Titanic Creative Management

Film agency for hair and makeup artists aims to train new generation of Northern Irish experts

The Northern Ireland film industry is in the grip of an unprecedented boom and, with a £14m extension to Belfast’s Titanic Studios on the near horizon, a new management agency has emerged to capitalise on this upward trend.

Founded to act for the highly skilled hair and makeup artists so essential to any production’s success, the aptly named Titanic Creative Management has entered virgin territory – it is the first of its kind in the region.

With film and television sets now firmly entrenched fixtures on the domestic landscape, it is surprising to learn that the Northern Ireland-based creatives responsible for primping and preparing the characters that we all see on screen have only ever had the option of existing as sole practitioners, finding opportunities for themselves.

As the director of this new enterprise, Nuala Campbell has every intention of solidifying that inherently shaky position. In doing so, she wishes to provide a platform for training and support.

 

‘Our ethos is to help local people, local artists, and to try and create work for them,’ she says. ‘A lot of it is brought in from overseas.’ Beyond that, Campbell is just as keen to emphasis a collectivist outlook: ‘We want to create a community.’

The need for an agency like hers it not a recent one, of course. ‘It has been necessary for the past few years,' confirms Campbell, 'as film and television [productions] are becoming more regular here. I work as a professional makeup artist and it became apparent that all the great jobs that are coming from these productions are usually going to people who are hired in from different countries.’

Campbell suggests that, in this context at least, Northern Ireland's own hair and makeup artists are in a minority. ‘It’s quite sad to hear a lot of talk about the film industry in Northern Ireland, yet we are getting so little of the work.’

To remedy this imbalance, Campbell is adamant that the qualifications and abilities demanded by projects, large or small, must be in place as a basic requirement. Only at that stage can the sector begin to grow form within.

‘If we are going to be recognised as somewhere that is a leading area for film production, and Northern Ireland Screen is working hard to do that, we must have the staff. People must be available who can actually make it a successful industry.’ Infrastructural investment is key, she adds, but so too is the existence of a capable workforce.

With that in mind, Campbell points to a full slate of expert-level training already on the cards. ‘Titanic Creative Management is also about training people. We will be bringing some amazing trainers over to teach here, to make all of that available in Northern Ireland.’

The company is casting a wide net to bring in high-end instructors, and shows no sign of making a slow start. Expert prosthetists and award-winning wig-makers, among others, are arriving from London, Liverpool, New York, Los Angeles, even Australia, to pass on their considerable knowledge through training and workshops.

One visitor is the esteemed Davy Jones, a veteran of the film and television world, whose varied credits include Blade 2Doctor Who and Oliver Stone’s Alexander. It is to this level that Campbell hopes to aspire straight away. ‘Artists here are going to have a chance of getting that great work.’

 

Once upon a time there were few ongoing prospects to sustain a permanent existence in the specialities of hair and makeup. However, whether it is HBO’s Game of Thrones, Universal’s Dracula Untold or the BBC’s The Fall, solid proof now exists to suggest that those days are in the past.

Campbell’s plan then is for Titanic Creative Management to serve as a professional hub in an expanding market – she is, in addition, already talking about extending the company’s remit to include costume creators – where representation is a focused exercise.

‘I’m trying to create a unity,’ she explains. ‘I’m trying to bring them together so that they can work with one another rather than against each other.’ Campbell believes that such a centralised approach can make the hiring process infinitely easier, and fairer, for both sides: employees and employers alike.

The dual disciplines with which Campbell is concerned at present are just as important an aspect of the business as anything else. She is determined, therefore, to promote favourable rates in recognition of hair and makeup’s crucial status.

‘Makeup artists and hairdressers are expected to work for next to nothing. It is an area of expertise which is expensive to run.’ In her estimation, the agency’s commitment to fair wages, relevant training and trade union standards comes as a ‘big relief’ to all who are seeking greater protection in a fairly ruthless environment.

Even prior to its recent launch, Titanic Creative Management was inundated with positive queries and gladly accepted registrations from individuals already working in this field, along with those on the cusp of it. In the long term, Campbell has every confidence that local specialists can take their talents elsewhere, not just on an occasional basis but as a wholesale movement.

An accomplished and mobile labour base is entirely achievable; it is simply waiting to be established. ‘If Northern Ireland is flying people in from different countries, there’s no reason why different countries can’t fly in people from Northern Ireland. We will represent those people, put their work out there and get them as well known as possible.’

Visit the Titanic Creative Management website for more information.

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