Interview with Sara Seidman Vance
Chronicles of a Makeup Artist
Who is Sara Seidman Vance and why do I, as a Makeup Artist need to learn about lighting from her? If you are in ANY part of my industry and you want to keep up with technology and how your work is seen, I highly recommend the powerhouse that is Sara and her "Lighting for Makeup Artists 101© Masterclass".
You will have a hard time finding anyone more qualified than Sara who has grown up inside this industry and has had to adapt to each technological advancement in camera's, lighting, equipment and products. I approached Sara and asked if I could interview her and find out who is this amazing woman with so much knowledge to share.
FF - Hi Sara, Thank you so much to agreeing on doing this interview with me. How are you?
SSV – Doing well!
FF – Can you share what you have been working on lately?
SSV - Besides my daily makeup job for live television broadcast, I have been teaching my class through IMATS this year.
FF – Oh wow, that sounds like there’s a bit of travelling happening for you then. Thats a good way to see different places. My next few questions are to give everyone a quick snap shot of who you are and where you came from. You started off in the industry as a performer and Opera singer. What was your very first "makeup job"? Is it rude to ask how old you were? Haha! You don't have to answer that part..
SSV - I actually started in makeup at a young age about 14 years old. My father had been in Vaudeville. He taught me stage makeup. My mother was an artist and art history/studio art teacher. My first professional job, not counting myself (singing), was on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.0, I had worked on the first one as a creature dresser with the Henson’s. I dressed Donatello. I was brought back on for #2 as a turtle stand in. While doing that I started talking to the Makeup artist. His name was Del Armstrong. He had started with the munchkins on the original Wizard of Oz. It turned out that he had known my father from the Vaudeville days. He asked me if I wanted to do make up on the background scene that was coming up. I agreed to it, but told him I couldn't lose the stand in job because I needed the money. He told me not to worry he would take care of it. He did. He called the extras in an hour early so I could get them done and still be able to do my other job. My mother was dying from lung and brain cancer and was living with me. I needed every penny. I got two pay checks that week. That's where it started and snowballed from there! I was 28. I'm now coming up on my 58th birthday.
FF – I am so sorry to hear that about your Mum. Thank you for sharing that, it would have been such a tough time for you. I bet she is so proud of you and everything you have achieved. And ummm… Del Armstrong?! Wow!!! For those who don’t know who he is, I have put a link at the end of this interview to his IMDb page. I love that makeup found you. What a perfect match you are! In your bio on your website, it says your career in the industry has spanned decades. One, those are some #goals right there.. and Two, I love that you are still a working Makeup Artist. You are still in the thick of things, surrounded by and working with the ever evolving technology within this industry. Do you find it daunting with how fast everything evolves now? Is it hard to keep up with?
SSV - No, I have been blessed with one of those brains that can adapt as soon as I understand the perimeters.
FF – Nice! I know this is such a basic question... Sorry! But if you look back over everything you have done, is there a job that stands out to you?
SSV - Each job has a unique signature in my mind, I have stories and memories from all the jobs I have done. The people are who make a show stand out in my mind.
FF – That’s such a great way to look at it. I love that. You were the Makeup Artist for Katie Holmes on Dawson's Creek (first three seasons), was that your first makeup gig for a T.V. series? How many T.V. series have you worked on now? Is that something you keep count of?
SSV - My first TV gig “Face on a milk cartoon” with Kellie Martin in the lead role. I was the assistant makeup. I have done many made for TV movies and documentaries; Matlock and the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles with George Lucas are among the series of work I have been a part of.
FF - Your prosthetics and period work are legendary within the industry, garnering you praise and acclaim as well as awards and nominations. If you could work on something that is the complete opposite of what you do now, what would it be? Do you have a wish list of things you would like to do? A work dream, so to speak.
SSV - I am living my dream as far as makeup is concerned. I love period work a lot. Something opposite I would love is having the money to stay at home and enjoy my grandchildren.
FF - Why and how did you get into lighting?
SSV – My Mother was an Art History teacher and Studio Art teacher who taught colour theory and as well as lighting colour theory because she wanted her art students to understand how light was going to effect their work. She actually had one of her students build her a box and she had three clip lamps that contained a green bulb, a red bulb and a blue bulb. She showed her students how they became white light in the centre where the three colours met and she taught me that.
