Zombie email misunderstandings: What I learned arranging makeup for a production through email

Actor Dennis Hayden & I after I zombie-fied him for Night of The Living Dead 3D. A movie I worked on last year.

Work offer through email
Last October a director contacted me about doing makeup for a short video about zombies. He said he just wanted ballpark figures on the cheapest zombie makeup (at cost). I realized that he is a new and had limited resources, but the project sounded interesting to me, so I offered some general information.  I gave him a price range and said how much time I would need to complete the makeup (about 30 minutes per actor). He said great and that was the last I heard from him.

Previous zombie work
I have worked on zombie movies where I was able to create a zombie look in about 30 mins, the look included marbled skin on face and hands, 3 or 4 wounds and blood (like the look pictured above). So I was confident I could do this new project with no problems.

Out of the blue
A few days ago I received a group email to cast & crew stating the filming will start in about 20 days and that I would be doing the zombie makeup. Plus, there would be a cast of 3 to 6 people who would need to be zombie ready in 1 hour!

When I read this email, I was shocked for various reasons:
1) That the director was telling everyone I would do the makeup, without asking me if I wanted the job, or if I was available.
2) That the director only allotted one hour for me to process 6 people in special effects makeup
3) That we never established exactly what the look would be. I had only provided very general information that he requested, because I believed we would discuss things further when he was ready.

I need more time!
I felt very uncomfortable that an email had gone out to all these people, that I was their makeup person, before anything was confirmed. I felt even more uncomfortable with the limited time in which I had to work. I emailed the director and said that in 1 hour and for the amount he wanted to spend, I would only be able to do a very basic look for 6 people (sunken pale face with blood). And that in our previous communication I stated that I needed more time.

Later I was equally shocked when the director wrote back and said that there was a misunderstanding, that he thought I would be able to do more for the money (like hanging eyeballs, jaws and wounds). That no one there was getting paid and they were in it for the art of it. He never once acknowledged that I originally requested a certain block of time.  He just said they would do their own makeup.

Not about the money
It isn’t about the money for me, since I wasn’t even charging for labor.  I simply could not do the extensive zombie makeup he wanted on 6 people, in 1 hour  (especially with wounds and eyeballs hanging) and produce quality work.  When applying prosthetics, things need time to dry and set up, I can’t change the laws of physics.

For more money I could create pieces that would have a faster application time. However, I know they don’t have the budget and I personally can’t afford to pay for it out-of-pocket. Which is why I asked for a specific amount of time. Unfortunately, there was only 1hour block of time available for makeup.

Lesson learned
Needless to say, I am no longer participating in the project (that I was never officially hired to do in the first place).  I believe that in the back and forth emailing, something got lost in the translation. What had gone wrong?

Normally, even if I receive a job online, I would meet the director in person to go over the characters, what is needed and how much time I will have. Then do a quick test makeup and/or review pictures of what they want.  Next time I will stick with my normal routine, rather than relying completely on emails, which can to be easily misconstrued.

For now, the director and I have both wished each other the best of luck and are going our separate ways.

Please feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think.

Twitter: @MakeupDrShari
Facebook: MakeupDrShari
Examiner.com Articles: LA Makeup Examiner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s