Make-up effects artist Nick Dudman

Job title: Make-up effects artist
Industries: Film/TV

Nick Dudman is a make-up effects artist, a job which includes anything from sticking ears on someone to building rubber monsters to puppets. His latest work includes Paddington, three series of Penny Dreadful and Caranival Row. He and his team have been nominated for BAFTA Craft and Hollywood Guild of Make-up Artist Awards. 

Describe your job in your own words

99% is feature work and occasionally I'll be asked to do TV. There's quite a network of make-up artists who I will do things for where I don't take credit and just have fun, like ageing make-up, a bizarre injury or someones leg being blown off. Especially if I've just done a large-scale movie where I haven't been very hands-on and it's nice for me to do something myself.

How did you get into the industry?

I pestered a make-up artist called Stuart Freeborn who did the Star Wars movies. Eventually, I managed to see him and showed him my portfolio.

When I was nine or 10, I knew that I wanted to be in the business before I knew what I wanted to do in it. Up to that point, it never occurred to me that you could do real jobs that real people did. Even when I was at college it didn't occur to me that I could do make-up and build up monsters for a living. My very earliest inspiration was Jack Pierce who did the original Universal Dracula and werewolf movies back in the Thirties. He worked with nothing, no facilities and no materials, and produced make-up that's still considered as icons and classics now.

I've had enormous strokes of luck where out of the blue I've been offered a movie that trampolined me in another direction. You can't predict any of these things. Being offered Batman to do Jack Nicholson was a huge stroke and it was a chance thing, but it was an amazing opportunity. In this game, if something gains you publicity and gains you respect you are going to do well by it. But you can't tell where those things are or where they're going to come from or when. It's just luck and I've been incredibly lucky.

How do you find work?

I have an agent. She sources things and if people contact me, I put them through to her and she deals with it. On most movies, I would handle the hiring and firing of the people, the negotiating their salaries, the day-to-day running of the department, the budgeting of everything and the scheduling of it.

What training or education did you find most useful?

I went to art college and did a film and TV production course. But that didn't contribute to getting the actual work. I fell into make-up and make-up effects which I'd done at college but it wasn't part of the curriculum. So it was just chance really.

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Have the broadest span of skills you can possibly have and make sure half of them work in the outside world. We don't control the freelance market, so if you're too specialised and the market dries up, you'll have nothing. Have something to fall back on for the bad days, even if it's beauty make-up, hairdressing, if you're a qualified plumber or anything. It's all about survival.

I wished I'd taken more notice of studying science. I have very much of an art-based background. Nowadays a science background is equally valid. I go off to computer evening courses and things like that. Never stop learning.

A lot of things that would've been built physically in the past will now be computer-generated, in many instances much for the better because the computer can do it better than we can, not tied by the laws of gravity and momentum, that we are trapped with. The work now very much ties in with the computer graphic people.

I had to learn a fair amount about what computer graphic and digital companies do and how they do it. What I do may involve a creature that has an amalgamation of both, which can have practical or financial ramifications further down the line in post production. So it's very important that I know enough about what they do and they know enough about what I do so we can both function as economically and practically as possible.

What are your career plans for the future?

I don't have any particular goals that I'm aiming for because I fell into this. When I was younger, I wanted to be the make-up effects chief on movies and I've achieved that. Now I tend to look at specific challenges within any movie that's offered.

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