Unless you’re behind the camera or on stage, you probably tend don’t give a lot of thought to all the work that goes into creating just the right look for an actor. For centuries, Brooke Horan Williams says, special makeup for the stage is one of the primary ways an actor will relate to his audience. Here, Brooke Williams talks about the differences in makeup for the stage and screen and why it’s important to the performance, no matter where it is.
“There are several differences in the type of makeup and the way it’s applied,” Brooke Horan Williams says, “and it all depends on whether it’s for screen or for stage.” She explains that the idea of regular, everyday makeup is to cover imperfections without bringing attention to itself. “The natural look is in for everyday wear,” she adds.
As opposed to makeup for the stage which needs to be heavy, makeup for the screen is just the opposite, Brooke Horan Williams says. When working on a television or movie set, the camera zooms in much closer. “How it’s applied, therefore, must be a lot more natural looking.” She explains screen makeup needs to soften or even hide the imperfections without looking “made up.”
Stage makeup, on the other hand, might look pretty drastic in the mirror, she says, but on stage it makes you recognizable even from a distance. Makeup for stage needs to accentuate the actors’ features and is intended to be a part of their costume. It’s applied with a heavy hand while still looking tasteful, Brooke Horan Williams says. The reason it’s so heavy, she explains, is that it must be seen from every angle and sometimes from far away. She laughs as she continues, “there is no zoom feature on stage.”
Brooke Williams says a cream base is important for stage makeup. “It gets really hot under these lights,” she says, “so you want something that helps your skin breathe.” Cream-based foundations and blushes do this, she says, unlike oil-based makeup. Everything goes on a little heavier, she continues. “We like false eyelashes for depth and often outline the eyelid with a white pencil which tends to make the eye look bigger.” Our contouring is well-defined, she adds, because we don’t want the harsh lights to wash our actors out. The lip liner might go just outside the lips to make them appear larger.
For the screen, production sets like to use makeup that appears minimal, Brooke Horan Williams says, while doing a good job of covering up imperfections. Cameras can really accentuate wrinkles, so we keep that in mind when applying makeup on set, she adds. In addition, Brooke Williams says professional makeup artists will always use professional products that don’t reflect light. “We want the camera to focus on the actor, not the makeup,” she explains, “and it takes a real professional to do this just right for the screen.”