How to Create a Successful Relationship with your Actors

Image: Makeup effects artist Rick Baker with David Naughton and John Landis on the set of ‘American Werewolf in London’

Whatever the scale of film project, it is a widely acknowledged fact that makeup artists must inevitably interact and create relationships with actors and performers. Therefore, a big part of a makeup artist’s job is being able to understand people and behave appropriately. In the industry, a good attitude is the best skill you can have. Apart from that, we can also share some do’s and don’ts that we have learned from in the past:


Adapt to their personality.

When the relationship is new, leave it to them to decide how much they want to interact with you. Some actors will want to be friendly, while others may prefer minimal conversation. Learn to alter your personality based on what your actors needs are. ‘When we understand people’s personality, we can give them what they need. This enables us to build trust, respect and long-lasting relationships…which ultimately converts into loyal clients. In fact, we can get along with just about anyone, when we know who they are & how they need to be treated.’ – Hanny Lerner


Set the mood.

Once you learn more about your actors, it can help you can prepare for them each day. They might enjoy listening to a certain type of music while they are in the chair, or enjoy a certain scent. Playing music, lighting candles and even just understanding their likes and dislikes can make a difference. Always look for ways to improve their environment, especially when working in a confined space. A makeup department always wants to avoid cabin fever by any means possible. Happy actors + happy department = happy memories.


Anticipate their needs.

If your actor ever looks like they need something in between shooting, go over and ask. Don’t wait for someone else to do it because it’s ‘not really your job’. It shows initiative and helps form a bond of trust. You are normally the first person and last person they see over the course of the day, and consequently it is in your best interest to make sure that your actor is as comfortable as they can be. This may mean keeping an eye on their water intake, keeping them shaded between takes, keeping them cool with a fan or warm with a jacket where possible.


Don’t be a fan.

When working on a production, no matter how big or small, it is important to remain professional around your actors. No one wants to work with someone who is excited and unstable around more well known actors. It is extremely unprofessional to demand photos or autographs from actors while working. You have been hired for a job, and therefore must remain composed and respectful of all cast and crew. Keep your inner fanboy quiet.


Provide a safe space.

Overall, always ensure that you are providing a safe environment for everyone involved. When actors confide their inner thoughts to you, they are speaking to you under the condition that your conversations are kept private. Don’t mouth off to other crew members about what you have heard. It is not your job to broadcast their thoughts to the world. Just listen and respect. ‘There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak’ – Simon Sinek.