Christine Blundell’s interview for Reel FEEdBack with host Kevin Dawson, talking about her career as a Makeup Designer in the UK Film Industry
Christine recently gave an interview for Reel Feedback, with host Kevin Dawson, who talks to people from the music, TV and movie industries about her art and working behind the scenes and / or on screen. Kevin chats to Christine about her inspirations, her work and anything else that may come up in between.
The focus of the discussion was to get to understand not just how Christine began her Hair & Makeup career but what made her open a Makeup school for budding Makeup artists, too! Christine begins by talking about the night of the Oscar awards and how surreal it was walking past Clint Eastwood who congratulated her and someone else shouting her name to turn around and see that it was none other than “Brad Pit”!
Christine first got involved in hair & makeup when styling bands in the late ‘70s and working in salon in Kensington Market. She went on to open her own hairdressing salon, which she ran successfully for 4 years and then embarked on an intensive three-month makeup course. After completing the course, Christine worked on Phantom of the Opera doing prosthetics and went ton to work for LWT, gaining invaluable experience on sketch shows and T.V. films.
Christine talks also about balancing the Film career and the makeup school and training future Makeup & SFX Artists. Filming permitting, she usually teachers last week of Christine Blundell Makeup Academy’s 4 month course, so called Boot camp, where future Makeup artists and trainees have the opportunity to show off all their skills and knowledge learnt on the course. One of the amazing things at the Makeup academy is that where else will you get “Tom Hardy” or “Robert Downey Junior” popping into the school. This is because Christine preps her films here. Anyway enough of this go in and listen…..click here
Christine’s Latest Interview for London’s Metro newspaper tells all about the highs and lows in the life of an award- winning Film & TV Makeup Designer
The Oscar and Bafta winner, 58, on trying not to throw up on Brad Pitt and going to the pub with Hugh Grant dressed as a tramp
Travelling the world as a make-up artist on some of the biggest films ever made sounds like a dream job. Was it yours?
No, I always wanted to be a vet but I wasn’t academic and left school at 15. I became a hairdresser for punk bands as I was a punk myself. I set up Scallywags in London’s Kensington Market, then moved to Stevenage and opened a salon. I was quite a colourful character and I had a big clientele but after a couple of years I realised hairdressing wasn’t my endgame and that I needed to get back to London. I sold the salon and used the money to retrain in make-up. After a three-month course I was employed by LWT to work on Hale And Pace.
How did you make the switch to films?
I felt into it accidentally. I was asked to do Life Is Sweet and that’s where I got to know director Mike Leigh. Mike asked me to do the hair and make-up design for his next film, Naked, and we’ve worked together ever since. It was on Naked that I struck up a good friendship with [Harry Potter star] David Thewlis. He became godfather to my children.
You’ve worked with many of the greats in some far-flung places. What’s that like?
When I went to do Seven Years In Tibet in the mid-1990s I found out I was pregnant with my first child, Stanley, who’s now 21. I was in a campsite on a mountain with David Thewlis and Brad Pitt, and I had to let them know I was in the early stages of pregnancy. The next day we jumped on a helicopter and they were giving me sick bags as I was trying not to throw up. While I was in Kenya filming The Constant Gardener we had two Masai warriors, Samuel and Jackson, as our guardians. As we were doing the make-up in Nairobi I was sent the script for my next film — Doom. I was sitting in a tent in the desert listening to Samuel and Jackson’s jangling jewellery while reading a futuristic sci-fi script about ‘nano walls’ — it doesn’t get more surreal. Closer to home, I worked with Hugh Grant on Paddington 2 and we really bonded. We had this hysterical moment when we were doing night shoots in Primrose Hill and he was dressed as a tramp with a wig, false nose, broken veins and a beard, and we decided to go to a pub quiz. No one realised it was him.
Tibet treat: Brad Pitt PICTURE: REX
You won an Oscar and a Bafta for best make-up and hair for Mike Leigh’s 1999 film Topsy-Turvy. That must have been incredible.
