MAC's BAFTA Masterclass with Christine-Walmesley-Cotham

MAC's BAFTA Masterclass with Christine-Walmesley-Cotham

As a MAC Pro member I occasionally get invited to different events. It can be promotional or it can be inspirational.

When I got the email with the invite to attend a Masterclass with Christine-Walmesley-Cotham I didn't think it twice! I had to go.

If you don't know who she is then you need to do your research! Christine is an award winning TV and Film makeup artist that worked in lots and lots of incredible period dramas and films and she was even one of the first MUAs to be trained by the BBC. 

The Masterclass was about 1h and she was accompanied by her main assistant Kay Bilk.

I tried to keep the order of the questions and stories but you will get an overall feel of what she talked about.


What did the BBC teach her?

Determination, discipline and a working ethic. They were all nice to each other and they all helped each other.


Sometimes is a challenge to work on low budget projects but it's very rewarding to use what she has in her kit. On a project she used the same wig on 10 different people and even backwards!

TV dramas and how she prepares for them

-A typical day could start at 6am and they might need to get 20 people ready by 9am. 

-TV and Film MUAs are required (in most cases) to do makeup and hair.

-Research, research and research. For her period jobs she tends to have a look at pictures, magazines and newspapers that show "normal people" as opposed to stars or models in magazines such as Vogue. She wants to see fabrics, cosmetics, colours and hair styles that re average woman and man wore on that specific time she's researching, especially for the 30s to the 50s.

-For her earlier period dramas (colonial, Edwardian and Victorian for example) she likes to see the portraits of the time. She goes to museums and to the British Library.

-She prefers to have images on paper (printouts or real photos or magazines) as opposed to an ipad.

-It's normally the Head of Makeup who is involved from the beginning. He/she will have meetings with the directors, costume department, lighting and setting and they will all decide on a look and feel. The assistants and trainees will come in later after all the research work has been done.

-There are always makeup and hair tests with the directors and the actors before they start shooting. This is so that everyone knows how the actors (including themselves) will look like. However, there were occasions where the actress/actor was not happy with the look and the makeup team had to liaise with the head of makeup and the director to compromise somewhere. Having said that, she also said that normally the director has a look in mind and that it's very hard to do something else apart from what he wants. Sometimes the actors don't have too much of a say in the matter.

-On one occasion the project was about Jane Austen but the director did not want any curls! She thought it was going to be very difficult to get away with not having that typical hair style of that period but she managed to get the overall feel of the time and she cheekily added some curls on just one actress. 

Lighting and HD

-Lighting really changes makeup. A good lighting can make your average makeup look fantastic but there are occasions where bad lighting can make your fantastic makeup look really bad.

- TV and Film MUAs have to live with the fact that an actor can be in one same scene going form daylight into a dark tunnel and then into a room with artificial light. That situation will happen in real life and the light will be completely different in every move. As a makeup artist she matches the skin to the first lighting and then carry on. There is no time to match the skin tone to every single situation. As a MUAs she's only hoping to have the light man on her side. Only on one occasion she asked the post editing people to lighten up a scene because she wasn't happy with the colouring.

-With HD you cannot get away with mistakes. You need to be more precise and do a better job.

-Funny story: She has been asked by the camera man to remove someone's (not saying names) nostril hairs as they were very visible on high definition equipment. 

Good schools for TV and Film

Christine Bundell, Greecepaint, Delamar and London Fashion. The key question to ask to schools is how many of their students are working today in the industry. The ideal school will help students get into jobs straight away from graduation.

What she looks for on MUAs that approach her

-She gets lots of emails of people that want to assist her. Her answer was concentrated more on what she looks for past the first stage of the recruitment. She mentioned determination, being nice to people and getting along with the team and most importantly that he/she can do hair and makeup in 45 minutes. 

-She also admitted that sometimes she gets emails when she's not busy and tends to forget about them and then when she's busy again she looks at the most recent ones. She also said that determined people who call and call her again get her attention.

Some products she cannot live without

-A rat-tail comb and hair spray

I have to say, I found her ever so inspiring! She is definitely an example to follow.



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