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Creative Careers: Interview with Film Makeup Artist Patty Bell


Patty Bell has been working as a film and TV makeup artist for the past 20 years. She’s working on TV commercials, films such as The Dark Knight Rises and The Perks of Being a Wallflower and she works extensively with sports programs such as NFL on Fox.

As an expert in the industry, Patty offers her insight on the pros, cons and how to get started in the business.

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Pros of being a makeup artist in the movie and TV industry:

The best thing about being a movie makeup artist is seeing your work on the big screen. It’s amazing to see the film come together after all of the long hours and hard work, and seeing your name in the credits never gets old! I’m also a union member, so working on the bigger shows contributes to my pension and pays my health care.

Cons of working in the movie and TV industry:

…Is ALWAYS not knowing when or who is going to hire you next. You basically work job to job, waiting for that phone to ring. When you are not working, no money is coming in, so many makeup artists resort to freelance work such as commercials, videos, or print work to supplement their income, or they collect unemployment.

And, just because you’re in the union doesn’t always land you a job on a film. Many stars travel with their own hair and makeup team or producers can hire whoever they want to work on their films.

Do you need to live in Los Angeles or New York in order to get work as a movie makeup artist?

I live in Pittsburgh but I’m part of the New York Hair and Makeup union which allows me to work on the big union movies and television shows that come into town. Because NY & L.A. have so many artists all competing for the same jobs, sometimes starting in a smaller market to build up your resume and portfolio is a good idea. I make a great living as a multi-media makeup artist doing print, film, video, commercials and sports.

How does someone get started in the business?

Get your cosmetology license, build up your portfolio, photograph all of your work, work on student films and low budget independent films. You’re not going to make the big bucks at first but you may make a great connection who could hire you on a future job.

And most important of all, be nice to everyone you meet along the way, volunteer your time, and put your ego aside!

You can learn more about Patty Bell at her website:

What Do You Think
Does the fact that there is a high level of competition in a field dissuade you from moving in that direction? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Photo credit: Patty Bell

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