My second child Alfie was six weeks old when I won the Oscar the following year. I went up to receive the award – my partner wasn’t there to see it because he went to the toilet at the wrong time – and as I came back I threw my Oscar at him, grabbed my milking machine and ran out of the auditorium. As I did so I heard this: ‘Oi, Blundell!’ It was Brad Pitt jumping over chairs to give me a hug. I had to wave my milking machine at him and say, ‘No!’ It was like a scene out of Carrie or The Exorcist — I was about to squirt breast milk everywhere.
Winning those awards must have been the high point of your career?
Yes, I’ve been shortlisted for an Oscar since with Legend and had various other Bafta nominations for Finding Neverland and Mr Turner but you can’t let it rule your life. It’s fun and a very generous nod from the world to say, ‘Well done, we recognise you’, but it doesn’t mean you have the Midas touch. After the Oscar my next film went straight to video!
There must have been low points too…
When I was filming Casino Royale I lost my brother to cancer. You’re working on the ultimate glamorous film while something awful you can’t control is happening in your personal life. What got me through was working with people who knew me on a professional level, not a personal level.
You’re now a make-up designer rather than make-up artist. What’s the difference?
I make sure the whole thing runs properly. Now I’m working on Joss Whedon’s The Nevers and it’s set in Victorian London. I have to work out if I want people to have facial hair, how long their hair should be and if people need wigs. It’s a huge undertaking and you’ve got to come in on budget.
Mistakes, you’ve made a few?
In Thailand filming Around The World In 80 Days I didn’t have enough facial hair for Jackie Chan’s army so I had to get a lovely helper to bring me some goat hair.
Is filming movies as glamorous as it seems?
I’ve just asked my trainee that and she laughed out loud. We’ve towed her car out of the mud three times this week — once at 9pm and once at 4am. It’s not glamorous. You need nerves of steel and strong self-belief. You’ve got to love it and be really committed.
Is that why you set up the Christine Blundell Make-Up Academy?
I was doing Casino Royale when I had the idea to open a make-up school. The quality of training after the BBC stopped their course was very low. I kept a notebook of what needed to be taught and 12 or 15 years ago we opened the academy. We’ve worked hard to make sure it’s not elitist and we’ve got bursaries available. It’s an industry that’s open to all and once you’re trained, it’s a career for life.
Learn to tell when someone does or doesn’t want to talk. We’re working with famous people but at 5am they don’t always want to chat.
Salary: A trainee can expect about £120 a day rising to the junior’s rate of £240. Experienced make-up artists can earn about £350 a day.
Regular hours? No, and expect early starts and late finishes.
Short and sweet advice: Get the best training you can.
We asked our wonderful Simone, who has begun her second major project since leaving the Makeup Academy;
What Are Your First Jobs In The Morning?
Well it depends on what we have going on for that day so I’ll give you a couple of different scenarios of how my days have been so far.
Today, I was the 1st to arrive. I put the hotsticks on (carmens were still in with the crowd boxes on the truck from the day before) for the artist and supervisor and went down to the ad’s to ask for a crowd sheet.
This gives me all the names of the crowd artists coming in for the mornings call. It wasn’t ready so I got the fittings sheet instead (this gives the list of future crowd artists coming In for different scenes, whom we will do hair on so we know what we are doing on the day they come in).
Made a cuppa!
Makeup artists came in. We had 4 today. All four for the call and them 2 will go to set and 2 will stay to the fittings. These sa’s are being fitted ready for Monday. We have fittings most days.
In between fittings we also prepped wigs and pieces for the next days call. This would help to make the mornings call a little quicker. I have to keep notes of these so I know who has what piece to be given out in the morning call.
Then I had to pack up everything from the crowd room ready to take to the next days location.
We didn’t have much time to get to the location to drop the crowd stock off. They shut the doors promptly at 6. The sat nav kept saying we would arrive between 5.55 and 5.57! We made it with four minutes to spare and managed to get everything in but no time for me to set up the room!
Oh and today, one of the runners in costume I had met on Christine Blundell’s film. ‘The Good Liar’. There were many graduates from the Makeup school on that film!
