COVID-19 Do we change how we work?

So in early March we started to see the virus move quickly from its first outbreak in Vancouver across Canada. Now that I work primarily in the National News Bureau we were covering it with high intensity but not really recognizing what the impact would be for us.  Naive, perhaps. 

So the first meeting we discussed how to keep everyone at the bureau safe. We shared a kitchen with another news source and our doors were open to guests for on camera appearances. The first steps were to vet all guests, asking questions about recent travel and how they were feeling. Funny how we usually power through a cold and now a runny nose would prevent you from entering.

I always maintain a hygienic environment and my kit is tucked away at the end of the day making sure I am the only person that has access to it. Hand sanitizer is at the ready and alcohol is sprayed and all surfaces and hot touch spots before I even start to set up. So I felt prepared.

Well how wrong would I be?  I think the moment when one of our colleagues’ partner thought they may have contracted it and was waiting for results was when I realized I couldn’t keep my clients or myself safe. Sure I could wear a mask and gloves, but that wasn’t going to be realistic when they would be unmasked and breaking the 2m physical distancing recommended by out health specialists.

So here I sit, at home. 

So when we’ve done our due diligence and it’s safe to return to work what will change, what has to change?

I think about the green room environment and other MUA working in trailers or on set.  Do we limit the amount of people in a room or proximity to our work stations.  Do we refuse to work on someone under the weather?  Will we continue to wear masks and gloves? The craft table, buffet lunches, sharing home baked goods. Working in tandem with wardrobe, hair or special FX.

I don’t know right now. I suspect we won’t really be able to let our guard down until we are all vaccinated but that may be a long way off.

Until then, we stay together by staying apart.  Wash your hands.  See you on the other side of the flattened curve.



So a year ago I lost a friend and mentor to cancer. Not her first diagnosis of this terrible disease but the one she wouldn’t be able to fight.

Our friendship started as pen pals.  She was writing to thank me for contributing to her breast cancer fundraiser and I wrote back.  Simple. We got to know each other as girlfriends first then makeup artists.

Lizzie was a brilliant artist in any medium.  She was respected in the industry and a big fish in Ottawa. Lizzie was always eager to give of her information and accrued knowledge in makeup or managing the politics of film and t.v. She was curious about the ever- changing techniques in makeup as well as the technology that was developing.  From film to video to HD it was all so interesting to her.  Lizzie’s love was the theatre and Opera.  Her character makeup was bold, clean and beautiful.

We had some great work experiences together.  She helped me with a dozen clowns that were hanging about in a down and out clown bar.  From Hobos to Cirque inspired it was magic.  All I could do was stand about and watch it unfold.  I begged her to work on “Carny” knowing her magic would once again come into play with contortionists, leopard woman, sword throwers as well as the dark assistant to the ringmaster.  I promised reasonable hours, sweets and lots of laughter.  It helped that the FX guy was cute too.

Lizzie would in turn drag me into the National Art Centre even though it was not my love or comfort zone.  I think she just wanted someone around to giggle with.  I would often go on closing night just to watch her make up the Opera singers. She was the best and everyone knew it.

What I loved most about Lizzie was her friendship, her laughter and her command of colourful language.  She did not put up with bullshit and saw right through people trying to throw it.

I miss getting together swapping stories, drinking coffee and eating sweets.

I miss my friend, I love you Liz!

The Makeup Trailer

Why is the makeup and hair trailer so mysterious?

Part of the mystery is perhaps we see actors go in barefaced and bed headed and emerge all glammed up or as a zombie or a car crash casualty. 

Truth is that it is a tin can decorated as a 1980’s hair salon.  Heavy barber chairs, mirrors, lighting and counter top.  However, for a movie or series with many locations it works.  No one likes to hump their gear and set it up every day.  This allows the makeup artist or hair person to load in all their tools, once.

It is not without its challenges. If the truck has to move products needs to be packed away properly or you will find it tossed around.  Also the trailer has to be leveled well and secured.  Even people using the stairs to access the trailer can turn a lip liner application into a clown like result. It heats up beautifully as well and that tiny little air conditioner unit will fail, guaranteed.  I have also had the delight of working with my winter coat and gloves on trying frantically to thaw any liquid products that froze over the evening usually because producers didn’t want to keep it running while not in use.

