Brandi Boulet, a Makeup Design for Film & Television grad from 2001, is working hard these days. From fashion editorials, to feature films, to the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival, Brandi is busy in the business of beautifying.
We caught up with Brandi to learn more about her career path after VFS and some of her favourite makeup experiences. She also shared some extremely valuable advice for those wanting to work in the industry. Aspiring makeup artists – take note!
Why did you choose to come to Vancouver Film School to study Makeup Design?
Brandi: When I decided that I wanted to look in to doing makeup for a living, there was wasn’t nearly the amount of schools or information that is available now. Vancouver Film School was one of the few makeup schools in Canada and the tuition was way more reasonable than other schools, so that was a big factor. All of my correspondence with VFS administration was really friendly and it just seemed like they genuinely cared about my questions and concerns. Plus, I had never been to the west coast, and thought it would be a fun adventure!
You graduated over 10 years ago and have been working actively in the world of beauty, commercial, and editorial makeup. How did VFS prepare you for this kind of career?
Brandi: VFS was a great introduction to makeup. I felt like my teachers were really honest about what working in the industry is like. I remember getting the speech about how only one person in the class is likely to actually be a makeup artist. It’s not an easy job, but I’m glad that one person was me!
I didn’t actually start doing make up right away after graduating. I moved back home to Ottawa, and there wasn’t a huge market there. I worked a few office jobs and eventually got a job at MAC, where I worked for a while before transitioning into freelance. I ended up quitting my job at MAC to work on a feature film in Ottawa, and most of the crew was from Toronto. They convinced me I should be living there, so I moved a month later. That’s when my freelance career really began, which was about 2006. The solid foundation I got at VFS helped me get a job at MAC, and also helped me get hired on my first feature – with very little film experience at the time.
On the first movie I ever assisted on, one day at lunch the (very experienced) director came over to me and asked me where I went to school. I (shyly) answered VFS. He said something to the effect of “Yes, I could tell you went somewhere good.” He remarked on my set etiquette and professionalism. It was certainly a confidence booster to hear that. It’s also a question that I get asked to this day!
What is your favourite part of working in the makeup industry? What kind of makeups do you enjoy the most?
Brandi: I would say that my favorite parts are getting to meet new people all the time and creative collaboration. On film sets you sometimes start to feel like you’re at summer camp. You’re working, but you also develop close bonds with people over the course of the shoot – which often leads to lasting friendships. There’s also a great sense of accomplishment that comes with seeing the final product, be it a photo or a film, knowing that you were part of making that.
What kind of makeups do I enjoy most? Good question. When I work for a long time in film, I miss doing editorial and fashion stuff. When I do that for a while, I miss movies! It’s all about balance and being creatively satisfied.
Can you tell us a few highlights from your makeup career?
Brandi: I’d have to say a highlight for me was being flown to Grenada to do a photo shoot for a spa resort. We stayed for 10 days at the beautiful resort which was right on the beach. It was a lot of work trying to maintain people in that heat, but it was really great experience. Plus, you really can’t complain about being able to grab dinner at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the ocean at the end of the day.
Another highlight happened this year. At the end of August, I wrapped up shooting a TV movie for the Lifetime Network starring Natasha Henstridge. I had worked with her a few months earlier on another TV movie called Christmas Song which will air on CTV this December. She is wonderful, and personally requested the same beauty team for the new movie. It was my first personal request, which was a really nice feeling.
During Canada’s Walk of Fame last year, I got to meet Roberta Bondar. That was pretty cool. It’s sometimes more interesting meeting and doing makeup on people that aren’t “famous”.
What are some projects you are working on right now?
Brandi: Well, I just wrapped on a music video for Jessica Lee for the song Beautiful. We got to do a few different looks, which was lots of fun.
I also just finished working at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) so we had tons of celebrities, directors, producers, and other important people rolling in to town.
I did the makeup and touch ups for the cast of Deepa Mehta‘s film Midnight’s Children press events. I also did Chantal Kreviazuk‘s makeup for a red carpet event. As well, I worked with L’Oreal, the official makeup brand/team for TIFF 2012, and did the makeup for director Shola Lynch (Free Angela & All Political Prisoners) and Deborah Mailman and Shari Sebbens of The Sapphires.
Do you have any advice for current or future makeup students?
Brandi: I feel like there is so much to say here, I could go on forever!
Unless you plan on working strictly in film and being in the union, learn how to do hair and practice it as much as you can. When you are starting out and working on smaller budget projects, they often want to hire one person that can do both. Get in touch with working makeup artists. Send them emails to introduce yourself. Take them for coffee. Pick their brains! They were all in your position at some point and can give you some great advice on working in your market, wherever that may be. You will also learn a lot from assisting!
Work hard. Being a freelancer is not an easy life! When you’re starting out you’ll work for free a lot. You’ll probably have to supplement your income by working a part-time job. But the people you work with today are the people that will hire you years from now. Make sure you’re on top of your game. Along with talent, it’s also about who you know and your reputation. Don’t get lazy – always do your best! And, on that note, try to have a good network of makeup artists that you trust that you can refer if you can’t take a job. Clients and fellow makeup artists appreciate it, and it reflects well on you.
When people describe being a makeup artist, it sounds like a really fun and glamorous job. Most of the time, it is fun, but it’s not always glamorous. There’s a fair share of gross jobs that you’ll do a lot of, like wiping up people’s sweat or trimming nose hair. But that’s the reality of the job. You’ll work long hours, you’ll get run down if the show goes a long stretch, you’ll definitely get asked “how much longer?” by Assistant Director’s (even if you are under your time), and you’ll get thrown crazy requests without any notice or preparation.
There’s also the side where you are dealing with people’s insecurities and helping them feel their best. It can be draining at times, physically and emotionally, and you have to be prepared for that. Just make sure you always maintain professionalism and stay on top of your game.
Last but not least: Early is on time. On time is late. Late is terrible. Make sure you have enough time to set up and get comfortable before you are on the clock. NEVER BE LATE!!!
Thanks so much for speaking with us, Brandi – and for your helpful advice!