Arrived at 6am so I could set the crowd room up. Managed to get it done before the make up artists arrived. We had restaurant goers dining at a very posh restaurant scene so the hair and make up was amazing. I’m quite sure the makeup artists are having a challenge between each other to see who can use the most amount of hair pieces and make the tallest hair piece. It’s amazing to see all the techniques they use.
My role is to get all the sa’s through as quickly as possible. We have some artists doing just hair, some doing just make up and some doing both so it can be a bit of a juggling act. In between that I am doing make up and making sure I get continuity photos of all the sa’s. Some do try and escape me but the ad’s will get them for me if I miss someone.
Once the call was done I got teas. Oh breakfast was just some rolls brought up to us and before the sa’s swooped in to take them all I made sure I took some for all the artists who wanted some. The ad’s are great and really helpful.
I packed up all the stock ready to go again.
Craft made pancakes for crew so I went to get some for Jane (designer), Nicki (supervisor) and myself.
Cleaned make up brushes for whoever wanted them done. Packed my station and my supervisors station down. Went to unit base to get some paperwork for a new artist to sign. Had lunch (shepherds pie carrots and cabbage).
Had hoped we would be able to take our stuff to Thursdays location or back to Leavesden but we couldn’t as we would need to go through set!
There was nothing to do until we wrapped so we all chatted and I popped to set to watch a scene that I was curious about (of course it involved blood).
We wrapped at 7.30 so then we did our derig (great to see how the hair had been put together). And I was last out at 8.10.
Today….Was told to get here for 8am to pack our stuff onto the lorry to take back to Leavesden. Only to get here and find out that the lorry isn’t coming until 11am!!!
Simone is at present working on the story of “Alfred Pennyworth” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8425532/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast
Our latest podcast is a great conversation with Scarlett Mcpherson, a graduate from six years ago! Who would have thought!!!
We are about to embark on a new podcast section at CBMA. We are asking our graduates and students to talk to us… that’s it simply tell us how they are or what they have been up to and share it with us!
Our first is Lisa. As she said herself it was so outside her comfort zone doing this that it makes it special and honest. Do have a listen; it is an insight into someones thoughts and life. Enjoy!
And click on the arrow below to find out how our recent graduate Emmalee decided to train as a Hair & Makeup artist, why she chose CB*MA Academy, what she thought about our 4 month Hair & Makeup course and jobs she did so far, after her graduation this August.
Many of the students who come to our Academy often cite that their great passion is “casualty” makeup or “prosthetic” make up. This is all wonderful and when they see some of our prosthetics from Christine’s films it only enhances their view.
Yet it is when they begin our Four month makeup course, they soon discover all the creative things you can do with make up and imagination only. Be it Film make up or TV makeup or Theatre makeup, there is so much scope to achieve amazing things with just a grease paint palette and some other make up such as MAC makeup.
If we look at one of the hardest makeup looks to create, it has to be old age make up. Here at the makeup school we approach this in many of the modules. Old age make up varies between Film make up or TV makeup or Theatre makeup.
For instance, getting an actor to look 30 years his/her senior on the stage will require a completely different approach and look. The audience are, for most part, further away from the actor and secondly, they are there more for the telling of the story rather than having to be convinced of an actor looking a certain age. Remember, in Shakespearian times women were not allowed on stage and so a man dressed up to play the woman. The public knew this.
As you can see by the photograph, Helen, our student, has done a fantastic job in aging Sophie. If you look at the eye makeup it is there that the subtle colouration has made the all the difference and made the model look old.
It has taken me eleven years to fully understand what Christine means when she is “Less is More.” In all these years as director of the makeup school I did not get it, yet seeing this work I do! By understanding colour and depth and the structural shape of a face you can achieve a great aging look.
Well done for the fantastic make-up work!
There is always a wonderful air of anticipation when the students know that the Principle of this wonderful makeup school Christine Blundell is due in to teach. Even though she is a successful makeup designer, she is also very proud of her makeup academy and the incredible achievements that her graduates have to date achieved.
Christine is an incredibly talented all rounder but if push comes to shove, she would have to put her hand up and say period hair is her thing.
Luckily, that is exactly what we had asked her to do.
