Black Swan - The Makeup - Q&A

Q&A with Black Swan Makeup Department Head Margie Durand and Makeup Designer Judy Chin

Q: How does a makeup artist prepare to work on a film? Do you receive guidance from the director or collaborate with the costume designer/art director/key hair stylist on the makeup look?

Margie: When I begin working on a film I speak to the director and all of the creative team if possible. The directors inspiration and vision really drives the process and I try to deliver that vision in makeup.

Judy: As I read the script, I try to envision the characters, taking into account their background (age, personal history, affluence, profession). As I see the plot develop in the story, I make note of how these events might affect their appearance. When I’m designing the looks for a film, it’s very important to consider the director’s visual style and tastes. Occasionally, I get to collaborate with the costume or production designers. I always try to find out how the actors will be dressed, as that can have a significant influence on the makeup look. While our designs are often created independently at first, I find that the hair stylist and I work very closely to be sure that our looks fit together and bring the characters to life.

Q: How long does it typically take for you to prepare to start working on a movie like Black Swan?

Judy: I spend a lot of time drawing and doing practical makeup tests. Depending on actor availability and camera tests, it could take three to four weeks of preparation.

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Q: How does a makeup design contribute to building a movie character?

Judy: What I’ve always loved about makeup design is its contribution to the actor’s performance. Makeup helps to create the character visually. I feel that I’ve done my job well when an actor can walk onto the set feeling like the embodiment of the character that he or he is portraying.

Q: Can you give a step by step explanation as to how the Black Swan look was created as well as the products that were used?

Margie: We applied a pale ivory foundation with a white cream highlight on the forehead and cheekbones. To create the swan eyes, we used M•A•C Chromaline in Black Black. Using M•A•C Pigment in Silver combined with Mixing Medium, we applied feathery brushstrokes over the Black Swan’s eyes. The lips were lined with M•A•C Lip Pencil in Vino and topped with M•A•C lipstick in Dubonnet. We then lined the under eye with a thin line using M•A•C Chromaline in Red.

Please let us know if you would like more detail on the products used to create this look.

Q: Does the makeup have any relation to the makeup in the traditional version of the Swan Lake ballet?

Judy: Not really. The ensemble dancers wear what might be considered a traditional theatrical eye makeup, but our rendition is more dramatic. It’s practically an opera makeup. Besides that, the only other relation might be that we did portray the Black Swan as a sinister dark foil to the more angelic and innocent Swan Queen.

Q: The ballerinas’ performance makeup in the movie is especially dramatic and visually arresting. What inspired the dark romantic makeup look?

Judy: The look was inspired by the story, and by the director, Darren Aronofsky I felt that he was looking for something dramatic and visually striking, so all of the intensity was focused in the eyes. Margie Durand realized that there were elements of our beautiful set design that should play a role in our makeup. Thus, the delicate silver branches that played across the swan’s faces came to be. The ensemble swans and the Swan Queen are delicate and romantic with a soft pink lip color, whereas the Black Swan is dark, sharp, and, angular.

Q: A ballerina has an incredibly active job, and in Black Swan, the characters wear both body and face makeup. What products did you use in the film that you were certain would hold up to the lights, movement and perspiration?

Judy: We used pancake makeup with a spray sealant to ensure that it wouldn’t rub off on the costumes. We also used M•A•C Paint Pots, M•A•C Powerpoint Eye Pencils, and M•A•C Pigments. In addition, we applied some alcohol based pigments that are virtually water proof and rub proof.

Q: What challenges did you face when designing and applying the makeup?

Margie: It was a challenge to makeup the Black Swan as the White Swan and then switch back to Black Swan during the long filming days. Both makeups had to be retouched because of the strenuous dancing for the
close-up shots.

Judy: It would have been a huge problem if any of the makeup rubbed off onto the costumes, so we had to do many tests before we came up with the right combination of products – especially for the hands. The only other challenge was conveying to our team the application techniques, as it really was an operatic style of makeup. The shaping of the eyes and painting the whole eye in cake makeup is unusual for modern makeup artists. Most people are a bit intimidated by pancake makeup and they dismiss it as “old fashioned,” but it can be really beautiful if done properly. In the end, the whole team worked really hard and did a stunning job.

