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Local film makeup artist a born natural

(Note: The following is the fifth in a series focusing on the local film industry, specifically the various jobs that go into producing a movie.  Today: Makeup)

Makeup artist Ashley Treadaway

Few people on a movie set work harder than hair and makeup artists. Their day begins early, arriving and setting up before any of the actors arrive, and they stay late, not leaving until all of their handiwork has been removed.

And there’s no standing around in between.

“I spend a lot of time watching the monitor to make sure that everything looks the way it should and stays in place,” said actress/makeup artist Ashley Treadaway. “You have to maintain the look during the entire shoot so it can take a lot of stamina. You have to be energetic and a little bit nit picky.

“A lot of people think makeup is kind of easy,” she added, “but there is a world of difference between being a beautician and doing makeup on film sets. What I do is create characters.”

The list of different skills needed is long.

“You have to be able to cover tattoos seamlessly, work quickly on multiple people and keep continuity in a character’s look throughout the film,” she said. “It’s also important to research time periods and trends, different wounds and how to recreate them properly, and how to hide or create aging.”

The lighting and camera equipment being used also need to be taken into account when choosing products, Treadaway said, and communicating with the director is vital to integrate your vision into the rest of the film in a way that fits.

Treadaway first became interested in makeup growing up in Mandeville.

“My teachers were movies, fashion magazines and [makeup artist/photographer] Kevyn Aucoin’s books,” she said.  “I would copy what I liked and give it my own twist.”

Treadaway said she’d develop a new look for school every morning, “and I’d try to get reactions out of people by making my face look as wild as possible.”

Aside from the shock value she enjoyed bringing to her suburban stomping grounds, it was the idea of transformation that truly drew Treadaway’s interest.

“I was fascinated by the way I could feel like a different person just by changing my makeup,” she said. “There’s really a kind of magic in looking at someone’s face and basically pulling out hidden aspects of their personality. When you see yourself suddenly looking scary or funky or sexy, you start to act accordingly.”

Other people started asking her to do work for them for events such as prom, etc., and when she enrolled at Tulane, she started doing makeup for other coeds. “They saw the crazy looks over at school and they were kind of into it,” she said.

It was also at Tulane where Treadaway began taking film classes, from production to acting, and taking various jobs on sets trying to find her niche.

“I had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the intensity and the teamwork aspect, but none of the departments I tried out felt quite right,” she said. “I was acting during this time and doing makeup for weddings and sorority events, and I started to really get into doing character makeup.”

Eventually, Treadaway said, “it became obvious that I should combine my passions, and that’s how the whole thing started. I sold an old drum set for $1,000 and used that money to build up my kit.” (Makeup artists are responsible for keeping their own kits, but they generally receive a "kit fee" that covers product cost when their kits are used, Treadaway said.  She called her kit a “growing monster” that typically includes foundations, concealers, eye-shadows and liners, matte powder, tattoo cover, colors for sculpting and highlighting, anti-shine and a variety of tools like tweezers, scissors, palette/spatula; plus special effects items like hair, blood, and bald cap, among many other items. Part of the fun, Treadaway added, is discovering new products and experimenting with them.)

Treadaway credits friends in the field for getting her foot in the door, and was soon working on political commercials, music videos, and then on to film and television work. She often pulls double duty, doing makeup for herself and others as well as acting. (Her acting credits include a spot on TNT’s Memphis Beat and films like the upcoming So Undercover and The King of New Orleans.)

As for the state of the film industry in New Orleans, Treadaway said it just continues to get bigger and bigger, with folks moving to the Crescent City from all over to join the ranks of Hollywood South. But Treadaway has noticed the greatest change among the native film workers.

“There’s a lot more talent now than there was to begin with,” she said. “I feel like at first there were a ton of people that were really excited but didn’t really have as much knowledge, but I feel like now people are actually coming to this with something to offer.  It’s a lot easier to find local talent now.”

FIlmmaker and writer Brian Friedman writes about Hollywood South and other New Orleans subjects for NolaVie.

Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.