When I started working, I was too young to be on stage to sing so I became part of the crews and because I knew lighting and lighting theory from my Mother, I chose the lighting department for the Operas. Interestingly, some of the stage managers couldn’t read music so I wore the headsets for them and called all the lighting cues that went with the overture until it got to the part where the opera singers were singing and then I handed the headset back over to the stage manager because they could follow the words of the singers and call the light cues for the rest of the show. I did that every single night for the run of the Operas for whatever stage manager couldn’t read music. I got to learn all the lamps, inside and out! I also took an elective in Lighting, which because of the lighting crews I had already been a part of, I knew everything they were teaching. That’s how my knowledge of lighting started and it has benefitted me all my life.
FF - Your bio talks of your passion for technology, what does that mean to you?
SSV – I told my husband once that I saved him lots of money cause I did my own hair, nails and hair colour. He said that wasn't true, because I love gadgets! Expensive gadgets! He started calling me Gadget girl. To add to that, I love seeing how things work, the inner workings of everything, how they do the CGI, how they make all of that work. When Avatar came out I was truly fascinated with how they film that with the camera hooked to the person's face and how they made all that work. And when I worked on Ninja Turtles 1 and then 2, the changes that came with the Turtle heads and their mechanics we're incredible. The first year there were only a couple of Motors inside the turtle head and the rest was in the backpack which made it quite heavy, but by Turtles 2 all 24 Servo Motors had been shrunk down to work inside the head and the only thing that was in the backpack at that point, was the batteries! It was awesome. I've always been fascinated with technology and where it can take us, but I don't want to see it replace us as makeup artist.
FF - I love how generous you are with your knowledge. What made you decide to teach the next generation of Makeup Artists about lighting?
SSV - I was given a gift and when you are given a gift, it is your responsibility to make sure it is passed on. Too many of the young artists don't have even the basic knowledge of colour theory, let alone lighting colour theory which directly affects our work. I have made it my mission to pass on this knowledge to help the up and comings perfect their work and help give them longevity in this business.
FF – That is amazing and as a relatively new artist, I have to say thank you and I really appreciate that. In your opinion, what is the most important thing that a working Makeup Artist could do for their artistry and their business?
SSV - Keep learning! Do not get complacent. Just because they are working now, does not guarantee further work if they do not keep up with the almost daily changes in our industry.
FF - If you could spend the day with anyone from our industry (past or present), who would it be and why?
SSV - Vivian Baker. She has fought tooth and nail to get where she is and it wasn't through nepotism, but through sheer determination and talent! She had earned her way to where she is!
FF – Oooh! Me too! Her work is so, so good and as a person she is incredibly humble and kind. Love Vivian! I am interested to know where did your quote "It's not about beauty, its about the illusion of reality!" come from. I love this quote because really, it's the truth!
SSV – It was in the middle of the night on an episode of Dawson's Creek, a day playing actress was giving me a hard time about her make-up and I said that quote to her. One of the hairdressers, a friend of mine said you better write that down and not forget it, it's going to be worth something someday and there you go!
FF – Haha! Wise words! With your longevity in the industry, you have no doubt seen a lot of changes within the many different parts of your job. What has been the greatest technological advancement that you have come across?
SSV – There isn't just one thing. Camera technology and lighting have changed drastically. With Lighting, an industry standard has not been established as of yet. The LED tech is still young. And with the cameras, it's all digital. No more sitting back on your laurels because these cameras see everything. No more counting on grainy film to conceal mistakes!
FF – Yes, that’s what scares me! The cameras see all. Every single detail. Sara when you look to the future, what do you think the next ten years might bring us?
SSV – Hopefully, all the tech will be in sync.
FF – Are there any contemporary artists that inspire you? Or what do you currently find inspiring?
SSV - That list is long. There are so many talented artists. Each having a unique vision with their work. I love watching them evolve and grow. I'm an artist’s daughter who went to the museums to see all the different art. The artists I admire are my museum.
FF – Oh that is a beautiful way to have grown up and look at the world. Thank you so much for your time and sharing a little of who you are with me. I really appreciate you fitting me into your busy schedule of travelling the globe to teach your class. I can’t wait to see you in Sydney. Travel safe, have fun and hopefully see you soon!
Hope you enjoyed my interview with Sara, if you have any other questions you would like me to ask Sara or want to give me your thoughts, please feel free to email me.
Peace, love & light
THE LOW DOWN…
In case you don't know who Del Armstrong is, this is his IMDb credits. What a legend!