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Dear West End Producer: ‘How can a talented make-up artist like my daughter get into the theatre industry?’

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She needs to get her face around, get her hands on other people’s faces, apply make-up, and bingo – she’s a known and trusted make-up artist! Of course, it’s not quite that simple, but there are many ways she can get herself noticed.

Working in make-up is just like working in any other freelance area of the entertainment business – it’s all about making the right contacts. In your full tweet, you say she’s trawled the theatres in London – but did she find out exactly who runs the make-up departments and leave them a note at the stage door? She should explain she’s looking for any kind of work experience and include a short bio of her previous work. She doesn’t even have to ask for work – a little chat asking for advice would be enough. You’d be surprised at the number of people who will be delighted to help (in return for a nice bottle of prosecco and vegan cheese, of course).

A make-up artist should have a good portfolio. Your daughter may already have one, but there’s no harm in updating it. She should approach actor and model friends (or advertise on Facebook and Twitter) and offer free test sessions where she’ll volunteer her skills in return for photos and footage of her work. Models and dancers can pay a big fee for make-up artists, so she should be inundated with offers.

There are many drama schools in London who need good make-up artists. I’ve seen plenty of drama school productions and most of the time their make-up results in them looking like they are orange versions of the living dead, dear. She should write an email including an example of her work and say she would love to help out. Film schools have final-year projects – often filmed on a decent budget – so she may even get paid. And it is a valid credit on the CV. Many professional actors get involved with films at places such as the London Film School, so she would be making contacts with people already in the business – which in time will lead to professional work.

Fringe theatre can also be useful. She should target venues like the Union, King’s Head, Arcola, Finborough and Southwark Playhouse.

Make sure she always includes a link to her work and states in her email that she’d be more than happy to do the director’s eyelashes for free (Nicky Hytner loves his showbiz eyes, dear).

There are also various make-up academies in London, so she could invest in a part-time course. I’m not suggesting she needs it, but it would enable her to meet lots of new people and make those all-important contacts. I also know make-up artists who advertise their services on the Gumtree website and do instructional videos on YouTube. One old colleague has done particularly well out of this.

If she keeps going, writes to lots of people and does some free shoots to update her portfolio, she’ll find herself in paid work in no time. If all else fails, I’m in need of a good make-up artist. Have you seen the state of my face recently, dear?!

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer. Read more of West End Producer’s weekly advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/westendproducer

Building foundations: the best training routes for getting into hair and make-up for stage and screen

 

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