Q: Did you use any products in a non-traditional way?

Judy: We mixed the M•A•C Pigment in Silver with a sealant to create a waterproof liquid. We then used this metallic liquid to paint our delicate silver branches across the little swan faces.

Q: Black Swan makeup tutorials have popped up all over the Internet. Why do you think makeup fans are fascinated with this look, even before the film’s release?

Judy: What’s not to be fascinated with? The look is intense, alluring, and sexy with a bit of danger mixed in. Frankly, I’m flattered and pleased that there has been this much interest in the Black Swan makeup.

Q: How can the everyday woman translate the dramatic Black Swan makeup into an evening look?

Judy: There are a lot of aspects to this makeup that are standard elements for a classic beauty makeup. The highlights and contours along the cheekbones, nose, jaw line, and the pout of the mouth can all be adapted to a contemporary makeup. I also think one could incorporate the dramatic eyeliner – the angles and the intensity – into a very seductive, catlike smoky eye.

Margie: Think 1920’s vamp makeup: create the smoky Black Swan eyes with slender, silver eye liner applied under black wingtip liner and add thin wisps of silver liner over the eyelid, too. Rim the waterline with black liner and top it off with full, feathery false eyelashes. Apply a very matte foundation with contoured cheekbones and a hint of shimmery blush on apple of cheeks. Lips can be matte or glossy in dark eggplant, wine and even black colours!

Q: What other films have you worked on?

Margie: Sex and The City: The Movie, Cadillac Records, Across The Universe, Requiem for A Dream, I Shot Andy Warhol

Judy: The Unbelievable Truth, Ghost Dog, Requiem for a Dream, Frida, House of Sand and Fog, Broken Flowers, The Fountain, Blood Diamond, Across the Universe, Synecdoche New York, All Good Things, The Wrestler, Sex and The City: The Movie, Sex and The City 2, Dream House and The Tempest.

Q: Have you ever worked on a fashion show? If so, what are the differences between the creation of a movie makeup and the look for a fashion show? Is the creative process similar or different?

Margie: The creation process is similar; the differences are huge. In film, the makeup needs to be recreated more than once, whereas in fashion on a runway, it is created for one day or one show. In film, there is continuity of passage of time from minutes to days to years, and the character’s look has to adjust for this, sometimes all on the same shooting day. In film, the makeup needs to enhance the actors’ performances and become part of their characters, contributing to beauty, injury, aging, etc.

Q: How did you get into the film industry and how many years have you been working with makeup on film sets?

Margie: I began working on music videos in the late 1980’s and I have been a makeup artist for 22 years.

Judy: I’ve been working in the film industry for 22 years, as well. I got started by working on any project I could get my hands on that required a makeup artist. I worked on low budget films, no budget films and music videos. Some of those projects were extremely difficult because they were so small that they often never even considered what a difference a good makeup department could have made. That said, I always managed to enjoy my work, be innovative, and enjoy the creative process with the actors. I was lucky to meet some wonderful crews early on, and they inspired me to persevere. It totally paid off.

Q: What is the one M•A•C product that you cannot go on set without? Why?

Margie: I use so many M•A•C products on every job, but the Blot Powders are a must for whatever seems to be going on with my makeup at any given moment!

Judy: That’s a really difficult question, but I guess I would have to say a Powerpoint Eye Pencil. I think I could make up anyone with just one Powerpoint Eye Pencil. Or at lease enhance their features.

Additional photo from here

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The makeup looks too dry. It seems to be over powdered and it lips look really dry as if if she remotely smiled or even talked the lip color would “break apart” in the lines. Maybe that was the point and while the idea of the look itself looks great because it’s creepy the actually makeup just looks… well bad because of how dry it is.

I think the over powdered skin and the look of the lips add a necessary edge to the makeup. I mean, I don’t think this look was create to be traditionally “pretty”, just look at the amazing contact lenses they used.

