Nesrine Ismail, Film & Television Make-Up Artist
A/S - Where are you from Nesrine?
Nesrine - I'm from Cairo, Egypt and have lived in America 14 years.
A/S - What brought you into the entertainment business, was it an accident?
Nesrine - No, not an accident, came to America, borrowed some money, packed my bags, sold my car, sold everything, went all in.
Nesrine - Since I was so new to America, I needed schooling to direct me to where I needed to be. All I wanted to do was work in Film, but didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, so school was the only thing that made sense.
A/S - What was your first job in business?
Nesrine - I got a job right out of school, it wasn't big, that was an Indie film, no one really knew what we were doing...it was more of an introduction to your profession.
A/S - Whats your day to day like?
Nesrine - As a make-up artist, you really are a freelancer, daily job working on a TV show or film is different then your daily job when your not working-when you're not working on a film, your job is to find your next job!
You have to hustle, constantly have to review your portfolio, and have some systems in place. You're constantly on your social media, promoting yourself on IG & Twitter, preparing for the next project. When you are working on a movie or TV show or whatever your project is, the days are very long, getting to work super early working 14-15 hr days, sometimes 18 hour days.
A/S - Who is the person on set that you work most closely with?
Nesrine - Depends on your position, if you’re a Dept Head, it’s the Director, if it’s a TV show, it would be the show runner, communicating about the look, and what they want. If your there to help out or an assistant, it's more working with the actors.
A/S - In your role, what are the personality traits, qualities, that enable you to do your job well?
Nesrine - If you don't like people, if your not social this is not for you; When you see some fashion make-up artists, all over the place, diva-like...that is NOT okay on a movie set,you have to tone it down, you have to conduct yourself accordingly...you are not there to be a star..you're there to support the stars.
A/S - what kind of challenges have you had working with some actors?
Nesrine - In reality, in my experience so far, professional actors are amazing to work with. They have been doing it so long, they know what to do, they know their position...you never find an A grade actor that has been working for 20 years that micro-manage you-people who do are usually pretty new and haven't been on set long.
A/S - Whether or not your on a huge production, is this a one person job, are do you have a team all the time?
Nesrine - There are so many cooks in the kitchen, it's insane. You have a whole Team, the boss is the Department Head, and you follow them for what he/she wants...your working under them. But even if you’re the Dept Head, you don't just roll up on set and start doing your art, lol. The looks are pre-determined, you have levels of tests, where everybody in the room will give an opinion; so when you see this elaborate make-up on screen, you know that it took months of several people adding their say on the look, as well as having to please the Director, executive producer and of course, the star.
A/S - What did you work on coming up?
Nesrine - Guardians of the Galaxy 2, last year The Walking Dead
A/S - When you do a darker theme like Walking Dead with Zombies, etc, do you have to change your mindest a little to change to the vibe of the movie?
Nesrine - No, you just go to work...and it's a team effort, like on Galaxy, it was 50 of the most talented make-up artists in the world...your ego has to be checked quickly at the door! The sheer volume, background actors, crew, on set the size of a school stadium. Seeing how the Dept Head arranges everyone's daily schedules, arranging everything together, it was an amazing experience.
A/S - What kind of technique can you use to sell yourself in this industry?
Nesrine - Well, you ultimately work for yourself, people have to like you, if they don't like you, you don't get hired...you will go through "Oh God, what if they don't like me," etc? and it is fear and insecurity that all artists have, even huge stars, but you learn to get over it and do what you've been hired to do, and it all comes together. You get over yourself.
A/S - Where do you see yourself in 3 years, your vision, path? A/S - More work on features, less TV
Nesrine - Features are short, 3 or 4 months, you have some kind of life. With TV, you literally have no life, it is very exhausting, 16 hour days, everyday.
Anybody in this business, that is the ultimate challenge to balancing the off and on - time. When your working, your making great money, surrounded by all these creative people, doing exciting things, then when it's done, you think "is this it?" Am I gonna work again? It's just about balancing, having a regimen, and dealing with having off and on - time.
A/S - How are you using Technology in your job?
Nesrine - Well nowadays, your portfolio is all online. I'm always on social media, IG, Skype interviews and what not. You constantly have to learn new things and up your game, and stay learning, especially as an artist. I know even high profile professionals who have been in the game since the '70's in the Film Industry who are now on Instagram, so you have to stay engaged.
A/S - What would you do if you were one of our audience looking for their first gig, any words of advice?
Nesrine - Actually I think in a way, things are way easier now, just because there is so much information out there... at least you have some path of where to go, some sort of direction. There's an Oscar-winning make-up artist who is giving an online Master Course..i would not have even dreamed of even meeting someone of that level even 10 years ago, let alone them teaching me.
As far as breaking in, though, it's a very hard business to get into...you basically have to have some sort of connection, but to get around those preventions, you have to be consistent, and be persistent..if your going to give up after one month or 6 months or a year, this is just not the industry for you, honestly.
That's just not how it works, I didn't make any money in this business for at least the first three years, zero! I was an assistant, I worked at MAC, I did a lot of indie movies, lots of student movies, that couldn't really pay you. But the name of the game is Persistentcy & Consistentcy, if you really want it, you'll just keep at it.
A/S - Even 5 years ago, you didn't have the amount of networks, platforms for content like Netflix, Amazon; do you feel for someone established there are more opportunities today than before?
Nesrine - I mean there are more opportunities, the whole world is connected now, and there are no more excuses. If you want to do something you can do it... a lot of amazing artists got started with Instagram because they started paying attention early-on, and putting their work out there. Some people in my world, when Instagram started, they were kind of uppity about it, like, "no, thanks",and really didn’t adopt it early on.
A/S - Thank you Nesrine for sharing your knowledge in this business. Any last words of advice for Artist Spotlight members?
Nesrine - Keep learning! There is no shame in learning, I still do even today, studying and learning every single thing I can about my craft. Don't assume life is easy for everybody in this business, and that people that seem to be having a fabulous life, it's not always what it seems. Just be prepared, stay consistent and if you really want it, you'll get it!