Barry Koper: Learn the Art of Make-Up, Know It, and Apply It

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Barry Koper

In the world of makeup, the industry has become a very specialized field to work in. Mr. Barry Koper came to speak to us at the “Industry Speaks” event with valuable advice on how to be a successful makeup artist. “If you want to be in this industry, you have to want it more than the person sitting next to you; you have to eat, sleep, and breathe makeup.”

Barry has over 38 years of experience in the field of makeup. He got his start in Santa Barbara doing a total of seventy two Theatrical stage productions before moving to Los Angeles where he worked at Universal Studios doing a Makeup Show called “Land of a 1000 Faces” where two makeup artists would makeup two guests from the audience and turn them into Frankenstein and his Bride!

During this time, he apprenticed with Oscar winning makeup artist John Chambers, who won an Oscar for his makeup on “The Planet of the Apes.” Mr. Chambers recommended Mr. Koper to run the Makeup Effects Lab at CBS Studios where he spent the next 15 years — 9 of which he spent as Head of Makeup. After his 15 years with CBS, Barry left to do feature Films. Some of his credits include Addams Family Values, Island of Dr. Moreau, Alien Resurrection, Holloman, Scary Movie 2 & 3, Bubble Boy, Syriana, Departed, Indiana Jones 4, Coach Carter, Dinner for Schmucks, We Bought a Zoo, X-Men First Class, Thor, And Michael Jackson’s “This is it.” He is best known for his vey natural makeup work on Tim Allen in all 3 Disney “Santa Clause” movies, in which he transformed Allen into Santa. He has been nominated for nine Emmy awards, and he has been awarded two. Mr. Koper was also the creator of the column “Out of the Kit” for Makeup Artist Magazine, which he wrote for over 10 years. A firm believer in education, he also taught many classes for Local 706, The Makeup and Hairstylists Union, including Airbrushing, Color Theory, and Prosthetics Application. Mr. Koper currently holds over 40 US. Patents in Commercial Cosmetic design.

After 15 years of working primarily with beauty makeup, he began working on mostly effects jobs, which were different from what he had worked on in the past. Despite the major difference in makeup, his experience in beauty gave him a solid foundation and helped him tremendously as an effects artist. After specializing in effects makeup, he found that through the years, makeup artists have become replaceable in the area of special effects. Due to the more frequent use of CGI (computer generated images), he is finding that production companies are saving money by replacing an actual makeup artist with computer effects. By creating effects through computers, not only do they save money, but directors also feel they have more control over how they want certain things to look.

There were three things that Barry referred to when talking about which elements determine how a makeup will go: the script, the budget, and the director. As a makeup artist, it is important to read and break down the script ahead of time so you know the best ways to achieve the needed looks, and what material might be needed to achieve these looks. When working with effects makeup, having knowledge of the different materials that are used to create the prosthetics will be extremely helpful when dealing with the lab technicians who create them. Barry found that through his experiences, he is now able to determine what types of materials will work on specific projects, and which ones won’t. Because this industry is always changing, Barry stated that “makeup artists who are worth anything are always striving to become better artists.” Stay up with the trends through makeup artist magazines, trade shows, and networking with fellow makeup artists.

There are a few different ways to make money as a makeup artist. One of them is becoming a “personal.” This is established through relationships. If you work with a celebrity and they like you, they may ask you to be their personal makeup artist, using you throughout their career. Never assume you are their friend, you are there to be of service to them. Another great way to make money in the industry is to have as much knowledge as you possibly can. Know what products are out there and make it a point to be an expert! Walk the aisles of local beauty stores, pick the products up, and read about them. On your off time, get a part time job in cosmetics and offer to stock the shelves. There is no better way to learn about the products that are currently being sold. Barry closed his time with us by stating how important appearance is in this industry. “Always dress professionally and properly groom yourselves; directors and producers will notice you if you look professional.” Keep your work stations clean and organized no matter what. And lastly, “don’t give up; perseverance is key.”

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