Behind the Oscar for Best Makeup

Meryl Streep by Mark Coulier

The wild and wonderful world of the Oscars is a mystery to most of the public, but in the Achievement in Makeup category, the nominee selection process is unique. This past weekend at the International Make-up Artist Trade Show in London, Governor of the Makeup Branch on the Board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Leonard Engelman, was joined by a panel of current and past Oscar nominees to share their experiences on the process and the awards themselves. Amongst the panelists were Nick Dudman and Mark Coulier, two of the nominees in the category this year. For Harry Potter and The Iron Lady, respectively, the pair had a lot to say on the nominations and the all-important bake-off.

Meryl Streep by Mark CoulierWarwick Davis by Nick Dudman

While the normal nomination balloting process of the Oscars is fiercely competitive, technicians vying for the Makeup prize have an added pressure. The Nominating Meeting of the Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, otherwise known as the bake-off, is a presentation that a shortlist of artists must make. Unlike other categories, there are a number of ways one can be nominated for Best Makeup. The four most common are: best makeup overall, best makeup and hair overall, best makeup for a character, and best makeup and hair for a character.

In Coulier’s case, his nomination is a direct result of the work he did with Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady where as Dudman's work on Harry Potter, which was brilliantly demonstrated live on actor Warwick Davis, is recognized for all of the prosthestics in the film. After the makeup branch of the academy pinpoints who exactly is responsible for what, a small group of artists are invited to sell themselves to the panel. A 10 minute clip followed by a brief discussion of the processes is what determines the year’s nominees. So in this case, it really is just an honor to be nominated because the nominees are chosen by a very select group of industry peers. “It’s very difficult to get nominated,” said Coulier. “I feel honored that I’ve got this far.”

Images: Guardian, Harry Potter Wiki