One cannot emphasise what it means to be taught by some with over 25yrs experience. It is not just the skill level but what I find the most warming part is her humbleness in the way she approaches teaching. She has the confidence to occasionally put her hand up to say what she lacks or is not very good at. Yet what she knows you can fill a big fat book with!
Teaching is all about inspiring the individual, getting them to a place of confidence where if they are not successful the first they will get nail the look later. It is the building up of confidence through research and preparation and of course having an excellent tutor.
I am always staggered that the majority of our students have never worked with wigs and yet after our intensive four month course they are more than capable of creating looks. What is more key for them is that they can hold their own as makeup trainees. They will know all about the wig, how it moves, its construction, blocking a wig and setting it too. And to style the wig.
This is why we create the best makeup trainees in the country. If you wish to know more about the academy, please click here for more information.
Starting from Monday this week, our students at the makeup academy London have begun recording their thoughts and creations as their personal short Daily video diaries. It is an idea that we have had for some time and finally we have begun during our Facial hair module.
Each student is given the iPad to talk and video whatever they choose. It is almost like a personal Makeup tutorial in the centre of London. It can be on any makeup look that they are creating or simply to chat about how they are getting on!
What I find interesting is what the students decide to talk about and video and share. These makeup videos will not be edited or changed in anyway, so that any prospective students can get the real insight into what it is like to study at CB*MA.
Here at Christine Blundell Makeup school we believe that openness and honesty are paramount, even if it is sometimes uncomfortable.
Because we have small classes, the intimacy can hopefully come through on the filming; we shall see.
One student & one story each day will be delivered for you to see our students in action, listen to them talk freely about their time at the Academy and the challenges and highlights they are experiencing with us every day.
We will be adding future stories to this same Blog address, so you can view more Video Diaries covering forthcoming modules, like Casualty, Theatre Makeup & Hair and Boot camp preparation during July and August and also Basic makeup, Period make up, Prosthetics, Basic hair cutting, Barbering & Wig Styling from September.
We only run one hair and makeup course at one time, with the maximum class size of 14 students, so each one of our students gets full attention from the Tutor and Christine. This is important to know. Unlike other establishments where there are many course of various lengths; we have perfected one. It is the Four Month Hair and makeup Course or 16 week hair and makeup course; which ever you prefer. It is not just a case of teaching the students these great skills, but also about offering makeup advice and assistance throughout the course and continuing with this support after graduation.
Click on the video below to see Philippa’s Video diary showing her work during our Facial hair week. This could be you next time!
Everyone loves a monster or a gargoyle and we have seen our fair share of these after eleven years at the makeup school. Yet, prosthetics is not about just that. It is not just about creating something from silicone or gelatine and to make it a gruesome as possible with lots of blood; particularly if you are an aspiring hair makeup artist.
We run a two week module of prosthetics makeup. In these two weeks we need the student of hair and makeup to get to grips with a brand me makeup style; using new materials and a new approach. The devil is in the detail and having when creating something from fantasy it can have a lot of detail.
These two weeks are also a good lesson in designing makeup at a later date of course but it is a good learning curve. There is always a time frame that all hair and makeup artists need to adhere to. Do not make the design to complicated to the time scale you have. It does not look good if you do not finish on time even at the makeup academy.
What we teach at the Christine Blundell Makeup Academy is an understanding that as a makeup artist you will not be undertaking to make large pieces, but smaller scars and bullet holes as an example. Your face is life cast to begin with. It is very important to know what an actor feels when this is happening.
Once this is complete, you have a choice of what ever you wish but we encourage smaller pieces, such as eye bags or a nose or some deadly skin deceases. They will be show some makeup tricks and tips and the importance of colouring in. it is paramount to understand that the prosthetic is only as convincing as the colouring in by the makeup artist.
The best way to get a good understanding of this rather than reading it from this blog is to come to our amazing Weekend Taster Day. If you are in London on the 21st of July join us. Even if you are not in London you can still book this day. If you do not believe us read our google reviews! Click here to book your place. It is a perfect to get involved at the hair and makeup school. You will be shown how to create a slit throat or big bruises and back eyes. We are a professional makeup academy in London and accordingly you will be taught so by our professional makeup artist as if you were a full time makeup student. To find our more call us on 0207 485 4000.
