.  Anita later found herself returning to education, studying Naturopathic and Orthomolecular Medicine.  She was then able to use her new knowledge on a deeper, cellular level so she could help actresses with their skin and hair concerns.

Anita Anderson

BAFTA Scotland-nominated short film

“It’s been invaluable and I’m extremely passionate about holistic wellbeing and healthcare.”  She elaborates, “I’m a fan of CPD, therefore I continue to do courses whenever I can as I simply love the process of learning and there are always new things to learn and old skills to polish.”

Anita Anderson

Emma Thompson in Effie Grey with Anita as her key

Theatre Skills

Anita has great experience in theatre: her work features in many successful plays including ones held in famous institutions like London’s West End, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and Covent Garden.  “Theatre is incredible,” Anita explains.  “It teaches you self-reliance, there is no 1st calling, “Final checks”.  If you miss a cue, you miss a cue, which obviously has knock-on effects.  It teaches you the benefits of a collaborative “all hands-on deck” approach.”  She continues, “Creatively, my theatre days have left me with a confidence and a love of being able to transform and create characters with wigs.”

Anita Anderson

Chanel Cresswell as Lesley Mead in Des

Throughout her career, she has been trained under many talented wig dressers including Pamela Humpage.  Humpage has been the head of wigs, hair and makeup at Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre for many years, translating the designers’ ideas to reality to present the final looks of Shakespeare’s loved characters on stage.  Humpage was recently a judge on ‘The Big Blow Out’ and since Anita’s training, the two them have become friends.

Anita Anderson

Jacons Watkins as Brian Masters in Des

Anita Anderson

Cloud Atlas

Screen Switch

After cutting her teeth on such classics as Rab C Nesbitt, Cloud Atlas, This Is Jinsy, Trainspotting: T2 and Outlander, in 2019, Anita took on the role of Makeup and Hair designer on Des, a true crime TV series, which follows the story of the serial killer, Dennis Nilsen.  She highlights how creating the final looks for the actors, including David Tennant, was very much a collaborative process.  Familiar with David Tennant’s hair and facial characteristics, she had worked with him on a few of her previous jobs, including Deadwater Fell, which she designed.  Portraying Tennant, a well-known and recognisable actor, as the infamous serial killer Nilsen, proved to be challenge for the makeup team, and Anita decided against the use of prosthetics – there wasn’t a budget for them anyway.  Instead, she focused on engaging the audience through recreating Nilsen’s hair and keeping the makeup subtle, so that they were able to produce the final look which was strikingly similar to Nilsen’s famous mugshot.

Anita Anderson

David Tennant as Dennis Nilsen in Des

Recently, Anita has been working more in TV and Film, including becoming a Hair, Makeup and Prosthetics designer in the supernatural thriller, The Rig, which aired on Netflix in January and she’s currently back home designing Season Two.  “I’m with the most fantastic team on The Rig, so I’m feeling very blessed.  I was lucky to work with another great collaborative director and team on a really fun, action film called Jackdaw which was shot during the winter in the North East.  It was a testament to what can be produced on a tight budget when you have a collaborative approach from all the creatives involved.  I’m really excited to see it, as it’s action-filled and incredibly cinematic,“ she explains.

Anita Anderson

David Tennant and Cush Jumbo in Deadwater Fell

Award Winner

Also, in February, Anita became the winner of the best Hair and Makeup design in the 2023 Danish Film Academy for the film Bamse.  “It was fantastic to get the opportunity to work with Nimbus Films who produced one of my favourite Scandi TV dramas, The Bridge.  When they contacted me about designing a 1970’s film about a famous Danish musician called Bamse, I jumped at the chance, as I love the 20th century period and Copenhagen is my favourite city.  They already had Morten Jacobsen on board to design the prosthetics, whose work I’ve admired for a long time.  I also had a fantastic international team of artists.  I was absolutely thrilled to be nominated along with Morten amongst lots of fantastic films and Scandi designers, and even more blown away to win such a prestigious and beautiful award.”

Anita Anderson

On set of Bamse

In recent years, there have been many changes in the use of makeup in films.  Anita notes that the most obvious and significant change is the development in prosthetics.  They provide an endless list of options for creating characters, and distorting actors’ features so that a film can evolve into a far more immersive experience for the audience.  However, the budget of film productions can cause limitations in the use of prosthetics which may weaken the impact of their rapid advancements on the industry.

Anita Anderson

Source: jacobsenmakeupeffects instagram

From her work in TV and Film to supporting celebrities in red carpet events, Anita prioritises versatility for the products in her makeup kit.  She also emphasises the importance of keeping to the basics, including a set of good quality brushes and inclusive skin palettes so that she is always fit to adapt to anyone’s skin requirements.

Anita Anderson

Ross Anderson as Douglas Stewart in Des

Does she have any advice for new artists?  Her first tip is to “Invest in your future and update your skills throughout your careers.”  She goes on to explain that it is best to achieve a competent level in hairdressing before training in makeup.  “If your only interest is in prosthetics then go to one of the private courses run by leading prosthetics artists.  If that means you have to save up or take out a student loan then do so, you will reap the rewards.  I saved up for six years before going to college and had three jobs whilst at college.  Don’t expect anything to be easy!”



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By Emma Rutherford

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