Q&A with SFX MUA Gaynor / Secondskin

Monday 5 November 2012

A friend of mine is in a gothic punk rock band called Lesbian Bed Death and they recently shot a video for their new single, Soul Sucker.  As I've always been fascinated with the world of SFX (Special Effects) make-up,  I had a quick chat with Gaynor who was the SFX MUA on the shoot.   She spoke to me about how she got to working in the industry, why she does it and tips for budding SFX MUAs.  Post below contains faux gory imagery! 

Q. How long have you been a professional make-up artist for and what made you want to work in the industry to begin with?

A. I have been a professional make up artist for about 5 years now.  I've always loved theatrical make up and made costumes for friends as a hobby for years.  I then got into the media industry as a model and this fed my love of dressing up.  I soon found out that I wanted to become a MUA, but not a conventional one.  Glamour and beauty make up wasn’t my forte at the time and my real passion was alwats for character creation and SFX.

It is only later on that I started to work as a normal MUA simply because there was a need to.  I found that I was chosen more often than not by clients because I was flexible and could cover a wide and varied range of make up; from horror to mainstream beauty and hair styling etc.  It definitely pays to be competent in a wide range of make up styles!

Q.  What's a typical day like for you on a shoot where you’re doing SFX?

A.  A typical shoot starts with getting as much info as you can about the shoot that you're doing and making sure that you have everything that you'll need in your kit.  When I arrive on location, I introduce myself to the director, producer, photographer etc and discuss the finer details of the shoot and what exactly will be required.  Communication is absolutely key to getting it all right.

Usually I will have a steady queue of actors/models that I will be making over and I need to follow a coordinated schedule depending on who goes on set first etc.  It can be very fast paced and a little stressful at times, so you need to remain calm and just get the job done.  As with everything it can be unpredictable, ideas and looks can change, but it usually ends up with me being covered in everything from blood to latex!  The day always ends with me making sure that any costume, kit or teeth/ wigs are collected up, and I always leave the work space that I've been using spotless.  Before I go, I always double check that the director is happy and has everything he/she needs from me.

Q.  What first attracted you to the world of gore and horror SFX make-up?

A.  Well as a child I was quite a squeamish little thing! I'd always hide behind the pillows whenever anything scary was on, so its ironic that I should develop this absolute love of gore and SFX make up. I'm fascinated with the whole process of turning somebody into something completely different. Why just paint a face, when you can paint a complete body and create a living piece of art?! I love the whole surreal theatrical feel too and have always been inspired by the beautiful, colourful and freaky Cirque Du Soleil styles. Its all playful and simply takes you away from the all the mundane stuff in everyday life.

Q.  What are some of the pros and cons of doing SFX work?

A.   The main pro is that it's always interesting work.  It's always a challenge and never, ever boring! You get to work with so many creative people and you're forever learning new things.  Its fun, even when its stressful and difficult.   There is a great satisfaction from doing this job, plus an endless scope for creativity and being able to express yourself (especially with the bodypainting).  You also become a part of the whole creative community, and networking is hugely important.

The cons? The industry is fiercely competitive and can be very difficult to break into.  MUAs are often underpaid due to an ever increasing abuse of 'Time for Prints' work, and there's an ever decreasing budget available in the world of art and media, and what clients are willing to pay.  The introduction of C.G.I has also changed the make up industry so much.  C.G.I breaks all the boundaries and is so amazing, that sometimes the use of a SFX MUA is limited or not needed at all.  So dedication to your work and love of what you do is imperative.   Also be prepared to always look like you've been dragged through a hedge!   Latex in my hair, paint and glue in my fingernails and usually being covered head to toe in fake blood, it's all in a day's work!

Q.  Do you have any tips or advice for those reading this who want to become a SFX MUA?

A.  Be prepared for the long hours.  Lots of your time will be taken up with research and ordering materials, as well as all the prep that is needed before a shoot.   You have to do it for the love of doing it, and not for the money as its sometimes poorly paid if you're not established or a key media area like London.  Even then, its highly competitive, but remember that its also very rewarding.

Practice makes perfect!  I am self taught, but the internet is a very valuable tool when it comes to SFX tutorials etc.  There are also loads of specialised SFX make-up courses that you can do.   Be resourceful and learn to make as much as you can yourself materials wise.   Props and prosthetics are very expensive so you need to teach yourself all the basics and then some!

I started later in life so its been more difficult to get established; go for it sooner rather than later.  If I could have done anything differently I would have gone to university as this gives you lots of outlets and a ready network of people all around you who can help.  The most important piece of advice I can give is that if you're creative, just follow your heart and don’t listen to people who say you can't do it.  GO FOR IT!

To see Gaynor's SFX work in action, you can watch Lesbian Bed Death's new video for their single Soul Sucker, below:- 
(contains strong language)

To contact Gaynor, please visit her website, SecondSkin 
For more details on Lesbian Bed Death, you can visit their official website & purchase their music here.
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  1. Wow amazing talent and work, great interview. The imagines look so realistic!

  2. Great interview, really interesting to read about her background and that side of the industry. The work is so realistic as well, had to turn away from a couple of images! :p x

    1. Definitely, I've come across a few beauty bloggers who are interested in getting into SFX work, so I hope the interview and advice that Gaynor gives is helpful to them :) x

  3. Great post, I love to read about other muas in the industry especially in sfx, I find that the more fun area to work in myself too but I like being able to do a wide range of things. Hard to come by cool sfx jobs these days though where as fashion and beauty is a lot more widely available.


    1. I know what you mean, I've been talking to a couple of other MUAs who do SFX work and they always comment on how difficult it is to get work doing just that these days.


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