The trailer is in close proximity to the actors trailers, the wardrobe truck and craft (the food truck) so it keeps the actors in one space and easy to track down.  The Assistant Directors office is often attached to the trailer or very close by and they make sure that the actors are where they need to be at the correct time.  Having four stations allows for many people to be processed. It is also a welcomed retreat during lunch to put your feet up or take a nap.  Working on continuity notes and reviewing the schedules for the days to come are all part of the makeup artists job that many people are not aware of  and it helps to have someplace away from the chaos to do the admin work.

I assisted Lynda McCormack on the H2O series primarily filmed here in Ottawa.  Her husband had retro fitted a trailer into an oasis. It had large glass doors,  a full bathroom and shower, a reference library, music, art, candles and her station was raised up to appear very private.

I almost stowed away in it to Toronto, almost….

Photo shows Jacki Lyons, hair and J.P P

To selfie or not to selfie

We live in an excellent universe of self promotion. With all the social media tools it’s hard not to keep your clients and contacts abreast of what we are up too. Shamelessly. I struggle with this. Perhaps I long for the days when it was your work and word of mouth that secured the gig. If you don’t post something do people think you no longer work or you’ve fallen off this planet? It’s usually easy for me, I’ve signed a non disclosure and can’t tell anyone who or what I’m working on. But then there are the times when it’s perfectly fine and I have to ask, “Can I take a selfie?” Hardest words spoken by this shy shutterbug. Do they want their picture taken? I wonder. It is something I’m working on. Sam Also working on making it upright....

Sir Paul

I am asked often "Who is the most famous person you've made up?"

There is a list on this web site and it feels very braggy. 

I've made up some very cool people doing amazing things and they walk amongst us. Celebrate them!

This is one of those surreal experiences so I'll share.

I was asked in the summer of 2013 if I would be part of a small crew interviewing Sir Paul McCartney, um let me think, hells yes!

I arrived early, for those who know me that's no surprise. On this day it did not serve me well. His back stage crew was uncomfortable with me hanging around the halls waiting for my group, so they put me in the wardrobe room.  I had been officially kidnapped by his loyal costumers. I did get some tidbits of info from them, like his dislike of powder. Noted.

He was running late and we would only have 10 minutes of his time. He may or may not want makeup, I was there just in case.

He walked into the room with his entourage. Not diva at all. I think they just make sure we're not amateurs and that the lighting will be flattering. Remember he is a 70 year old man. Not just a rock star. 

My services were offered and he said sure.  Flanked by his security detail I was escorted to his room. Most of these places are concrete bunkers but his had been decorated into a relaxing sanctuary. Behind a curtained area was his primping station. Lined up were an assortment of products ranging from hair pomade to tylenol. He likes his hair to look tosseled.

I draped my butterfly cape over him, which he loved. Thought it could add something to his show. He was friendly and chatty. I couldn't tell you what was said I was so nervous.  I made him up lightly, as is my way and no powder. Check!

After the interview I offered a makeup wipe, but he said he would keep it on for the show. Best compliment ever.

We weren't allowed to take pictures but the interviewer got one.


Setting the alarm

I love my sleep, and I'm really good at it. But if I have to be up earlier than usual or we are filming nights I spiral into the hours asleep vs hours awake math. It never adds up in my favour.

The upside is that most contracts are short term. This isn't a forever alarm setting.

It is magical to be driving to set when most are fast asleep, or perhaps just coming home from the bar. Remember those days? Or crawling into bed as the neighbours drive their kids to school.

It does play havoc with body, you end up eating more, drinking too much caffeine and having that buzzy overall feeling. I thinks it's a way of keeping all the body parts moving that prevents the mid shoot "I need a nap " and we just power through.

Tomorrow I'll be starting at 3:30 am, but it's only for one day. The days can be long in this industry. What I know for sure after many years, the day does have to end. If you're lucky and don't have too early a start, you can also have a glass of wine.

So, if I want 7 hrs, I need to be in bed by 7:15pm. Yup, that's not going to happen. I'm screwed.




Welcome to my new website.  I've been procrastinating about re doing this for a while. Life has a tendency to get in the way.  It was only when a couple of new clients couldn't access the old one. Myself included, that I was spurred on to act.  Who knew that a lot of people don't have flash? Just me? 

A big thankyou goes out to all those I contacted over the last few months that dug through their files to send professional photos and videos. 

When I was looking through my archives I realized that most of my content comes from "on set" pictures.  Which although appropriate for tracking continuity are less then great for this pretty website.

I will be able to update at whim. Post on the blog forum, and all those pics I have of behind the scenes now have a place.  I will try to keep it fun and share some of the stories.


Thanks for tuning in.




Copyright 2024 Samantha Caldwell Makeup Artist