Skip to main content

From Glamour to Gore

The Life of a TV Makeup Artist

Sharon Anniss

If you ever wondered how to get a stunt man to shave his legs, how porridge oats can be made to resemble body matter or how to create realistic Halloween scars, then you would have thoroughly enjoyed this talk by Sharon Annis, Make-up Designer.
Sharon’s route to make-up designer started with life as a trained hairdresser, and a period as an au pair in the US, before she took the plunge and self-funded a training course in make-up design to fulfil her dream.

Sharon Anniss

All photos copyright © Sharon Anniss
The old adage that, "it's not What you know, but Who you know" proved especially true for Sharon's entry into the TV and film industry.
Sharon chased down every opportunity - knocking on the doors of film units or trailers, working as a runner or assistant, and taking jobs on student films.
Even a brief stint doing make-up for soft porn!
Persistance paid off! She got her dream job as assistant to a make-up designer, gaining experience on set before being let loose on the background actors.
The start of what was to be a 24 year career in the industry.

A Glamorous Life?

Long hours on set, working out of an unheated tent in a car park, essential work clothes including wellies, living out of a bag when filiming away from home for periods of months.
Certainly not for the faint hearted.
I think we were all shocked by the degree of planning and preparation required by a make-up designer in the weeks before filming.
Each character must have their scenes mapped out, with every blemish or bruise noted to ensure accuracy and flawless continuity when filming scenes out of order.
Even then, the script is still open to change - right up to the first day of filming!
Hours on set preparing the complex make-up for the actors is followed by tests under film lighting.
Further hours are spent watching the monitors to ensure an actor’s look is consistent over endless takes from every angle.
Yet, the output from a day of preparation and filming may only be 5 pages of script or 5 minutes of actual TV!
Sharon Anniss: Hours spent perfecting make-up

Locations and Credits

Sharon has been lucky enough to film in some interesting and diverse locations - London Aquarium; atop London's Wellington Monument; West Ham football stadium.
She's also experienced the less glamorous settings of a derelict prison in Skegness!
She has braved the elements when filming in woods, cliffs, on beaches and even on a wier.
Her credits include TV shows such as Bad Girls, Spooks, The Cornoer and Waking the Dead and films such as The Centurion.
Sharon Anniss on top of the Wellington Monument

Tattoos and Bald Caps

While many men grumble over time taken by women at the make up mirror, this was put in perspective by the time taken to create some specific looks in TV and film.
The average "bald cap", used to create the appearance of baldness in an actor with a full head of hair, takes 3 hours to put on.
This involves careful attention to the edges, to avoid the appearance of a ‘join’, meticulous colouring and blending to create the appearance of normal skin, and painstaking care to ensure the look is realistic from every camera angle.
Tattoos can be designed in advance and transfers made, but these still can take hours to apply.
The designer can only watch with frustration as actors sweat or rub them off as they wait for their scenes to be shot.
Sharon Anniss: Hours spent perfecting make-up

Wounds and Injuries

Sharon has a special talent in recreating wounds and injuries - skilled enough for her work to used in training manuals.
She demonstrated this on her willing model, reproducing a nasty facial cut and graze as she shared some of the ups and downs of working with actors.
Her success is down to hours of research, including reviewing pathology text books and speaking to doctors, nurses, pathologists, police and firemen.
Using make-up, silicone and whatever other materials will safetly do the job, she has recreated burns, scars, track marks, knife and gun wounds, and corpses in all stages of decomposition.
The medics in the audience were professionally delighted with her accuracy and it seemed that the non-medical attendees were appropriately shocked by the realism.
Sharon Anniss on top of the Wellington Monument

A Familiar Story

Sharon shared a true behind the scenes view of life as a make-up designer - long hours, a struggle to fit in a cup of tea, the need for black humour and camaraderie to survive.
All very familiar to those who have trained and worked as medics.
Both careers test one’s dedication and patience.
Luckily, in Sharon's case, the injuries are make-believe - but you'd need a double-take to be sure!
The medics in the audience were professionally delighted with her accuracy and it seemed that the non-medical attendees were appropriately shocked by the realism.

Review by Helen Waters.