People talk of career changes; society at large has lots to say on the subject! And do not get me started on advisers…..
Danielle graduated from Christine Blundell Makeup Academy in August 2017 and started working straight after graduation, first doing a number of wedding make-up jobs and also doing hair & makeup for a Dance company video that same month.
This was a far cry from her caring job of old. Yet she knew this was not her chosen path and after uming and arghing over which makeup academy, Danielle finally chose well and joined ours!
Danielle then started applying to various West end theatre companies and landed a job of a Department Makeup Artist on “The Lion King” musical, under Head of Wigs & Makeup Sara Tyndall. Danielle was doing character Make up for principal and ensemble actors / dancers / singers (face and body painting and straight makeup), hair prep, wig application, wig styling, wig maintenance and quick changes, quick makeup changes, side of stage assistance – makeup application and wardrobe assistance, reading and following a track sheet and assisting in daily and weekly derig / setup duties.
Danielle has in the meantime also started working on “Motown” musical, while continuing her work on “ The Lion King”.
What comes from this description of Danielle’s achievements? It is her determination, hard work and getting out there tirelessly searching for work …
It is not rocket science or an insurmountable mountain to climb…..Read the blog again and then come and join us.
Did you go to the IMATS 2018? Was it what you expected if it was your first time?
I managed to catch an invite via the launch of the new book “Leading Ladies of Makeup Effects” by Patricia Terry and Gary Christensen.
It features many brilliant designers and makeup artists; not just or very own Christine Blundell but the amazing Fran Hannon and Julie Dartnell. We also had the chance to meet “Montse Ribe” from Barcelona and up and coming makeup artist KC Mussman.
I will not write about Christine this time, as I am sure you have read about her already, if you are one of our avid readers.
Julie Dartnell’s career began when she got admitted into the BBC makeup department; one of 24 from 1400 applicants. Prior to this she went to evening classes to gain her A levels and then to a makeup course to learn makeup and hair.
Her many films range from her first big break in 1998 with “Shakespeare in Love” …soon many films were to follow…”Goya’s Ghost” to “Captain America” and her award winning “Les Misérables.”
We have been very fortunate to have had Julie teach hair and makeup at our Academy; she is a wonderful person and a great tutor!
The award-winning Frances Hannan has had a remarkable career and she is a phenomenally talented makeup and hair designer.
For those who can remember Fran was asked to design “The Singing Detective.” Apart from being a great TV series, it was a complicated and challenging makeup to design to create. The leading actor, one of my favourites, was Michael Gambon, who has a condition called “psoriatic arthropathy.” This is a skin disease where the skin flakes leaving sores and so for the makeup artist a very challenging project. Little did she know that this would be the start of her brilliant career. Films as diverse as “World War Z and King’s speech” followed.
We are hoping that Frances will soon be coming to have Afternoon Tea at the Makeup Academy. We shall keep you posted as to when that is.
Montse Ribe, is another amazing and award winning special effects artist who won her award on “I”. The kind of films that Montse works on are very different to the ones we spoke of above. The work has a different intensity and is far more time consuming, maybe you have to be laid back type of person for this kind of work and she certainly was very calm at IMATS when they were all being interviewed.
What I left with after listening to all the Ladies talk was a great feeling from the inspirational talk they all gave.
It was not the kind of over the top speech in American films where …”You can do anything if you try!” and yet it was. If you do wish to become a makeup artist as one of the panel said it is “Art and Attitude.” Good old fashion hard work and dedication.
If this is the field, hair and makeup for Film TV and Theatre, you wish to work in then focus on what needs to be done and then slowly and methodically begin your journey.
One key element that came out was keep your passion and stay inspired – these were comments from people who have been in the industry for many years….they still have it!!!
If you are serious about joining these great artists, the first step is to take a Hair & Makeup course. Our next course begins September 3rd and we have three places available. To find out more call us 0207 485 4000.