“I came to VFS as a mature student,” says Makeup Design for Film & Television grad Susan Manning. “I was 47 years old.”
After spending 31 years as a Health & Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer — even co-writing a book on fitness for mature adults — changing careers was a gutsy choice, but one that Susan made with the same level of determination fitness experts are known to possess.
“Once my kids were older I decided that I wanted to go back to school and follow my other passion,” she explains. “After researching many, many schools, VFS came up on top. Now, after having completed the program and graduating in December 2010, I know it was the best decision I could have ever made. The program and staff were all top notch and all my expectations were not only met but far exceeded.”
Since graduating, Susan has been extremely busy. One look at the makeup portfolio hosted on her website shows the quality of work she’s been churning out for live television, on film and TV sets, and much more. We chatted with Susan shortly after she had completed some work for the VFS grad-heavy series, Arctic Air.
What were you responsible for as a 2nd Assistant Makeup Artist on Arctic Air?
Susan: I had the pleasure of working under Key Makeup Artist Lisa Strong and 1st Assistant Makeup Artist Courtney Frey (also a Makeup Design grad). As a 2nd Assistant, I would be called in on days when there were multiple background performers on set. I would be instructed as to the “look”(s) that were needed for the various scenes and then would handle the makeup needs and maintenance of that makeup until wrap time. Both the cast and crew were FABULOUS to work with.
As a makeup artist, how important is it to be a member of a union?
Susan: If your focus is working in film/TV it opens more doors for work as many are union shows and unless you are part of that union you cannot work on them. If the makeup artists direction is runway, fashion, or weddings then it is not necessary to be in the union.
You’ve worked on many different projects since you graduated. How do you think your skills have progressed with a wide variety of demands?
Susan: I find that a lot of my skills have been interchangeable with the different gigs I have been doing. Ventilating (hair-knotting), for example, is something in which I have not only had the great fortune of working with Stacey Butterworth — one of the top wig-makers in film/theatre — but have also used this skill for a military gig as well as some short films/events I have worked on.
I am also in the process of building my own inventory of facial hair pieces so this skill is finely tuned. Working on short indie films like Revel (written/directed by Acting for Film & Television grad Ryan Bruce) — which is the one I am currently involved with — gives me the opportunity of doing character makeups, beauty, hair, out-of-kit effects, and a lot of tattooing, which has been fun.
And if I do find some downtime, I like to practice prosthetics, bald caps, and many other makeups on my husband, kids, and their friends, which has helped to keep my skill level up.
You’ve done some work for the Canadian military, and now you’ve also helped out the Vancouver Police Department. What was that like?
Susan: Working three weeks in Alberta with the Canadian military was certainly an eye-opener and I learned a lot about the Afghan people and their culture. The Canadian military do pre-deployment training for combat soldiers prior to them being sent overseas. I was fortunate enough to work on the last Afghan training session. I was able to not only use my makeup and out-of-kit effects skills, but also my hair-knotting skills in making and applying facial hair pieces on a daily basis.
The makeup I did for the Vancouver Police Department’s Major Crimes Section was to transform a police officer to look identical to the victim. They were very happy with the end result and the operation was a success. The intense reality that came with doing this makeup really hit home when I stopped to think. this is not a movie, there are no “final touches” or retakes, and if this isn’t convincing enough people could get hurt. It was surreal.
Congrats on all the amazing work, Susan!