I would think that the Sclera contacts were made by 9mm SFX simple because they are the most well known for making custom hand paint glass lenses that are custom molded to your eye dimension. They are out of people price range but they make the perfect prosthetic fit contact.

Theatrical makeup is not done in the manner of seeking perfection but to add dramatic shapes to the face and body that gets lost with stage lighting. This look is very sophisticated in technique to make it close up friendly. The white powder the used to highlight is perfectly reminiscence of the painting techniques for longevity in stage makeup. The first image is what those flood light do to the makeup while the second one is what you would consider more flattering lighting but shows the details lost and the texture created in the products.

I think that since its stage make-up, it needs to be this way. the lights on stage are hot, there is alot of movement and the performers are prone to sweating alot.

Wow, amazingnwork. I’ve been wanting to get close up pics of this artwork. I’m going to see the movie mostly because of how exquisite Natalie looks. Major props to Judy on amazing work. I hope it gets an Oscar nomination. Thx for keeping us in the know, Christine!

The makeup is stunning. I’ve actually never been scared before to scroll down a page because of an image (except for the exorcist) I have to disagree with Zadidoll. I think the makeup is perfect to portray the concept of the film. I personally think that if it were shimmery in any way, it would look fake and not stay true to Natalie’s character,

wow! haunting makeup- great for the role the actress is portraying.

i want to see this movie but as a former ballet dancer– i feel like i will be too critical on the actual dancing and lose sight of the film haha

i wish they would have divulged what this was ” alcohol based pigments that are virtually water proof and rub proof” who doesnt want water and rub proof????

It’s an AA product that mac doesn’t make which is something I noticed them not dropping another name of any brand in their replies.

Off the top of my head I think of Kryolan, Temptu Pro Dura Palettes or the creme de la creme Skin Illustrator palettes. I’m still haein trouble tracking down info on the Kryolan shades but Temptu Pro and Skin Illustrator make metallic palettes that are pretty much godly IMO. Dura Pro Palette Metallic Effects and the Skin Illustrator Alchemy Palette.

If your ever at a makeup tradeshow and see Skin Illustrator palette don’t wait to buy it since they go like hot cakes.

Don’t get me wrong I love MAC Pro products and the fact they used Chromaline in Basic Red mix to get the darker blood red makes me happy. When the Chromaline’s came out I got Basic Red since i was tired to fighting with of reds that just didn’t last as long or rub/transferred into my white wig badly.

Yes it is. I’ve been hearing about AA makeup for the past 4 years. But It’s hard to get a hold of. IMATS was the only place in Ontario that had it for sale in a booth or store.

The nice thing about Temptu and Dinair making AA makeup for airbrush is that you can match the shades used in the AA line to their water based product for the eye area.

It’s not so much you can’t use AA makeup in the eye area it’s just it’s VERY drying considering you need 99% alcohol to work with it and remove it. I’ve done small scar makeup in the area but I also use a good primer as well or a Scar wax / Sealer / Barrier first.

That is amazing! Make up as art at its finest!

Glad to hear MAC products were used for this.
I was thinking Make up forever would have been the brand of choice to create such a look.

Nice read!

I originally read about the makeup from Black Swan in Allure magazine. I’m glad that this was put out because I was really fascinated by the look created. I like that there’s a part where the artists were asked to translate the look for the regular woman. Very interesting piece.

oh Gosh, a lot obviously credited professionals are comenting on this look LOL

now really, I was crazy about this makeup for a while and I looked everywhere for a tutorial and I couldn’t find one…I guess I was early…I’ll have to look it up again right?

anyway, great work with this interview Christine…really happy for it!

Ahhh! I can’t wait to see this. It’s a Darren Aronofsky movie. I’ve only seen two of his movies and they are usually not for the squeamish, I’m sure Black Swan will be no exception.

Christine, I think it is fabulous that you got ahold of this information, its always nice to have a little history on the makeup and inspirations in film. I am pretty excited to see this movie now

Awesome article and work! And the movie was g-o-o-d!
I’m a freelance make-up artist that just decided to take a stab at what I love!
Can you kindly provide us with more detail on the products used to create this look. I would love to re-create this look on myself.

Thank you.

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